This guest post, which I’m hugely grateful have been given, is here to explain exactly how I’ve been able to make money as a student. I warn you it is highly autobiographical and reflective though, and maybe goes off on a few random tangents, but all in all I do believe it offers some valuable insights for other students, or budding affiliate marketers, to follow in my footsteps.
The story starts in my first year at university, when I worked part time as a waiter during term time, and then full time doing various jobs in the holidays. I remember I earned just enough to cover my living expenses but was left with the burden of considerable tuition fees to pay – on top of this the hours were hard, and it was difficult to balance full time education and working 25 hours a week.
My solution moving into my second year was to investigate any outside-of-the-box money making opportunities for students that I could get my hands on. This included partaking in all sorts of psychology, economics and sports science dissertation, research projects, as well as a few unpleasant medical research experiments. I scheduled timetables and inquired about any such opportunities so although the pay per hour was a slight improvement, my life was actually far worse as a result. I can tell you that my second year student experience wasn’t great fun and didn’t bring in a brilliant amount of money either, as you probably already guessed.
Fortunately for me my third year at university was far more successful in times of making an income. I had started to look into affiliate marketing and other internet based solutions to paying off my student debt. I was studying inBarcelonathat year so there wasn’t such great opportunity for jobs and I was forced into it a bit – neither my Spanish nor Catalan was great so the internet was my only hope.
I ended up buying a number of different products and devoting a lot of hours to learning how to make money on the internet. There are a lot of people who are willing to make a commission pointing you in the direction of any old, garbage-product, regardless of the quality or usefulness. We’ve all come across the get-rich-quick brigade and certainly in time you just learn to not trust a thing they say – in this vein I make sure I test my products out and write only honest reviews, I don’t claim to be an affiliate millionaire and I certainly don’t claim to have the power to make someone else one. It takes a lot of hard work to be successful so my main advice is simply to persist, persist, persist – if you’re good enough you’ll get there eventually.
Sorry about that, I get distracted by my disdain for the get-rich-quick brigade! Anyway, as I was saying, I’d been researching for a month or so before I left for Spain, and eventually I found a business plan I wished to dedicate myself to. The solution I came to was very simple and is the very same affiliate marketing you’ve chosen to give a go (or are already well on your way).
Affiliate marketing is basically a business plan in which you promote other people’s products in exchange for commission over the internet. It is absolutely perfect for a student entrepreneur because it uses modern technology, modern media and you can promote almost anything you want. In contrast to standard advertising, in affiliate marketing you are paid for your results, rather than just showing the adverts to other people. The benefit of this is that you can make a lot more money if your sales pages are high converting – for instance you might only receive a few dollars or pounds per click with a scheme like Google Adsense whereas I was bringing in about $50 with my first affiliate products.
So now you probably want to hear how I did it – and the truth is that I dedicated a lot of my free time to make a success of my original website. I’ve actually sold my original website through Flippa but my new site is pretty similar, although not SBI this time – I’ve decided to go it alone! I’m afraid this guide is only going to have to be very brief in outlining the process I went through with affiliate marketing, and will try my best to repeat with my new site.
So, as I’ve said, I had done about a month’s research into internet money making opportunities – I even tried doing online surveys and getting articles published however the money involved was pretty appalling. I think I found my return on investment to be about £1 for every hour put in. I didn’t give up there though and this is an essential thing to remember if you’re ever going to be successful online– you need to be hugely persistent and also patient.
I was lucky I came across a program called Site Build It when I did however – this gave me the motivation and inspiration to put a few more hours in and it was the very beginning of my affiliate marketing career. SBI is basically a website creation and hosting tool tailored specifically to the needs of affiliate marketers – it even provides marketing advice because the repeat payment they receive is totally dependent on you being successful. The product does cost a fair amount of money but this, along with a few e-books I didn’t bother to get my money back on, was my only expenditure that wasn’t revenue brought in.
So with Site Build It I created my high converting affiliate website – I spent a lot of time researching my niche and read a lot of guides and articles on how best to choose which markets to go into. This is really essential for all new affiliate marketers, let alone students, as it means you can find the niches which aren’t saturated and have enough buyers to be profitable. I would tell you my niche but as I still run that particular website I fear you might only become a future competitor. Once I had a niche I selected a long list of relevant keywords related to that niche, especially towards those buying products – for instance ‘where can I buy xxxxx’ is a hugely valuable keyword to rank highly for. I therefore incorporated those top keywords into creating about ten pages of keyword rich and useful content for my website (all pointing towards my affiliate links which is how they track each sale made), as well as a couple of reviews for my chosen product.
I didn’t then make the common affiliate and student mistake of expecting immediate gratification for my efforts. I didn’t expect to see traffic swarm to my lovely new website but set out to find it – I literally tried anything and everything to get myself visitors and potential customers. This included social networking, mainly with Twitter, running a few cheap pay per click Google Adwords campaign, article marketing, blogging, posting on forums and blogs, offline marketing (not so successful because I wasn’t in the UK enough!) and so on.
My main strategy however was article marketing. This is basically writing high quality articles, including a link to your website, and publishing all over the internet. This sends some highly targeted traffic your way and is also excellent for SEO, search engine optimisation, which means getting your site ranked highly in the search engines – the more organic traffic you get the better because it is totally free and can increase you exposure exponentially. I ended up driving my Twitter followers towards my new articles and pushing them to the top of the social bookmark sites.
Eventually, after about 4 months of writing two really good quality, niche focused articles each day, and submitting first too Ezine Articles, and then my Hub Pages and Squidoo Lenses, I started to see some amazing results. I was making money! I started to see an average of around 100 unique visitors every day to my site and a figure of about $50, or £30, in revenue per day. I was ecstatic – I was now doing something I really enjoyed and earning the same I would for a 5 hour shift each day back home. Obviously you will be earning money at the weekends and when on holiday so this really begins to add up.
The logical thing to do was to keep doing what I was doing, so I did. To cut a long story short, after a year in the affiliate marketing business, still as a full time student remember, I was now earning just over £1000 a month from my efforts. With such a difficult job market for students right now I was very lucky to own my own successful, and relevantly risk-free, online business. I now run a couple of affiliate sites part time alongside my day job, having now left university, and enjoy the work as much as ever. You can really dedicate yourself to something you enjoy and make real money doing it – just keep at it and eventually you’ll get there.
In the end I sold my original website for a very tidy sum of money, went travelling for 3 months and then reinvested some money in my latest project.
Thank you for reading and good luck in the SEO adventure you have to come. Please leave any comments and I’ll do my best to answer any questions you might have.