For the very beginning – go listen to this.
Today my son Chris would be 33 years old. To know how I got into affiliate marketing you need to hear some things that have gotten easier to type about and it is kismet that I am posting this in a thread where two people helped me stay in this industry and not just fade away into the woodwork. This isn’t a “be sorry for me” post, it is a how affiliate marketing and the people I met in this industry gave me support, courage and pushed me to move out of a funk I thought I would be in for the rest of my life.
My sons had a form of Muscular Dystrophy called Spinal Muscular Atrophy. That means their nervous system stopped telling new muscles what to do when they were 9 months old. So their upper body was stronger than their lower (that’s how babies develop, from the top down 🙂 ) and they were never able to stand unaided or bear weight, so no pivot turns or lifting to their feet, they needed to be carried when going to bed or bathroom etc. When they were young I was a stay at home Mom and Wedding Photographer, so I only worked “weekends” while their dad could take care of them. For years our family was involved in public speaking and advocacy for the Muscular Dystrophy Assoc and disability rights. Those of you that have met my daughter Liz can attest to her composure in public, that stems from being on the news and in the public spotlight for several years starting very young.
They got older, I got divorced from their dad and I needed to work from home. One of the first websites I built was one for the local MDA office. Then I found Amazon and started to build sites with recommended reading on topics I was interested in, plus worked with several in-house affiliate programs that are no longer around.
Long story short, Dan (my youngest son) died in a car crash on Mother’s Day (May 13, 2002). My brain and heart shattered. He was not ill, he was healthy so it was unexpected. He was 20. Chris and I lived in NYC for a few years, I had a good job but had to quit. I couldn’t tolerate office politics, couldn’t justify being away from Chris 8 – 10 hours a day so I quit. I got a job at Club Mom for a short time and that’s where I met Shawn Collins.
Chris and I needed to move back to Rochester where we were from and the affiliate checks started getting bigger and bigger. I was also getting a decent amount of money selling on CafePress.com. In November 2005 CafePress lost their affiliate manager and she recommended me for the job, even though we were 3000 miles apart. In 2005 there weren’t as many OPMs as there are now. I was excited and made plans to possibly move to the west coast, Chris was very thin and always cold and I thought it would be great for him.
Back up a little to Affiliate Summit Las Vegas in June 2005. What I forgot to say is that after Dan’s death I was very agoraphobic (short version it means you like to stay home and especially not travel across the country). Shawn had invited me to come take photos at that Affiliate Summit, and that is where I first met Billy Kay in person – we knew each other from another online forum and from frequent yahoo chatting and phone calls.
This is a little more that just how I started, but since I got this far I might as well continue. Getting to that first (for me) Affiliate Summit probably saved my life. I realized finally that I could miss my son, but could be in public without crying or having a panic attack or break down when I saw other moms with their sons. So for that I owe Shawn (and Missy – although I hadn’t met her yet) forever a debt of gratitude.
So I had gone from being Affiliate to being Affiliate Manager. Life was good. Chris didn’t want to move to the west coast because he would miss Liz’s son Alec. I figured once I got him there for a visit he would be fine and want to stay. So I went and started the job planning to get him out there eventually.
That was not to be. I loved working for CafePress, I had been a long time shopkeeper, knew most of my affiliates personally. Then I got a phone call from Liz while driving with a friend from San Fran to LA “Mom, Chris is in the hospital”. She and I were on the phone almost constantly for the next week, I wanted to go back, but I also didn’t want to be away from a phone for 6 hours while I was on the plane. Liz had questions from the drs, Chris said “I’ll be ok, stay out there”. He went home to his girlfriend’s house that Saturday and Sunday I got the call from Liz that Chris stopped breathing and was on the way back to the hospital. We all knew he was already gone. So Sunday March 5th, 2006 my life shattered again.
I tried to be able to work in a corporate environment and I couldn’t do it. Schedules and meetings and office politics to me were inconsequential. They were BS that I didn’t want to put up with. I was talked into going to the Orlando Affiliate Summit, where I was greeted by people that had never talked to be before and people I barely knew with hugs and support. I told certain people ahead of time that if I started to panic I needed them to give me a hug. I had lots of hugs that Affiliate Summit, and went back to San Fran and quit my job.
After a short stint at a network, I became an OPM. Because I can’t work for other people, For years I would refuse to meet deadlines. Deadlines were meaningless.
Without this industry, which lets you work where you feel comfortable whether you are at home or at a hotel or a casino in Vegas, I don’t know what would have happened to me. This industry gave me a way to work in the type of environment I need to work in, on my schedule, and earn a living.
Chris loved Stoli, Jim Morrison and the Lord of the Rings trilogy – so have a shot then go listen to some music and watch a movie with your kids today.