Missions and Marketplace Podcast
Interview with Ian Fernando
Hello everyone I’m Priest Willis and this is Missions and Marketplace podcast episode number 28. I’m joined today by Ian Fernando. Ian was a college dropout who pulled himself out from a life of struggle. He was forced to work three jobs to sustain himself and found online marketing and became a successful affiliate marketer. You remember seeing the cartoons of the fat belly guy? Maybe the black and white or the color ads? Yes, that was Ian. Let’s get him. Ian’s also a successful blogger and most importantly he’s a successful entrepreneur. Ian is a cool, cool guy. I met him at conferences. I’ve talked to him, always very personable. In this interview, he deals with some of his struggles with depression as he had seen struggles within this business and how he pulled himself out of it. He talks about outsourcing. He talks about how he got into affiliate marketing and shares a lot of great things. I think this is for everybody that is listening to this podcast right now that is starting a business. Even if you aren’t doing online marketing this is still a message that will resonate with you. Without further ado, here he is my man Ian Fernando.
Welcome to Missions and Marketplace podcast. Join us as we talk to business and thought leaders to discuss their passion in and outside of business and how it drives them to give and be citizens of goodwill. Let’s get started.
PW: Hey Ian welcome to the program.
IF: Hey, how are you doing? Thanks for having me.
PW: It’s exciting having you. You’ve been a vet in the industry, affiliate marketing industry, for a long time. So, you are definitely one of the people to get in this interview here. So, why don’t you tell the audience a little bit about yourself?
IF: Yes sure. I’m definitely an old head in this industry – close to just 11 years. When I first started, I basically got into this game by mistake and what I say by mistake. And when I say by mistake is that my parents kicked me out the house because I didn’t want to finish school or my college. I was working at three jobs; working as a human resource manager at Wal-Mart, a waiter in the weekends and a call center agent at Vantage at night. I was chilling one day with my friends and one of my friends was saying “hey I just want to make $40000 a year”. And I looked at him like “are you serious? Are you worth that much?” And I looked at myself like “man, I’m making just a little over 60, 65 with all my other jobs and I’m struggling”. And this kid just wants to make 40. And that’s when I realize I have to hustle and find another way. And that’s when I started doing a bunch of e-books on Myspace the first time. Then I did eBay, selling shoes, knockoff shoes on eBay. The I got into affiliate marketing basically by mistake just because I also was getting tired of customer service while working three jobs. It didn’t really fulfill my need to get rid of all the jobs or even one, so I had to get another source of income. Luckily for me I met, I believe Zooma Ads through back in the day, Instant Messenger. There was somebody, they introduced me to an affiliate manager and this affiliate manager got me on a specific campaign, at a specific time, and this specific season. I was making from $100/week to $100/day. Then eventually came to $1000/day and that’s when my affiliate marketing game kind of kicked off.
PW: Wow that’s amazing. So, you said you wanted to kind of be a hustler, you wanted to kind of get out of working the three jobs but you were hustling. You were just hustling a little backwards because you were doing it for other people. But you took that same kind of aggressiveness and applied it to the affiliate marketing game which is a nice way to kind of view it and I think a lot of entrepreneurs can resonate with that – where they’re kind of hustling in one direction but they really want to do it for themselves and realize that there’s an opportunity there. That’s good stuff. Let’s talk about affiliate marketing a little bit because you have been in the game a very long time before myself. Do you think you just kind of hit it at the right time or do you think you really studied up and got to a point that you just killed it? Meaning, do you think people right now who get into affiliate marketing; do you think there’s still a huge opportunity for them or do you think that boat has passed and now everybody else is just picking up the scraps?
