48 Things I Know Now That I Wish I Knew Then

I entered the online marketing space 15+ years ago now – first running a non profit website and then falling into the commercial side of things in the early 2000’s via affiliate marketing.

While I was solely an affiliate until 2009, I tended to hang more in the search engine marketing space – because that was how I promoted my affiliate sites.

Over the years I’ve made a lot of mistakes, wasted a lot of time and saw plenty of mistakes made by others that I didn’t personally make – but witnessed them being made – and the fallout and negative results that came from them. I don’t claim to have learned everything I need to in life and I’m sure I have hundreds of mistakes left to make in my future. That said, there’s a lot I know now after 15+ years as an entrepreneur in this business that I wish I knew when I was starting out.

  • Never mistake people you hang out with at conferences for “friends” – I’m not saying the two can’t be one in the same, but never assume the that the former is automatically the latter.
  • Money doesn’t change who a person is, it just shows you who they always were at their real core.
  • Never, ever feed the trolls.
  • If you’re an affiliate marketer, you’ll never be doing anything but “playing on the computer” until you quit your day job as far as your non internet friends are concerned – and even then, they’ll secretly wonder how you’re paying your bills
  • If you want the to be in the “industry limelight” understand that the more visible you are, the more haters you’ll get. Either grow a thick skin or you’ll constantly allow complete bullshit to distract you from your end goal.
  • If you ever get to a point where you’re pissed someone “doesn’t know who you are” punch yourself in the face – repeatedly.
  • Know that there is always, ALWAYS, someone out there better at what you do than you are – and keep striving to surpass them.
  • Never be satisfied. The bar always gets raised. If what you’re doing is working, do more of it, as fast as you can, as much as you can.
  • Never forget where you came from.
  • Don’t step on the people who helped in the early days on your way up, because it will make it hard as hell if you ever have to come back down – and even harder to ever move back up.
  • If you ever catch yourself refreshing a comment stream or message board post over and over waiting to argue – they’ve already won.
  • If you need to refer to someones gender, political beliefs, race or educational background in an argument – you’ve already lost.
  • Industry relationships may seem like a great idea until you have to see the person 8 times a year at conferences after you split. Proceed with caution.
  • Never let anyone intimidate you. That VP of Marketing for that big corporation with that Ivy league degree got drunk last week and sang the worst rendition of Meatloaf karaoke ever. He’s just like you.
  • Never confuse book smarts with street smarts.
  • You don’t know everything. No one expects you to know everything. Don’t ever pretend to know everything.
  • When you’re at a conference, always talk like everyone is listening. Because you never know who actually is.
  • Your “image” is never more important than putting food on your table. If you hit a low point, don’t be afraid to ask for help. You might be surprised at how quickly your colleagues will rally (privately) to assist you.
  • Be kind to anyone you ever meet, regardless of “what they can do for you” – today’s newbie can quickly become tomorrow’s powerhouse.
  • Don’t obsess over why one client didn’t choose to go with you. It makes you look desperate. Obsess when ten clients choose not to go with you.
  • No amount of “Internet fame” will make up for low self esteem. See someone. Fix the problem. Don’t look to online popularity as the solution. Because you’ll forever be looking.
  • If you’re lucky enough to get “Internet fame” or Internet fortune, remember to put some of it to unselfish use. Pick a charity or cause. Support it. Use “fame” and fortune for something other than personal gain. Karma has an amazing ROI.
  • Most people don’t even know what SEO, affiliate marketing, social media (in marketing terms) or PPC is. We’re not fucking famous.
  • Never drink your own Kool-Aid.
  • Always get the details of any business relationship – no matter how formal or informal – on paper.
  • If they don’t sit around your Thanksgiving table, then their opinion of you, your latest post or your latest presentation doesn’t mean JACK SHIT in the grand scheme of things.
  • When you figure out an employee is Cancer, get them out immediately – before it spreads through your entire company.
  • If you’re viewing the Twitter, Facebook, website, blog or whatever of someone you don’t talk to because you can’t stand them, you’re wasting productivity. Go set some dollar bills on fire instead. It will be cheaper.
  • It’s much more profitable to be cordial with people you may not adore for whatever reason than to be confrontational. I’m not saying pretend to like someone. But don’t go out of your way to make it apparent you dislike someone.
  • The opposite of love is not hate – it’s apathy. Learn to be more apathetic when the issue at hand won’t be one you think of on your death bed.
  • You are going to get fucked over – at some point – by someone you trust. The best revenge is being the biggest success you can fucking be. Let karma handle the rest.
  • Don’t spend like you’ve got a blank check once you achieve success. Pay off your mortgage, stack your kids college funds and your own personal savings. This game (and the revenue you make from it) can change at any time.
  • Kindly decline to speak, lecture or blog on topics you don’t believe are your A-game. Another opportunity will come along if you don’t make an ass out of yourself by being an authority on something you don’t know.
  • Don’t sleep around at conferences, married or not. It does get around. It does change peoples opinions of you. It does affect your career. Guy or girl.
  • When your gut tells you to get out of a business relationship – be it a client or a partner, listen to it. No matter how big the check is or time commitment has been.
  • If it looks to good to be true, it definitely is.
  • Sometimes people won’t understand your dedication to living the life most people won’t live now to live the life most people can’t live later. Fuck em. You answer to you (and your immediate family).
  • Keep your mouth shut. Exposing something you were told in confidence or overheard may get you 236 comments today, but it will cost you tens of thousands of dollars in business later.
  • You don’t “know” someone you’ve never seen outside of a conference, blog or social media.
  • Never friend a client on Facebook.
  • Don’t buy sensational “make money while you sleep” courses – take online business classes, online programming classes, online marketing classes. Tons of online schools offer them. Self knowledge you can actually use is power.
  • Work from home? Get up, get dressed. You’ll feel better. You’ll be more productive. Your spouse will remember why they married you more.
  • Always be real. Being fake is transparent. People want to help real. They want to avoid fake.
  • Don’t buy a new business book if that last one you purchased is still sitting on your shelf unread. Pick up the unread book and read it.
  • Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer.
  • They say no press is “bad” press. In my opinion, that’s bullshit. Be remarkable without being an asshole.
  • If you make a mistake, own up to it – quickly and humbly. The mistake will eventually be forgotten – your reaction to it won’t be.
  • Bad shit happens. In the face of any crisis, ask yourself “will I give a shit in two years?” – 99% of the time I’ve looked back after two years in hindsight, the answer has been no and a lot of my time, emotion and energy went wasted.

