How I Built A Bunch Of Niche Sites After Uni That Makes Me $40K/Month Through Affiliates

Published: April 24th, 2023
Jamie I.F.
from London, UK
started July 2019
market size
avg revenue (monthly)
starting costs
gross margin
time to build
210 days
growth channels
business model
best tools
Zapier, Canva, Instagram
time investment
Side project
pros & cons
39 Pros & Cons
9 Tips
Discover what tools Jamie recommends to grow your business!
Discover what books Jamie recommends to grow your business!
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Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?

I’m Jamie I.F., I’m from North London, I’ve just turned 26, and I run and our related internet properties.

We run a bunch of “niche sites”. We blog about a certain niche subject or hobby and get traffic when people search for information or product recommendations online.

I took our first site seriously in mid-2019 straight after graduating from uni, and we’ve since grown and hit $79K in revenue in November 2022, and $81K in December 2022. It dropped a fair bit in January (RIP Christmas capitalist buying rituals for affiliate sales😩), but I’m still very happy nonetheless!

90% of our traffic comes from organic searches via SEO, we make our money from mostly affiliate commissions on product recommendations we make, with some display ads, digital product sales, and direct sponsorships from brands.

So, if you search something on Google, our goal is to rank #1 for that result, get the clicks and traffic to answer your question, and generally meet whatever need to lead you to search that query.

For some it’s a need for information: “Can you put vinegar in a steam mop”, for it’s more commercial: “Best vacuum cleaners 2023”.


What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?

A mix of two things:

  1. I discovered SEO’s potential for free traffic while doing a year in the industry in Paris while still at uni.
  2. And then when graduating I wanted to start a social project helping feed the homeless in London – this project is where the initials I.F. come from.

I ran out of money trying to start the I.F. social project and needed to make what I estimated ~£2M to scale the project until it was self-sustainable. I had zero connections anywhere, so the only way was to bootstrap.

I turned to SEO and started niche sites as a last (and only) resort.

Some soup we delivered to a local soup kitchen, shortly before the pandemic hit

So, I just wrote and wrote and wrote, not knowing what affiliate marketing was: I just hoped I could make money from the ads.

Then, in late 2019, I discovered you could add Amazon affiliate links. The next day I made £15 from a sale! 🤯 From then I KNEW this was how I was going to get the £2M.

I’ve always been stubborn; if I see there’s an opportunity to win, you’re not going to talk me out of competing. I had some spite at the time, too; I tried and failed with my first business launch when I was 17, a streetwear line. We had 16K followers on Instagram back in 2014 but just couldn’t shift any merch – and I’d invested everything I had in it! And so I was NOT going to have the win stolen from me a second time around.

I’ve learned that to be on top of my game, I have to continuously test out new ideas and experiment with what could work.

But now the sites have grown to be successful, and I’m on the way to making the money I need to push through the I.F. social project, I understand the ring from the Lord of the Rings more ardently than ever…

…I feel the temptation to be selfish and live lavishly rather than staying grounded and seeing the social enterprise project through. I feel it every day.

That’s why when I started talking about affiliate marketing and SEO online, I went by Jamie I.F. instead of my real surname: it’s visible forced accountability that holds me to the greater mission.

Take us through the process of building the first version of your product.

The first thing I did was buy the cheapest hosting I could find (Bluehost at the time) and load up WordPress. I picked the first theme that showed up that looked decent enough, and then started writing!

From there it’s just installing plugins to get the functionality you want, and writing!

With blogs, your product is your content, and so the product has evolved greatly over time as our SOPs and skills have improved - but anyone can technically get started in just a few minutes on WordPress or other platforms.

It’s more accessible than ever before – and AI and other innovations will only continue with that: even if you’re not a native English speaker you now have access to the market, as AI tools will rewrite your original thoughts in fluent language.

Describe the process of launching the business.

It was as simple as installing the theme, writing the first blog post, and putting it out into the world!