IF: Yeah. I’m going to take this two ways. Because you can make money now at affiliate marketing, not as fast. Whereas when I started, I was actually at the right time, right moment and it just happened. And then eventually I got to other niches. But it was just so easy back then; they just throw up an ad, throw up a hundred dollars and almost come out even. Right. And you could still just reinvest that money and then come out maybe $101, make a $1 profit. But eventually once you understand all the numbers, it became so easy that people were, like myself, doing probably 70% ROI on just ringtones. I even, I’m doing a 100 or 100+ on ringtone. But any other legion like subprime, I’ll be doing 70% ROI on those other niches. When I specifically got on, my affiliate manager definitely helped me. She basically told me what keyword to bid on, what kind of landing page to use. And I did the work, I made the page, I put it up, I did the bidding but I didn’t have obviously a thousand dollars to bid, I was bidding $50 and eventually it worked out for me. That’s what I was saying, I’m doing $100/week and then became $100/day. So, at that time I really did very well because of a specific niche at a specific time that specific moment. And back in the day, 2006, it was just easy to just throw open ads and Google just learning their own algorithm. Coming back now, yes you can still make money but you have to really, really hustle. There’s a lot of people now that are poking – you kind of have to if you want to get an above 50% ROI or even above 30% ROI. Because you have to figure out why Google is accepting, why Facebook is accepting this and then you kind of go bypass that; while back in the day, you can just throw up any landing page, a squeeze page, a jump page and it works. There was no attribution of how the format is supposed to be whereas now obviously, consumer rights, FTC is looking at aggressive advertising. And now as affiliates, we’re type of marketers that don’t think in a straight line. We’re the type of guy that asks “Why doesn’t Google accept this page? Oh, this is why”, and then we go around it. We’re the creative marketers in this age, in this space. And we always try to break the rules and bend the rules by a lot. And that’s why I think also the industry is kind of shattering itself on its own. People can make a lot of money in affiliate marketing. I know people that are doing the same scenario as I was – doing $100/week and then doing a $1000/day but probably within a 90-day span/period because of the numbers that they have to really analyze. Why is this happening? It just takes up being able to find the right moment. In my demo, my mobile pages, there’s a specific type of phone that’s causing my conversion to dip. There’s a lot more data to analyze and figure out whereas before you can look at data at a macro level and be like “okay”. It’s because everything’s on desktop, you know what I mean? On a Firefox browser that’s causing my conversion to dip. Whereas now, you’re looking at “OK it’s an AT&T mobile server on an Android S7 on a whatever prepaid card”. Now there’s so much data to really analyze now. But luckily for me, I’ve had a foundation to understand data that I break down data as it is now. So, as long as you’re willing to dive deep and spend much time and have patience to understand how the data works, you can definitely make good amount of money. It’s just understanding how your data works. Again, before there was very little data to look at and now you just have a massive data to really analyze.
PW: That’s true. If you really want to make money at affiliate marketing, like you said, you just have to dig deeper rather than just trying to read one book and think you’re going to go out and kill it. So, it requires a little patience behind it. To me Ian you’ve always been the picture of an entrepreneur; meaning you’ve always seized the opportunity and it goes back to the example when you were working a few jobs and then you worked at Vantage at one point and then you just decided to become an affiliate marketer. But you’re constantly evolving as an entrepreneur and I think that’s why you’re having the success that you’re having. You went from those jobs to become an affiliate marketer. Now you’re creating services and products and things like that. In fact, you’re in the Philippines right now but I know you initially started in New Jersey. I believe you moved to Florida, went back to New Jersey and now you’re in the Philippines. Let’s talk about how you’ve evolved as an entrepreneur. What has that meant and what has that taken from you to kind of go from each stage – from an affiliate marketer now to essentially a boss?
IF: [Laughs] It’s an amazing journey. It’s crazy. From an affiliate marketer, I moved to Atlanta, I sold one of my software companies. Actually, I made a tool for myself as an affiliate which basically watches any advertiser or affiliate network that tried to skim my leads or shave my leads and I would find out how they did it. Like for example, the software basically watches my redirects. If my redirect ID changes to an internal ID my tracker tells me and takes a screenshot and allows me to go “Oh, this network is shaving me x amount or the advertiser is shaving me x amount.
PW: Oh wow.
