How do you define success?

© Diane M. Aull

There are all kinds of articles, eBooks, and tutorials out there that say they’ll teach you how to be "successful" as an affiliate. What you need to decide, though, is this: how do you define success?

To understand what I’m talking about, let me tell you a little story:

One day, two neighbors each decide they want to start websites. They both have access to free or low cost hosting space, and have acquired inexpensive web coding software. They’ve both purchased books on web design and feel pretty confident of their abilities to create a basic, attractive, web site.

One creates a site based around a life-long interest, a hobby she’s pursued since she was a little girl. Her purpose in creating the site is to share her passion and experience with others. As she’s researching the Internet to find links for inclusion on her site, she comes across a couple of sites related to her hobby that offer affiliate programs. She decides to join their programs and include the affiliate links on her site. And, what the hey, she might even make a buck or two.

The second neighbor is determined to make a living on the Internet. She does her research and decides on a topic for her site that she thinks will be a good traffic generator. She purchases a course or two on Internet marketing, reads as many marketing-oriented message boards as she can find, subscribes to dozens of marketing newsletters, and spends at least an hour or two every day working on her search engine rankings (following the advice of all those marketing gurus, of course). She tries to do everything the experts recommend to maximize her chances for success with her online business.

At the end of six months, the first neighbor has received two checks, totalling a little over $50. The second neighbor has made almost $1,500 in affiliate commissions.

Which neighbor is the more successful affiliate?

The answer might not be as obvious as it appears on the surface.

The first neighbor never expected to make a profit on her site. That wasn’t her objective in creating the site in the first place. She would have created and continued to maintain the site even if she never made a dime from it. For her, the $50 she made was simply icing on the cake, and she feels pretty proud of herself for having made it. She considers her website a success.

On the other hand, the second neighbor’s objective was to make a living on the Internet. While $1,500 sounds pretty good on the surface, consider that over the course of six months, that comes to only $250 a month… hardly a "living" in the U.S. On top of that, she spent a good bit of money on marketing courses and pay-per-click search engine listings, so her actual profit was considerably less than $1,500. She’s actually feeling pretty discouraged and wondering if it’s worth keeping up all that hard work for what feels like such a small return.

The point is, whether you’re successful or not depends on how you define "success" — which, in turn, depends on your expectations and goals when you created your website or joined that first affiliate program. You don’t have to make a living on the Web in order to be a successful affiliate. If you feel like a success, if you’ve accomplished (or exceeded!) your initial goals, then you are a success, no matter what the size of your commission check.

This article may be reproduced on your website or in your e-zine as long as the content is maintained intact and unchanged (including links) and the following paragraph is included in its entirety, including "live" links:

Copyright © Diane M. Aull, an online consultant for small and mid-sized businesses. For more information about her services, visit or BootstrapSEO. For resources and tools for home based workers, visit Torka's Home for Wayward Girls.

For any other intended use, you must contact me in advance. If you do use this article on your website, I'd love to know about it; please send me the URL!

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