Journey of My Own

Travel and Lifestyle Design Blog

Self-Inflicted Wounds (Secret Confessions from the Past 12 Months and Why I Sleep at Airports from Time to Time)

Hey, it’s me :)

It’s been awhile and I’ve been busy. But maybe this will explain what’s been going on.

I’ve been living a secret life.

Or at least it feels that way.

Sometime around 2011, things started to get really tough… Like, stay up at night tossing and turning because you’re broke and you need to think up ways to make some money tough.

It was the Panda updates.

You probably know what I’m talking about.

Over the course of 2011, the traffic on my little niche sites went from about 700 per day, to about 100 per day on each site.

And my earnings decreased by about 75% too.

You’d probably be screwed if your business lost 75% of it’s revenue too, wouldn’t you?


Plus, Mark Ling, one of the few people I really trust, was off the radar. After the AffiloJetpack launch in 2010, he essentially was busy being a dad and repairing his company from all the earthquakes in New Zealand (and apparently winning some affiliate contests that I’ve been keeping an eye on).

I had heard rumors of things in the works, but they never seemed to turn out as more than just whispers and speculation in the dark corners of the Affilorama forum.

My “Guru” Had Vanished…

With no direction, I was left with a very important choice to make.

I could either learn more about SEO. Fix my sites up and get them to rank again. Then just pray that there wasn’t another silly algorithm update being planned in Mountain View, California (maybe named “Platypus Update” this time…).

Or I could just admit that SEO was too much of a risky game to play by putting all my effort into it. I could change course and focus on different forms of traffic.

I chose the second option.

They say that if you’re on the wrong train, every stop is the wrong stop.

I needed to switch trains.

This wasn’t an easy choice.

After all, letting go of something you know so much about can be difficult. Sometimes we get so caught up in the fallacy of previous investment and we just don’t want to back out.

But then again, I left the design field despite having a masters degree in architecture simply because in 2009 no architecture firms were hiring at all (in fact, they were laying off half of their employees).

It’s good to know when you’re on a sinking ship…

Still, even today I get questions on a regular basis from people who are like “What are the best places to get spammy, low-quality links? Should I use ScrapeBox or hire some guy in Quezon City to build profile links for me? He says he’ll work full-time for only $200 per month, but I think I can talk him down to $150. That’s good right?

Now, maybe I’m paraphrasing, but I’m not really exaggerating much.

(I also get lots of emails from people asking me how much money I make… I know they’re mostly people who remember my income reports, but I still find it a little funny that people ask me this despite the fact it would be rude in most other circumstances…)

But anyway, the choice to let go of SEO was tough.

So, I joined Clay Collins’ Marketing Program so I could actually learn marketing.

The timing was actually perfect. What is it they say? “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear…

I just didn’t know the teacher would end up having the same name as me…

Leaving SEO behind meant I needed to actually have a product to sell. Not just send people to a $39 ebook that some guy wrote in a drunken fit over the weekend and collect affiliate commissions.

I made an ebook of my own. It was, what I consider, great information.

It did okay. Not great.


Because I needed to make it both completely unique and useful not just for customers, but also for affiliates who would be promoting it.

After all, if you’re an affiliate, why would you care which ebook you promoted, just so long as it converted well?

I had to stick out, not just to customers, but also potential partners.

So, I redesigned the entire ebook and turned it into an online course, but more on that in a moment…

At the same time, I made a shift from primarily SEO traffic to social traffic.

I met a few people in 2011 who where masters of the social media world. They were coasting along fine without even noticing the shockwaves of Panda.

Maybe I could put together a blog. Kind of like this one, but… you know… actually trying to do something with it.

So, I Started to Really Become a Blogger.

I wrote posts. I tweeted. I guest posted. I did all that.

It was a lot of fun, but it was also incredibly difficult to get off the ground.

After all, it’s easy to start a blog, but it’s so f–king hard to get a blog the attention that you really want.

Now, I’m not saying I’m a famous blogger that pretty much everyone knows like Leo Babauta, Jonathan Mead, or Sid Savara… but I’d say I probably have a lot more traffic than your average newbie blogger.

Anyway, I was doing all of this all while the army of half-asleep, half-drunk Google Quality Raters kept Panda-slapping my old websites, dinging my traffic and cratering my income. All so they could rank ehow pages and other content farms above me. Thanks, big G. Glad to know you’ve got quality as your top priority.