IF: Pretty cool software. And I moved to Atlanta, sold that. The company just wanted to take a different direction. I left and went kind of back into affiliate marketing, moved to Florida, actually started another company – a joint venture with an advertiser down there. Created InternetMarketingCollection.com with another buddy of mine down in Florida which collects all these data from affiliate networks or advertisers that affiliates money and then we basically take the bill and put it through a lawyer system and then we collect. The experience ended now actually. I went back to Jersey because when I was in Florida I partnered up with one of my old buddies that was in my marketing group back in the day and he was doing really well as an affiliate marketer. He wanted to try having his own products and services so I was like “hey, I’ve sold a company, let’s do this”. So, I moved back to Jersey and we created our own diet offers, if you want to say, and we did a really, really good.
PW: Are you the guy with the big belly ads and all that stuff?
IF: The cartoons?
PW: Yeah, the cartoons. Big belly ads.
IF: Yeah, yeah, yeah [Laughs] Don’t laugh at my ads.
PW: [Laughs] We found him everyone, we got him. Go to the Philippines and get him.
IF: Yeah, the cartoon – we had the black and white cartoons.
PW: Yeah ok.
IF: I mean it was just a good journey. And now I’m actually in the Philippines. I kind of want to go back into software. I see technologies rising all over the world you know and I just want to get a little piece of that. I feel like I was in the gist of it when I sold my platform. And I just want to get back into it because I think it’s just an awesome journey to be challenged every day. That’s what I love about being an affiliate or an entrepreneur because as an affiliate, you’re challenged with “why doesn’t this work?” I always tell people, if you’re saying traffic, the methodologies you have in your head is if you received 100 clicks, you should receive 100 conversions. And if you don’t, then it’s truly a game. Ok, I only got 99, and why didn’t that one – the other 1% convert over? Look at your data. Work on the page; the context, font sizes, colors. To me it’s all a game. And same thing with entrepreneurship. You know as I grew, for example, I did my software in Atlanta I grew to a team of I think 15 right away. And I had to manage and understand. That was such an awesome learning curve that by the time I started the secondary business partnership and moved back from Florida to New Jersey, my whole operation was flawless. But then I started learning new concept of owning offers such as banking, customer service. That’s another aspect that I’ve learned and brought on something. So, everything, every step that I’ve received was an awesome experience just because it’s all a learning phase. Even though I’ve I made a mistake couple times here and there, it just taught me to do a little bit better and understand why.
PW: I think we all make those mistakes as entrepreneurs and that’s mighty transparent of you to share that because a lot of people need to hear that “hey, there’s going to be ads, there’s going to be things that you do in your business in general that you’re going to fail at and you’re just not going to do right”. And some of you may be suffering some level of anxiety or depression. You just have to test things and sort of persevere and move through because the things that make Ian successful and other entrepreneurs is that they’re constantly testing and looking at their data to see what’s not working and to see how to fix it.
IF: Correct. Correct. Well I just want to talk a little bit about the depression part since you mentioned it.
PW: Yeah let’s do that.
IF: I actually went into depression for three months. It’s when I was doing really, really well; I bought a house. Because everybody at this time, I don’t know if you remember, Uber affiliate and all these other affiliates were buying houses. I’m like “you know what, I have enough money like everybody else, let me buy a house too”. So, I bought a house or a condo. And then after probably a year, my campaign’s just losing money like 7K a day and I’m like “what’s going on? what’s happening?” and I’m staring at my data and I don’t understand what’s going on. I stopped the campaign. I wallow in depression for probably three months and asked myself “if I need to go back to work, maybe I need to go get a job”. Is this really for me? Because I told myself at that time, this happened to me on accident. Were this really meant for me to be where I’m at? Or maybe I should just stop and go back to a job that is more secure. I remember walking around my neighborhood to parks and just trying to think clear. I was just like “OK you know what, let me go get a tattoo”. I have these tattoos on my hands that says “Love Life”. And that’s when I started realizing that I got to stop being cocky. Back in day, a lot of affiliates were very, very cocky and I got caught up in that game. I remember going into clubs and telling bouncers like “you know who the fuck I am? You need to google me”. I think the lesson learned was like “Be humble”. Something just stopped me from making money that I had to look at myself as a whole – being more humble and understanding and realize that not everybody is like me. Nobody understands what I do. Nobody is going to reach a potential level like I have. Nobody’s going to struggle like you have. So, you have to appreciate people and what they currently do have and just understand and be at their level when you have to. Me realizing that, I was like “Holy shit. Let me just go back to my campaign and look at it slowly”. And eventually the negatives just started being positive like right away. And that’s when I realized “holy crap!” the money doesn’t really make the person, it’s basically the person making yourself. And it’s just how you react to your surroundings; not being cocky and BS-ing. You just got to treat people like everybody else. Nobody is going to be like you. There’s always somebody better than me, better than you.
