ZorbasMedia Interviews Ian Fernando about his Transition from Affiliate Marketing to Amazon FBA

By Ian Fernando

Aleksis Zorba: ... Legendary Ian Fernando.

Ian Fernando: Thank you.

Aleksis Zorba: Thank you very much for coming.

Ian Fernando: No, I appreciate it.

Aleksis Zorba: Welcome to our Barcelona studio in here. I would like to start by asking you a bit about the beginning of your career, what's it called career an affiliate marketing. What did you do before you started, and how have you actually got involved?

Ian Fernando: Yes, sure. I think it's one of my favorite stories, and a lot of people actually enjoy it just because it goes from an actual person having a regular job, but for me, I actually had to work three jobs. So I was a customer service representative that night, as a call center. Human resource managers during the day, and then I was also a waiter on the weekends.

Aleksis Zorba: Do you have any time to like sleep?

Ian Fernando: Yes, exactly. So by the time one job finishes, I only have one and a half hour from my human resource job in the day, because it went from like 7:00 to 4:00, and then the next job at the call center started 6:00. So I had traveled from one to another, they're basically both ups and downs. But anyways I was doing that, and now I think to myself you know what I need to figure out how to get rid of at least two jobs, where I have one job.

Aleksis Zorba: Was it not possible to make a living just having one job? Like, let's clarify it, where was it?

Ian Fernando: Yes, so in New Jersey.

Aleksis Zorba: New Jersey.

Ian Fernando: Yes, right. At that time, my parents kicked me out of the house because I didn't want to finish college. And they paid for my first semester in college in Pennsylvania, and since I had a horrible GPA, I was under like suspension or warning for the next semester, so I paid the next semester of that. And then since I got a horrible GPA, they wouldn't accept me back into college.

And then I went to a community college for about two and a half years, and then I got kicked out for fighting. So to myself like nah man, I can't figure out how to be a student or a proper learner, and then I just told my parents I don't want to go back to school. And then that's when they decide hey this is my house, you go to school, or you don't, or you leave, and then I just decided to leave. And then at that point, I was obviously working these three jobs, just to pay for my rent and just to eat for the rest time.

Aleksis Zorba: How old were you by then?

Ian Fernando: I want to say 20-21 years old, because I went to college almost a year after, so yes, 20-21. And then I actually got a good job of getting rid of two and using advantage which is where I became a telecom analyst. And then from there, I actually climbed the ranks of this company from the call center position and basically got to a telecom analyst position.

And that's kind of where I learned all my data hacks and learned about Excel and all that. But at that point, I was like trying to figure out okay if I'm making these figures a year, am I able to do some marketing online to basically place this income? I basically started online by googling how to make money online.

Aleksis Zorba: Why did you want to go online?

Ian Fernando: At that point, the only reason I want to go online is that again the three jobs I had, I didn't figure out any other way to make money on them. So should I get another fourth job? The fourth job, I was like no I don't even have time to sleep. So I just basically googled how to make money online.

But when I did that, I couldn't even afford Wi-Fi or internet in my apartment at that time, so actually stole a Wi-Fi repeater from my store, put on the edge of my apartment and took somebody else's open Wi-Fi or hack or whatever and that's how I was able to get access to the Internet for a small period of time. And then I just turned up Google, and I figured about eBay, and I learned about reselling.

And from reselling, I was like oh man this is great. I'm making a good amount of money. And then I think I was working two jobs at that point, and then I was like how can I get rid of the other job and grow my eBay business. The problem I had is that I couldn't take care of my customers, and the email templates and customer requests to properly service them.

Aleksis Zorba: Was it because you didn't like it?

Ian Fernando: No, it was just the job, right? I couldn't spend the time. So at that point, I googled how to make money online without customers.

Aleksis Zorba: And CPA marketing just showed up?

Ian Fernando: Correct. CPA marketing showed up, and that's when I signed up with one affiliate network. Azul ads, I'm not sure if you know them.

Aleksis Zorba: They're no longer around.

Ian Fernando: Correct, they're no longer around. But they're the one that basically helped me to be; I think they're the first stepping stone for me to become where I am today.

Aleksis Zorba: How long did it take you to reach first 1000 today?

Ian Fernando: Oh, my affiliate management is such a good job, like within 25 days like literally the first month.

Aleksis Zorba: Really? In 45 days?

Ian Fernando: Yes, or less than.

Aleksis Zorba: Right. And what kind of offer is?

Ian Fernando: At that time, it was a long-form tax offer. So it was like four pages, and I think like 13 questions or whatever. And I forgot what the payout was, but it did very well at that time.

Aleksis Zorba: Yes. What was your first traffic source?

Ian Fernando: Google AdWords, because she definitely helped me how to push this offer on Google AdWords.

