From Affiliate to Manager – By Jill Swartwout

by Colleen on January 23, 2013

“Those that can’t do, teach.” That is a well-known cliché, but not one that is ideal to live by.

While I was working in the education system, principals were required to have at least three years of classroom experience before they could become a principal. Logically, a principal needs to know what it is that teachers do in order to be able to effectively manage them within a school.

The concept of “doing” before managing is common in many endeavors. Even retail managers put in time doing, or at least observing, various job positions in their store so they understand the challenges of their staff.

When I became an affiliate manager, I was thankful that I had first spent six years working part time as an affiliate, so that I would be better prepared and know exactly what it was the affiliates I managed were doing.

While working with my father, he gave me a small site to practice with before he would let me work on our primary affiliate sites. I was able to develop a skill set which provided me the confidence and the ability to effectively manage big sites.

Here’s how that time spent as an affiliate helped me in affiliate management:

• Becoming an affiliate first helped me to learn exactly what affiliate marketing is! Many people without industry experience have a difficult time “getting it” unless they are given a tutorial or learn by trial-and-error.
• Learning how to build websites gave me practical experience with some of the software and platforms that my affiliates would be using, so I would have an easier time explaining to newbies exactly how to do [even] elementary things, like add banners and text links.
• Building successful affiliate sites and becoming familiar with other affiliate sites helped me to learn what a worthwhile affiliate entails, enabled me know what to look for when doing affiliate approvals.
• Being an affiliate first, and hearing what is important with respect to morals and ethics in the industry, readied me to monitor my affiliates’ activities to ensure they were doing the “right thing.”
• Learning the affiliate side of various network platforms prepared me by being able to explain exactly how and where to find things (links, various reports, etc.) to those affiliates new to the network environment.
• Meeting people at industry conferences, and developing relationships with them, helps build a strong base of peers from whom to learn, confer with on issues, and get advice/support.

An industry friend of mine, David Benson, worded it perfectly when he said, “Being an affiliate first lets you understand the challenges, and difficulties that affiliates face and helps you serve them better. By being an affiliate first, you’re an experienced coach that has played the game and knows how to win.”

Jill is president of the Beaches and Towns Network, Inc. and head of

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