IF: And you just have to be humble about that. And that’s what I realized back in the day and I think that’s why after that, the success just became greater and greater and greater.
PW: Wow that’s really good. You know first of all I appreciate you sharing that because I’ve talked to so many entrepreneurs. Most recently, I talked to the people that started Miss Jessie’s hair brand which is a multibillion dollar business. Her sister, the co-founder, killed herself and she was suffering anxiety and depression. And it’s just amazing to me how many entrepreneurs, particularly ones that kind of stay behind computers and build businesses that way, that deal with anxiety and depression. And in some level, I’m always trying to combat with anxiety. You know and I do that by going for walks myself. To your point, always trying to stay grounded and humble, to remember that “dude you’re not all of that”. I mean money is a tool and just because you have money doesn’t make you better than anyone. And you need to, we all need to kind of self-examine and make sure that our motives are right, our motives are pure and that we’re leaving some kind of legacy for others and we’re just not leaving a – you know like you say go into the club and say “do you know who I am?” That’s really, really cool that you shared that because I think that will resonate with a lot of entrepreneurs and we get a lot of messages from people about how they deal with anxiety and depression. In fact, I have an article coming up in FeedFront about anxiety, depression in business. Man, I really appreciate you sharing that with us.
IF: No worries man. I mean it’s something that I think a lot of entrepreneurs go through. It’s the fact that you’re so stressed working – I mean when I was doing it – working 10, 15 hours a day, probably seven days a week, no time for yourself, no time for your health, care and everything. You think that by the time you leave your house and roll off for one night out of the week, that you become everybody. You become someone that you’re really, really not. And I think that’s why there has to be that work balance in your business because you really, really need to have a routine – wake up, go to the gym, or do something before you put yourself in the mode of pure concentration.
IF: Of just looking at analytics all day. So, it’s definitely something that I believe that people should understand that you will struggle, fail a lot, might go on depression, thinking that this is for you and it’s not, and you’ll figure it out. This all depends on how you treat life and how life treats you back.
PW: So, you’ve moved around a bit as we discussed and now you’re in the Philippines. Maybe that has opened you up even more. So, you’re a lot more cultured than a lot of entrepreneurs that maybe are listening to this show. So, can you give them a peek inside of that and maybe what’s that done for your health? But number two, how important is being in the Philippines for your business? Initially I know you were about outsourcing and working and testing with different people and it seemed like, I believe I read a blog where you’re like “hey the Philippines just worked better for me than India developers” and so forth and so on. Was the whole purpose of going there (1) to kind of get your health and state of mind back and (2) was it to kind of get where the workforce was? And obviously, it may be a little bit cheaper and stuff like that. What has that all meant for your business?
IF: Let’s just go back a little bit because I remember when I first got my first thousand dollars a month, I’ve been wanting to travel for so long. My dad’s a traveler, he travelled the world. My dad honestly knows like six, seven languages and I just want to be able to travel. So, when I started traveling, I realized “oh, you know what?”. I became more cultured like you said in the understanding of people, realizing that, comparing it to American standards and how people hustle over there, a lot of people cry over in America so it’s totally different. For me in outsourcing here in the Philippines; I’ve had my outsourcing team here in the Philippines for 7 years and I’ve enjoyed it. I enjoy working with them. The reason why I’m actually here is because since I’m trying to grow my software company now, I want to be in the trenches with my team. We currently got an office just about two months ago, we have a set up, we have 3 developers in there. They’re just awesome to work with. They’re more creative to an extent but much more self-managed than people from India. No offense to anybody who’s anybody.