That’s what I love about writing and SEO: it’s the most accessible, and least discriminatory, field I can think of. SEO is governed by Google’s algorithms; it doesn’t care about who or what you are – just whether your content best matches its criteria! Anyone can start a site and have a fair chance of ranking for keywords if they have the passion and talent.

I wish people wouldn’t copycat our sites and try to steal our keywords (we do not reveal any of our sites for this reason), or I’d show screenshots of how bad the first website was!

It took months before I saw any traction at all. I don’t remember ever considering giving it up though, but I may have had these thoughts and forgotten them.

Then in early 2020 it just absolutely exploded, and revenue doubled every month: £400, £800, £1750, and then £3500 in March 2020 when Covid hit. That’s a good wage in the UK – I’d somehow hit job-replacement income!

Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?

We exist in a weird industry where we don’t strictly HAVE to retain customers: assuming the same number of people search the same keywords every month, all we have to do is retain our ranking and we’ll retain our “customers” every month.

So, our best investment for retaining traffic (and therefore customers) has been by obsessively looking to where we can improve our content and offer the best possible experience to our readers.

A few ways we’re doing this are:

For informational content

With AI, while Google has said they’re not against AI itself but whether the content is unhelpful, we’re still focusing on doing things AI doesn’t create unprompted. AI can generate really good surface-level paragraphs of a copy now, but that’s still just a level-1 presentation of content.

So we’re focusing on making sure anything that can be something more interactive and three-dimensional than a paragraph of text: bulleted lists, tables, or ideally infographics or images that better explain the concept.

And, adding more external links, and even small things like bold text to accentuate the important parts of an article, that an AI writer wouldn’t do…yet.

But if you’ve come here for really technical SEO tips, then honestly I have nothing to teach you. We’re mostly focusing on creating the highest quality experience on the page possible, with less focus on the technical SEO side.

Yes, we make sure pages are as semantically related as possible and use tools like SurferSEO for this, but it’s mostly just researching the topic and creating a detailed and actionable brief, and answering all the questions the reader might have – in a user-focused way, not just from keywords – so they’re satisfied when they leave the page. And then there are things like writing in a way to hit featured snippets.

For affiliate content

Differentiating products as much as possible, and segmenting them according to the user segments visiting the page (best for beginners, best budget pick, etc), is key to making conversions – but Google will also pick up on it via the user metrics.

More engagement with a high-quality article is measurable – Google will notice.

And then do things like adding pros and cons, adding a section for the “buying guide” where you list all the factors the reader should consider when buying the product, and ideally even a “how we picked” section which outlines your testing process.

Of course, you should do more to build a brand and retain all this faceless traffic coming in, too. We’ve not done nearly enough on this. I’ve been too focused on improving organic traffic, and not focused enough on the email collection, video, and general brand-building sides.


To do this, we have a SPEAR framework for writing intros that gain your trust, and credibility, and get the reader to read the entire article, and more frameworks for writing great product descriptions that segment readers to where they self-identify, bring them through the buying process, and encourage them to take action and convert.


How are you doing today and what does the future look like?

We’re very profitable now: in November and December when we did a combined $160,000 revenue, we were operating at around 87% profit margins. But for the first half of 2022, we lost money – so it’s not all fun and games.

It will take you at least 3,000 hours of repeated technician work to become excellent at almost anything, so be dogged, determined, and also curious

We’ve still got a lean team: me acting as editor of the main two sites, a four-day-a-week freelancer who is a site operator for one site and who also has equity in another site in his remaining time, a VA who is amazing and helps us format and publish content, and a team of six freelance writers who work with us in varying amounts.

The growth of our largest site over time

Around 70% of our revenue is from affiliate marketing (~22% from Amazon), 25% from display ads, and the remaining 5% comes from our digital products we sell (including a new Etsy store we run) and direct sponsorships with brands.

We’re planning to double down on affiliates in 2023, and hope to do more affiliate revenue across YouTube and our email newsletters.


Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?

I’ve learned to be more curious and to be bolder. For the first 2 years, I was going off trial and error in my normal, comfortable day-to-day work, but I wasn’t experimenting enough. I love what I do, but I was too comfortable being a technician, and not getting out of my comfort zone.

