Setting Up Shop
Do you feel a little overwhelmed by all that you need to learn?
Fear not! Affiliate marketing on the Internet isn’t rocket science. You don’t need an MBA or other degree to succeed in an online business.
If you know how to access the Web, as well as send and receive email, you’ve already mastered the two activities you’ll perform most frequently.
It’s also helpful if you have fundamental computer skills including a grasp of basic macros and file management.
Don’t worry about knowing HTML (Hypertext Markup Language – the code to write web page) at this, or any other point in the process. Although I strongly recommend that you learn a little HTML later, it’s not absolutely necessary for success.
At this point we are only dealing with the things that will help you maneuver around your computer more easily. Building a web site will come later.
• Computer Codes and Macros – A macro is a way to automate a task that you perform repeatedly or on a regular basis.
The following macros or computer codes are common across most Windows platforms and are worth memorizing for the time they can save during your daily tasks.
|Ctrl-D||Fill Down||Ctrl-R||Right Justify|
|Ctrl-K||Hyperlink||Ctrl-Y||Redo/Repeat Last Action|
• File Management – The easiest way to save time and keep your sanity is by being organized.
One webmaster I know bookmarks every ‘great’ site he sees, without organizing his bookmarks into categorized folders. I’ve waited 5 minutes and longer for him to find just one of those sites amongst the hundreds of others he has stored. None of those sites was worth the wait. The frustration I felt after enduring several of these delays may have colored my perception, however.
My friend wastes valuable time (time = life) every day looking for bookmarks, files and other records essential to his web business.
Do you want to spend you time (life) like that? Wouldn’t you rather spend it making money? Or playing with your kids?
If so, learn to establish categories within your email program, bookmarks and file folders containing all documents relevant to your web business.
Some examples of categories are; Accounting, Merchant Partners, Correspondence, JV’s and Newsletter.
Top-level categories are then broken down into more specific categories. I personally store all my web pages in folders named for their domains, i.e. Sage-Hearts.com, SuperAffiliateHandbook.com and NetProfitsToday.com. All files belonging to those domains are stored in their appropriate folder.
The small effort you make to learn basic codes and organize your files will pay off handsomely in saved time and increased profits.
5 Basic Hardware & Service Components
To start a part or full-time business on the Internet you’ll need some very basic equipment, or ‘hardware’, as well as services that allow you to connect to the ‘Net.
1. Computer – Your local library probably won’t let you spend several hours a day building your Internet business on their computers. Therefore, having ready access to a computer is absolutely essential.
Unless you back up all your work to CD, I highly recommend that access to your business computer be strictly limited. It’s amazing what damage kids and even some adults can unintentionally inflict.
If that point causes you to rethink the ‘family’ computer and invest in one of your own, I highly recommend Dell’s products. I have two Dell desktops and a Dell laptop and have been absolutely delighted with their products since 1998.
Compared with my experiences with other computer manufacturers, Dell’s online shopping and customer service is free of frustration. I like being able to select all my components, then clicking the ‘Buy Now’ button and having the computer arrive on my doorstep 3 to 4 days later.
2. Internet Connection – To do business on the Web, you need to be connected to the Web.
Your Internet connection options may include telephone or cable modem, or DSL. The latter two are preferable because they are faster connections. Cut costs if you must, but get the very fastest connection service that you can afford.
The slower your Internet connection, the slower you can work. It takes longer to download your email, and longer to upload pages to your site, and time IS money.
Here’s an example of how much a poor connection could cost you.
My friend toils on his Web business with a slow-as-molasses 36.6K modem. He works about 8 hours per day, six days a week, and uses that connection for about 50% of his work, or for 24 hours per week.
By contrast, I estimate that my cable connection is about 5 times faster than his telephone connection. That means that I can accomplish in 12 minutes what it takes my friend an hour to do. To accomplish the same amount, I will work 4.8 hours to his twenty-four, or 19.2 hours LESS.
In financial terms, it takes my friend 5 hours to earn what I earn in an hour, relative to our use of the Internet for uploading, downloading and research. This calculation is a good example of what it means to be ‘Penny Wise and Pound Foolish’.
Get the fastest Internet connection available, and don’t let $20 or $40 per month limit your earnings potential.
In fact, I recommend that you get TWO Internet connections – one cable or ADSL connection as well as a dial-up service backup connection. That way, when one of your connections fails for an hour … or a week… you won’t have to go to the local Internet café to check your email.
Here are a few ISP’s to consider and compare:
3. Telephone – Cable and/or DSL Internet connections may not be available in your area. You must then connect to the Internet using a modem and your telephone line.
Telephone service is also necessary when you want to call your friends to tell them that you’ve received your first affiliate check for five whole bucks.
Think I’m kidding? Just wait and see how good that feels! ☺
4. Printer – Although not absolutely necessary, printers are handy for printing proofs of purchase, drafts of your articles and other work.