IF: India, Indians, but I’m just saying from my perspective that I’ve worked with in the past. People in India, they need a plan: step 1, step 1a, b.
PW: I found the exact same thing. And again, there’s no offense. I’ve worked with some great guys but you literally have to lead them through each step and you end up doing more work.
PW: Yeah. And no, there’s no offense.
IF: And especially on the development side. You need somebody to – I’m not a developer. For an Indian guy to always just say yes, yes, yes to me and then ask me and then say yes, yes, yes. I don’t know if I’m saying the right thing sometimes. Luckily for me, I have a developer here in the Philippines; I’ve seen a guy that’s very, very well good and well-rounded. He’ll be like “hey don’t bother me for the next week because I’m trying to be on time schedule” and that’s what I want. I want a person that is self-managed, can tell the boss “hey you can’t do this because you’re doing that” whereas in India it’s all yes’s and then you’ll never reach your deadline because they don’t tell you and they’re the expert.
IF: That’s the sad part and one part I really, really hate about it. Designers in India are the same way. Like I know some guy, that’s just an awesome designer from my experience back in the day. I just give him three samples and okay do that but then they’ll copy and paste the design. And I’m like “no, you’re a designer”.
PW: Yup. Exact same stuff that I’ve experienced so very good points there. Look you talked in the video and I want people to go watch his video. He does Q&A with entrepreneurs sometimes and it seems somewhat random, I mean, when he posts up video. He’s had a couple of part series where he answered questions for entrepreneurs. So, you guys could check out Ian Fernando or at least search it in YouTube and you should be able to come to his page to see it. One of the ones that I thought was pretty cool was you brought up about needing good financial advisors or needing financial advisors in general. I know there’s a lot of entrepreneurs trying to keep spreadsheets and do this stuff on their own. But I found it very key to find people that are good at what they do and you kind of separated the people too. You said look, there’s a difference between financial advisors, CPAs, fiduciaries and you get really into specifics. Here you are building businesses, you’re obviously bringing in revenue, you have money. There’s other entrepreneurs that may not be there, maybe they’re past it I don’t know. But in any case, why is that important Ian? Why is a financial advisor important for the business?
IF: I think it’s very, very important because let’s say you scale up really, really good and within a year you went from $1000/day, now you’re doing a million dollars month. By end of the year, you don’t realize as an affiliate that you’re paying 50% of that in taxes. Let’s say you’re spending money throughout the year and you have a net revenue in your bank of a 100k but technically you probably owe the government half a million dollars. And as a financial advisor, they would tell you to “hey, every quarter or every month we have to put a reservoir of reserves into a savings account because we have to pay the IRS upfront”. So, the financial advisor is basically helping you properly spend your money. I remember back in the day where I had to call my financial advisor and be like “hey, can I buy a new Bentley today? Can I buy this car?” And I had four cars prior. I had to call my financial advisor to ask permission if I can spend my own money.
IF: Which is good because you need the guy to tell you “no, you can’t. You have too many fucking bad liabilities. These aren’t assets or anything”. But he knows that if you spend x money, you’re paying x amount in taxes, your insurance. He’ll break it down in his head almost right away where as an affiliate or entrepreneur, you really don’t think about. What you’re thinking about is the toy that flashes and everything like that. A financial advisor is very important and has to work with your CPA or accountant because the accountant knows your books, all the financial values. He looks at it once a week, tells you “Okay, we’re going to put X amount of reserve for IRS. We’re going to put it maybe in a 401 or maybe open up an IRA for you. We’ll put some in other subsidiary LLCs to spread the money.” It really is helpful because as you grow, you want to make sure that money grows with you.
