The more and more I work online, the more I learn. Even though little bits and pieces may not seem to teach me much, collectively over time I can see the bigger picture of what I needed to learn. I’d say the most recent large step in my affiliate endeavors has been the slow transition from Man to Team.
How My Operation Started
I started ~3 years ago on my own, just a solo affiliate trying to learn the business. I had my own campaigns that did well, but after going to some events and talking with industry friends I realized I was small potatoes. Most of my affiliate friends were solo as well, so I pretty much stuck with that route for a while. I had a few partnerships along the way, but that’s an entire post on it’s own (hmm perhaps the next post then?).
After a while of working on my own and building out my skills, I took a step back and looked at what was happening. I was making pretty good money but I was doing everything myself. That’s when I went golfing with Matt and he jokingly suggested that I hire him. That day I thought about it a lot and it actually seemed to make sense. I’d pay him hourly (more than he was making at his current job) to work on things for me. The more work I gave him, the more free time I had to work on things myself, start new ideas, and network a lot more. And play Call of Duty here and there ;).
So I went through with that idea and it proved to be beneficial. Now a few months later I see that my plan was still very flawed. I thought about things and what I was good at, and what I was training Matt for. I was good at coming up with ideas, setting up a decent landing page, and driving traffic to it. I pretty much spent months teaching Matt the same thing. WRONGGGGGGGGG.
Instead of initially looking for someone to compliment my skills, I should have been looking for someone to supplement them. Meaning instead of training someone to do what I’m already good at, I should have been looking for someone to work in the areas that I’m weaker in; primarily programming and design. Now that I realized that small roadblock I made for myself, how could I take it to the next level? By…
Building a Team
If I could break it down into a step-by-step process, I’d go something like this.
Step 1 : Making sure you’re in the proper mindset.
Building a team is serious stuff, and for it you have to be serious. That means not only will you have to take a risk in paying all these employees that may not make you anything more than you are now, but you also risk them being counterproductive to what you’re already doing. These risks can be minimized by simply hiring the right people. You have to be prepared and ready to accept a potential loss, it’s all a part of the game.
Step 2 : Asses the strengths/weaknesses in your company/yourself.
In my own case, I mentioned that the strengths in my company from myself were traffic generation and ideas. My ideas come to life, but not at their greatest potential. If I were to take things seriously, I would want employees that would specialize in :
- content creation
Now that you know what you have and what you don’t have, it’s time to actually make it happen.
Step 3 : Set up your game plan.
There’s actually a few ways you can hire and manage the team you’re going to build. I’ll list a couple of them:
1. Hiring an outsourced team. I’d suggest hitting up a place like Odesk.com or even a design/writing forum or some sort of internet forum. Post up a job and take resumes and portfolios. Take all the info, look it over, and then choose your team to hire over the internet. Communicate via email, phone, and IM.
Pros : Can find much cheaper work, it’s faster, you can communicate anywhere, cutting someone is no hassle, you have the opportunity to just hire on a per project basis and not hourly/salary.
Cons : Everything that comes with hiring a remote staff. They may not pick up your calls or take a while to respond, time zone differences, quality of work may be lower because you’re not there, and things are generally easier to explain in person.
2. Hiring an in-house team from scratch. I’d say the younger the better, so if you were to build a team from scratch I’d try and find some students fresh out of college. Post listings at local colleges and design schools, in English buildings and computer buildings.
Pros : We just made the change to in-house, meaning you have a constant watch over everybody, communication is easier, and teamwork is a lot better. Simply put in-house is just much more effective. They’re fresh out of college and are ready to learn and work. They know nothing about the industry and with your proper guidance will never know enough to quit the company and go off on their own. Just make sure that you really specialize what they’re doing and not tell them anymore (i.e. don’t show a designer affiliate network stats, traffic stats, revenue, or anything).
Cons : Training. Depending on your current skills, this can take either a long time or a really really long time. Matt still has a ton to learn and he’s been with me approaching a year now learning everything that I know. Also you run the risk of them just not working out and not learning well. If you’re going this route make sure you have an extensive interview process. Also costs. You’re going to want to get some office space, equipment, and then the employees will most likely be more expensive.
3. Collaborating with and poaching existing industry folk. Say you have a really good friend and he’s bomb at programming or something. You two decide to team up and hire a team. Someone will have to move, but you both get together and build the company together. You can either hire fresh students, or you can hire existing industry affiliates and affiliate managers. I’ve known more than one instance where I’ve seen an affiliate manager be poached by a private affiliate.
Pros : Most members already know the industry. Training is kept to a minimum, ideas flow much better, you have everybody’s connections combined, and it’s all just much faster.
Cons : Already being in this industry, employees like affiliate managers will want a decent salary or some sort of revshare. You’ll already be splitting the company with a partner (if you choose), so that means you get even less of a cut.
Step 4 : Take the plan to action.
Now it’s time to put the game plan into action. Go out and find your employees whichever way you choose. Hit up colleges with flyers, talk to professors, talk to your industry friends, etc. This is where 95% of you reading this will just stop. You’ll get psyched about the money you could make with a full team, plan on actually doing it, and then never following through. Maybe the campaign your working on now takes up too much of you’re time, or maybe you’re just a baby and don’t want to take a risk. There’s nothing I can say that will change your mind or reveal anything to you, so I guess that where it’ll end. Either do it or not.
I’m probably going to cut the article off here for now, because that’s pretty much what I can report on. I have multiple friends that employ teams EXACTLY the way I just described to you, and they’re raping it. Right now I’ve started taking some steps to outsource a little work, and partner up with some industry friends for single project revshare deals. Next year I plan on getting out of Buffalo and moving somewhere nicer. Once I do that I’d like to get an office and just start hiring in-house.
So while I can’t give many tips on managing a full team yet, hopefully it’ll make for a decent post next month.
See ya’ll in NYC in a couple days.
EDIT: I think comments are back and working.