Corbett Barr on How to Pay Your Fans to Support You

August 10th, 2010 § 0 comments

Interview by Everett Bogue | Follow me on Twitter.

The Internet has fundamentally changed the way that we distribute media.

Imagine for a moment that you really liked a band or an author, say Radiohead or Seth Godin, in 1998. The only way you could support the band would be to to buy the album and tell your friends that the band is awesome.

Fast-forward to the present day, August 10th 2010. –> Distribution of media is free, you can automate the sales and distribution of a product to almost anyone in the world, and you can do it all from anywhere in the world.

This is the fundamental reason that living and working from anywhere is possible.

Now, you can pay your fans to support you. There’s no reason not to.

What’s the key ingredient of paying your fans?

Well, you can be paid to support the work you love.

One of the happiest days of my life is the 1st of every month, because I get to send affiliate commission money to all of the amazing people who market my work. This wouldn’t have worked in 1998, because printing my book would have devoured all of the costs, but now it does.

A good number of the people who read The Art of Being Minimalist or Minimalist Business make back the purchase price my recommending it on their blogs. High-performers make anywhere from $100-$500 a month spreading the word about how much they enjoyed it (you can even make money from spreading how much you hate it, but I honestly don’t recommend that.)

Larger bloggers, of course, end up giving much more. As you might remember, one day I made $2,300 selling one person’s amazing work.

Now, you might not be able to get paid much to support the work of Radiohead or Seth Godin, because they’re not giving 50% commissions. However, a small group of amazing people are starting to adapting to the changing nature of digital media, and well, it’s changing everything.

Anyway, enough fawning over digital media, this is an interview with Corbett Barr.

Do you know Corbett? You should. He lives in San Francisco and runs two blogs: Think Traffic (which is literally blowing up right now) about building blog traffic and Free Pursuits about living a freedom lifestyle.

Since I moved to SF Bay, Corbett has become one of my trusted advisors on making my digital media distribution happen on a broader scale. We’ve met up on multiple occasions, and full discloser: he took Alix and I sailing on the bay once.

Just last week Corbett was teaching me, over a beer in The Mission, exactly how to set up a powerful e-mail list that will hopefully bring my business to a higher level –with minimal effort.

Today Corbett is releasing an epic product to teach beginners about how to start affiliate marketing successfully. I’ve looked over the work, and it’s excellent. He even interviewed me for a special add-on pack. We discussed at length the strategies that I use to pay my fans to support me.

Anyway, you can check out Affiliate Marketing for Beginners over here –but read the interview first for some free introductory tips.

Before you buy Affiliate Marketing for Beginners: This product isn’t for everyone. If you’re already making $100-500 a month supporting my work, you might learn a trick or two, but the product honestly isn’t aimed at you. This is for absolute beginners, and Corbett promises me that by the time you finish the course you should be able to break into the affiliate marketing space and begin to bolster your income (or your money back.)

Onward to the Interview!

We spoke about why affiliate marketing isn’t sketchy, part-time location independence, and the #1 best opportunity out there right now:

Everett Bogue: As our readers know, both you and I make a significant portion of our incomes from affiliate marketing — I like to refer to it as “paying your fans to support you.” How can it help make more of our readers income?

Corbett Barr: Yes, I love the way you call it “paying your fans to support you.” That’s a great way to look at it.

The way our readers can make income from affiliate marketing depends on if they already have a site/audience or not. If they do, they can start telling their existing audience about great products and services. The key is to talk about products you have really used and love. It’s not really different from how you might recommend a great restaurant or reliable accountant to your friends. In this case, you get compensated for that recommendation.

When done correctly, everyone wins. Your friends or readers get an awesome product or service recommendation, the business gets a new customer, and you earn a commission (and reputation points).

For people who don’t already have a site or audience, you’ll have to build one in some way to profit from affiliate marketing. You can build and reach an audience with a website, blog, in social media, through videos or in email. The course I’m releasing on affiliate marketing teaches you how to build a new site from the ground-up.

Everett: Affiliate marketing sometimes gets a bad rap — we start to think about mid-level-marketing pyramid schemes and scammy websites trying to get us to buy stuff that we don’t need. How do you get involved in legitimate affiliate marketing offers, and avoid the garbage that’s out there?

Corbett: The affiliate model is just a model. It’s a referral system, and there are no pyramids or scammy websites required. But, like anything on the internet, lots of get-rich-quick, I-don’t-give-a-shit-about-my-customers types have influenced how we think about affiliate marketing.

And that’s too bad because there are lots of really awesome products and services that have affiliate offers. Things that you have already purchased or used probably have affiliate programs. Word-of-mouth recommendations are a big source of sales for businesses, so smart companies encourage that with affiliate programs.