I’ve still got a shitload to learn. You do too. So does Warren Buffet. None of us are a “finished piece” and never will be.

“You live and learn. At any rate, you live.” ~ Douglas Adams

Cheers.

About Rae Hoffman

Rae Hoffman aka "Sugarrae" is an affiliate marketing veteran and the CEO of PushFire, a search marketing agency specializing in SEO audits and link building strategies. She is also the author of the often controversial Sugarrae blog. You can connect with Rae via Twitter, Google+ and Facebook.

Sugarrae runs on the Genesis Framework

Genesis Framework

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The theme is not only highly customizable, but it has allowed me to run Sugarrae more professionally, with a much more targeted focus on monetization than it ever has been able to achieve before.

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Comments

  1. Great list; I agree with it all. Only one I’d add for myself is that the one about the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results? That’s really really true. I got dents in my forehead from it.

    • Completely agree with you :)

    • Meg,

      “I got dents in my forehead from it.”

      You, too?

      Sugarrae,

      Magnificent list!

      Your item about “getting fucked” was the topic of conversation, this morning, at a meeting I had with one of the top film/television producers in Hollywood. It happens…what are you going to do about it?

      I give it the two year test, put the baseball bat down, delete all contact info and move on.

      Thanks for taking the time put down what a whole lot of us are thinking.

      Much success to you.;-)

      Anthony

  2. Wow. This is a really helpful post. At least for people like me, still newbie on this business, comparing with your 15+ years experience.
    I’m surprised on how many items on this list sound as “common sense”, however, I have not taken any action yet to avoid or make them happen.
    Thanks a lot for taking the time to share your knowledge with all of us :)
    Martin

  3. The employee one is great – how do you define “cancer” vs “not performing”

    • A shitty attitude or not performing are both Cancers to me. If someone isn’t performing and keeps his job, then everyone around him starts to think “Why the hell am I busting MY ass if I obviously don’t have to?” Nasty attitudes have the same effect. They bring doom and gloom. A good attitude is contagious – so is a bad one. I try and look at it like “if I were this person’s co-worker, how would the affect my attitude or performance?” – if that answer is “in a negative way” then unless there’s some underlying reason you need them to stay, I’d axe them.

  4. The Old Man says:

    Quite an impressive list of things worthy of sticking to the fridge.

    Added:

    – ALWAYS dance with the ones that brung ya. ( an old Canadian political saying )

    – When you screw up, man up and make things right without making excuses. Excuses are like blog posts. Everyone has one.

