How to Stay Organized in Your Affiliate Marketing Business

Conga Line Perhaps?
Creative Commons License photo credit: dhilgart

I know I said we were going to cover installing wordpress today, but I really wanted to talk about how to stay organized in your business ~ well more than how to stay organized, I want to talk to you about creating a system of organization for yourself and your business.

If there was one thing I could go back and do differently it would be this one element of my business. I did not even THINK about an orgnizational system until I was in the thick of things, couldn’t find things, didn’t know what my passwords were, or where to find my affiliate links. :) It was a mess, and a huge hassle to go back and find everything to get it organized. It would have been so much easier to just get organized from the beginning.

When creating an organizational system it’s  a good idea to look at what others are doing, but like most things in internet marketing you will probably have to tweak it to fit your situation and your learning/organizing style.  The thing is, someone can have the “perfect” system for staying organized but if it doesn’t work for you and you don’t actually use it it does you absolutely no good.

What are you going to need to organize?

There are going to be quite a few things you are going to need to keep organized. You will need to be able to find things, access them and track them over time. You may only have 1 or 2 sites now, and only a couple affiliate programs, but over time you will have many more, and while it’s easy to keep track of 1 or 2 things, not so much when it’s 20, 30 or 100. :)

Website usernames and passwords.

Each time you create a website, whether it’s a blog you plan to make money from or a link blog or a lens, hub or wetpaint site you’re going to need to keep track of the login information.

You may also want to keep track of the keywords the site targets, as well as the platform the site is on. As time goes on you will expand your linking network to many platforms and it will be important to know where your sites are located.

Affiliate programs:

This one is going to be key. You are going to apply to a lot of affiliate programs ~ you will probably use a lot of them as well. It can be very confusing to keep track of as time goes on.

Earnings:

You will want to keep track of how much money you are making ~ but more than that you want to keep track of which sites are earning. This way you can make the most out of each piece of online real estate you have. I can’t even tell you how many sites I put up and then got distracted with something else ~ if I had been keeping track of things it would have been easier to stay focused and get all my properties up and running and earning ~ which would have gotten me to my income goals a LOT faster.

Creating a system to stay organized.

Like I said, there are a million ways you can stay organized. Lynn Terry did a great post recently on her system to stay organized. It’s a great system and a great read. I’m going to talk about how I try to stay organized ~ although my system is not quite as organized as Lynn’s lol ~ it’s still a work in progress.

Website usernames/passwords:

I’ve tried a couple different things to keep these in order. The one that has worked best for me is a plain old rolodex. I bought it at Walmart for like 7 bucks. Each time I create a new site I write down the username and password, and file it under W for wordpress. If it’s on blogger I file it under B. :)

I also have a “master network” spreadsheet. I started this when I realized my business was out of control and I couldnt’ find anything. I went back and found every site I’ve made ~ including lenses and hubs ~ every place I created (and I’m quite sure I missed a few only because I forgot about them). I put them all in a spreadsheet. I made pages for different niches/topics and then added them on the corresponding page. I included the name of the site ~ the url ~ keywords targeted ~ platform ~ and username and password.

This has turned into quite a resource, because now when I need to do some linking I can easily find sites in my own network to link from.  I named it “my network” and keep it right on my desktop so I can easily find it and use it.

If you don’t have excel you can download open office. It’s a whole suite of office type tools and it has a spreadsheet program ~ it’s free. There is a LOT that comes with it so don’t get sucked in and think you have to know how to use ALL of it ~ just use the pieces you need. :) Spreadsheets can be confusing ~ in fact, I still only know how to do what I need to do and I’m not sure I’m doing it “right” lol ~ but it works. Here are some very thorough spreadsheet tutorials, to help you get started.

I have to admit I’m not as consistent about adding information to the spreadsheet as I’d like to be, but I absolutely add every new site to my rolodex. For some reason there are times when my computer forgets my password to a site  ~ but it’s been doing it automatically for so long that I don’t remember what it is ~ being able to quickly look it up is invaluable, and keeps me from having to change the password so I can get in. :)

Affiliate programs:

I LOVE Lynn’s plan for managing affiliate programs. I wish I had started this sooner. I however ~ use gmail for my mail. I love gmail for a number of reasons ~

1. you can have unlimited messages come to your inbox. (and I get a lot of email)
2. You can easily label things ~ which is similar to putting it in a folder. (I wish gmail had folders so I could put folders inside of folders, but I’m making due)
3. You can color code stuff ~ I LOVE this feature. It makes it so easy to catch important emails coming through.
4. You can search through every email you’ve ever received.