I’ve learned that to be on top of my game, I have to continuously test out new ideas and experiment with what could work. I’m currently testing:

  • Whether audio summaries of blog posts lead to better user metrics and rankings.
  • AI-generated summaries of our info content as the “Key Takeaways” in a box at the top of the article.
  • Whether having “Pros and Cons” sections in product reviews affect affiliate content rankings and whether it increases the average revenue per page view.

I’ve also learned how much success is serendipity: luck is an exponent multiplier that amplifies talent and hard work. There are more talented people than me who are not in my position, and it’s purely because they picked less profitable niches with lower ad RPMs and fewer affiliate opportunities. I just picked the first thing I thought of – there was no cunning plan. But here we are 🤷‍♂️.


What platform/tools do you use for your business?

We use WordPress for all our sites, we have recently switched to WP Engine for our hosting, and we use Ahrefs, SurferSEO, Lowfruits, Answerthepublic and a few other tools for SEO, and Lasso for our affiliate links and displays.

We use Slack to manage the team, Trello for managing content (but looking to switch now we’ve reached our current scale), Loom for async explanations and our video SOPs on a Scribehow page, Tweet Hunter for Twitter, ConvertKit and Mailerlite for our various email lists for different sites and digital product/e-comm side.

My favorite tool is Lasso: it creates amazing affiliate displays that get clicks and convert into more money for me every month, as well as keeping links in one place to quickly switch out across all instances on my site.

I like it so much that after speaking with Andrew Fiebert, Lasso’s founder, I’ve agreed to join the team and head up marketing at Lasso, along with running increasing and our niche sites!

It’s also revolutionized how I optimize sites. Now with Performance, I track all my sites in one central location instead of using 20+ affiliate programs, and the analytics will show me exactly how much revenue each page on my site makes, so I can just assign the ones that earn the most to the team, and make sure we’re driving more and more traffic to high-value posts.

I’m happiest that we made it free, though. This is something I’m proud of, as part of our commitment to helping site builders, no matter your scale. If you track less than $1000/month in affiliate revenue, you can use the tool, and the page-level revenue attribution, completely free.

What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?

Some influential books:

The E-Myth Revisited by Michael E. Gerber: first showed me how repeatability and SOPs were key to high performance, not overworking. The Hard Things About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz: just pure brutal grind, which you have to do to win sometimes, and captures the crushing feeling when things are going horribly, and there’s no easy way out: you have to figure it out or die. When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi: any one of us can die at any time. Plan for the future, but derive as much meaning as possible from the present. Meditations by Marcus Aurelius: in my opinion, personality, and ego are liquid: they fit the container they are allowed to inhabit. And when allowed to fill up swimming pools or even oceans, this can bring about incredible damage. This makes Marcus Aurelius’ musings all the more impressive, as he had more power and oceans of ego to inhabit than all but a handful of people in our entire human history – and he instead chose to explore within himself, rather than debauchery.

Some influential podcasts:

  • Niche Pursuits: Spencer and Jared helped me learn so much about running niche sites with their interviews with other niche site owners far cleverer than me.
  • Seeking Profit: Andrew and Emil recount their extensive experience running content sites, and how to grow them.

Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?

Just get started, and ignore the results for at least the short-to-medium term. If your process and product are excellent, the world will catch up.

It will take you at least 3,000 hours of repeated technician work to become excellent at almost anything, so be dogged, determined, and also curious: you can skip levels and ascend the learning curve faster by discovering new knowledge via experimentation. The more related connections you can make across disciplines, the more powerful a mind you’ll be in your field. I made the mistake of not experimenting enough with SEO until recently.

Ignore what your friends say: many are risk-averse and project their desire for homeostasis on you. I was the butt of jokes when I was unsuccessful, and now I'm expected to buy everyone’s drinks on nights out!

Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?

If you’re an immensely talented writer / SEO in the niches I operate in, then I’m always hiring. If you think you fit the bill, email [email protected] with why you’re a rockstar hire 🤘.

Where can we go to learn more?

If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!

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