Having a side hustle as a freelance SEO (rank & rent, affiliate marketing)


  • Client work might not seem as attractive as opportunities that are promoted as “passive income”, but it does put money in the bank
  • Be cautious about investing a lot of time and effort into something that may not bring about a worthwhile return
  • There’s nothing wrong with having a side hustle so long as you have a primary income source


Marc:                    And have you ever started any sort of side SEO projects like a rank and rent or kind of affiliate SEO, that type of thing?

John:                     No. Rank and rent is not for me. I’ve had a lot of discussions about that model and I want to be careful with my wording here, because I know that if anyone that is heavily involved in the rank and rent space watches this video on YouTube and I say it’s shit, and that’s putting it nicely, then I’ll probably get bombarded with all sorts of colourful emails and messages. It’s just not for me. I’ve spoken to probably 30 freelancers in the last three to four weeks that are all sold on this romantic notion of rank and rent. Build some sites, rank them, sell leads, and it sounds attractive, right? It sounds very attractive because you think it’s passive income.

Marc:                      It’s passive income, you could be in Bali (laughs).

John:                     I could build this thing. You know, I could rank it quickly and I’m going to sell these fucking plumber leads for $150 bucks a pop. Like I said, I’ve spoken to a lot of freelancers, probably about 30 freelancers, I think, between 20 and 30 freelancers. I’m not sure the exact numbers, but quite a few freelancers over the last month, and all of them that have been heavily involved in this rank and rent stuff, haven’t been making any money out of it. And it’s usually always the same, the feedback is usually always been the same. “Man, I’ve been working on these sites for fucking eight months, they’re still not the first page in Google”. Like that’s the first problem, right?

Like trying to position these things where it’s going to be a saleable asset. It’s something that’s attractive to a business owner. You can’t go to someone and say, “Hey Bob, I got this plumbing site. Listen, it’s on page 3, but I’ll sell you these leads”. Okay? So the time and effort that is involved in ranking them initially is, …..and it comes down to where, what sort of industry and how competitive it is. I’m sure there are people that can do it quickly. But like I said, I’m just going off the conversations I’ve had. So that’s been the first one. I’ve been working on this thing for the last, ……there was one girl that I spoke to, she’d been working on this whole rank and renting for 18 months.

Marc:                    That’s a large investment of time and money.

John:                    How much money have you made out of this? She said, probably $300. Like fuck me dead. I said, that’s madness. That’s the first issue. You don’t get paid, ad this is a conversation that I’ve had, fuck this comes back to “John, why would I work with you, you’re not the first page in Google for SEO”. I don’t get paid to sit here working on my own stuff. I get paid to work on client sites. I don’t get paid to work on my own site. You know, it’s like the 5 star chef that cooks fucking award winning meals out of a high end restaurant, that comes home at the end of the day and has fish fingers and custard for dinner, cause he’s fucking had enough. It’s like the motor mechanic that drives around and he’s got duct tape on his radiator hoses cause the last thing you want to do at the end of the day after you’ve been working on SEO all day is, “Oh I’ve got a second – I’ve got to work on my own site for SEO”.

So, rank and rent. That’s the first thing that I found is that people that are heavily involved in that or not, I shouldn’t say heavily involved or at least the freelancers that I’ve spoken to. They certainly haven’t been making any money. That’s been the first problem. The ones that have managed to rank these things, because there have been a few in there that said, I’ve got a couple of sites, the fucking business owners are complaining about the quality of the leads. You pay me $150 for the leads that comes through this thing. “Mark, these leads that I’m getting mate, they’re garbage. Some guy called me, he’s like three hours away for a $50 job. I’m not paying you”. I don’t know. I don’t want the rank and rent guys fucking kicking me up the ass. I’m not saying that. I’m not saying that it doesn’t work.

I’m sure that for some people it probably does and they’re making great money out of it, but look, it’s not for me. I’d rather go out and get ten two and a half thousand dollar a month clients, client work. I mean there’s pros and cons to everything, right? Client work has its upsides and downsides. Rank and rent probably has its upsides and downsides, but it’s just not for me. What was the other one that you asked me about?

Marc:                    Oh, just affiliate SEO. Ever try to sell any beauty products online? Lipstick reviews?

John:                     That shit’s not for me either. I’ve worked, I’ve had a number of calls over the years with people that get lost in affiliate marketing. I’ll give you an example. “Yeah, John, listen, I’m trying to sell fucking toasters. I’ve got these fucking affiliates sites, I’m selling toasters”. I’m like, “Dude, you make any money?” “No”. “How long have you been at this?” “Two years”. “How many sites have you got?” “About 150 sites”. “Fuck me dead, dude, what are you doing?” Like the first question I’ll always ask, I always ask because some of the weird shit that people spend their time promoting like toasters and birdcages or socks. I’m like dude.

Marc:                    What’s the profit margin on that?

John:                     I mean they’re just some random examples. But I say, let’s say that someone’s promoting fucking, I don’t know, dishwashers, or whatever it might be. The first thing I say is, “How fucking passionate are you about dishwashers?” Almost every affiliate that I’ve ever spoken to says “I couldn’t care less”. Jesus Christ, how are you going to roll out of bed in the morning thinking, “Fuck yeh, I’m pumped up to fucking create content around dishwashers”. It’s not for me. Again, like not saying that affiliate marketing doesn’t work cause I know people, there are plenty of people out there making an absolute fortune with affiliate marketing, but it’s just not for me.

Marc:                    Fair enough.

John:                     What about yourself? Have you ever tried any of the rank and rent stuff or affiliate marketing?

Marc:                    Not affiliate marketing, but a little bit of rank and rent just locally here in Australia. I had one site in the US as well, which I ended up selling to someone pretty much zero profit so, but a lot of time wasted on that site. I would say probably the only way I can see affiliate marketing work well, is if you have a connection to business owners who are open to the idea of that, perhaps who have a national business so then you can kind of cherry pick the spots where you want to build websites. But, like you said, if you started in competitive niches trying to rank for electrician Sydney, that can be a two or three year undertaking. Then you have to find someone to take the lease.

John:                     I think if I was, and again I’m not saying that it doesn’t work, both rank and rent and affiliate marketing. I think if you made the conscious decision, and this would be my approach…… if I woke up tomorrow and thought, I’m done with client work, I’m going to give this affiliate marketing thing a go, I would go deep on that. So I’ll probably be reaching out to, I’d be doing as many fucking courses as possible in reaching out to people that are heavily involved in affiliate marketing that are getting massive returns, trying to learn as much from them. But I think affiliate marketing is something that you’ve just got to live and breathe. I think affiliate marketers that are doing very, very well in that space, they fucking know it backwards and they’re absolute master minds at affiliate marketing.

They know every trick in the book, and they know exactly what to do and a lot of that just comes through experience, right? Because you make mistakes, you learn, you learn from other people, you take on a mentor. But, I think people that are doing very well in that space have invested a lot, probably either a lot of time, money or both. So, I’m not quite sure it’s something, I certainly wouldn’t be able to just do it on the side and make a bit of money out of it. It’s not something that sort of grabs my attention.

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