That time was tough. I sold my car for $7500, which I used to keep us afloat for a few months. I cleaned out my IRA too.

Things Kept Getting Worse Though.

In November, I had to do the most painful thing possible.

I let my girlfriend go back to working a job that she hated.

I cried the day that she started her job.

Autumn and winter were extremely difficult. I lived off Top Ramen (cliche, I know…) and those Baja Cafe frozen burritos. We got $200 per month in food stamps. And I tried to donate plasma too (but they said my veins were “too small,” whatever that means…).

Suddenly I was working 16+ hour days, 7 days a week.

I had to pick up the work that my girlfriend used to do. Plus, I had to pick up the slack for some SEO work that I outsourced to some guy back in June (he said it would take him 3 months–in reality, it took him 9 months–I just got the final batch of work about a week ago–but in the end, I had to do most of the work myself since my clients didn’t want to wait 9 months for him to actually do what he promised and I blew all of my budget on this guy… If I did SEO for you, by the way, I’m deeply sorry for how screwed up that whole thing was).

I found ways to claw and fight my way to some of Clay Collins’ mastermind events for the Marketing Program. I felt completely intimidated being in a room full of 10 other people who were running 6- or 7-figure businesses (all while I was walking into town from the airport to save money on taxi fare, staying at the closest one-star motel or sleeping at the airport, and living off vending machine food).

God, I was so out of my element. Sometimes, I just wanted to curl up in the corner or run away. I felt like I just didn’t belong there. After all, I only made like $1000 or $2000 per month. What right did I have to sit at a table with all those successful and talented people?

Total BS thinking, I know, but still… it’s what I felt.

But despite all that uneasiness, I kept coming, like some kind of dumb-ass who can’t take a hint and won’t go away, and, through some stroke of luck, I started to put the pieces together in my mind. Clay Collins’ Marketing Program mastermind really exposed me to the mindset and processes that you really need to be a f*cking baller.

In February and March, I made an online course, which took up all of my time. And I literally mean ALL of my time. I had to write about 10,000 words per week, make slideshow presentations, record audio, edit audio, and synch the audio and the video. (Hence… no activity here for about the past two months…)

There was no time for actually marketing. This gave me a very deep sense of anxiety.

One thing that I love doing more than anything is marketing. I love writing copy. I love split testing. I love scheming up new plans.

And I start to feel weird when I can’t do that.

But, I’ve finally come out the other end, and I’m a heartbeat away from finishing up my new product. From April onward, I’m just going to sell the living hell out of it.

Sure, I’ve pretty much been depressed non-stop since 2009–and especially over the past six months or so. It’s caused me to recoil and keep to myself more than i probably should. I haven’t been great at keeping in touch with people, and I feel guilty about that.

But no one ever promised that this ride would be easy.

So, the past year has been a massive, immense struggle. Dealing with one setback after another. Watching my life constantly get smaller and smaller.

If I knew how, I might well have actually quit marketing…

I just didn’t really know what that meant. I mean, with the economy in the tank (despite the “recovery”), it’s not like there are any real alternatives.

Plus, I constantly held on to those silly little things called dreams.

Was it necessary to go through all this struggling?

Probably not.

But everything I did, seemed like the absolute best decision at the time.

And it makes for a decent story, right?

And now, I’m positioned in a much better place.

Clay Collins often talks about “The Rule of 5 Ones.”

They are:

  • 1 Traffic source
  • 1 Conversion method
  • 1 Product you’d go to bat for
  • 1 Year to master those 3 things, and…
  • 1 More year till you reach the 7-figure mark

I’ve (nearly) got my product (which is priced well-enough to actually afford me some room to advertise).

I’ve got a basic conversion method planned that I’m going to be constantly tweaking.

I’ve got a good traffic source in mind.

And I’ve got plenty of time on my hands.

So, $1 million, here I come!

I’ve been putting in huge amounts of time working in the past. I’m so stoked to finally devote that much time to marketing.

After all, I’m still 100% committed to making 2012, the year of the baller.

I’ve Been Around Long Enough, Though, to Know That the Revolution Will Be a Quiet One.

Small incremental improvements are more likely than some kind of huge heroic win that changes everything overnight.

But I’m ready to say “fuck you, poverty!