5. Router – If you use a broadband connection like a cable modem or DSL, a router protects your PC(s) from outside intruders. Routers are much like firewalls, which are discussed in the ‘Software’ section below. Routers can be found at any of the big computer/electronic stores, or online through Etronics, and internet auction sites like eBay and UBid.
Once you are set up with an Internet connected computer, it’s time to find out what software you will need to run your eBusiness.
In this section and the next, you will learn about software that allows you to surf the web and do research, programs that help you with communication and accounting, and utilities to protect your computer from viruses and hackers. The good news is that most of it is FREE!
• Web Browser – A web browser is a software program that lets you view web pages and navigate the Internet.
The most popular browser is Microsoft’s Internet Explorer. Recent reports show that 90 to 95% of web surfers access the Internet with IE (Internet Explorer).
Netscape Communicator/Navigator is the other major browser currently being used on the World-Wide-Web, made by Netscape Communications.
Firefox is a relatively new and popular browser being used by millions particularly for its privacy and security features.
You should have multiple browsers installed on your computer, to see how your web pages look in each browser. While fewer than 10% of surfers use Netscape to surf the Net, 10% of your advertising budget is a lot of money to throw out the window if folks can’t see your page.
• Email Software – Internet business is about communicating, and email is still the preferred method of Internet marketers. Your email software must be capable of filtering, redirecting and handling a huge load of messages. I use Qualcomm’s ‘Eudora Pro’, but you can save your money if Microsoft Outlook is already installed on your computer.
A free trial of Eudora Light is available at:
Additional Software to Consider
In this section I’ve listed software that is related to keeping your computer safe from viruses, and other tools that are peripheral in your work as an affiliate marketer.
• AntiVirus Software – Whether you do business online or not, if you surf the Net, and download email or software programs to your computer, you should have antivirus software installed.
Here are a couple of experiences I’ve had with computer viruses, which should convince you to start using antivirus software if you don’t already.
Although McAfee’s antivirus program was installed on my machine, I didn’t do the required updates or scan for viruses, until … you guessed it … it was too late.
My system picked up an insidious virus that killed all my software programs over a period of two weeks. At the end of that time, the computer simply failed to start.
I was LUCKY, however! The local geeks were able to remove the virus and all my programs and files remained fully functional. (Note: Don’t worry, I call them ‘geeks’ to their faces, so they won’t be offended by seeing it here. ☺) During the second mishap, my antivirus software was set to update automatically. Unfortunately, my email program, Eudora, was also set to download immediately on opening. The email program downloaded faster than the antivirus program updated itself, and the computer picked up a couple of deadly worms from email.
The damage was significant. For weeks my computer operated in strange ways. Certain programs that had been flawless would hang (crash – not work), while others would simply close without warning. The status bar on my Explorer windows would disappear. I had to input passwords that were automatically filled in before the problems began. Start up and shut down got to be a grind – truly. The processor would take 5 minutes, grinding away, during the start up and shut down phases.
At that point, I took my computer to the local technicians, and crossed my fingers hoping all would be well.
Once again, I was fortunate. They were able isolate the problem and back up all of my data. However, due to the nature of the worm infestation, we opted to reformat my hard drive. If you’ve never been through this process – it’s NOT fun! Every program needs to be re-installed, and your personal options have to be reset.
For this reason alone, it’s a great idea to keep and print a copy of all your product registration codes. I had misplaced (lost) a couple of codes, and without them the programs wouldn’t function. So, in addition to the computer repair expenses, I also ended up buying a few new programs.
Live and learn. Set your email program to download only at times of your choosing, and not automatically on start-up.
I know many other webmasters who have not been so lucky and have lost all the data on their computers to viruses. Losing data, time and money due to computer viruses is a total waste, and is completely unnecessary.
I currently use Norton AntiVirus, although McAfee is also a good choice. I also like to use Trend Micro’s and McAfee’s free online virus scanning from time to time. When it comes to virus scanning, the more the merrier.
Take your pick of software, but do protect your investment by installing an antivirus program.
• Compression/Extraction Utilities – If you’ve ever downloaded software or a large ebook, you’ve probably downloaded a ‘zip’ file. These are files that are compressed to take up less space and bandwidth. To extract zipped files, you need an ‘extraction utility’. Mac and Windows users have different software choices available to them, and I discuss the most popular options below.
WinZip is one of the most popular extraction utilities. WinZip compresses and decompresses files using the zip format. This is the most common format used on the Internet for compressing Windows files. Files compressed in this way are identified with the extension .zip.
WinZip can be downloaded FREE from any of the following Web sites:
Stuffit Expander, like Winzip, is a utility that will decode and extract Macintosh files downloaded from the Internet.
Unlike Windows downloads, which must be decompressed, Macintosh downloads must be decompressed and decoded before they can be used. Fortunately, Stuffit Expander combines both these steps.
