What would I do now?

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I got an email today.  The person wanted to start an online business, and they asked me to help them learn how to create affiliate sites.  That got my thinking….

If I was starting out today, what would I do online?

What would you do?  I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments below…

If I was in a hurry, I would not create affiliate sites.  With the changes in Google over the last few years, affiliate sites are no longer a quick solution for a long-term, sustainable business.  They take time to build and mature and get one thing wrong, your work could wiped out overnight.  Don't get me wrong, as part of a long-term strategy affiliate sites are fine, but they are not a source of instant income like they used to be.

So what would I do?

Well, I would want something that was not dependent on Google, and there are two clear winners for me – Kindle books & Udemy courses.

The great thing is, if you can do one, you can do both.

Books & courses have become a big part of my business over the last few years.  Initially I concentrated heavily on Kindle books, and also learned how to make paperbacks with Createspace services.   I had heard from a lot of people that paperbacks didn't sell as well as Kindle eBooks, but in my case my paperback sales actually exceed Kindle eBooks.  I think it's a major difference between fiction and non-fiction, with the former being mainly an eBook seller.

At the end of last year, I started publishing courses on Udemy to diversify my business.  That has really taken off too!

I recently told you about my latest Udemy course which teaches you how you can become a Udemy instructor with minimal investment.  I made the first lecture of that course available to everyone, student or not.  In the video I shared my earnings so far with you.  I recently updated that course to include May 2015 earnings as well (see lecture 2 which is also free to view).

You can watch those lectures here:


OK, so out of Udemy and Kindle, which is the better option for you?

It's difficult to say.

I was earning more after three months with my Udemy courses than I was with Kindle, but both are excellent and if you have something to teach, I'd recommend you do both, just for diversification.  One thing to bear in mind though, publishing on Kindle is more of a headache for non-US writers, for taxation reasons.  I had to register with the IRS in the US, and they take a percentage of my income (albeit a small one) before I receive my money (and then I have to pay tax here in Spain as well).

So, if you are thinking of starting or expanding an online business.  These are the two areas I would recommend you look into.

That link above to my Udemy course is a discount link.  There are limited coupons, so if you don’t see a discount when you get there, you are too late.

So that would be my plan.  What would be yours?

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26 thoughts on “What would I do now?”

  1. Interesting Andy, not tried either of these methods myself, though I have to admit kindle has crossed my mind. 😉

    I’d agree on the ignoring google part of it though, I mean, lately I realise anytime you go search for something on google, 9 times outta ten, the answer you need is right there in the snippet, so, without having to even click on anything I get my answer, what’s the point aiming to top that list if no-one clicks anyway?

    Where do you think this will lead to?

    Is it really going to become pointless?

    Times a changing. 😉


    1. I think that there is a place for affiliate sites, but they have to be very good. Content has to offer something not found on other sites, and it is an uphill struggle. The two systems I have listed above are far easier to break into and make serious money. If you research your topics carefully, it’s almost guaranteed income. I haven’t been able to say that for affiliate marketing for several years now.

      1. So I guess the “game” just gets harder. 😉

        Still, if no one needs to click on anything, then pretty hard to earn from doing that.

        Could be interesting how it all pans out over the next couple of years.

  2. Hi Andy

    Thanks for the ideas. I’ve been following your Udemy course for a couple of weeks and my first course has gone live today. Just in the initial launch process you outlined and the student numbers for social proof are growing nicely after just a couple of hours. Really amazing.

    Have you thought about wrapping the udemy course with your own sales site maybe with some extra bonus content? To avoid the coupon hunter and keep the price up. The sales sale can then deliver a coupon for free purchase. Gives more tracking too if you promote with advertising.

    Thanks for your course again. It comes highly recommended. Will post a review later today on Udemy.


    1. Hi Rob
      Congrats on your first Udemy course. Hope it does well for you.
      As for my own sales site, yes, I have thought about it. However, at the moment I am happy to let Udemy do it’s thing. Maybe when I am all out of course ideas I’ll revisit the idea as I suspect I’ll have 15 – 20 courses by then.

      There are also other sites you can post your courses on, like Skillfeed, however that one is making beer money compared to Udemy.



  3. Hi Andy,

    An interesting question that you pose and not an easy one to answer!

    I work in SEO in my ‘day job’ and so my obvious answer is to manage ‘local SEO’ for small and medium sized businesses in your area – the positive aspect is that yo can be earning money in month 1 but the negative aspect is that you have to put the work in and if you’re already in full time employment it can be tough!