IF: And if it doesn’t grow with you then you really have no money at all. So, I think you really need to have a set team, they’re the expert looking at my – we’re good at making money. The financial advisor is the one that’s wanting to help you keep the money.
PW: And how did you go about finding a one? Did you just Google it or what would you suggest to people to find a good one?
IF: So, it’s hard. I actually did a lot earmarking, I actually did trial and error which sucks a lot. But I found a really good one through a friend, people use them through the industry. I mean it’s very expensive but they’ve done very, very well. Right now, I think it’s best to see what people are using or who the people are using. You could then have your social peers, their experiences and all of that. But then again, it’s also what tier group of revenue are you making? Are you able to afford a financial advisor at 30K when you’re only making 30K or 50, 60K in affiliate commissions a year?
IF: So, if not, not really worth it. I think once you make 8-figures that I think that 30K, 50K financial advisor is worth it. I mean there are small financial advisors to use which I wouldn’t really recommend because small financial advisors don’t understand our industry. They don’t understand that we make and lose money in a random basis. So, they have to understand that the 401K will not work for our business. Insurance policy, Disabilities Act policy will not work for our business because those two items, by itself, you need consistent revenue. And if you don’t have consistent revenue, you’re losing already on the 401 and the Disability Acts and Insurance. So, those two alone, I mean shit and you got to pay me for that piece of advice right there.
IF: You need to find someone who definitely understand the ups and downs of the industry. Because you can tell the financial advisor that “hey, our ad spend is at least 80%”. And he’s going to look at you laughing and like “why are you spending that much?” He just doesn’t understand the fact that we need to have high volume money to spend for high volume return. In traffic, if you dip your money just a bit your volume will definitely decrease. There’s a pinpoint in traffic where it becomes neutral but it all depends on your ad spends. The financial advisor, it really depends on what kind of tier level you’re in and how you want to get – I think once you reach at least a million, then you should definitely have one.
PW: Great advice. So, as we wrap up here Ian, what are you working on right now? You’re in the Philippines, you’re building your software, you’re building your team there. Are you just continuing to build that or do you have some other projects going on you want to share?
IF: Let me add that I’m recently investing. I invested in two offers in the States. I’m also going to create my own offers since I promoted offers in the diet space. I created my own offers as well as managing my software team here to get that going. And just enjoy life really. I work probably six days a week, morning till night. I usually have the afternoons open just because I work in the morning because I need to catch up with the West Coast team. I work at night because I got to catch up with the East Coast team. And then the afternoons usually are basically my free time when I throw a line, play basketball or do what I need to do. As for work, just the regular hustle everyday – traffics. I’m actually trying to leave the traffic space and just be more on operations; setting up office, a team, hiring, setting up system processes especially with my own offers, trying to create an internal, a traffic team as well – just a lot.
PW: Yeah, sounds like a lot. Being a global business person is a beast. I mean I do global stuff for a company right now and to be matching up time zones and stuff like that, you have to kind of stay on. Sometimes that’s more than a notion. Ian if people want to get in touch with you, if they want to read your blog that we kind of talked about, if they want to look at your video; how can people get in touch with you? How can people read your stuff? How can people get involved with your products and services? So, could you share that?
IF: Yeah. Catch me on ianfernando.com, that’s basically my blog which has been revamped recently. And you can also go to probably I would say ianfernando.me which will probably just have my virtual card and my social profile. They can find my YouTube, Twitter, my Facebook account on there as well.
PW: Ian you’ve been awesome. I appreciate it.
IF: Thank you for having me. And everybody out there just hustle and also enjoy life. Make sure your first priorities are not money. It should be health, family then love. So, everybody enjoy! Priest thank you for having me.
PW: Thank you. I appreciate that. That’s sage advice, take it from the man here.
Thank you for listening to Missions and Marketplace. If you have a brand or business that you want to take online or you’re already online and looking for more exposure visit us at www.affiliatemission.com, the premier affiliate marketing and management agency. Also feel free to get social with us and check our Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter pages and share with us your story on how you’re leaving a mark on the world.
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