Stuffit Expander can be downloaded from the following site:
• Accounting Software – Although accounting software is entirely optional, running any business requires good bookkeeping. If you dislike bookkeeping as much as I do, Quicken or Quick Books might be just the right answer for you.
Unlike some other accounting programs, Quicken is very easy to learn. Making entries is like using a checkbook. Even better, you can save time and energy by downloading information from your business bank account directly into the program.
Save money on bookkeeping. Buy Quicken or any other good accounting program to keep track of your business.
• Firewall – If you’ve surfed the ‘Net from work, you’ve probably discovered that you are blocked from viewing certain sites. This is usually because there is a firewall installed on your company’s network.
Firewalls protect computer systems from offensive Web sites and potential hackers. The firewall filters information coming through the Internet connection into your computer system. If the filters flag an incoming packet of information, it is not allowed through.
Home systems have security issues similar to those of the large corporate networks. That is especially true if you connect to the Internet from home using a fast DSL or cable modem connection.
I learned about firewalls only after friends had their computer hacked through their cable connection. They lost all the accounting data stored on their computer… and I do mean ALL.
Don’t let that happen to you! Protect your valuable and private data. Install a firewall, such as ZoneAlarm or Norton on the ‘gateway’ computer in your home. (That’s the one with the Internet connection.)
• PDF Reader – A Portable Document Format (PDF) file is a self-contained cross- platform document. In other words, it is a file that will look the same on the screen and in print, regardless of what kind of computer or printer someone is using and regardless of what software package was originally used to create it.
Although they contain the complete formatting of the original document, including fonts and images, PDF files are highly compressed, allowing complex information to be downloaded efficiently.
Virtually anyone – including Windows, DOS, Macintosh and UNIX system users – can view and print PDF files using the free Acrobat Reader, which can be installed and configured to work seamlessly within your Internet browser.
The Adobe Acrobat Reader is free software for viewing and printing Adobe Portable Document Format (PDF) files on all major hardware and operating system platforms. You can even take your Adobe PDF files with you and view them on the go with Acrobat Reader for mobile devices. To download the free Adobe Acrobat
Reader, go to:
• Text Editor – NotePad is an easy-to-use text editor, and is probably already installed on your computer if you are running Windows.
Text editors don’t have all the features of more robust word-processing software, but are extremely handy for making quick notes. Text editors eliminate many of the ‘formatting characters’ that are embedded by more sophisticated word-processing programs. These ‘formatting characters’ can cause havoc with the appearance of email messages, so using a simple text editor eliminates the worry about sending messages that look like a bunch of gobbledy-gook.
I used NotePad to create my very first web pages, and it was an excellent way to learn HTML. I now use UltraEdit Pro to write the text for my newsletters. UltraEdit Pro has a hundred times more features than NotePad, and is available here:
• Spreadsheet Software – A spreadsheet is basically a computerized ledger, and the best way I know of to keep track of many aspects of your Internet business. Instead of buying expensive software, you can use spreadsheet software to record the affiliate programs you join. Keep track of broker and affiliate links, as well as commissions owed to you.
I use Microsoft Excel, because my Dell computer arrived with Microsoft Office installed, and Excel is bundled in the Office software package.
If Excel isn’t installed on your computer, you might want to look into EasyOffice 5.1 which is available as freeware through Tucows. I haven’t tried the software myself, but Tucows gives it a ‘5 Cow’ rating. Do a search for ‘spreadsheet’ at:
Equipped with most or all of the basic software tools discussed above, you will be ready to do business on the web.
Basic Business Expenses
Contrary to what so many unscrupulous Internet marketers will tell you, starting a business online is not free. HOWEVER, compared with starting a business offline, an Internet business IS incredibly inexpensive to start.
There are two types of expenditures, one-time expenses and recurring expenses. Let’s look at examples of both.
• One-Time Expenses – “One time” expenses include your computer, computer peripherals, office furniture, initial domain registration and software. Also consider educational materials (e.g. the Super Affiliate Handbook), and seminars you may attend. Your town or city may require you to buy a business license, and later on you might want to incorporate your business for which you will have to pay legal fees.
• Recurring Expenses – These include monthly charges such as web hosting, autoresponder service, internet and telephone connection. Domains need to be renewed every year, or two, or whichever interval you selected during your initial registration. Office supplies are an irregular yet recurring expense, as are advertising costs at pay-per-click search engines or listings at directories such as Yahoo!
Not all the expenses listed above are set in stone. You may not want to pay the annual fee to list your commercial site at Yahoo! A Yahoo! listing is certainly nice, but not absolutely necessary. On the other hand, you may choose to hire an accountant, web designer and expert copywriter to help build your business and your site.
Your business can be either ‘no frills’, or full of bells and whistles. It’s entirely up to you – and your budget.