Candid Interview with Super Affiliate “Sugarrae” aka Rae Hoffman
But when I first met Rae she was a one-woman show, running a very successful affiliate-based business from home while raising her three children.
What follows is a very candid and detailed conversation between Rae and I about this evolution of her business, and what her lifestyle is like as a successful Super Affiliate…
Me: Rae, I’m curious what prompted you to make the switch from solo entrepreneur & home office, to consulting and starting two companies?
Was this something you aspired to do from the start?
Rae: It was a tough decision. I first went “corporate punk” with MFE Interactive. About four years or so ago I had an idea for a site that was a bit out of my technical ability to create. I decided to do the site as a cooperative venture with a good friend of mine and the site ended up having a lot of success.
The success of that site, the combination of my site development skills and online marketing skills merged with his technical abilities and business sense led us to decide we should probably make more sites together. So we started MFE. But I was still working solo from an office at home.
As we built more sites and had more success, it became apparent that the only thing “holding us back” was my ability to only work so many hours in a day. My partner suggested we get an office and start hiring.
And honestly? That terrified me.
I liked “answering to no one”, the initial startup fees were going to mean a pay cut for a bit and I’d never managed a company. But, my partner told me he wanted me to read the E-Myth and “think about it.” That book changed my business life.
After I read it, my partner (who owns multiple successful companies) looked at me and said, “Do you want to work 16 hours a day for the rest of your life or do you want to build a company that will eventually allow you to work when you want to and have more success in the long run?”
So I bit the bullet and decided to do it. And I’m glad I did. MFE just celebrated it’s third birthday of being a full fledge business with a staffed office earlier this month. We’ve got about five million page views a month across our network of sites and we continue building new affiliate brands.
I didn’t start Outspoken Media until a few years after MFE went “real world business.” I kind of fell into Outspoken, LOL. My partners in that company, Rhea Drysdale and Lisa Barone, decided they wanted to start and Internet marketing firm but neither had experience building a company from the ground up or the strength I did in SEO and link building (Rhea is an ORM goddess and Lisa is the branding, social media and community building queen).
They came to me hoping I would be who could fill those proverbial holes. After my experience in running MFE, I approached starting Outspoken in a much different manner and with much more confidence. Outspoken was a business curve ball – I didn’t expect it, but once I saw it coming, I decided I was going to swing the hell out of the bat and aim for the stands.
With MFE I was thrown into the water. With Outspoken, I jumped in.
Me: I actually started opposite you. I had a successful web development company with offices and employees back in the 90′s. I shut it all down to work from home full time on my own.
I have to admit, I haven’t missed the office at all. I’m curious – what one thing do you enjoy most about running your companies?
Rae: LOL, I’m torn a lot of the time. I love the efficiency and how much I can get done for the companies having a fully staffed office. That said, I still prefer working from home personally. I recently wrote an article on managing employees virtually – but to be honest, most of my virtual management is done due to ME being virtual while the employees are in the office.
I love having physical offices for the companies, and feel they – and the in house staff in them – are needed heavily, but I still feel like I work best – personally – from home. But I also know I’m “needed” in the office, so while I spend a lot of time working from home during the summer when the kids are out of school, during the school year, I like to make it into the office at least three days a week.
Me: Surely there are things you loved about working solo, from home. Looking back at those days, is there anything at all that you miss?
Rae: I miss working “when I feel like it” most. Having a staffed affiliate marketing company means I have people that need things from me in order to get their own jobs done, so I do have people to “answer to” even though I’m “the boss”.
And with Outspoken, clients come with deadlines, which means I have to work at times that might be inconvenient for me. For instance, I had major cosmetic dental surgery last week (27 crowns) and I’ve been in a lot of pain. Back in the day, I simply wouldn’t have worked until I felt better. But, with MFE re-branding and re-launching a new site and Outspoken’s biggest problem being more demand for our work than we can fulfill at the moment (we’re hiring more employees AND opening a new office in Troy, NY simultaneously at the moment), that simply isn’t an option. I’ve built the companies so that I can be absent occasionally, but not “non-existent” if that makes sense.
However, the plus side of having to go into an office means I actually get dressed several days a week… something it’s easy to forget to do when you’re a “bathrober” LOL.
Me: You influenced and inspired me in many ways through our friendship, especially early on when I first took an interest in Affiliate Marketing. It was often in the way of random comments from various conversations that simply stuck with me. If you could pass on “something that sticks” to other aspiring affiliate marketers, what one thing would that be?
Rae: You have to work for it. It’s easy when you hear folks discussing “passive income” to think that means “no work.” But what a lot of people don’t realize is that myself, and many other successful affiliate marketers, put in years and years of sixteen hour days to get to the point of generating significant “passive income” that allow us to work flexible schedules and work our own hours.
Me: On the topic of Affiliate Marketing, you have a few great blog posts I’d love to share with my readers:
Are there any other posts or tutorials you’d recommend from your archives?
Rae: If someone is interested in affiliate marketing, I’d recommend reading everything in my affiliate marketing category. I try not to write unless I actually have something to say. LOL.
Aside from that, I’m a big evangelist for the Thesis WordPress theme and wish it had existed when I first started with affiliate marketing. I’ve got several tutorials on how to utilize it for affiliate sites. I’m also a big believer in Raven Tools in regards to organizing link development efforts for affiliate sites.
That said, the Affiliate Evolution post you referenced above is probably the post I’m most proud of that I’ve written. Like the Woulda, Coulda, Shoulda post showed, if you follow it, you really can achieve success in affiliate marketing.
Me: In your post almost 3 years ago, about Surviving The Affiliate Evolution, you recommended that serious affiliate marketers incorporate their business and hire in-house staff. What are the main benefits to going this route, versus working from a home office and outsourcing to virtual assistants as necessary?
Rae: I think I get a lot more done in regards to building sites and building revenue. I also think full time employees are a bit more dedicated than freelancers. I think when you work solo, with occasional assistants and freelancers you are limited as far as scale. By opening an office, hiring employees and training them to do things “your way,” I think you open yourself up to a lot more freedom as far as your time once you have everything in place and working smoothly.
I also think competition is getting heavier, and in order to produce sites that will become “brands” you need to arm yourself with the resources to compete. And that means having more than “just me” in my arsenal.
Me: Thanks a million, Rae! One last question: Are you podcasting? And if not, do you plan to in the near future??
Rae: LOL. I don’t think I have the “voice” for podcasting. However, I am toying with the idea of doing more video work on my blog. I’ve always been a bit self conscious about being on video because I’ve never been happy with my smile. But within the next month, that should change and I think some video blogging may be just the way to celebrate it.
Me: Awesome – I look forward to your upcoming videos! I’m off to check out your Android Geeks site – I’ve gone almost completely mobile thanks to my Droid, and I’m always looking for new tips & apps.
I hope you enjoyed this interview/conversation with Rae. I know I did! Check out some of the links and tutorials shared throughout this post – there’s a goldmine of help if you dig into Rae’s archives…
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