Rise of the Entrepreneur – Episode 21, Leaving a Job to Give Out Paychecks

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Last week, Zac Johnson posted a podcast featuring me in it! He has been posting 2 podcast a week interviewing successful entrepreneurs in the online marketing space from their startup failures to their on going success. Yesterday it was all about how I started and how I became such an entrepreneur.

Recently I been posting on my Facebook page what podcast I been listening to daily. My morning routine is probably different from most as I wake up to go to the gym, have my protein shake, and while I check my morning email and stats; I listen to a podcast. Zac Johnson: Rise of the Entrepreneur Podcasts are all about the ‘come up’ of an entrepreneur. These podcast, which are also available on iTunes are all about how a leader in their industry has became where they are today.

I am honored to be part of his series along with other entrepreneurs that I look up to. The crazy thing is when I first started in the online world, I looked up to these successful people that are featured on Zac’s podcast and now I am with the crowd. Time flies. Crazy what determination can do to your life.

My story is how I worked 3 jobs, started in the affiliate space, the direction of my blog, creating products and services, and traveling all around the world. Have a listen or simply read the transcribed podcast below.

BTW here is a picture of Jim Kukral, Me and Zac Johnson at my first Affiliate Summit West. Cheezin, cause I was a noob back then.

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Intro: Rise of the Entrepreneur Episode 21 by Zac Johnson

We were not born to be slaves to the 9 to 5. A new age has begun, an age of opportunity. Seize the day and make your dreams become reality. Now is the time to take control over our lives. This is Rise of the Entrepreneur. And now your fearless leader against mediocrity – Zac Johnson.

Zac Johnson: Hello everyone and welcome to the latest episode of the Rise of the Entrepreneur. Right now we are living in an amazing age of opportunity. Through the use of the internet, anyone can start a business. You can do it from home, your work office or even while working another job. This is something that we often here from many of the successful entrepreneurs that we featured on this show.

It’s not often that you hear someone say, “I’m going to start an internet business, and get rich and they actually do it. Rarely is this the case and it’s usually a much bigger story that needs to be told and that’s what this show is all about – highlighting the individual, their personal story and the success and struggle that come along with being an entrepreneur.

Today’s episode is no exception and one of my favorite things about each special guess on the show is that I always learn something new about them in the process. The same can be said about Ian Fernando who I have been a close friend with for many years now.

Over the past several years, Ian has paved his own path for success in the online world and that includes everything from affiliate marketing to own personal brand and now creating his own products and services. It’s time to learn from the best dressed man in the room in this latest episode of Rise of the Entrepreneur with special guest Ian Fernando.

Zac Johnson: Hello Ian and welcome to the show. It’s great to have you today. How is everything going on with you?

Ian Fernando: Hey Zac, I’m doing very well. Thank you.

Zac: That’s great to hear. And we’re both from New Jersey and I remember very well the first time when we met. We were both on the same flight from Jersey to Las Vegas for affiliate summit but we actually didn’t run into each other until we were grabbing our luggage. It seems like it was just yesterday but it was actually several years ago.

And over the years, you’ve actually evolved yourself from being an affiliate marketer and blogger to creating your own products and services and continue to find much success today. So why don’t you take a few minutes to tell us your story, how you got started in online marketing and how it’s led you to where you are today.

Ian: Awesome, yeah. No problem. I actually remember that day. That was funny when I last saw you on the airplane. Like, “Oh my God. Zac Johnson.” How do you talk to this kid?

Yeah, back in the day I think – I thought an affiliate marketing and I still have a job at that time. I worked with Vonage, basically a VOIP company. I started as a call center call agent, I guess which is basically taking customer calls all day and I just worked harder and harder because they actually incentivize you to climb up the company ladder. And each time I grew, I as actually benefitting from working hard and climbing this corporate ladder per say and just becoming from call center agent to a senior analyst at that company and the job actually became more stressful because I think I was the only young person to be the next director over somebody else with more experience than what I had but I just had more hustle that they wouldn’t really let me increase.

Basically I reached the glass ceiling at a corporate company. I was looking at that time at affiliate marketing. I was working to sustain a job because actually prior to Vonage I was working three jobs and I just had no time for myself.

I was looking towards internet to figure out how to kind of make more money without really incorporating a business and affiliate marketing basically giving me that leeway and allowed me to promote something without having a product or taking care of customers.

As time goes on, I was able to knock two jobs, stay at Vonage for a year and once I became senior analyst or I couldn’t climb this corporate ladder I was like, “You know what, I know I have about six months revenue in the bank. I’m just going to take the risk and jump into affiliate marketing full time,” and then never looked back since then.