Aleksis Zorba: So that was sizing today, and some days I'd believe for some ups and downs it usually goes. And to my understanding, that was also completely Whitehead?

Ian Fernando: Correct. But this is also a seasonal offer, so it's only lasted, when is tax season in the U.S March, April.

Aleksis Zorba: You can use March or April.

Ian Fernando: Yes. So three month, two months of earnings that's where I made my I guess big jump.

Aleksis Zorba: So that's how you actually have been introduced to marketing, you never got back to corporate job ever since?

Ian Fernando: No, I haven't been back.

Aleksis Zorba: Right. Tell me then what you do now, and what makes you most of your money?

Ian Fernando: So, right now, I still do affiliate marketing, I still buy traffic.

Aleksis Zorba: You still run campaigns yourself.

Ian Fernando: Yes.

Aleksis Zorba: It's rare nowadays.

Ian Fernando: Yes, for sure. I mean it's obviously not the amount of figures that I've had in the past, but it gets me going. There's a lot of concentration where I'm doing now Amazon FBA, and I just started this year, and I'm already at 4 figure month revenue, and my goal now is to hit the five figures, which I should be able to get there within the next 30, 45 days alright. So affiliate marketing, my blog, and Amazon basically the three things I'm concentrating on.

Aleksis Zorba: And as for Amazon, you started just like this year, right?

Ian Fernando: Yes. February this year I started, and then very much April I hit oh May was the month where I hit about four thousand revenue, so I was actually pretty excited about that one.

Aleksis Zorba: It's called Amazon FBA for those who are not familiar guys, FBA stands for fulfillment by Amazon. And as far as I understand, this model they take care of everything like fulfillment, shipping, customer care all you need to do is like...

Ian Fernando: Ship the product to them.

Aleksis Zorba: Right, and find the right product.

Ian Fernando: Correct, yes. But I'm actually doing grant arbitrage; I'm not doing like a white-label or anything like that. So brand arbitrage is basically saying, I mean it's all the word for it like retail arbitrage.

Aleksis Zorba: Yes, or product arbitrage.

Ian Fernando: Yes, product arbitrage. What you're basically doing is finding this shirt on clearance or whatever for five dollars, and you're selling at the market value for $25.

Aleksis Zorba: How do you do that?

Ian Fernando: I mean there are a lot of stories, especially to the retailer you got to physically go to the store and shop. Or there's online arbitrage where you can just buy the products, and wholesale online or buy clearance items online also.

Aleksis Zorba: So you basically try to find low priced items and the try to sell them.

Ian Fernando: Correct, yes. So the FBA model is a little bit more expensive, just because you're paying for a monthly fee to Amazon, and you're paying I guess the service fees four times as well.

Aleksis Zorba: For each delivery?

Ian Fernando: Yes, correct. So something like this shirt that cost me $5 will probably technically cost me $15, because of the service fees at Amazon puts on, taxes per states wherever it's being delivered.

The monthly fee, and then I'm only making what $10 margin or a $5 margin. But it's worth it for me, because if I did FBM, Amazon FBM which is fulfilled by merchant’s right I have to ship it, I have to take care of the customer.

Aleksis Zorba: Which would be probably even more expensive for you?

Ian Fernando: Correct, it might be yes.

Aleksis Zorba: And time-consuming.

Ian Fernando: Correct, the time value and convenience, correct.

Aleksis Zorba: Cool, that's pretty interesting. How similar is that to traffic arbitrage?

Ian Fernando: The thing is if I started doing Amazon PPC for my arbitrage projects, or buying traffic through Facebook to the product arbitrage that I have, then it works in that way. But there's really no similarity unless it's like buying something for cheap, getting a conversion for a higher price that's pretty much the same model.

Aleksis Zorba: How do you attract traffic, is just run inside Amazon's store?

Ian Fernando: Oh no, they have reported, so I log into reporting almost once a week, and then I use data studio, Google Data studio to filter out what I need to see properly. But Amazon gives you all that information; it's just not like a proper reporting thing because there's just, I don't think they'd concentrate on that at all.

Aleksis Zorba: How does Amazon rank products?

Ian Fernando: Oh, I mean it varies from product title, the popularity of the item. Some items are seasonal like I remember buying like 100 items of this fleece when they're in clearance, and luckily I was able to sell at least a good 80% of it just before March by starting with inventory stuck in there now, all right. But it really varies, I think.

Aleksis Zorba: And how do you increase sales, like if you see that something is selling very well, how do you make it even bigger?

Ian Fernando: Yes. So Amazon will actually tell you this product is doing very well, they recommend a certain amount of items to buyers of that product. So Amazon will give you hey, this is actually on fire on your store, you should buy more of these items. But the problem is certain store doesn't have 80 items; you have to source from multiple areas. And one person might have it for five dollars; another person might have it for seven, so you have to figure out that math. So the issue I'm having now is just the scalability factor, which I'm trying to figure it out.

