How I Got Started Selling Affiliate & Digital Products Online


Did you know that the first affiliate product I sold online was a wedding dress? Did you know that the first ebook I wrote was about self-love? Did you know that the first product I automated selling on Pinterest was a $7 ebook with 50 green smoothie recipes?

You didn’t? Ohhhhh my bad. 😅

One thing I realized is that not many people know how I got started with my business. Most just think House of Brazen was my first and only business and by the luck of the draw it took off really quickly. And if that’s case, my business is built on total irony and I have no real world experience of selling something other than teaching you how to sell something. LOL.

No, I’m not one of those entrepreneurs. You know the ones I’m talking about.. I’m looking at you FB Ad MLM marketers… 😒


I started dabbling in the online business world back in 2011 when my Mum came across a website building platform called SBI. She decided to start her own online business (Rotorua Travel Secrets, a locals guide to my hometown in New Zealand) and she encouraged me to start my own.

I was a bridal consultant at the time so I figured that’s what my website should be about – helping brides find their perfect wedding dress – because it was the most current information and experience I had.

Joining SBI was probably the SMARTEST thing I could have done – See, Mum’s really do know best! – because it taught me everything from scratch. I’m talking hours and hours and hours of video trainings. It was like an all-inclusive school of Bluehost, WordPress, Adobe and B-School.

I actually already knew basic HTML coding and web design because I taught myself when I was 8 years old when I created a Pokemon fansite – DON’T LAUGH – but SBI is where I learnt in-depth about SEO, Content Creation, Affiliate Marketing and Social Media. I sat in my room for weeks just watching video after video, researching keywords, topics, the market, figuring out what different platforms did and finding the right affiliate programs etc.

When I finally launched my website, Bridal Dresses Mentor, I ranked very quickly in the search engines because I’d done a ton of research prior. Within a couple of months I had made my first affiliate sale – a wedding dress for $80. I remember the exact moment I got the notification because I was sitting in a hospital hallway waiting to see my Grandmother for the last time. The emotions I felt were so polarizing. On one hand I had just validated myself by making my first sale online through all my hard work, and on the other I was in absolute despair knowing I was about to lose one of the most important people in my life.

Around this time I moved back home for a couple of months to work on my website full-time but instead spent most of my time just fucking around and watching old TV series, Dark Angel anyone? Truthfully, I’d lost the motivation for my website and decided to drop it. Eventually I ran out of money and had to move back to Auckland and get a job again – this time as a Nanny.


2012 was a huge year of growth for me. This is when my personal development phase began. I started to read EVERYTHING. Jack Canfield, Napoleon Hill, Steven Pressfield, Elizabeth Gilbert, Brene Brown, Tony Robbins, Tim Ferriss, Marie Forleo, Gabrielle Bernstein, Gay Hendricks, Brendan Burchard, Suze Orman, Stephen Covey and Robert Kiyosaki. You name it, I was hungry to learn it.

I read 52 books that year. Prior to that I’d barely read one. So naturally, I wanted to start a blog about personal development. I called it The Inner Vibrance Project with the intention of helping women find their inner vibrance. I got the idea after a woman came up to me in a bar and complimented me on how “vibrant” I was and how she hoped her daughter would be like that one day. I mean, what a compliment right?!

I designed the blog myself using PicMonkey and Blogger – bless my heart 😅 – and I was SO proud of it! I started blogging about everything personal development from finding your purpose to overcoming self-doubt to interviewing other inspiring people doing amazing things. And that’s when I decided to launch my first ebook, The Inner Vibrance Secrets, some of you might remember it if you were around then. 🤣

I put EVERYTHING into that ebook and I sold it for $14 – my favourite number – and I made 20 sales. I couldn’t believe it. People actually paid me for something I created. ME. Elise McDowell! The kid from Rotorua who sometimes didn’t brush her hair before she went to school. 🙈

But as with any young person discovering themselves my interests changed again. I discovered the world of DIY and wanted to be a craft blogger. That didn’t last all that long because I realized DIY projects took a LONG ASS TIME to create. 😂


Next, I moved into lifestyle blogging, which also didn’t last very long because I didn’t have anything interesting to write about my life. I went back and forth through different niches from money and manifesting to marketing back to lifestyle and DIY and then added on health because I was trying to get healthier and quit sugar. And that’s when I created a $7 ebook with 50 green smoothie recipes because I was consuming them like they were M&M’s.

I created a really shitty image for the ebook and pinned it to Pinterest ONCE (this was pre group boards) and completely forgot about it. Low and behold my shitty image went “viral” on Pinterest and over a year I kept making sales from it even though I hadn’t blogged for months.

Not many people know this but there was a two year period where I didn’t blog at all. I was trying to figure my life out. I went back to school because I thought I wanted to work in travel as a Wholesale Travel Consultant. I landed a job with the company I had my eyes on and I lasted about 4 months there. I HATED it. I thought maybe I wanted to be a Travel Agent instead. That lasted a month. Turns out I actually prefer to DO the traveling, not send everyone else on their trips. 🤣

Of course I felt like an absolute failure after all of this. I’d just spent months working hard for a goal I thought I wanted only to get to the end and realize I didn’t. At the same time, some of my closest relationships were falling apart and I was so lost and so unhappy. As a last resort I applied for a job back in childcare as an After School Program Leader for the YMCA because that’s what I was good at – working with kids.

I interviewed and later that afternoon I received a call from the interviewer asking me to come back and re-interview because she thought that I would be better suited as the manager of the entire department. Long story short, I got the job and I built that department up from scratch to be a 6-figure success in it’s first year.

I’m so grateful to that woman for seeing something in me to give me the position. Because of that I found my confidence again, I gained a huge skillset in building a business and managing a team and more importantly I was surrounded by a good set of people who were in many ways my mentors, one in particular who is still my close friend today.

So while I don’t have anything to show online for that two year gap, it was necessary for my growth and is essentially what accelerated my results when I finally decided to get serious and start House of Brazen in Jan 2016.

And since then… well I’m sure you know. 😜

But just in case you don’t, now I run my own business called House of Brazen where I help entrepreneurs build profitable businesses. I specialize in teaching how to sell digital products because as you now know, I’ve done it for many years in many different niches. The only difference now is that I do it SO MUCH BETTER than I used to and I have automated and scaled a lot of it.

So yeah, that’s how I got started selling affiliate and digital products. It took me 5 years to actually start House of Brazen and another 2.5 to get to where I am today.

So if you’ve been stressing about your results, don’t. It takes a lot of hard work, a lot of failure, a lot of reflection, a lot of dead ends, a lot of willpower and A LOT of facing yourself and your own personal demons to become successful at something. That’s why 98% don’t make it in this industry.

Keep going. You got this.

Now it’s your turn: How did you become good at what you do before you became good at it?

Elise xo

You may also like