    – When it’s time to do the mea culpa, asking how the crow should be served is a legitimate question. ( in other words, how do I fix it )

    – Every dog has its day. Lucky dogs get belly rubs on the daily,

    – Be humble. when you are crushing it and when you are in dire straits. Chin up. But be humble.

    – Remember that time heals all wounds. Most of the time. And when it doesn’t it’s a result of apathy.

    – Loyalty is quite an impressive character trait. Especially when the people around you shit the bed on occasion. We ALL shit the bed.

    – Always try and be the person worth changing the sheets for.

    – Dirty laundry should be kept in the hamper.

    – And lastly, and most importantly, have a long memory.

  5. Liked the list! Particularly:
    – If you make a mistake, own up to it – quickly and humbly. The mistake will eventually be forgotten – your reaction to it won’t be.
    and
    – Don’t sleep around at conferences, married or not. It does get around. It does change peoples opinions of you. It does affect your career. Guy or girl.

    Met someone the other day who had left (partly due to) the industry as they had slept around at conferences. Didn’t realise it was so common… lol

  6. This is a great list and one of the most honest ones I’ve ever read. Thanks! :)

  7. Rae,

    I was just perusing Twitter and saw a link to this post. I remember a ways back when I came across your blog because I was implementing the Thesis theme somewhere and you provided great information. But, this, this is priceless! Way too many people “drink their own Kool-Aid” and I sure hope they come across this post as an ego check. Great stuff.

    Cheers,
    Richard

  8. If you’re an affiliate marketer, you’ll never be doing anything but “playing on the computer” until you quit your day job as far as your non internet friends are concerned – and even then, they’ll secretly wonder how you’re paying your bills

    I don’t do a ton of affiliate marketing, but a lot of blogging and online publishing. I saw this and laughed, great post overall. I haven’t been to many conferences… is there really that much sleeping around going on!?

  9. This is a great list Rae. I think it’s awesome to get your insights before a lot of these things come to pass. There were definitely a few that raised my eyebrows, but I can totally see where you’re coming from.

    I especially like the down to earth reminder that we’re not famous because nobody knows what SEO and affiliate marketing is. True dat!

  10. While I don’t agree with everything on your list, I love that you made it. I think it’s one of the most honest, revealing posts I’ve read from you, and it makes me want to know you better. You rock for putting this up, Rae.

    Would you mind if I stole the idea and did something similar on my blog?

    p.s. My favorite one: “If you ever catch yourself refreshing a comment stream or message board post over and over waiting to argue – they’ve already won.” Been in plenty of those in my early days and it took me far too long to figure out I’d lost.

  11. Danny Hefer says:

    FINALLY!
    A list that’s not written by Captain Obvious and edited by Genral Youdontsay.
    Full of truth and refreshing.
    Actually, no. Full of truth and fucking refreshing.
    Stat!

  12. SugarRae,

    Wow. I think you wrote a few of those especially for me. My favorite: If they don’t sit around your Thanksgiving table, then their opinion of you, your latest post or your latest presentation doesn’t mean JACK SHIT in the grand scheme of things. Rise above by moving forward instead of loathing in self pity. I am sharing this list …

    • Hi Jerry,

      Me too. Actually, I recall reading Ali Brown say something similar about 5-6 years ago. She said the best thing she ever did was hire a VA to start screening her emails and weed out the mean people.

      Who was it that said, “it’s your mind and it’s up to YOU what you put in it”.

      I choose not to fill mine up with crap and negativity.

      Enough said.

      Great post, Rae! :-)

      Joe

  13. My skin is gradually growing thicker, but I still find myself cringing when negative comments are posted on things I took a good chunk of time to write.

    Is everything I publish (either on my own blog or elsewhere) a Pulitzer-worthy post? No….but I LET MYSELF get too annoyed by the asshats who have to show how big they are by saying something nasty about what I wrote. If I write something WRONG I own it and say I was wrong…..

    This is a great list, I have printed and bookmarked so I can remind myself that its not personal……and there are other things i can be doing besides hitting “refresh.”

    Thanks, Rae.

  14. Love it. Very open and honest list and some great wisdoms. My fave…

    “You are going to get fucked over – at some point – by someone you trust. The best revenge is being the biggest success you can fucking be. Let karma handle the rest.”

  15. Would you please run for President? :-)
    Sugar Rae 2012!
    Brilliant List. Just Brilliant. Made my day.

  16. Very nice list, I can honestly say I’m at least trying to do (or don’t ;-) ) most of them. There is however also things I believe that people need to experience themselves, like the ‘refreshing forum’ one, or getting rid of bad clients.