I have to admit the search function has really kept me from getting really organized in gmail. Since I can search for whatever I’m looking for and it comes up I haven’t gotten very organized thus far. The other day I wanted to log into my lunarpages affiliate account. I couldn’t remember the username or password lol ~ so I just searched in my gmail lunarpages affiliate ~ and up popped my welcome email with the information I was looking for.

It’s pretty easy to use the search, but it would be really nice to have it all organized into labels and here’s why. Sometimes I apply to affiliate programs and then I forget that I’ve done it, what’s worse is I forget what program it was. I may go back to revamp a site and not remember half the programs I could be using to monetize that site. If I have all the affiliate programs for a particular niche labeled with that niche I’ll be able to pull up all the merchant related to that niche.

You could also add this information to your rolodex. It’s another option. Just make sure you file it in a way you will be able to remember.

You could also put the information in your spreadsheet. This would be best if you have created a spreadsheet for each niche, then you would have all your info for that niche all in one place. If you do this ~ make sure you back it up. If your computer crashes your spreadsheet could be lost, so back up to a disk or a portable hard drive or something so you don’t lose it all.

Whenever you get a new welcome email from a merchant site you need to log the info somehow. You will have to figure out which method of logging works best for you, but really ~ figure it out now while you don’t have a million things to keep track of. It will help immensely down the road.

Earnings:

This I have gotten much better about. :) (thanks to a very cranky husband when it comes time to do taxes)  I am not an attorney nor am I an accountant so please don’t count any of this as tax or legal advice, but here’s what I do to keep track of my income and expenditures.

Income:

I  have a spreadsheet with the months going across the top. Down the side I have each and every place I get paid from, this includes affiliate programs, my coaching stuff, my own products etc ~ everything that sends me money gets logged.  If I get a check from commission junction my total goes there. This is an overall income spreadsheet, if you want to keep track of how much each site is making I’d suggest taking some time at the beginning of each month to log which specific merchants/sites have made the money and then log that separately with the specific niche site it belongs to.

Each time I get paid I go in and log it on my spreadsheet. At the end of the month I add up the total so I know exactly how much I’ve made each month. You can easily do this in a spreadsheet by using the Fx bar at the top of the spreadsheet ~ it will add it all up for you. This helps me keep on track, and see what’s working and maybe what needs some extra work. It also keeps me motivated to keep moving forward, building and linking to increase my income next month.

Each time I get paid from a new merchant I add them to the spreadsheet so I always have a running account of where my money is coming from.

This also makes it very easy at the end of the  year to just total across my monthlyl income to create an annual income to put in the proper box on the tax forms. :)

Expenditures:

This one got me in huge trouble with my hubby. :) I never used to keep track of what I spent ~ probably because I didn’t want him to see how much money I was “wasting on this internet marketing thing”. However, many of the things I spend money on can be tax deductions. Now every time I spend money, whether it’s for an ebook, a membership site, hosting, domain names ~ anything work related  I print out the receipt. If you buy anything related to your niche I’d print that out too ~ then let your tax man figure it out later. I have folders in my filing cabinet for each month of the year. I just put the printed receipt in the corresponding folder.  This has made doing taxes MUCH easier.

There you have it ~ my not so organized system for staying organized. :) As I have said, it’s a work in progress, as I’m sure it probably always will be. So will yours ~ but do yourself a favor and get started now before it gets so overwhelming you don’t want to do it at all.

If you have any questions about the techniques I’ve described in this post I’d be glad to describe them further to help you get started.

I promise Monday we’ll be installing wordpress. :) To be ready make sure you’ve got your hosting account set up, your domain name purchased, your nameservers forwarded, and an addon domain added to your hosting account (unless your hosting domain is your niche site domain).

Action steps for the weekend:
Begin putting together a system for organizing your business.
–> Log all of the usernames/passwords for sites you’ve created ~ squidoo/wp/blogger/hub ~ all of them.
–> Go through and find all the affiliate programs you belong to ~ log them somehow that works for you
–> Find all the sites you have ~ lenses, blogger, hubs ~ it all counts ~ get them logged in a spreadsheet
–> Create a spreadsheet for your earnings (or use a notebook if it works for you) Doesn’t matter if you haven’t made money yet ~ best to be ready. :)

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Comments

  1. Tim Ryan@pelican marsh says:

    This post was very long and informative as well. When you have so many things running then you tend to forget some things or just lose them . Getting organized is very essential as you know everything happening in your business. If you are not organized you might end up losing so many things such as passwords which may be hard to recover.