Aleksis Zorba: And how do you find the right product? How do you test in another way?

Ian Fernando: Yes, that's a very time-consuming thing. So I do have a VA, all he does is looks at websites all day.

Aleksis Zorba: Virtual assistant, right?

Ian Fernando: Virtual assistant, yes. And there's a scoreboard that I use or a Google sheet that I use on how to score a product. So what he does it's he'll find something on like Newegg.com, search the title in Amazon and then I have a tool that I have like Helium 10 or Bibot Pro, and then it tells me the actual ranking of the product.

Aleksis Zorba: How likely that it will be ranked?

Ian Fernando: If it's ranked in the millions it'll be hard to sell, but I only pick a specific rank that I use, and that's the only time where he'll recommend me that product. If he recommends me that product, then I'll go ahead and buy as much as I can and store.

Aleksis Zorba: And just started actually testing it, you first have to invest by certain amounts of items, ship them to Amazon, and that's how you start testing.

Ian Fernando: So I basically buy just like five items to see if it will move, and if Amazon decides to tell me or recommend to me hey, you should buy 25 of these, then that's when I'll go ahead and buy more.

Aleksis Zorba: What niches are kind of most attractive in your experience?

Ian Fernando: Why not I do a lot of like clothing and toys. Some electronic, like some of the third party brand products in electronics, those are basically the three areas I've been on or that I've been selling.

Aleksis Zorba: What wouldn't you recommend to go to for what niche? I think the more competitive they are, the harder they become.

Ian Fernando: Yes, I mean, I don't even know just because I haven't touched every niche, right? So I've only focused on like toys, electronics, clothes, books. What I probably can recommend is not to buy everything that's discounted, and because what's happening is what I see happening is that people that are learning in Amazon, they're doing the same things as what I'm doing, but they're also buying everything at discounted.

So what you think started discounting on Amazon, you'll have another eighty people doing the same thing, and you're competing against them. And by the time you ship it and they ship it, you're again competing at pricing wars. So if you lower your price, you lower your price.

She’ll lower her price, and now you're like oh you're not making enough profit anymore. Because what you thought you're going to sell for $25, you're now sign it for like $7 because the person in the group of people of stores just wants to make a dollar, or move that inventory, so you go through this price war challenge.

Aleksis Zorba: Alright. How much capital do you think one should need to try to enter this model?

Ian Fernando: It literally only take, let's see it's $50 a month for Amazon, and then to buy the inventory I think you only need like less than $500 all right if you can buy things discounted.

Aleksis Zorba: Any other expenses?

Ian Fernando: The other expenses is Amazon; you don't do any Merch because Amazon takes care of it.

Aleksis Zorba: You don't need any creators [Inaudible]

Ian Fernando: Nothing, yes. Since this item is already listed, all I got to do is just ship it to them. So whoever listed this item for before me, have control of that listing. So all I have to do is just send the inventory. So it just takes like probably 300 dollars of your money, finds products, time, and that's really it.

Aleksis Zorba: Are you already profitable, or break-even?

Ian Fernando: Yes, I'm already profitable; I was already profitable. Oh, in the beginning, I wasn't profitable, because I purposely wanted to lose money just so I could learn the process.

Aleksis Zorba: Interesting.

Ian Fernando: I'm more of a guy that when I heard about it in AWA Bangkok, or affiliate world Asia, Bangkok two years ago or last year. I was interested, so I was like let me try it. I literally went spend my time on YouTube for almost a week or two weeks, and then I was like you know what I'm going to do this, let me try it.

And then all I did was source things around the house, went to stores, buy stuff, and I already knew in my head I was going to lose money, but I just wanted to feel out the process of how to do it within Amazon, what do I click, is there anything else I have to learn.

Aleksis Zorba: To get your hands dirty.

Ian Fernando: Yes, exactly. I'm more of a person that let me fall in the mud; let me clean myself later before I can jump over the mud.

Aleksis Zorba: Alright and how long did it take you to just get things going?

Ian Fernando: Really within the same week, a week. So after two weeks of watching videos, a week of probable sourcing and another week of figuring out Amazon, and then I was like oh I finally got my first check which is two weeks later from the first initial buy, I thought to myself this is easy then.

Aleksis Zorba: Is that like your conscious decision to make this transition to more kind of e-commerce from CPA marketing?

Ian Fernando: Yes, correct. So this is the reason why I started Amazon because traffic sources come and go, offers are up and down. The stability of traffic and conversions are just like never consistent. So at least I feel like with Amazon and everybody moving to eCommerce, that I can utilize Amazon's huge volume of buyers, and just send a mandatory and hopefully I go in that direction. But I think I'll still be an affiliate, because every time I do something I always move back to being an affiliate, I always fall back to become an affiliate for some reason, so we'll see.