    Sometimes it helps to screw up to realize that. Nonetheless, this is a good list.

    Had one question about one of them though:

    “If you’re viewing the Twitter, Facebook, website, blog or whatever of someone you don’t talk to, you’re wasting productivity. Go set some dollar bills on fire instead. It will be cheaper.”

    I’m not sure I totally get this. Are you saying only to read sites from people you know or talk to? We met only once, 2 years ago at an SES, very briefly, and are not on a ‘talking level’ at the moment, which is fine, but does that mean I shouldn’t read your blog? Wouldn’t that be a shame and wouldn’t people go into a sort of filter bubble?

    Or am I misunderstanding?

    • Bas… it was misunderstood, so I’ve edited the post to make it clearer to say “people you don’t talk to because you can’t stand them” – what I meant by that is if you’ve had a falling out with someone or think someone’s an ass or whatever, any time spent stalking their activities, posts, comments, tweets, etc is like burning cash since you could direct that time and energy to something profitable. :)

      • Ahh ok, I did misunderstand then, probably my not-being-a-native-English-speaker ;-)

        Thanks for the clarification and yes, I agree on that point, even though it’s one of the hardest things to do for humans: ignore those that bug you :)

  17. Love this list, definitely words to live by, that’s for sure. Btw, are you preparing to do a post about Thesis 2.0?

  18. Rae – Long time no talk. Would love to catch up with you….but wanted to let you know that we are having everyone in our office at DomainHoldings.com read your post. It was fantastic!

    shoot me an email when you get a chance.

    Monte

  19. Impressive list. Since I am a newbie in the industry, I guess I will run into many of these points :)

  20. Every point has been hit hard into my mind. Loved the complete list. Wow. Bookmarked it. thank you so much for sharing your experience.

  21. Never forget where you came from… Jersey stand up!

    Great post. Wish I had this post 2 years ago.

  22. This is a great post. I am a newer blogger that is in love with all of the advantages of blogging but still cringing at the negatives. I really need that thicker skin, nice to see I am not alone!
    Please keep these beautiful and helpful posts coming.

  23. Really enjoyed that. Q! do you really wish you knew all that before you started? I mean, where would the satisfaction in where you are now come from? Just a thought.

  24. You are badass, Sugarrae… in a very classy way, of course. The Old Man’s “time heals all wounds” reminded me that “time wounds all heels” (Groucho Marx, I think).

    Keep rocking!

  25. Food for thought Indeed…

    I’m addicted to buying e-books that I think will “eventually” help me. Time to stop the madness and start the reading!

  26. But I LIKE my own Kool-Aid…

    Good advice though, you should always “Question Authority” (Dave Szetela’s title on his business card when he worked at Apple BTW – best title ever) – particularly when you think the Authority is yourself!

  27. Great list, Rae.

    I especially agree with:
    “Your “image” is never more important than putting food on your table. If you hit a low point, don’t be afraid to ask for help. You might be surprised at how quickly your colleagues will rally (privately) to assist you.”

    Never be afraid to ask for help, there will always people ready to support you.

  28. Rae,
    Your candor as usual is always refreshing and rewarding. Don’t ever change! Experience has been my best teacher, however not the easiest . I can relate to many of these points and also have many on my own list. :)
    Thanks for the post.

  29. Great list, Rae!
    So many “been there, done that” for me personally. Can’t wait to read Rand’s list too.

  30. Really enjoyed this list. Thanks for putting it together. Also, enjoyed all your sessions at SMX East – you picked the ones you’re an expert at, no doubt.

  31. Curtis R. Curtis says:

    Thanks Rae for one of the most “refreshing” lists on the topic. I especially liked “Don’t drink your own KoolAid” :) Keep on telling it like it is; as you always do. Along with other reasons, this is why I always enjoyed running into you.

  32. This is common sense, and we know that few people have it. This should be reviewed be anyone who works with the public on a regular basis, including all of our elected officials.

  33. Ceri Nelmes says:

    Love this line:

    Most people don’t even know what SEO, affiliate marketing, social media (in marketing terms) or PPC is. We’re not fucking famous.

  34. Bartek Krzemień says:

    Thank you so much for writing this.

