Why A Mechanical Engineer Quit Her Job To Be An Affiliate Marketer

I'm really happy today to share a pretty inspirational story with you. It's also a story I'm quite close to, as the star of the show is married to the person who first introduced me to Internet Marketing back in 2012. Now here I am, interviewing his wife on my own website.

It just goes to show what you can achieve if you stick at it.

The lady in question, Amanda, has taken the plunge and gone full time as an Internet Marketer. A few months back, with the help of her husband, she launched DealTrunk.com, a site that lets you find out all about the latest online deals.

It's got a unique twist to it though, which I'll let you read more about later.

The site itself is a really cool thing, but what's even cooler is the story, and Amanda's insights.

I know a lot of you out there are in a similar situation to where she was, and even more of you are in the same situation as where she now IS (trying to get the momentum moving with your online businesses), so I think you're going to get a lot of value from this post.

Over to Amanda!

Tell us all a bit about yourself, your current situation, and what you’re working on online.

My name is Amanda, I have a Mechanical Engineering degree from Penn State, and I’m in the midst of a huge career change!

My husband, Steve, and I have been married for about 2.5 years (we met at Penn State).  Steve has been working for himself online since we were in college and never wanted to work in a corporate job after graduation.  I was the opposite.

I went to all of the college career fairs, I worked at two separate engineering internships during my summers off, and immediately started working at an engineering company after graduation.

I stayed at that job for 6 years before I was ready for a new challenge.  I quit that job this past summer to launch DealTrunk.com and a Deal Trunk Chrome extension.

You were no stranger to IM when you first started, having a husband that makes a comfortable living online.  Why didn’t you take the plunge sooner, and what was it that finally drove you to do so?

You know, Steve has suggested it before now but I truthfully have laughed it off in the past and told him he was crazy.  I was proud of my engineering job.  I liked getting dressed up for work every day, I liked working with a lot of people in a team environment, and I liked the people that I worked with.

I just reached a point at my job where I didn’t feel like I was progressing forward anymore.  I had learned all I was going to from the position that I was at and I reached a fork in the road where I could accept it as a steady job and keep showing up for a paycheck, or I could push myself to make my own new challenges.

I was looking for new engineering positions with other companies but didn’t find anything that seemed different enough from what I was already doing.

This time, when Steve suggested launching an online Deal site I actually heard him out.

I imagine working online wasn’t quite what you thought it would be like.  What things did you struggle with the most initially?

You are 100% right!  Above I touched on the parts of my previous job that I really liked.  Of course Steve is home with me so I’m definitely not alone but I do miss the more collaborative atmosphere of working in a big office building.

I think the thing I struggled with most initially was focusing on posting deals on my site each day before I had much of a user base.  I knew that I wanted to put the same quality into my work if 1 person was using my site as I would if 10,000 people were using my site.

Of course that’s easier to say in the middle of the day than when your alarm is going off in the morning to wake you up, or when a show you like is playing on TV.

Do you think it was better to just go from 100% offline to 100% online, or would a transition period have been better?

Hmmm.  That’s a great question.  I think a transition period probably would have been less of a culture shock.  I think I made the right move jumping in 100% though.

When I first resigned from my job my manager actually offered to keep me on part time.  I would still be getting a steady paycheck and benefits and I’d have time to work on launching Deal Trunk.  This seemed like the best of both worlds and I honestly really considered it.

In the end though I knew it wasn’t something I could accept.  I knew that I would struggle with separating the two ventures and both would suffer.  I anticipated staying late at my engineering job when urgent issues came up (which happened quite often) and then getting home and not putting the time in that I wanted with Deal Trunk.

Or I imagined the opposite, spending my time in the office sketching out plans for Deal Trunk, and letting my engineering work slack off.  I didn’t want to end up down the road leaving on bad terms after my work performance slipped.

And I didn’t want to risk the possibility of a failure with Deal Trunk because I didn’t have my whole heart in it.  I knew this was the right choice for me.

In regards to your site, what has the progress been like?  What’s been the most fun, the least fun, and the most difficult?

Honestly the progress will seem non-existent for a while and then will come in bursts.  It took longer than I had expected to find a marketing team to work with, get the site design finalized, and then get the Deal Trunk site up and running.