How are you doing these days :)

PS: I’m not really sure if this a review for Clay Collins’ stuff or not… (if it is, this is probably the weirdest review I’ve ever written). But if for some reason, you want to join the Marketing Program or the Interactive Offer, the links on this post are affiliate links :)


  1. Wow. I was wondering why you weren’t writing as much. Great article and I hope your new course kicks butt!

    • @Francisco, Thanks for the comment. Yeah, writing 10,000 words a week, usually leaves you with little “juice” left for publishing a blog post. And, yes, the new course does indeed kick butt! Let’s just hope I’ve actually learned a thing or two about marketing over the past few months :)

  2. Wow, I had no idea you were going through such a tough time. I just want to say to everyone that reads the comments, that I was one of the purchasers of your SEO work, and I think you did an absolutely OUTSTANDING job – you have NOTHING to apologize for, and I would hire you again in an instant!

    Clay, have you thought about doing something a little more similar to smart passive income? I learned about Affilorama through you, have signed up for AMA, Aweber, and a host of other services (including webhosting through hostgator, namecheap domain registration, etc.) – I would have clicked on your affiliate links on all of those items if they were easily accessible, and I’m sure dozens of others would have as well!

    I think it’s awesome that you have a unique product coming out, and I’m psyched to market it and make us both some money! But I trust your reviews of internet marketing courses and products pretty much more than anyone else’s on the web, and would love the opportunity to buy products you recommend! So please, don’t stop recommending and teaching us!

    • @Joe, Thanks so much for your kind words. I really feel bad about how the whole SEO thing went over (and there’s absolutely no way I’ll ever do that again until I find an outsourcer I can truly trust). Let me tell you, working 16 hours a day doing SEO work and not even really getting paid for it (because you spent your whole budget on an ineffective outsourcer) really sucks.

      Yes, I’ve thought about taking things a more “Pat Flynn” route, but I’ve been conflicted about becoming one of those “meta-marketers” who makes money online by showing others how to make money online.

      Things are kind of different now that I’ve been around long enough to actually get to know some people out there. Currently, there are only 3 products I would recommend in good faith: AffiloBlueprint (rumor has it there might be an update coming soon), The Marketing Program, and Jonathan Mead’s Trailblazer course.

      Things have been bumpy with SEO lately, and I’m not really sure where all the pieces are going to fall after this latest “blog networks” update, so I’m hesitant to recommend any SEO stuff right now…

      Anyway, Joe, thanks again for your comment.

      • It is not a rumor anymore. The have confirmed on the Affilorama forum they are busy working on AffiloBlueprint 3. It will be interesting to see how Mark is going to fight the big Panda! Im looking forward.

  3. Golly, I don’t know what to say. But at the same time I do. Should I go the sympathy route and get your attention and pleasure? Or should I go the tough love route and hopefully be heard (but most likely be ignored)?

    I have to do what I believe is right. And hopefully you’ll forgive my arrogance and ignorance in anything I don’t seem to understand. I sincerely hope what I’m about to say steers you in the right direction. And I wouldn’t write so much if I didn’t care.

    I have gone through much of what you’ve talked about. The ups and downs of niche sites. The loss of tons of money in small business. The hopes of making it big VERY soon. The dreams of success and being able to provide.

    We, as men, have an innate desire to be successful in our endeavors and to be able to provide for those we love. We also want others, to an extent, to look at us with a certain amount of awe and respect for what we’ve been able to achieve. (And it’s even cooler if it can be done across the Internet, from anywhere in the world!)

    From what I’ve learned and seen in myself is that this whole “thing” is a facade. This idea of fame. This idea of comfort. This idea of earning that $1 million dollars within 2 years.

    I’ve read and I’ve read and I’ve read. From Tom Stanely’s the Millionaire Next Door to Dave Ramsey’s Entreleadership and Jon Acuff’s Quitter (which I recommend to you to read). And the average millionaire makes their 1st million within 17.6 years of starting their business.

    So my tough love to you Clay is to be a man. Because right now you’re not being a man. You’re letting your girlfriend work for you instead of going out there and earning a basic living. Become a hotel night shift worker (where you can do internet stuff WHILE you work) or even a security guard position will do this too.

    But you’re being really lazy by focusing your attention on something that won’t provide for another few months or years or ever.

    And for that matter, you’re going the wrong route with this whole thing. You don’t stop your business so you can start teaching. You’re proving the fact that only those who make money on the Internet are those who teach people to make money on the Internet. That’s lazy!

    You want to stop being depressed? Do what’s right.