  2. hey cool post. It really tends to get ha-tic after your site starts to get up there. I learned that if you dont get organized, you aint gonna go far,

  3. Wow. Why could not I visualize this?

  4. If you have a appropriate choice of strategy and all your plans are prepared, there is a assurance that your marketing will function well.

  5. More great ideas – thank you. I keep all my passwords on Excel spreadsheets under a main Passwords, then separate pages for various work related, pleasure, my niche sites, photo sites, etc. However many pages I need.

    What I haven’t yet done, and definitely need to, is to find a good way to keep track of income and expenses, especially since I am just starting to make money. I like your suggestions and will try them. Unfortunately, I don’t even have a cranky husband to do my taxes for me so I have to do them myself. Talk about getting cranky! :(

  6. Well, this is really an eye-opening information. There are same site owners that only think of search ranking, and just rely the organization on their web developers. That can be helpful, but since its your business, you should also make sure that you have your hand on it.

  7. I am still a fairly new user of the internet, and I always find your blogs really useful and well written.

  8. you can use certain flickr images on your lenses ~ it depends on the creative commons license the image has. This is the BEST post I’ve ever seen about this topic ~ you can use them on lenses as well as blog posts as discussed in this post: http://www.skelliewag.org/a-complete-guide-to-finding-and-using-incredible-flickr-images-162.htm

  9. Hey Jackie,

    Such good Info., I’m loving what you’re giving.

    I have an unrelated question though – how do you use the flickr photos on your sites? Do you have to pay for them or just give the creditation? Could these be used on Squidoo Lenses, and if so, what module would one use?

    Thanks,

    Clint

  10. I get it!! I do a little better every year but still find myself weeding through pages and pages of paypal statements. I recently found this site http://outright.com/ It looks really good ~ while I haven’t used it yet, I am planning to use it this year to keep myself in order. :) Glad you’re enjoying the posts, and thanks for your kind words.

  11. Jackie,

    These are some great tips for those just getting started online. It’s also a great reminder for me to make sure I do stuff right going forward.

    Every year I say I’m going to stay more organized and log all of my expenses right away and every year I find myself at the end of the year logging expenses while I’m reconciling a full years worth of Paypal and checking accounts along with credit cards. The sad thing is I’m an accountant in real life and I should know better.

    Thank you for a wonderful blog, it’s becoming one of my favorites to read.

    Brenda

  12. I did notebooks to start off too ~ then there were just so many and there was no real way to organize them that I could never find what I needed ~ that’s when I thought of the rolodex. It works great for me. :) (as long as i can remember how I filed things lol) all my wordpress sites go under W for wordpress so I don’t have to try to remember the exact way I filed it :D

  13. Hey Jackie,

    Wish I had this in the beginning, though it is never too late. I finally did start putting usernames and passwords in a notebook (however, I like your idea about the rolodex), never even thought about keeping up with affiliate programs, etc.,

    I have an excel spreadsheet that I print out for each campaign, the first column is my KW/product, first three columns are for monthly search volume, PR and competition and then there are about 15 more columns which I use to put where I submitted an article, posted a blog, submitted an RSS feed, etc. with the date that I did the work. Then I keep this in the folder with that particular campaign.

    If I run out of columns, I just print another sheet and start adding to it.

    Carole

  14. Wow! I find this interesting and it reminds me to be organized. I haven’t tried this yet but I’ll be sure to try it. It’s a headache memorizing usernames, keywords and the rest all together, which are then so confusing and having data all mixed up. I hope to know more about this and how I can get have this set up. I love this post a lot. One of the best I’ve read.

  15. This post is so perfect! I need to get organized as well and am currently revamping my old tracking and organizational method. I’m currently working on setting up a system for my writing business. Organizing my affiliate business will be next.

  16. Hi Jackie

    Thanks for the timely reminder.

    I have found Keepass to be invaluable in keeping my records. It is FREE – keepass.com and the great thing about it is you use it in conjuction with a small USB plugin(1GB) – and all your records are kept offline! All you need to access all your info anywhere/on any computer is the USB plug in and your code for entry.

    I also have a hard drive back up and it does the grunt work but it is not as easy to carry around as my little USB plugin!

    I was like you with Roboform – very difficult to work out and also I didn’t like the idea of all my info being online too.

    Hope this helps someone.
    Bev

  17. Hey Jackie… cool post and something that’s rarely really mentioned. In fact the only types of products I’ve ever bought that did mention it were relating to CPA where it’s so common to have offers come and go, use different networks etc…

    Another area I’ve tried to organise is affiliate products I want to promote… Ok usually they are ones I’ve used but they get organised into low ticket, high ticket, make money on the backend and continuity.

    A healthy mix of income isnt’ just a nice feeling but important for business stability.