Once the site was up and running we were able to quickly affiliate with Best Buy, Target, Ebay, and many other big stores to be able to start posting deals.  The biggest one of all though, Amazon, was a huge obstacle.  It literally took months and probably 4 or 5 rejected applications before DealTrunk.com was established enough for the Amazon affiliation to be approved.

Each time I would call them up to find out what their concerns were with my site and what I could change or improve.

My current obstacle is figuring out how to reach out and find new users.  So far we have had a lot of positive feedback, which has been really encouraging.

But users can’t use Deal Trunk if they don’t know it exists! 

I think I would label this as the “most difficult” because there really is no end in sight!  There is no answer to the problem because I will always want to continue to grow the user base.

I suspect though that the longer I do this the more I will learn what is effective so that I can be increasingly successful with each new attempt.

I actually think that so far these “least fun” aspects have also been the “most fun”.  Above I was talking about how I like to be challenged.  Of course it’s not very fun when you are in the midst of the problem, but I find it extremely rewarding each time I overcome one of these obstacles.

What plans do you have for helping your site grow?

One thing I have been doing since launching DealTrunk.com is holding monthly giveaways for things like a new Kindle, or gift cards to different retailers.  Managing these giveaways has been a fun way to meet some of our users and to motivate current users to tell their friends!

We give out extra entries for the giveaway when someone you refer also signs up.  Last month was very exciting when one of our users posted our $50 Amazon Gift Card giveaway on reddit.  The person who posted got a ton of extra entries (for everyone that signed up for the giveaway under their link) and Deal Trunk at least tripled the number of active users.  Win – Win!

The other thing that I’m working on is reaching out to other communities that are interested in the Deal Trunk extension.  Everything from local blogs that want to hear about a new Pittsburgh startup, to tech sites that keep an eye on tech prices, to couponing or stay at home parent sites that help users find ways to save money.

I hope that if I can let enough of these blogs know about Deal Trunk that some may want to feature the site in an article.  This would give the editors of these blogs some fresh content on a new company that would interest their users, and it would (hopefully!) be another boost to our user base.

I’m just starting to reach out to these sites so no success stories yet, but hopefully soon I’ll gain some insight into what works and what doesn’t!

What tips do you have for anyone else who’s thinking about making the transition from the full-time workforce, to a career online?

Two main things come to mind.  First is to be realistic about your finances and make sure you have enough in your savings to live off of for a little while.  I knew I wasn’t going to be able to replicate that reliable engineering salary after a couple short months.

If it was that easy to make money online then everyone would do it!  We took a serious look at how much money Steve was making a month (without my salary), how much money we owed each month for our bills, and how much we usually were spending in a month.

This also meant looking at what expenses I could cut back on like manicures, shopping, going out to eat, happy hours, etc.

The second thing is to know who is emotionally supportive of your transition.  Steve has been extremely supportive and I couldn’t be doing this without him, but not everyone in my life has been supportive of this career change.

Some think I’m throwing away my engineering degree, some think I quit my job because I just didn’t feel like working anymore.  It’s a challenge to do, but I try to channel this negativity into motivation… “I’ll show them I can be successful!”

But as much as it helps to have a positive attitude, there are times you just need to surround yourself with your friends and family who believe in you!

Lastly, tell us more about your site and how it works.

It’s about time!  Just kidding! I’ve referenced Deal Trunk a lot already so you probably already get the gist, but here goes…  DealTrunk.com is a website that I continually update with hand picked deals from around the web.  You’re probably thinking “but that already exists!” and you’re right.

There are other sites online that update with new deals daily, which is why the Deal Trunk extension is really exciting!

To use any of those other sites you have to check back in to the site over and over and over again throughout the day.  When there is a really hot deal it usually sells out quickly.

By the time you see it the prices have already risen, or worse yet, it’s sold out.

That’s why we created the Deal Trunk extension.

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After installing our extension, a little version of the elephant logo sits in the corner of your browser and changes color to let you know that a new deal has been posted.  It isn’t anything flashy or obnoxious, so if you are in the middle of working on something, no worries, it won’t be distracting.