  35. Completely agree thank you for sharing :)

  36. Thanks for sharing – lots of the above I can relate to to :)

  37. Wow Rae,

    Talk about shooting from the hips. How refreshing and so to the point. Really enjoyed reading that – I thought “Be kind to anyone you ever meet, regardless of “what they can do for you” – today’s newbie can quickly become tomorrow’s powerhouse.” is so true and it is not just meeting. The guy or gal you screwed or cheated online could well come back to haunt you.

    Looking forward to more….

  38. This is great stuff! I just realized that I read every word and didn’t once feel the need to scan. That’s saying something considering all the posts I come across!

    Honesty is the best policy. Keep up the great posts!

    Thank you, Rae!

  39. Lee Milteer, a super online marketer, once said at a conference I attended:

    “The only opinions that matter is that of those who give you money”.

    That really struck a chord with me!

    Listen to your customers, or biggest prospects. Forget the rest of the choir. They will never be your customers anyways, so their opinions are of little or no value.

  40. Love this post, thank you.

  41. I think we would probably have a great lively conversation at a dinner party. Saw a few of your quotes that I always say myself, maybe a tad differently but the truth substance is the same. Which only proves that with wisdom the principles are FUNDAMENTAL.

    I always say, ‘More money only makes you more of what you already are’ It is character revealing.

    Herodotus wrote at the start of his book on History ‘ I write of all things great and all things small; for what is now great may one day be small and what is small now may one day be great.’ So be careful about who and how you deal with anyone, as that peon you snubbed today may be the CEO you need to sell to a decade from now.

    Insightful post and every NOOB in business can save a lot of heartache if they take it to heart.

  42. Great thoughts on how to carry yourself as a person and professional.

  43. I really like the way the anger rises from here:

    Most people don’t even know what SEO, affiliate marketing, social media (in marketing terms) or PPC is. We’re not fucking famous.

    Kept me reading to the end – great list.

  44. Excellent list that is worth coming back to for some motivation.
    I’d add one important thing for beginners:
    Make sure each of your employees knows that lazy colleagues steal from them and not from the company/you. It will help you find out the Cancer and kill it quickly.

  45. Rae: Your thoughts on having “thick skin” is right on. The bigger you are the more shots you will take.

    People who are new to this business really need to put some serious thought into what business model they want to pursue before they invest a significant amount of time building a business. It’s a good idea to make sure the business model you are pursing is match for your personality. If someone is the “sensitive type” who has a tough time handling criticism, becoming a famous blogger may not be the best business model for him or her to pursue. There are a lot of people who are doing well in the world of internet marketing and they are completely anonymous. If a new marketer has a difficult time taking fire, going the route of the “anonymous” internet marketer may be the way to go.

  46. Thank you for this post, as always it makes me realize I have so much to learn.

    I would add the following learning from my side:
    – In your career, it’s going to rain on you, eventually. Even if you think you are on the high, and cannot go down, life can smack you in the face and you fall! Eventually, it will rain on everybody, how do you pick yourself up and get going again is what counts!

    DG

  47. Absolutely brilliant, Rae. Just…wow. This made my day! Bonus points for your strategically placed profanity. :)

  48. There’s no substitute for time and experience for teaching oneself these lessons. Having a thick skin is critically important especially when you’re still growing a company by the seat of its pants. Thanks for putting these lessons together Rae!

  49. Well I must say I am impressed that you came out with an outstanding list. I am over 60 and I couldn’t come up with a list like that. You are very aware and that is so refreshing. I thought I could come up with a list with the lessons I have learned in my life time, but yours is great. The only one I don’t understand is. Never, ever feed the trolls.

    • Rudee – a “troll” is someone who starts shit online for the sake of starting shit. See here. When you argue with them, it “feeds” them and they get what they want. If you don’t “feed” them and simply ignore them, they move on to bothering someone who will. :)

  50. Finally someone who tells it like it is, just starting out it’s hard to know the who the so called gurus are. But the gurus are always looking for the up sell. Just by reading your blog it shows getting on with it and not letting all the BS block your way. I don’t know if you will every read this post Rae but it’s straight talk like this that changes peoples lives by grabbing their balls and reaching their goals. – Daniel

  51. Rae,

    This is brilliant.

    I’m going print and laminate (yes, I have one from Costco…it’s for my inspirational shit that sits with the business books I haven’t read) in addition to unabashedly sharing across my social networks. Thank you.

    “You are going to get fucked over – at some point – by someone you trust. The best revenge is being the biggest success you can fucking be. Let karma handle the rest.” Love. The runner up of course being your remark about reading the business book that’s sitting, collecting dust, before buying another. Noted.

    Thank you, Rae.

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