    Really like what’ve you’ve said about income and expenditure… it’s a hassle sorting it out when the deadline looms!

  18. Hiya Jackie, I don’t think my last comment (which was also my first) went through, so better luck this time. :)

    If there was ever a resourse keeper article, this is one for sure! Very handy indeed, especially since organization is at the top of my list before the new year.

    I remember a while back, Rosalind Gardner discussing a software program she uses for affiliate organization stuff…I’ll have to look for that again.

    Note: Could you install one of the easy peazy plugins for subscribing to comments…the ones where readers just tick a box.

  19. great ideas Collette.

  20. Loved your article. It is very important to stay organized with all the username and passwords that we are required to keep track for websites even if it not for your own. However, as I build my own website I am surprised at how many more I now need to keep organized. One trick that I found a long time ago. I use my outlook contact to keep track of username and passwords. When I get a new username/password I create a new contact in outlook for that website. Outlook even allows you to put the website link in the contact form. I include the username/password in the address section. This has been really great. I even sink my contact with my blackberry then I can access them away from my personal computer.

    Thanks for the great ideas!

  21. I really agree with this post. I think one of the keys to success is being organized. Thanks for sharing a helpful post.

  22. hey Steve ~ thanks for the heads up. See how easy it is to get caught up in what you know and not even know all the new cool things available. I appreciate your resources ~ I’ll have to check them out. I haven’t heard of either one of these!! Weekend fun ~ I’m such a geek. ;)

  23. For passwords you can also use the lastpass addon for firefox (works in other browsers, too). It’s free, it’s 100% secure, and it’s amazing ;)

    Everything else (domains, niche research, things to do – well *everything*) I simply put in MS Onenote. Everyone – try it out, seriously! Works way better for me than spreadsheets. You can download a fully functional beta @microsoft.com (office 2010 beta release, works until oct.2010).

    Love your blog ;)

  24. Hey Brenda,

    I had roboform a while back too ~ I couldn’t figure it out for the life of me lol. I hear people raving about it all the time though. Maybe it’s time to take a look at it again.

  25. Amber ~

    Great points ~ I think I did mention backing up your network spreadsheet, and backing up your websites is super important too. I too use the plugin you mentioned and I will talk about it when we get to the part of adding plugins to your site. :) My computer also crashed this year and it was a pain to replace everything ~ but because I had everything saved in gmail I was able to easily retrieve most everything pretty easily.

    There are some great offsite backup services now, which can be a really good idea. I also save all my photos to a DVD on a regular basis so all is not lost if the computer crashes. You only get backup fever once you’ve lost stuff you loved. It’s definitely a great piece of being organized and will save you heartache if you do it before you “need” it. :)

  26. Hi Jackie,

    Great post and one I need to seriously get started on.

    I realized early on that there was no way I could keep track of all my user names and passwords when logging on to all these sites. I purchased the software Roboform a couple of years ago. Thank goodness. When a log in page pops up you just click on the Roboform button on your toolbar and it automatically populates your login information.

    I couldn’t live without it!

    Brenda

  27. Happy Friday Jackie!

    As always, as very informative article. I also keep a “master network” spreadsheet and it really does make life a lot easier, especially with all the Squdioo, Hubpages, Articles, etc. I have.

    One thing not mentioned that I’d like to remind everyone is to backup your computer! Please don’t find out the hard way computers crash or sites get hacked. My computer crashed earlier this year and although it was time consuming to fix the problem, knowing I had my information backed up was a real boost to my mental health.

    In addition to backing up my computer, I also send a copy of any critical document, such as my “master network” spreadsheet to myself via email once a week. I also use the WP plug-in that automatically backs up my sites and sends a copy to my email.

    I use gmail and created a filter to where my backups are automatically filed into a folder. This way they don’t clog up my in box and I don’t “accidentally” delete my backups. It’s a nice security policy I hope I don’t have to use again.

    Happy holidays and best wishes for much success to all.

  28. Hey Jackie,

    Do I ever need to be organized, so good show on the info. It is so easy to lose track of projects, so I will definately put a lot of this into use. I keep all of my accounts and passwords, websites, etc. on a word document that has a lot of subtitles, and this seems to work.

    I have about a dozen Christmas Cash lenses up and am getting my articles out there. Even if I’m too late for the Christmas rush, what I am offering will work year round.

    I just joined Unique Article Wiziard under your link. What an amazing system – though it is a tad more work. I can’t wait to see how it works for me.

    All in all, lots of good info – as long as I’m organized and putting it into practice – now isn’t this the crux!!

    Peace & Blessing for Christmas,

    Clint

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