When you do have a minute to check out the new deal you can simply click on the icon and see a short pull down list of the recently posted deals to see if any of them interest you.  This preview allows you a quick way to check what has updated before deciding if you want to venture over to the full site.

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Most of the items I post are tech related (computers, cellphones, cameras) but you don’t need to be a big tech geek who spends hundreds each month on the latest gadgets to enjoy the savings offered at Deal Trunk!  For example, just last month I plugged my phone in and realized it wasn’t charging.

I looked a bit closer and saw that one of our two mischievous kitties chewed straight through the cord!  I had two options.  One – go to Verizon and buy a new cord for $30 or two – buy one online, usually in the $1 – $5 range and available in lots of fun colors.

I guess those fun colors might be even more enticing to the cats, but I digress… Even though Deal Trunk focuses primarily on tech items, I also post a wide variety of other products when they are on sale for a great price.  This includes clothing, sunglasses, home décor, kitchen appliances, games, food items, and more!

One last great feature of the site is our monthly giveaways.  Our current giveaway is for a $30 Amazon Gift Card.  As shown on our “Wall of Winners” we have already given away $194 to users all over the country from Florida, New Jersey, and California, and you could be next!  Well not you, Bryon, since friends are excluded, but anyone reading this on your site!

Back To Dom

Pretty insightful stuff right? I wish I'd had a kickass husband when I first got started, but at the end of the day Amanda's success is going to be down to her own hard work and tenacity.

She's agreed to stop by in the comments section and respond to any questions or comments you all might have, so feel free to get involved.

Also, don't forget to sign up for the giveaway here: I Want An Amazon Voucher

19 thoughts on “Why A Mechanical Engineer Quit Her Job To Be An Affiliate Marketer”

  1. Great concept for an affiliate platform Amanda. I know with Steve behind you, you will be able to build this into an awesome business that surpasses your engineering income.

    I see your search for traffic is taking a different route to the normal niche website process by blogging and reviewing. Although if items that appear on your hot list are only on sale for a short period of time a review may be mute anyway.. I assume you will be building a list also?

    Best of luck with your endeavor.

    1. Thanks Mark! You are right, I do have some blog articles on the site, but that certainly hasn’t been the full focus. Like you said, reviews would be almost impossible since most deals only last a day (some a few hours!).

      I’m actually not building an email list since we haven’t really thought of a way to utilize that yet. Right now what we are focusing on is getting installations of the extension. It’s really a similar concept in some senses. We are sending out frequent alerts to users, just via the extension changing colors when new deals are available instead of sending out tons of emails each day. Maybe at some point in the future we’ll send out emails with top deals of the day, or something to that extent. But that also could get complicated since deals change so quickly!

      We do collect email addresses for the giveaways that we run, but we only use that so we can alert the winner once the giveaway has finished!

  2. Congratulations Amanda! Great article and yet more motivation from the HPD blog. One thing I was interested in was your process to get this extension delivered.

    Is it something you did yourself or was it an idea that you outsourced? Very cool either way. Good luck with it.

    1. Thanks, I really appreciate the support! The idea for an extension with alerts when new deals are available came from Steve while I was still working at my previous job. Truthfully I didn’t really have a full grasp of the capabilities for chrome extensions. I knew about some of them, like a gmail alert extension, but I didn’t even know something like Deal Trunk could be programmed.

      Steve has met a ton of great people (including Bryon!) in the 8 or so years that he has been doing internet marketing and has met a programmer that we now work closely with. This programmer created the functionality of the extension, and we hired a local Pittsburgh advertising company who listened to our ideas and used them to create the design of our logo and website.

  3. Great insights
    here. A lot of “meat” in this article, it’s not just about
    websites.

    1st, although Amanda
    didn’t mention salary, it’s pretty safe to estimate that whatever her
    engineering salary was, her company was netting three times as much off her
    efforts. That’s a pretty well accepted rule of thumb, epically in the
    engineering world. So, although her job was no doubt “good” in today’s terms,
    she was still being taken advantage of by last century’s outdated process of
    legalized serfdom .. J*O*B’s

    Perrin on Niche Pursuits, who also quit an engineering
    job wrote about coming to this realization recently.