    Eliminating Google is the key to earning an income in the near future and so I always look to Facebook for traffic sources – I am just testing an idea at the moment. Basically I have created a website in a popular niche and using Facebook traffic to monetise, it is early days so no specific numbers as yet!

    I do enjoy affiliate work but like you say it isn’t easy and is certainly a ‘slow burn’ business.

    All the best!


    1. Hi Andy
      For me, SEO for other people is a big no-no these days. Everyone wants instant results, and the only easy way to get that is with black hat techniques that will bring the site to it’s knees shortly afterwards. I’m interested to hear how your Facebook experiment works.


  4. Hi Andy, thanks for sharing.

    Brilliant way you’ve found your way out of affiliate marketing. Although I’m still making my living from affiliate income, I’m working on getting out of it as well. SEO has become so expensive (Google has succeeded very well with that) and the logic behind rankings has become almost fuzzy (making even the best SEO effort alot less of a sure thing). Sure, there’s still alot of money to be made in affiliate marketing, but I don’t personally believe you’re running a real business if all you depend on for income is Google traffic. It’s more akin to (super-technical) gambling at this point. Incidentally, my way forward is also going to revolve around creating my own course (Udemy wasn’t even on my radar until today so thanks for that tip). Price point, is that something you’ve considered? It’s obviously great that Udemy do promotions for you, but there may be something to be said for selling a course in physical form. As in CDs or DVDs. Although instant gratification is important, perceived value is still significantly higher for a physical product. You’ll need to contend with using some storage space and shipping and handling, but it’s much more realistic to sell a course for $80 that only cost you $5 to produce and ship (tops!). With that kind of a markup, you open the doors to paid advertising via all the traditional sources. Something that could mean a completely different level of income from the same course. Also, if you do your own website and sell a physical course, you’re actually building your own brand. It’s important if you’re thinking about cashing out at some point. So, I guess what I’m saying is…you can do many courses and sell them (easier, agreed) at a lower price point, or you can create one really great course, package it differently and sell it on your own site and build a whole business around it. Is this something you have considered? Do people actually buy your Udemy courses at the ‘official’ price point (i.e. highest price point), or always with a coupon code?

    The income numbers you show in the video, how many of those sales are derived from your list? It’s an asset most people don’t have, of course. Also, how consistent are your book sales and do you think the same pattern will translate to sales of your courses? Basically, I’m wondering about the consistency of the income from books and courses.

    One final thought – a common denominator between affiliate marketing and creating your own books and courses is finding good ideas for books and courses! Something you’re really good at. How exactly do you do it? I have a feeling that question is at the very top on the majority of your readers minds. It’s perhaps also a bit of a touchy subject since it’s actually what actually drives your business. Anyone can learn to do the technical part of creating books and courses, but getting the right ideas is what makes or breaks you.

    Thanks again for sharing Andy. I hope we get a chance to touch base again soon.

    1. Hi Martin,
      Lots of questions there. Let’s try to find some time to Skype soon and I’ll cover them in more detail. For now, here is a summary of your questions and my answers:

      1. Price point and physical courses?

      Yes, this is something you could easily do. However, I have no plans to do this right now. Udemy have 6 million students in their database and are good at converting them into buyers of different courses. I have sold physical courses and gone the Udemy route. Udemy are good at what they do, and take a lot of the work out of selling.

      2. Do people actually buy your Udemy courses at the ‘official’ price point (i.e. highest price point), or always with a coupon code?

      I’d say that close to 99% of sales are with a coupon. I make very few sales at full price.

      3. The income numbers you show in the video, how many of those sales are derived from your list? It’s an asset most people don’t have, of course.

      I did cover this in the lecture 1. Over 50% of my sales have been from Udemy promotions and nothing to do with me. The remainder has been my “promotions”, but that isn’t just my list. That is promotion within the Udemy system using my free leader method (outlined in the course) and selling new courses to existing students. I would only be guessing, but I would say that maybe 25% of my income each month has been from using my list.

      4. How consistent are your book sales and do you think the same pattern will translate to sales of your courses? Basically, I’m wondering about the consistency of the income from books and courses.

      Book sales have dropped a little over the last year, but that may be due to me not promoting them so much. In the early days I was using the Amazon free promo and countdown deals every month. Now I rarely do a promo. I must get back into that. However, having said that, sales have been remarkably stable even so, and certainly constitute a full time income for a lot of people – higher than I use to earn as a school teacher ;).