It’s really pretty easy to avoid the garbage that’s out there. Start by looking for affiliate programs for the things you already use. They don’t have to be digital products either, although those tend to pay higher commissions.

Everett: What steps can we take to un-sketchify the reputation of affiliate marketing?

Corbett: Funny you ask, because I just wrote a post about this recently. James Chartrand of Men with Pens suggested that we rename “marketing” to “beer.” If we called it beer, everyone would love it, right? But then people might start not liking beer, and I care too much about beer to do that to it.

Instead, I think the best thing is for legitimate affiliate marketers to start being more vocal. We need to spread the word about how fantastic affiliate marketing can be for your business when it’s done right. We need to share what we’ve learned about doing affiliate marketing while also caring about our customers and the products we recommend.

If enough of us talk openly about it maybe we can change the reputation of affiliate marketing, at least within our little corner of the world.

Everett: You live a part-time location independent life. Can you share a little bit about how that works?

Corbett: Yeah, sure. My wife and I have lived in Mexico for 9 months over the past two years. We also spent about two months up in the Pacific Northwest (Portland, Seattle and Vancouver, B.C.).

We’re not completely location independent though. We maintain a “home base” in San Francisco. When we’re gone for extended periods of time, we sublet our apartment. We really like having the fixed residence to return to, and consider it the best of both worlds for us.

We’re able to live the “location flexible” lifestyle because we’ve built businesses that let us take extended time off or work from anywhere.

Everett: Many affiliate programs offer 50%+ commissions, it almost seems like we’re giving free money away just for a link. Why do you think affiliate commissions are so large in the digital world?

Corbett: And I’ve seen commission rates of up to 95% in some cases. That means you get paid $95 for referring every $100 in sales. It’s pretty amazing considering you don’t have to do any of the product development or support.

I think they’re so high for a few reasons. First, because these are digital products we’re talking about (physical products have much lower commission rates), and digital products have nearly a 100% profit margin when you set them up like you have in Minimalist Business.

Second, the sellers of those products think, “I wouldn’t get this customer otherwise, so earning 50% is better than nothing.” Third, with all the products available for affiliates to represent, you have to compete with a compelling commission rate (and great product).

Everett: How can affiliate marketing allow you to live anywhere and achieve more freedom?

Corbett: As I mentioned, as an affiliate you don’t have to develop the products or support them. It’s an amazingly hands-off business model. And it’s highly scalable.

If you’re trying to live a minimalist lifestyle and support yourself by working online, I can’t imagine a much better opportunity than affiliate marketing.

Everett: What’s the #1 best affiliate opportunity out there right now?

Corbett: The affiliate program that comes to mind that most of your readers (and mine) are probably familiar with is Chris Gullebeau’s Unconventional Guides. Chris writes about how to live unconventionally, do extraordinary things and start a successful small business. The guides are really great and have been a big help to me and a lot of people I talk to.

Chris runs an affiliate program for people who have purchased at least one of his guides. He pays a 51% commission, which is awesome, and the guides sell like hotcakes on a cold Minnesota morning. I’ve sold thousands of dollars of his stuff, and it tends to convert better than most other programs for my readers. I personally know a few other bloggers who have also had really good luck selling the Unconventional Guides.

Another great option for your readers would obviously be your own premium guides to minimalism. The key with affiliate offers is relevance. Offer things to your audience that is relevant to them (and high-quality) and they’ll be happy you recommended the products.

[Editor’s note: If you are interested in joining the affiliate program of my e-books, it is here.]

Everett: Say I want to figure out how to make a small sum like $100 by the end of the day, how would I doing this using affiliate marketing?

Corbett: If you already have an audience to reach, that’s easy. Find a product you already use and love that has an affiliate program. It could be an eBook (like the ones you’ve written, Everett) or a piece of software or a WordPress theme or a financial service or something else. Then, write a blog post or an email or create a video recommending the product to your audience. The key is to pre-sell the product, don’t over sell it. Just tell people why you love it, and share a link where your readers can find out more. If it’s a good fit, some of them will purchase it.

If you don’t have an audience, you’ll have to decide how you’ll reach people. A simple website that attracts visitors from search traffic is an easy approach. My course covers how to do that in detail.


You can check out Affiliate Marketing for Beginners here. Don’t forget: it’s just for beginners. No affiliate marketing rockstars need apply. If you’re new to this and looking for more solid education, this is the place to start.

P.S. I’m taking a digital sabbatical, camping in Wisconsin with my grandparents until August 23rd. This is why comments are off. I’ll do my best to get back to any questions or emails when I return. Thank you for your patience.

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