    2nd, since Amanda and her husband are only married a
    short time, one may pretty safely assume some little feet may be pitter-pattering around soon, if they aren’t already. Why work for a
    corporation and have you childbearing/child rearing be forced to comply with just what benefits the company sees
    fit to offer. And spend years paying outrageous
    child care costs just to be able to commute away from your children 10 or 12
    hours a day?

    Steve Chou and his wife of “my wife quite her
    job” write often about their life together earning as they see fit but being
    able to put family first.

    3rd, unlike the vast majority of folks reading this
    article, Amanda can NOT be fired, laid off, have her hours reduced involuntarily or be forced to move at the whim
    of a corporation.

    We
    often talk about “freedom” but very few ever have the courage to actually live
    free.

    1. Great comment and some really valid points here. I’m sure Amanda will agree with them all. Not sure what their baby plans are yet, but it’s definitely going to come into things sooner or later I imagine.

    2. Thanks Dave. You’re right, any time you work for someone else you have to assume they are making money off of your labor as well. Of course there is a lot more risk involved with not having that reliable paycheck in the exact amount you are expecting every month, but you know what they say, “no risk, no reward!”.

      As to your second comment… a lot of people from my old job assumed that I wasn’t really leaving so that I could create a successful business, they thought I was leaving to be a stay at home mom (we do not have any kids). Steve and I had a good balance in our jobs, he had the high risk/high reward job (his salary could substantially increase from year to year… but it could also decrease as drastically) and I had the guaranteed paycheck with a (measly) cost of living raise each year and benefits. I made a comfortable amount each month, but I also knew that 10, 20, 30 years down the road I wasn’t going to be rich off the job either. I was sure to tell everyone that if we were planning on starting a family I actually would have stayed at my job for the security it provided us including the benefits like healthcare. Now we are paying for our own health insurance (ouch!) which doesn’t even compare to the coverage offered by my previous company. There are definitely some down sides to this kind of a career change, especially at first, that you have to practically consider. However, if everything works out as planned and I can turn this into a long term career then it certainly will be beneficial to have both a successful career and have the freedom to spend time with family.

      Thanks for taking the time to read my story!

    1. Thanks, I’m glad you like the concept! I’m so lucky to have met such a supportive network of affiliate marketers through Steve!

  4. Thanks for sharing this interview dom. This is very inspiring. I am currently working as an engineer and trying to add some affiliate income before being able to do it full time. Thanks to Amanda for sharing her experience of her transformation from an engineer to an affiliate marketer.

    1. That’s the way I did it. I wasn’t an engineer, but I was part-time for over a year until I went full-time. To be honest, I kind of agree with Amanda that going at it full-time is the best way to achieve success, but I think most people need to pay the bills in the mean time.

      For me, I got myself to about $750 a month part-time, then I quit my teaching job and did some part-time tutoring and full-time internet marketing, so it was a 2-3 phase transition.

    2. You’re welcome, Brian! I’m glad to hear you can relate to my experience. Most of the engineers that I worked with had no idea what it meant to be an affiliate marketer, which I’m sure contributed to the mixed feedback I received. Best of luck as you write your own story!

    1. I think you’ll have to ask Amanda that one, although it’s probably a bit too personal for her to give you the exact amount. She’ll stop by soon enough to fill you in.

    2. Hi Avi, Bryon is right, I don’t want to go into specifics, but like I said in the interview, I’m definitely not replacing my engineering salary quite yet.
      I quit my job in July and the site was officially operational in October, so I’ve only been working on building a user base for about 4-5 months. I will tell you that I was pretty bummed out after my first month of daily deal posting and only earning somewhere around $2… for the whole month!
      That was really a struggle to keep myself motivated to keep up the quality of my work when it felt like almost no one was using my site and extension! I’ve been lucky enough to continue to grow the site since then and am now making substantially more per month, but I’m still not at a point that I could live off of my earnings alone.
      Still supplementing with savings and Steve’s income for now, but I really think that if I keep making small steps forward that someday I’ll get back to the salary I once made as an engineer – hopefully even higher!

      1. I know I am replaying late. But just curous if I am starting a business and liken you dropped out of your job as an engineer. Would you recommend someone to drop out of school or to keep going to school?

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