I was actually excited to leave that company, took the risk to really jump into affiliate marketing to see how it’s going to work with my full effort instead of knowing four or five hours at night and waking back up again to go to a job. This time I was able to work 10-15 hours when I first quit my job and I was like, “Wow, I can actually do this.” By that time I’ve never really looked back. Things have been since 2008 when I actually became full time so yeah, I was very, very ahh really full 360 on it. So I was very excited about it.

Zac: That’s a great story because we see so many people in the retail space and either they just hate what they’re doing or they just know that they’re going to be stuck in that same job for the rest of their lives.

Thanks to the internet you were actually able to find affiliate marketing and a way to start working for yourself. What was the first affiliate marketing that you found online and saw that you can make money with it?

Ian: Well, probably like everybody else. I think everybody started off on CJ.com and I probably started on there but I couldn’t really make – at that time I know they had $1,000 minimum deposit for your bank. I couldn’t really reach that cap. It was during taxis in where I was in the Azoogle Ads and Azoogle was actually helping me become really, really good affiliate within PPC and Google Adwords and they gave me this campaign and told me what keywords to target and what to do. And step by step I went from probably $100 a day to close to $1,000 a week to $1,000 a day to five figures a month.

I want to thank at that time, my affiliate manager and network at Azoogle Ads that help me into affiliate marketing. They even flew the top five or top ten affiliates into US to see their new office in New York. At that time I was categorized with Jonathan Volk and ShoeMoney and I was – just to be next to them at my statue where I started to be at their level and to be on the comparison with for a short amount of time was like an awe for me. I was actually privileged and excited that it actually happened to me.

But that’s how I got into the affiliate space because of Azoogle and they showed me quickly what to do and I would actually in the right time during the taxi was really, really easy to make money off at that time.

Zac: Very nice. And for anyone who might be familiar with how exactly affiliate marketing works, can you go into some detail on how you would find an offer and then promote it and then eventually get to the basically being able to be profitable with that campaign?

Ian: Yeah. There’s a lot of ways. When I first started it was more keyword research and trying to find low volume niches because at that time I really didn’t have money to spend on high volume that was just dating or diet. That time I was doing a bunch of keywords that I know can get probably a couple low million search volumes a day. If I get a small percentage, I can actually – at a small percentage of that topic I can actually earn something.

Keyword research I did in basically any niche like instead of ‘how to lose weight’ it would be more like ‘my summer beach look’ keywords during specific time frames instead of a full year. From there I would probably take a look at what offers several affiliate networks have that can compare to the keywords I was looking for. Then, I would throw the campaign either at the time I was mostly into Google Adwords and Facebook, and put up a campaign for a small budget for a week, tested it on multiple different demos or keywords and see how it converted.

From there I just would take all the data, look at it, dissect it to ABCs and look at my CPCs over time if it increases or not and then eventually look at my ROI to see if it really was profitable. If I made at least 10% ROI, then it basically tells me how to pursue it more and to scale it more to make sure that I can get higher ROI. That’s really the big key.

There’s a lot of things to test when creating an affiliate campaign because a lot of people think they just throw an ad and make money. Nowadays it’s really, really tough to just throw an ad and hopefully it’ll make money. It’s not where I first started with. You can easily make money off email submits on Dollar 25 on CPA payouts. Now you really have to look at analytics, look at demos, look at the site that you’re advertising on, see specific demo and vice-versa. So, it’s definitely a lot of research first and then campaign and scale them later from my perspective, anyway.

That’s how I view affiliate marketing. That’s how I think the process affiliate marketing should work. I mean, there’s other ways to do it where I know now when I do a campaign I basically take high volume niches like diet or popular niches that are coming up that are trending like ecigs and then compete with the volume because if it’s high volume, you have to convert at one point or another and you just have to find out that conversion point in the traffic and then scale from thereon. Definitely worth the wait to view how you want to look at affiliate campaign. That’s how you look at it.

Zac: Definitely. As you mentioned, there’s a lot more competition than there was just a few years ago. So you really got to be ahead of your game. And one thing that you did after you start to find the success online was starting your own blog at ianfernando.com. How has that helped you pretty much grow your brand and business connections since launching your site?

Ian: Man, it has helped me a lot. It basically taught me a lot. It basically taught me a lot about networking and how to leverage my network of people. In the beginning I just made ianfernando.com as a blog to write something and earn money from blogging through affiliate campaign through it. I remember reading your blog back in the day reading John Chow, reading Shoemoney blog, Pro Blogger Blog. Back in the day you can make money through blogging. I was like, okay I’ll just buy my name, you know, write some article, write some stuff and throw in some links.