    And what’s right is to get yourself a job. Whether that’s being a janitor or whatever. And work your other dreams and businesses on the side. This is what I do. And that’s not what makes it right, but it is what is right. I am married and have 3 daughters under the age of 4. I have to provide for them first. And that means that I go to work at the local middle school as a janitor at night (and I have a degree!). Then while I’m there I work my butt off to get the job done. Then I have some time to work on other ideas.

    This may take longer, but it’s the right thing to do. And my heart’s not in the wrong place either. But if you do keep going down this road and actually are able to scam market your “product” to people and make millions, then good for you, but you did it the wrong way.

    So reach down, grab a pair, become a man by doing hard work to provide for your family first. Even if that’s just you and your gf. Don’t make her do the dirty work while you live it up on the Internet just HOPING one of your ideas will work out.

    You’ll get my respect when you can do that. Not that you need my respect. But you can then respect yourself.

    And again, I hope you take this as tough love. Not somebody on a high horse. It’s just that nobody else will tell you this. As you can see by Francisco’s comment.

    You can also go down the route of signing up for courses. $25/month and you can learn web development, web design, or whatever else. Or you can listen to interviews and start a real business like those guys do. That’ll make you millions the right way. This is what I’m currently doing.

    And if you think this was a waste of a comment, you can yell at me. It’s always hard to take stuff like this. Especially if you’ve spent the past few years believing in it. Trust me, I know.

    But if you think this comment is worth some value, please buy my newest product (haha jk!). Actually, just email me and we can be friends. :)

    I sincerely hope this helps you. And not only you, but others that may be going thru the same things.

    – David

    • @David, Thank you for the time that it took you to submit this comment.

      However, I don’t believe you really understand the situation. I don’t make the majority of my income from this blog, so I don’t feel that I fit into the category of “those who make money on the Internet are those who teach people to make money on the Internet.”

      You can call me lazy if you want. You can tell me that I’m not “being a man” if you want.

      But if you know anything about being a man, you know that it’s about making painful choices and doing what’s right over doing what’s easy. I’m not sitting at home playing video games and goofing off. As I explained in the post, I’m working 16 hour days.

      Why would I be doing this when when it would be “easier” to just get a job as a janitor for a middle school or working hotel security?

      1. I have clients that I owe work to, and for the sake of my integrity I need to follow through with what I promised them.
      2. People have told me on a regular basis that my “scam” (as you call it, even if it was with a strike-through) has changed their lives and given them hope in their darkest hour. (I am sorry if you are so cynical that you believe that everything out there is a scam, by the way)
      3. I have applied for all sorts of jobs. There are no jobs in my industry, and I’m too “over educated” to get a job in any other industry (trust me, I’ve tried).

      Maybe I don’t have your respect, and that is fine, but I have my integrity and I’m helping people on a daily basis. Maybe you don’t believe that, and that’s okay. I’m not trying to win you over.

      But at the end of the day, I believe that I am doing the right thing for myself, my relationship, and my life.

      Maybe to you it seems like I’m groping through the dark, unable to get a firm grasp on reality, and perhaps that’s true (time will tell, I suppose…), but I have a very real business plan that I am going to be implementing over the next several months.

      I wish you the best and I mean no ill will with what I’ve written here (sometimes things get misinterpreted online).

      All the best,

      • Very true, things get misinterpreted online. Quite often.

        And thank you for your response Clayton.

        I guess I don’t fully understand the situation and what you’re fully doing online. For that, I apologize. For most of my “novel” I was yelling at myself too. Because I can so easily get caught up in the online lifestyle business when so much of it can hurt families. But I guess any business or workaholism can hurt people.

        What I believed was your biggest fault through it all was that you sent your girlfriend to work a 9-5 (I think), while you worked at home (even if it was 16 hr days). I come from a background of men working and not having the woman work if she’d rather take care of the home. And that’s me. And my own fault for assuming upon you that that’s how it should work in your home.

        Seriously, my bad.

        No hard feelings I hope. And I’m sorry if I offended or disrespected you. It’s your choices and I sincerely hope you find joy and hope in this life.

        You haven’t lost my respect. ;)

        P.S. Sorry again.

        • @David, No worries. I don’t know where you live, but here in the US, it’s extremely common for both men and women to work.

          Anyway, yeah, it surprises me sometimes too, but I’m running a real legitimate business these days. I’m not just some dude refusing to find employment so I can spend all day watching TV. This “online” thing isn’t just something I’m doing to escape the boredom of cubicle life. It’s literally the only thing I can do these days!

