Hi, I am Shawn Collins, and I got my first computer in 1994. I was a year out of college and on the hunt for a “real” job.
At the time, I was working in an administrative position for $10 an hour and no benefits. That was the most I’d made since getting my degree. Previously, I worked at a hotel front desk for $5.50 an hour and later as an assistant manager at a Blockbuster store for $7.50 an hour.
I wanted something more, and hoped a computer would help me get it. This was before I knew of Internet access at home, so I essentially got the old desktop clunker to write and print resumes and cover letters.
A couple years after buying the computer, I got an account with America Online. That was when it all changed. My computer evolved from a word processor to a life transformer, but I wouldn’t realize that for quite a while.
One day, when I was playing around on AOL, I stumbled on a tutorial for HTML, which is code to create a website. I thought it would be fun to create a site, so I went through the lessons.
My first site was a single page about New York City and things I liked to do there. My HTML skills were limited and the page was pretty horrible, but my friends started visiting. That gave me the inspiration to keep it updated with my latest antics.
I can’t remember quite how I got there, but I ended up at the Amazon.com affiliate program in mid-1997. The program would pay me a commission for referring sales to them. This was wonderful – I was underemployed and newly married, so the chance to make a few extra bucks was huge.
After I joined up with the Amazon affiliate program, I put up some links on my AOL website for people to buy books about New York City, and I waited for the riches to roll in.
Back then, you had to wait a good, long time to find out if you sold 250 books or nothing at all, because there was no online reporting. They would send a quarterly email with sales figures and commissions.
When my first commission statement came through, I was really anxious to open it. My eyes scanned down to the part about the money I earned, which was a total of $0.00.
But I didn’t give up. I couldn’t. I was so sure this could work, and it was just a matter of figuring it all out. The problem was that I couldn’t find any resources to help me. This was way before the days of blogs, podcasts, magazines, and conferences on affiliate marketing.
It was a constant state of trial and error. I started focusing on reviewing new books about New York, and I was getting more pushy about having my friends and co-workers check out the site. When I got my second commission statement, I’d earned nearly $20 for the quarter.
Now, that sounds pretty horrible for three months of work, but it was proof that there was potential here. And it was a time when I really needed more money. My wife Vicky and I were making modest incomes and really wanted to buy our first house.
At a time that we were pinching pennies, I asked her if she was cool if I spent $70 to get a domain name for two years. It was a lot more expensive to get a domain back then, and that was money we didn’t have to spare for a silly hobby.
She said no. I was sure I could get to the next level if I could just step it up and move my site to a real domain. I asked again and again. Finally, she couldn’t take it anymore and agreed it was a good idea (or she figured her sanity was more valuable than that $70).
I felt totally reinvested with a domain name, VelocityNYC.com, and I studied the code on every site I liked to improve how mine looked. The site became my obsession, and I would work on it evenings and weekends when Vicky was taking graduate school classes.
The next time an Amazon commission email came through, I’d gotten up to $75 for the quarter. My domain investment was covered and I’d seen a big increase from the previous quarter. I was finding that more time and effort was equaling more money. What if I could keep doubling or tripling those amounts?
Well, it was more like I had to double and triple those amounts, because I was still earning a meager salary, and Vicky recently got the good news that she was pregnant. She wanted to stay home after the baby was born, and I wanted the same. But that meant we were going to have a third member of the family and less than half the income.
After privately freaking out a bit, I started brainstorming ways to make my site better and get more readers. Up until this point, I thought Amazon was the only affiliate program in the universe. But one day during my commute to work, I read about a website called Refer-it.com that was a search engine for affiliate programs.
There were hundreds of affiliate programs listed, and I was able to really broaden the products I could offer and make them even more relevant to the stuff I was writing. The next commission email from Amazon revealed that I was over $300 for commissions, plus I was making money with other affiliate programs I’d recently joined.
Affiliate marketing was paying the phone, cable, and water bill. Then it was covering the car note, and later the mortgage. I was making real money and moving from making ends meet to being comfortable financially.
This didn’t happen overnight, and it wasn’t easy, but it happened, and I started expanding what I was doing. Since I was in baby mode, I bought babylounge.com as my second domain, and made a portal for new parents. Then I bought another domain and another. I was finding that it was really fun and satisfying to write about stuff that interested me and paying the bills.
All these years later, I am still an affiliate. But I no longer work for other people. I walked away from spending my days in a cubicle in 2004, and I haven’t looked back. Affiliate marketing is a lot different these days from when I got started. It’s easier and cheaper to break into it. I have over 150 domains, and I work on my sites daily.
There are big opportunities for anybody to make from a few extra bucks to a living online. You don’t have to be a computer programmer or a writer or marketer. You just have to bring commitment and passion to the table.
I’ll take it from there. This site is the site I wish I could have read in 1997. it contains the lessons, tips, mistakes, failures, and successes of mine along the way.
This site will take you from having no clue about making money online to applying concrete advice to put more money in your pocket. I’ll explain a lot of things, such as how to brainstorm ideas to earn cash working on something you love; start a new website in 30 minutes; test ideas to maximize profits; and scale your online business to increase revenue.
I am not a researcher or journalist. I have actually done all of this stuff, and I’ll tell you how to do it yourself.
There are some people who shouldn’t read this site… those who are already affiliates and know their way around creating a site, as well as anybody who wants to get rich quick. If you fall into either of those categories, don’t read further. Click the back button now. Seriously.
For everybody else, read on and begin your path as an affiliate marketer.
Start with Chapter 1 – Pick a Topic for Your Site.