Over time it really didn’t turn into what I wanted. It became more of a personal information place. I basically throw a lot of my areas on there, my first campaigns, my first Facebook ads are actually on there when Facebook ads was actually called Facebook Flyers where they only allow one long ad on the side. You can see some of my Google campaigns on there, a lot of failed campaigns, a lot of test campaigns are on there.

Now I’m more – Ian Fernando is more like an information blog where people can just look at my history and look at what I have to offer and read about it. It has helped so much through my online career because if somebody wanted a tactic that nobody has, they can find it through my blog. A lot of people end up on my blog because of the creativity that I have on creating a campaign or how to use an affiliate link to diversify your data or how to manipulate data in an Excel sheet and look at the proper numbers that you want to look.

Those are a lot of stuff that a lot of people don’t really talk about which I did. I think that’s why the blog grew because of the popularity of the information I gave. Basically I got my first speaking gig first through my blog and I was proud of that. I was featured in Look magazine through my blog, some articles were also featured and outsourcing through the blog. I’m happy where the blog grew from where I thought I wanted it to be to where it is now.

Zac: Yeah, definitely. I can truly attest to that same thing. In 2007, I launched my blog at ZacJohnson.com and since then it’s just completely changed everything and I no longer have to be just an affiliate who just pushing numbers back and forth. Now I actually have a brand that I can bring everything back to.

Ian: Exactly.

Zac: And along with having that blog as you mentioned, you’ve been doing a lot of speaking at different conferences. What are some of your favorite conferences to attend and how has that also helped you?

Ian: My favorite one for sure I never missed one, it’s my first one in Las Vegas where I met you, it’s Affiliate Summit. Affiliate Summit I think is one of the best conferences I believe when you want to get everything in online marketing not specifically just affiliate based because there’s a lot of people that go there for lead generation or looking for leads or new offers. Obviously, you’ll get all these network competing with each other with all the other networks at a conference. What is more so for me to put my face to the people that I talk to reading my blog or people I Skype in New York, people that message on Facebook. It’s more of an interaction. I want to be able to say, “Hey, thanks for reading my blog. What else can I really help you with?” It’s more of an intimate conversation. Affiliate Summit brings that community or environment to whenever they bring to show, whether they’re in New York or Las Vegas.

Another one I definitely recommend is either Adtech or LeadsCon. Adtech is more on the technology side if you want to find new traffic sources which I’m always trying to find new sources would be Adtech. I probably would be going to Adtech London later this year just so I can see if there’s any other DSPs internationally that I can use to benefit for my products and offers and probably for affiliate campaigns.

LeadsCon is another good one specifically for buying, selling leads, what to do with your leads. People always the money is in the list and if you have the list, you have the information of users. You kind of want to be able to monetize that data somehow. But you always have to be careful how you monetize that data. There’s so many new rules as it evolves since I started from utilizing data. There’s a lot of things to think about before you have to give somebody’s email to somebody without that user’s information.

Zac: Yeah, exactly. Like you said, getting your name out there and making that face to face contact at conferences is so important because you can send out to emails to top executives or bosses or anyone online but actually getting that face to face contact is what’s going to matter because your email will likely get lost but you never know who you might run into any of these conferences.

Ian: Exactly, I found multiple mentors that has helped me start my product line. I became good friends with a lot more people. People who stop me at conferences saying ‘hi’ and we’ve later became friends. They have helped me in some way and I’ve exchanged that with some advice or help as well.

These conferences is just one step at becoming – I wouldn’t say ‘guru’, more of like an item in this type of niche that we’re in.

Zac: Exactly. And it seems like most affiliate marketers will start up promoting ad campaigns. And they’ll be doing that for a while and they’ll finally realize that instead of getting just a portion of the profits, they come out with their own products and services and get a lot more. That’s something that you’ve been able to do by creating your own products and services. Why don’t you tell us about a few of those?

Ian: Yeah, man. As an affiliate, it’s amazing that you don’t have to deal with customers, inventories, stuff like that especially when at that time I had three jobs. But now I’m realizing like, “I’m collecting leads. What can I do with these leads?” I can send more offers through auto responder. Maybe I can give it a call center and JV with somebody.

Step by step I started climbing this ladder to efficiency. I started at the bottom, became an affiliate and now at the top having my own product. But that came with a lot of hurdles. Learning in the call center, learning to deal with employees, inventory control, chargebacks, merchant processing, branding that specific item especially without my face technically behind it. There’s a lot of moving elements.