          Anyway, hope you’re doing well these days.

  4. Hey, Clay,
    Nice to have you back man… it’s been an absolute pleasure to read this post, i laughed and cried for you at the same time, you will get there.. $1,000,000.00 ….not enough you deserve more for all the inspiration you put into your blog,i cant believe how tough you have had it, but i know that 6 figures is waiting for you, me and anyone who has the B@alls to go get what is theirs.. the sad thing is only a few really know how good they are… until it’s too late and game over..
    Keep us all posted,

    • @David, Thanks for your comment. I’ll admit that things have been tough, but when it comes down to it, on some level, I think I really just want an interesting life. Whatever you can say about the journey I’ve been on, I think I can definitely say it’s been interesting :)

      I’ve seen a lot of 6- or 7-figure business owners and how they run their businesses, so I feel like I’m really set to kick some serious tush once I get my product ready (and get ClickBank to approve a $300 price limit for my product)!

      Thanks again for your comment :)

  5. I have to admit that I have been away from the Affilorama forums for a while doing my own journey. I too was disappointed a bit by the “guru” disappearance, though I understood the reasons for it. Just felt awkward at a time when people were “screaming” for help.

    I’ve continued on, focusing mainly on my blog, but leaving the other alone, and suddenly noticed a few weeks ago that my “Affilorama” style site (which is still very incomplete) suddenly picked back up to pre-Panda levels. I’d gotten distracted away from all my work, but finding that I was finally clear of CDR for Clickbank has me renewing my efforts all over the place. If I can get my income even close to what you’re saying your making, I just might be able to leave my J.O.B. (Which, that’s close to what I’m making there anyway ;)

    Don’t quite feel ready to do my own product yet, but maybe by growing over the course of 2012, I’ll get to that point myself. Good luck to you, Clayton!

    • @Grady, Don’t worry about your disappearance from the forum. It gives me a chance to catch up to you when it comes to post counts :) (I have a secret goal of beating you, Adrian, and Sean–I doubt I can catch up to your brother though…)

      That’s cool that you’ve had a site recover from Panda. Jackson Lin said he was able to do something like that a few months ago. I don’t know what CDR is… some kind of writing thing? (I still dream of doing NaNoWriMo someday when I can finally get a little free time–maybe this November–Heck, if nothing else, the past few months have shown me that I can write 10,000-12,000 words per week consistently!)

      Owning your own product… Maybe that’s something you should talk to James about :)

      I’ve had decent luck with the 11 Forgotten Laws. Back in 2009, I was doing some direct linking with PPC (back when you could still do that), and I sold a copy. The person ended up in their continuity program, and I’m still making $20 a month, like clockwork, from that. Best. PPC. Campaign, Ever :)

  6. Good on you Clayton. Sometimes she’s a hard road to bear, but it is how you come through it all that determines who you are as a person.

    Affilorama – like most other IM sites seems to be struggling. All the old ‘rules’ have changed and I don’t think anyone has got any answers anymore.

    It just goes to show, when it come to marketing, direct marketing is always going to be the way ;)

    Chin up dude!

    Rach :)

    • @Rach72, Ha ha! I can’t help but feel weird getting words of encouragement from a “baby” (based on your gravitar).

      Word on the street is that Affilorama is coming out with some new stuff soon, so don’t count them down and out just yet ;)

      In my opinion, SEO is a shaky game to play and its only bound to get harder over the long run. It’s a wise idea to diversify your traffic sources and build a truly sustainable business.

  7. Interesting read, sometimes we have to go through some tough stuff in order to break through and I totally disagree with recommendations to “get a real job”, “give up your dreams”, and “base your reality on what others have experienced”. Keep going! The night is darkest before the dawn and all that good stuff.

    Personally, I’m looking forward to your product as we’ve talked about it a bit on Affilorama.

    Thanks for sharing!

  8. Clayton, I thought the money was in the list? I know you have several AffiloBlueprint sites because I’ve read your blog. If you have thousands of subscribers per niche, shouldn’t it be easier to promote affiliate offers.

    And I thought that AffiloBlueprint is a long term success plan that won’t be affected even if there’s panda or penguin alogorithm changes. I thought backlink diversification was the key? How’d you lose 75% of the profit after the update?

    It doesn’t add up…

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