Affiliate Summit West is Coming to Town

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what direction my career is headed in and whether I’m happy with that. At the moment, I have a kind of split career. In one career, I teach college students about important stuff like race, class, gender, and culture. In the other career, I write for several websites and other outlets, including some commercial writing. Both make me happy while I’m doing them, and both are incredibly rewarding.

But I’m stalled in teaching. I’ve made some great big financial mistakes that mean I’m probably never going to get my PhD; nobody at my university even knows who I am anymore. I’ve chugged along at my dissertation for years, but for the last year or so it’s gotten harder and harder to motivate myself to work on it because, to be honest, neither my heart nor my soul is in it any more.

That should be sad, but it’s not, because I don’t think I ever really wanted to be a professor; I think I’ve always wanted to be a teacher. What’s the difference, you ask? Well, a professor does research, writes books, gives presentations — and occasionally, when everything else is done, teaches a class. A teacher, on the other hand, teaches — whether in a classroom, on a website, in a book, whatever.

The reality of the academic market is, I’m not going to be a professor at a “top school”, even with a PhD, because I care too much about teaching. Which is fine, except I have a family to feed and a life to live, and I can’t do that on an adjunct’s salary.

In my other career, I’m a writer. I’m pretty good at it, I think — I’ve gotten my fair share of diggs and trackbacks and thankful comments on my writing on the web, and my off-line writing gets a pretty good response. At lifehack.org alone, I have upwards of a million readers a month. And I have a good understanding of the marketing and relationship-building strategies that matter for writers in the new media. More and more I think this is where I should be focusing my efforts.

Especially since BlogWorld Expo in November. There I saw an entire professional world unfolding before my eyes, and a little glimpse of what the future holds. I mean, I’ve been blogging since 2000, but it wasn’t until BlogWorld that I really saw that one could build a career on the Internet without being a coder or a designer.

So now Affiliate Summit West is heading to town. That’s one of the nice things about living in Las Vegas — conferences come right to your doorstep! Of course, the downside is, you need a lot of money to go to them — Affiliate Summit is $1449 for the whole conference, and a couple hundred just to have a look around.

But John Chow is giving away a free full pass and a couple of free floor passes, so all of a sudden it’s worth thinking about going. I have to admit, I have a really hard time wrapping my head around affiliate marketing. Not the concept itself, which is pretty straightforward — you link to products your audience would enjoy, and if they click through and spend money, you get a piece. But few sites do this well, and from the outside, doing it well seems to be such a large job that it would eclipse the actual writing that’s supposed to be the star of the show.

I’ve made a goal for this year: By the fall semester, I plan to cut my teaching load in half. And I plan to do that not just by replacing the pay those classes bring in but by doubling it. That means, effectively, I have to hit $25000 in non-teaching income by September, which is very doable. (I’ve already accounted for about 1/3 of that with existing work, actually).

Which means that the time is now to figure out how this stuff all works — affiliate marketing, social networking, contextual advertising, all of it. If I want to write for a living, I have to figure out how to live by writing. BlogWorld was a step in the right direction — it gave me a real big push towards bringing this all together. Something like Affiliate Summit West would be a great next step!

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