A lot of the affiliates will realize that you can definitely make a lot more money of you climb this efficiency ladder one by one, slowly. You’ll kind of realize that you can broker your email submits maybe. At that time I didn’t start my own email submits because I was collecting leads for a muscle campaign I was running. I was like, “Hey, let me collect leads through this autoresponder. I’ll send a multiple muscle offers. I can figure out which campaign works better and promote it through PPC.”

But then I have all these leads and I’m like, “What else can I do with it?” I need to think what else I can do. I start distributing them and JV with people and later on I wonder how I can make my own product. So I started researching that going through affiliate summits, Adtech and talking to vendors on how to do it, talking to part of my network to see how they do especially people I met and they are like, “Hey, you can do this easy business. White labelling?”

Later on I basically learned that I can have my own product with very little work. But the hardest part is just actually running a real business corporate style and deal with taxes, you have to deal with employees and especially with being remote and having everybody in different locations can also be hard.

One product I have basically are digital products which I first started because it was easy to maintain. Really no inventory which is the easiest way to own a product without really having a product. The only thing you’re really putting into that product when you first start off is obviously time. Later on it comes with customer care. Then you have to figure out that customer care, will it ruin your brand, will it help your brand, how can you leverage those users to help your brand, how can you keep the longevity of users.

Aside from affiliate campaign from a specific sending analytics, you have to look at the long term value of consumer, of that lead and how much would that lead creates you making money over time.

It’s definitely two different worlds. You have the bottom affiliate or you’re at the top being the boss but you definitely have more responsibilities.

Zac: Exactly. And what were some of the basic? Let’s say that you have some failures or things that you wish you knew better beforehand when you were scaling from being an affiliate to being the boss of the company and having customers and employees. What would you say that to your younger self if you could do it again?

Ian: I would figure out the systems. That’s the most important thing. If I knew the system, then I’d dive into it. Because the thing is as an affiliate, I can take a campaign, run traffic, put high volume and boom. I make money. But when I did that to my own campaign, we quickly ran out of inventory. Call centers were overflowed. chargebacks were happening. Me taking a product without really thinking of the backend and just, “Hey, I made a product. I made a landing page. The forum works. It’s taking payments. Let me start traffic.” You can’t just throw traffic at it because you just don’t have the system to help it backend. You have to slowly grow it and then once you know your capacity of traffic, then send that volume as long as that backend can handle it.

That’s one big mistake I wish, now that I know technically not to do that now because – they’re both the same thing. Taking an offer and throwing volume at them or my team’s on buying and then when I throw volume for the first offer, it was a headache for a good two weeks just because I didn’t have the proper system. I was like, “Oh, damn it. I need to rewrite call center calls after 9:00. Or I need to get a higher cap of my merchant processing. Or I have to make sure I have to reorder inventory because I know it’s going to take at least two weeks to get into filling some areas.

Once you have the system, then everything becomes easy. That’s one definite thing that I would recommend.

Zac: Good to know. And that’s something that all entrepreneurs have in common is that we all learn from our failures. So we continually learn and just make ourselves better over time. Another interesting area that you’re actually involved in is with collections. Unfortunately, no matter what industry or business you go into, people are going to go out of business or they might screw you over and you’re simply just not going to get paid. How did you find yourself in this market and what have you learned from it?

Ian: As an affiliate you learn that some networks wouldn’t want to pay you even though you send the quality tag or even advertisers. Back in the day I just use to work with direct advertisers. Sometimes they would just not pay you. There has to be something that I can use and leverage. At that time I was using a collections agency and I told them our industry is huge in this space. There’s people who owed six figures, five figures and affiliate income alone or even networks that need revenue from the advertisers.

I talked to the collections agency and like, “Hey, we should probably just do some sort of partnership on collection. You’re good in collecting. I know a lot of people in the space. I know a lot of networks that are not getting paid. I know affiliates that are not getting paid. This would basically just boost your portfolio and help us help me make your brand better with me in it.”

Internet marketing collections basically just stems off with what’s already happened but never really knows no name for it. There was one other collection that was happening but that also didn’t kind of do too well. I actually partnered or JV with well-known collections agency for about 20 years. I met them here at Florida and I was like, “You know what, this is a great way for you to just expand your name, your industry and take care of my industry. Take care of me and take care of everybody else that needs.”

This is something happening in the industry, I just added a name to it, added a niche in our space technically.

Zac: Yeah, very cool. It’s definitely a much needed service because you have these big companies that have attorneys or whatever that they can just send out to do whatever they want. Then you might have affiliates that don’t actually want to flip the bill for that service.

I remember the first time I got screwed out of $30,000 or whatever it was probably 10 years ago and I ended up hiring collection agencies. But unfortunately that company ended up going out of business. I didn’t get paid simply because they couldn’t handle the volume at that time. I’m sure you see issues like this all the time.