      5. Where do course and book ideas come from?

      As you know, I get my ideas from what I do on a daily basis. I teach what I do. However, that is only part of it. Find what you can teach, then check to see if there is a demand for that as a course or book. There are various ways to do that. Find an audience and fill the demand, DO NOT create a course and then try to find an audience.

  5. Thanks for the info above, Dr. Andy. I’m one of your students from your SEO class.

    I missed the boat in a lot of ways. While I’ve had the skills in web development, I’ve been using them to help other businesses make money.

    I read these articles from you and I really regret just being a consultant (e.g., receiving a fee per hour in exchange for an hour of labor and expertise).

    I would point out to your readers that one of the benefits here is scale. YOu take the time to make one course, and it has the potential of being resold again and again, just like ebooks.

    I find that really appealing and will likely give it a try. I’m 50 years old, been in IT all my life (DIrector, CIO) and have used my skills to help others make money from them. It seems like it’s time to stop that because it just perpetuates having to do hours of labor to earn hours of income (hourly rate). Seems so much smarter to make products (books/courses), or affilliate sites (I completely missed the boat on this one).

    Thanks for doing what you do. I know you don’t know me. But I genuinely mean thank you. It’s rare to come across someone else who seems to want to help others be successful by sharing what they know.

    Have a great day.

    1. Hi Robert – you’re welcome.
      Some of the IT courses on Udemy attract many thousands of students – just check out some of the Excel courses available. I say get started and I’m sure you will do really well. Age isn’t a barrier at all (I am 48 years old now) and in fact, the experience an only be seen as a benefit in online teaching (unlike offline teaching where older teachers get retired, or retire themselves because of stress). If you need any help or advice, please contact me as I am happy to help. You can use the Contact form on this site, and that will go to my email address.


  6. Hello Dr. Andy,

    What an unusual piece! I came straight here first even before perusing my usual things. Ha!

    You know I have groused about Google long before it was evident to others that they were out to rule the world. I had all the fun with internet marketing, but between Google and nefarious sneaky cheating clients I was advertising, the whole vast enterprise pretty much imploded. The work never matched the income. Thus, if I had it to do all over again I have long thought I should have gotten into the stock market. There couldn’t be that much difference in gambling on that and gambling on Google Adwords.

    But what I really wanted to do was write fiction. You opened that door a couple of three years ago for me with your articles on do-it-yourself Amazon publishing. I knew it existed but I didn’t turn the blowtorch on it until you brought it up. Funny how a fellow from some other continent that isn’t even a distant cousin (as far as I know) has been so instrumental in my career choices. Gotta thank you for that. Seems like I’m always follerin’ along on the paths you blaze.

    I have one Udemy course in me…but I dunno if I dare get into that and compromise my latest book series which is actually making sales. I’ll be seeing you over in THE CHOCCOLOCCO VALLEY.


    1. Hi Norm
      Great to hear your latest series is doing well. Let me guess, a Zombie apocalypse in CowChip? Whatever it is, I’d recommend you keep churning the series out. Leave the Udemy stuff til later.

      BTW, I’m going to come visit you one of these days!



      1. Professor Andy, the Presidential Suite at THE RYO LODGE near America’s favorite home town, Cowchip Alabama, is already reserved in your name!
        Your fan Norm
        Still stuck in Cowchip

  7. Hi Andy,
    1.I would sell something popular or at least necessary to most,which can be sold online automatically.
    2.I would find the top 10 sellers and find out their commonalities.
    3.I would go to Buzzsumo or similar and start having the most popular articles from these sites rewritten.
    4.I would go to a direct response web firm and have them do the site and pages.

    5.I,d go to Australia and live on the beach


  8. Andy,


    What are your thoughts on pursuing an Amazon Private Label FBA business.
    There is a lot of buzz online about how profitable it is.


    1. Hi Herman
      Ask me in 6 months. That is what I am working on at the moment to further diversify my business. I am only at the ordering samples stage, but hope to have things worked out and under way within the next 2 months.
      From what I have seen so far, I think it is a great business model, and will work for those that do things properly. I highly recommend The Amazing Seller podcast by Scott Voelker. It’s free and IMO much better than a lot of advice you’ll get from very over-hyped expensive courses (you know which one I mean).


      1. Hi Andy

        You mentioned a particular podcast from Scott Voelker at Amazing Seller. Do you by any chance have the podcast reference number. I went to the website and there are literally dozens of podcasts referencing Amazon FBA on his website.

