Are we really independent?

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One of the best things about working for myself is the “independence”. I get to work from home, I can work whenever I want, I can build whatever sites I want. Pretty much all the day to day decisions regarding my business are made by me. But am I really independent?

I was thinking today about how, as an affiliate, I am dependent on nearly everyone but myself. I guess every business is dependent on many people like customers, landlords, distributors, advertisers, employees, and so on but I don’t want to be dependent on others! I want to control my own business and run it the way I want! How dependent are affiliates? There have been a few recent developments that showed me how dependent this business is on others and how the actions of others really do affect it. Here are a few examples

1. The Illinois “Affiliate” Tax –  The state government of Illinois has passed a very short-sighted, flawed law that would force merchants to collect sales tax on sales made through their affiliates. As a result of this law Amazon and other merchants with affiliates decided they don’t want to work with affiliates in Illinois any more.  This law was passed under the auspices of “fairness” and was meant to help local merchants but it will do no such thing. I don’t want to get too far into the whole situation here because there are plenty of other people who know more about the particulars and you can read more here:

Governor Quinn Abolishes Affiliate Marketing In Illinois
Illinois Gov. Quinn Flaunts “Fairness” in Passing Nexus Tax, Cuts off Nose to Spite Amazon
The Senselessness of Illinois Legislation

So how does this affect affiliate marketers? Well, there are a few very large affiliates in Illinois who are making plans to move out of the state due to this law. Since as an Illinois affiliate they can no longer work with Amazon and many other merchants they would be losing a signifigant portion of their revenue if they stay in Illinois. These aren’t just small time affiliates like me who crank out sites in their basement. These are companies with dozens of employees and millions of dollars in revenue every year. The state of Illinois will lose jobs, lose income taxes, lose some great community leaders, and all in all cost themselves a lot of tax revenue because of this law instead of making money.

If a law like this was passed in Washington State it would force many affiliates to rethink their businesses. I am dependent on our state legislators and government to make wise decisions and reject any similar legislation. It does scare me to be dependent on the government to do what is in my best interest but the truth of the matter is I am dependent on them. One law could change my whole business and a large portion of my life.

2. Google “Farmer” Update – Once again Google reminds so many people how dependent many of us can be on their traffic. None of my sites were really hurt but there are lots of people who lost a ton of traffic on this update. It isn’t the first time Google has made some big changes (Remember the “Florida” update years ago? Nov 16th, 2003) and it won’t be the last. But it was yet again a good reminder that I am fairly dependent on Google for a good portion of my traffic and in turn my income. One click of the mouse and I could be in trouble.

I think now there is less and less of a need to be dependent on Google as a main source of traffic with other sources like Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, etc. but for most of us Google is still where most of our traffic originates. It kinda reminds me of a restaurant located right next to a big shopping mall. Can the restaurant generate their own visitors? Of course they can. But they are dependent on the mall staying around to be the source of the majority of their diners. Yeah, if Google went away there would be something else to replace it but like it or not many of us are pretty dependent on Google right now.

3. Merchants Screwing Things Up– This happens all the time. A merchant might add some PPC restrictions where there were none before, they might lower the commission level, and they might drop their affiliate program all together. The merchant could also just go out of business, be sold to another company who doesn’t see the value in affiliates, or any of a number of situations. But all in all as an affiliate I am dependent on the merchants I work with staying in business, offering at least a decent shopping experience to the customers, shipping the products, and paying me.

There are a ton of things a merchant can do to screw things up from changing their affiliate agreememt to breaking some trade laws to making stupid business decisions. I am reliant on the merchants I work with doing their job and doing it well. I depend on them to do their job and that can be scary at times.

So what can we as affiliates do to be more independent? Is there any way we can truely be independent? Do we just need to trust those we depend on to make smart decisions even when the track record is sketchy? Is it just one of the issues we have to deal with in this industry? Leave a comment and let me know your thoughs.


  1. Hey Joe – I actually think there are very few businesses you can run where you aren't dependent on a lot of other people or companies and affiliate marketing definitely isn't one of them. While you do have a lot of control over your own destiny as an affiliate marketer, there are many outside factors that affect your business (government regulations, hosting and other technology providers, all of the sources of your traffic, networks, merchants, etc.).

    • Joe Sousa says:

      Totally agree Tom. Every business is dependent on others in many ways. But as someone who just works by himself from home it is easy to fall into the trap of thinking I am independent.

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