Aleksis Zorba: Do you consider yourself an affiliate or an entrepreneur?

Ian Fernando: What I think is I'm just an online marketer. What I thought before was that I was an entrepreneur, but then when I sold my company, and made projects, and made things like software's I didn't see myself as an entrepreneur, because I realized that all I'm doing is just trying to make money. I'm not trying to change your experience, his experience, the world.

Aleksis Zorba: That's why you started to write your blog?

Ian Fernando: Well I wrote on my blog when I first started just to keep tabs on myself, and I'm focusing on my blog now just so I can rebuild up my brand in the marketing space. Even though I've been in it for so long, but the blog makes money in itself.

Aleksis Zorba: Do you write it for money, or not only or not at all?

Ian Fernando: I don't write for money on it, it's more like experiences. If somebody wants to do a post on it, yes I mean I'll ask for a fee for sure. But there's no money-focused driven model behind my blog at all. And it's the reason why I don't think I am an entrepreneur because I'm really not changing the world.

Aleksis Zorba: Do you want to? That is an important question.

Ian Fernando: I'm going through this weird phase in my life now, where I'm like do I want to be a mind-boggling changer of the world, or do I want people to remember me twenty years from now, and I'm like it's okay I guess, but I'm not sure, all right.

So before I was definitely all about it, where I want to build a school in the Philippines, and now I'm just such in a minimalistic mind why I said that. It doesn't really affect me if I do or do not, so it's kind of a battle that I'm currently having.

Aleksis Zorba: Was reading a page about you in Facebook, like about you section.

Ian Fernando: Was it good?

Aleksis Zorba: Yes, I enjoyed that. And you were talking about your calling, whether affiliate marketing is your calling or not, something like that I what I wanted to ask you. What is your calling now?

Ian Fernando: Man, it goes back to the other question like I don't know right. I'm trying to figure out what is my end goal, will I be a traveler for the rest of my life and just bounce around, or will actually have a home to stay, and just actually work on the business. Will I create a software company as I've done in the past? I don't know; I just let the world take me where it needs to take me.

Aleksis Zorba: So you're in this phase of figuring out?

Ian Fernando: Yes, I'm in this phase of figuring it out, yes. Because being in the game for so long, you kind of realize that it's not about the money anymore. I was explaining to somebody at AWA and a rooftop party. And this guy was like I can't wait to be like you, I want to make my first M.

And I'm like no you don't want to make your first million, it's pointless to make your first million, I mean he asked me why and I was like well I'm more of a lifestyle affiliate, I just want to make money just to live a life that I want. I'm not all about the cash flow life style anymore.

Aleksis Zorba: Are you a big spender?

Ian Fernando: I used to be. I used to have like four cars, crazy-ass watches.

Aleksis Zorba: Four cars?

Ian Fernando: Yes and I mean, and then now I travel with just a carry-on. And I feel free, I feel not so heavy, and that's kind of like living in the life that I think I want to go towards, in which I think I'm doing.

Aleksis Zorba: Now you have been in the business for more than 12 years, 15 years, I mean if you are still here, it clearly indicates that you like it. What do you like the most about online marketing, affiliate marketing?

Ian Fernando: I actually like the fact that it gets me the time.

Aleksis Zorba: Time to live?

Ian Fernando: Yes, just time. Time to just travel, or time to just pick up and go to the beach I mean it gives me the freedom. I mean if I had a nine-to-five, would I be happy if I'm doing affiliate marketing nine-to-five? I'm not sure because I have a certain routine that I do during my day.

I can't sit in front of my computer for nine hours a day, and an hour lunch break. So even though I'm an affiliate, would I be happy with a nine-to-five as an affiliate? Probably not. I'm happy doing what I'm doing, X amount of money or X amount of time on a campaign, that's what gives me the convenience and time which I appreciate a lot.

Aleksis Zorba: If you had to learn affiliate marketing from scratch, how would you act nowadays in 2019, where do you go?

Ian Fernando: Difficult question I think to ask because I'm the type of person that likes to trip and fall and figure out why I tripped and fall. And when I first started, there were no affiliate markers or mentors that are affiliate marketers.

So it's kind of hard because I can only talk based on my experience, right. I would watch YouTube a lot, and then do it yourself right. Understand that you'll lose a hundred dollars, and realize that you're losing a hundred dollars; you're not going to be profitable from those hundred dollars.

Aleksis Zorba: Do you believe it is useful to watch people talking about affiliate marketing?

Ian Fernando: Yes, I agree I totally 100% agree because I learn a lot from YouTube, all right. But the thing is you also have to find out okay is this person authentic enough, that whatever they're talking is real.

I also speak Russian... Watch in Russian.

Ian Fernando
Involved in the internet space since 2002 and have been through the ups and downs of this online industry. I am a traveling digital nomad, media buyer, online strategist, and many more online titles.

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