Ian: Yeah, of course. I mean you push yourself up. People go to you and they’re like, “Hey Ian. I read about you. I want you push this product. I know you have volume for it.” When you throw the traffic, keep going and keep going then later on after one week or two weeks that you need to get paid, you get half a check. And you’re like, “What’s going on here?” They give you a lot of BS, advertising and networks and you got to look through the data, do your own data analyst. It becomes kind of a headache.

Zac: Definitely. It’s one of the unfortunate sides of running a business.

Ian: Yup.

Zac: And you recently made the move from New Jersey to Florida and how has this affected your business and what made you choose Florida?

Ian: Well, as you know, I lived in Atlanta for a year. I sold the company, my software company. I move from New Jersey to Atlanta first. And then I think towards December, October, November I started coming to Florida every other week because it was kind of cold. I was like, “Let me just chill here.” After doing that for multiple times I was like, “Let me just move here.” So in February I moved here and I enjoyed the weather. But as my technicality about my business is growing in New York we’re actually moving it to New Jersey. So technically I’m moving back to New Jersey in the next couple of months.

Zac: Nice. Florida and Jersey – two great places at the bay. You travelled all around the world lately. What are some of the favorite places you’ve been to?

Ian: There’s so many. Recently I was in Dominican Republic. My last biggest trip was Asia. I was there for a month a half. I went to the Philippines for two weeks, Thailand for three and China for a week and a half. I want to say Thailand for this year’s vacation or this year’s trip was the best so far. It’s just a great experience seeing other cultures, taste new food, how people actually do their online business or work. Just a new world, a different experience.

Zac: The coolest thing about all of that is that no matter where you go you can still run your business from anywhere.

Ian: Correct. Yeah, I agree. Like you say, I can work here in my apartment, go overseas, take calls through Skype. I can still look at my data through my dashboard. As long as I have the internet and a laptop or an iPad, I can work.

Zac: Amazing. And for any of our listeners who are interested in getting started with affiliate marketing but haven’t made the leap yet, what would you say is the best direction from someone who wants to get started?

Ian: I would say get yourself educated, for sure. Know what would be involved, understand the risk. Don’t know the risk but understand the risk and just actually do it. I wouldn’t take it back where I was with Vonage and I couldn’t handle my job anymore. I knew that I had to do something different. I just technically jumped into it. I never looked back since. Basically, educate, read your blog, my blog, go to affposts.com, read other blogs. Once you have a good solid information at least a basic understanding then just do it. Like Nike says just do it.

Zac: Right. Great advice. When we come back, Ian Fernando is going to take the hot seat when he is at the pit of fire.

Zac: Alright Ian, here we are at the pit of fire and we got three hot questions for you. First one, what was the tipping point in your journey that really propelled you to that next level of success?

Ian: Basically having partners. Partners basically help you, motivate you, pushes you and once you have a partner that is better than you at it while you’re doing something that you’re great at, you just propel yourself 300% more. For sure, partners has basically tipped me to where I am today too.

Zac: Great and we’ve talked about your blog, you’ve talked about the affiliate success and growing your company in size. But what’s the most exciting thing that has happened to you as a result of your personal and business success?

Ian: Basically I want to say maybe credentials. I want to thank Shawn Collins for giving me the opportunity to give me my first speaking gig at Affiliate Summit and that basically turned into a roller coaster of effective speaking internationally, to be featured in magazines, to have features on podcasts like yours. Those things have helped me grow my personal brand and credentials on online space.

Zac: And non-factoring in the success and money value, what’s been your favorite time period or project that you’ve worked on since getting started online?

Ian: Software. I actually like doing software, thinking problems, how to solve it, creating systems. I can just do that all day. It’s just something that I really enjoy. My theory when I run traffic is if I get 100 clicks to my campaign, why didn’t 100 people convert? That’s what I kind of live by. By creating these systems and software kind of helped basically turn a lot of personal software into products and services.

Zac: Alright, Ian you’ve made it through the pit of fire. And before we go, please let everyone know what you’re currently working on and where we can find you online.

Ian: Basically, I’m working on a bunch of stuff. I’m redoing a new software company. I’m creating ad products and services. I have an outsourcing company now too. I’m just very, very busy. You can find me on ianfernando.com. I’m trying to update it at least twice a month now, what I’ve been doing but running multiple companies, time takes presence.

Zac: Alright, Ian thank you so much for being here. I’m sure some of our audience will be in touch with you soon.

Ian: Thank you Zac, I appreciate it.