  9. Hi Andy,

    Do you literally still have all of your affiliate sites you had, say… 4 – 5 years ago, or did you let any one of them die out?
    I guess, how many successful sites did you have then, compared to now in 2015?

    Also, have you seen your affiliate sites’ numbers gradually decrease from year to year to this point in 2015, or has any one of them remained consistent showing the same numbers from years ago?

    Lastly, I haven’t received an email from our buddy Michael C. in Vancouver for seemingly years now? Hope he’s okay.

    I got away from the computer, as it’s just too unhealthy sitting all day, everyday with all the diseases and ailments that are guaranteed to wreak havoc on the body later on due to the constant inactivity. Plus, I needed to be among people again in a social environment, so got back into my creative side with videography and now do promo videos for 5 star resorts and spas – lovely atmosphere, MUCH less sitting, out and about with people, and doing something that enables me to use skills that come naturally. Website building always gave me stress!

    Will always read your newsletters Andy, and it’s been one heckuva last 8 – 9 years following you and all the trends and ups and downs that came with the biz. Don’t at all miss Google too!

    Take care,

    1. Hi Mark
      I don’t have as many affiliate sites as I used to, probably 15 now. Most are getting as much if not more traffic than they use to 4-5 years ago, but then I always did build them differently to most people, and was always careful about backlinks.

      I think MC is concentrating on other things at the moment. He became a dad not too long ago.

      Your new work sounds great! I’d like to do something like that myself one day. Or maybe I’ll just visit the spas 😉



      1. Thanks for your kind reply Andy.

        Wow! That’s wonderful to hear about your sites still doing great, if not better than before. Geez, I really was expecting to hear something totally different given the drastic changes in the affiliate landscape since Panda and Penguin – good for you! You are down to 15??!! Holy Cow, and that’s down from what you had before?

        Yeah be careful about the sedentary lifestyle Andy. I know it’s hard to help if you’re online for a living, but they now compare extended sitting day after day, all day, as an equivalent to smoking. Was reading about that last month but I kind of new this already given my avid fitness lifestyle.

        Be well Sir and best of luck indeed with your books and courses……I’ll always be keeping an ear out to what you have to say and my finger on the pulse with online income, as you never know what lies ahead. Like you, the spas after awhile may get more inviting as a customer!


        1. I think the secret of successful affiliate sites is to keep within Google’s guidelines (and to have patience these days). Every site that I used black hat on has long gone after penalties from Google. However, I stopped black hat stuff back in 2007/8 and sites I’ve built since have been pure white hat. I don’t worry about these sites in Google updates.

          1. Hi again Andy,

            Thanks you once again for taking the time to reply.

            Yes, I actually still believe you can be successful with aff. mktg. But I think you nailed it on the head in one word – patience! Something people just don’t have regarding this business model – especially in this day and age, but yes, I do believe it’s still doable.

            Heck, I might put together something in my spare time and take all the education and knowledge I’ve acquired since 2006 and see if I can at least get some extra income on the side with another ‘new and improved’ site, but not with the mindset it’ll be my primary income.

            Anyway Buddy, thanks again for your thoughts and time and wishing you a wonderful weekend!

            Take care,

            PS I might have to shoot MC a note to ask him what’s he’s been up to, since he’s a fellow Vancouverite, and having followed him also and exchanged several emails with him since 2006.

  10. Thanks for the interesting post Andy.

    I’ll definetly have to look into the udemy opportunities you mention.

    I have a couple of kindle books myself and noticed your comment about paying us tax.

    I’m in the UK and entered my self-employed uk tax reference so i have 0% us withholding tax

    I presume you could enter a spanish tax number and if they have 0% agreement no tax should be witheld in US

    the link and snippet below might help yourself and other non-us publishers.



    Tax process if you’re self-publishing with CreateSpace or KDP

    Complete their online tax interview in your dashboard (you’ll come across it during set-up, in the sections that relate to royalties and payments).
    The questions are largely self-explanatory so I shan’t go through them all here – however I’ve picked out a couple of useful screenshots along with what to answer.
    Where it asks about a Tax Identify Number (TIN)

    Amazon tax interview – Tax ID question
    See below for what to choose here

    If you’re a UK taxpayer and applying as an individual (includes sole traders), enter your National Insurance Number or Unique Taxpayer’s Reference (UTR – found on your tax paperwork)

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