What Is Affiliate Marketing?
Affiliate marketing is an online business model that allows you to promote products someone else has created.
No matter who or where you are — you can get paid “affiliate commissions” by recommending products or services to people online.
All this is done by copy-pasting links in strategic places.
When people click those links and buy products, you earn money.
For example, a typical brick & mortar cafe’s revenue is dependent on how many customers they can get every day.
Similarly in affiliate marketing, your earnings are directly related to how many visitors you can drive to your affiliate links.
Can you create a small $500/month side hustle? Yes.
Can you earn $10k/month and replace your 9-5 job? Yes.
Can you earn $100k/month and laugh your way to the bank? Also yes.
Around 5 Billion people have access to the Internet so there is enough traffic for you to grab a piece too.
All this sounds great, but it does require a bit of effort & consistency to get “there”.
Your income tends to grow the longer you do affiliate marketing, and this is why it’s best to stick long-term with it (if you want to reach high-income numbers).
It’s not a “get-rich-quick” scheme, unfortunately.
Here you can see some income reports from the platform I use (& recommend):
You can promote almost any product around you since more than 81% of brands around the world have an affiliate program you can join.
This also means different brands & products have varying commission rates.
Here’s how your “affiliate commissions” are calculated in most cases;
As an affiliate, you receive a fixed % of the final product price.
The remaining money ($80) will go to the product merchant (the brand you’re affiliated with).
For example, if you really love the chair you’re currently sitting on, there’s a 99% chance you could find an affiliate program for the chair and start promoting it to make money.
Almost every major brand (Amazon, Walmart, Target, eBay, etc) and smaller ones have affiliate programs that anyone can join for free.
But of course, you’d want to select a specific topic (niche) when you get into affiliate marketing.
For example, my first niche topic was around PC peripherals and that’s what I used to promote and make money. The reason I chose this niche is because I was already interested in it.
You should follow your interests too.
The main benefits are:
- You don’t have to create your own products.
- You don’t have to buy and hold inventory
- You don’t have to deal with customer service
- It’s also cheap to get started.
As you may know, creating your own product takes time, money, & skill. It also requires tons of hassle on activities that don’t make you money.
After all that, your product is still not guaranteed to be a success.
But as an affiliate, you can focus on promoting products that are already proven to sell.
It’s a great way to make a living online without having to spend a fortune designing your own product or dealing with other headaches that come with it.
Affiliate programs can be categorized into:
In-House Affiliate Programs: Typically found on most websites selling their own products or services. You can apply to join these on their website and they’re almost always free to join.
(E.g. Amazon, Apple, eBay, etc.)
Affiliate Networks: A large collection of affiliate programs from different brands, all under one platform. The purpose of affiliate networks is to connect affiliates and brands in a way that benefits all parties.
- Affiliates get access to a large selection of brands to promote
- Brands get more exposure and sales for their products
- The affiliate network earns from fees and offering services
(E.g. Clickbank, ShareASale, Commission Junction, etc.)
More about affiliate networks here.
You can then copy-paste them into various places to promote products.
You can use affiliate links in many ways, but one common method is to use them in product reviews.
For example, you could review a product on your website and insert an affiliate link somewhere in the content and entice visitors to click on that link.
If the visitor ends up buying your recommendation, you earn a cut from the final sale (also called a commission).
Affiliate links are also used to track which affiliate was responsible for referring the sale. This ensures the correct person gets paid for their efforts.
When a visitor clicks on your affiliate link; a “cookie” is stored on their web browser.
This “cookie” is used to track where the customer came to the sales page and who is the affiliate who referred the potential sale.
More about affiliate links here.
Affiliate programs and affiliate networks often have integrated payment systems that automatically pay you depending on your sales performance.
PayPal and direct bank transfers are the most common ways to get paid. The payment methods depend on the brand you are affiliated with and some can also pay with checks or cryptocurrencies.
Affiliate marketing is a performance-based business and you will typically get paid per “action”. Most often this action is a sale of a product, but there are also other actions like getting people to sign up for an email list or trials.
Everyone’s situation is different and it depends on many factors.
Someone dedicating 8 hours a day will make money faster than someone working only 1 hour. Some people also learn and work faster while some are slower.
I have seen people making a full-time income after 3-months and people who have not made a cent after two years.
It all depends on how much effort you are willing to invest.
One thing I can say for certain; the more time you dedicate, the faster you’ll see results.
If you get started with Wealthy Affiliate, a common estimation is to start making sales at the 3-6 month mark. And 6-12 months before you can expect to make any life-changing income.
But there are exceptions to the rule and you could make good money before that if you do your homework.
If you have a family life with a tight schedule, even if you invest 1-2 hours per day and keep being consistent, you can pull it off.
Have 8 hours per day to invest? Even better.
When starting, the workload is usually heavier because you are learning something new, but it gets much easier over time.
At some point, you can even outsource most of the work to a freelancer (if you want). This gives you more freedom and the ability to scale your business.
A Niche Topic
A niche is the topic of your website.
Your website should become the go-to source of information for whatever niche you choose.
If you have a hard time choosing a niche, don’t let it discourage you from starting. You can always change your niche later if you feel like it.
You can see more information in the niche section of this FAQ.
A WordPress Website
A WordPress website is the best option among website builders to do affiliate marketing for the simple reasons of reliability, simplicity, and customization options.
It’s the most used platform out there for websites, and it’s also free. Most hosting & domain providers allow you to do a simple 1-click installation to WordPress.
An Affiliate Program
In order to do affiliate marketing, you need to sign-up for affiliate programs in your respective niche to promote products.
There are thousands of affiliate programs in almost every niche and you can join them for free.
For example, the popular Amazon marketplace has an affiliate program that you can join and use to make money by recommending Amazon’s products to people.
The “recommending” happens by sharing the unique affiliate links you get once you join the affiliate program. This is also how they keep track of who referred the sale and can pay you accordingly.
You only need a website that costs ~$15/year for a domain name and hosting which is usually ~$10/month.
It’s also possible to start with a free website before you pay anything. I recommend SiteRubix if you want a free website that you can create in just a few minutes.
If you are a complete beginner, it’s a good idea to also invest in your own education. Wealthy Affiliate is the best choice for beginners since it offers training, websites, hosting, and support all in one package.
You can get started for free, and if you see any value in upgrading, it’s $49/month and you get a free “.com” domain name to kickstart your business.
You can learn affiliate marketing from many free & paid resources online.
Some popular resources I can recommend are:
- Income School ($449/year)
- Authority Hacker ($997)
- Wealthy Affiliate ($49/month)
If you’ve never done affiliate marketing, Wealthy Affiliate is a solid choice since they offer a free membership option.
This way you can get your feet wet without paying anything.
It’s also where I started as a clueless beginner in 2018 and thanks to them I’m now running a small portfolio of affiliate websites.
I’m still an active member after all these years and see no reason to quit anytime soon.
In Wealthy Affiliate, you get all the support, training, tools, a website, and hosting along with a great community of over 2,700,000 to help you succeed with affiliate marketing (including my personal help).
It’s often also called the “target audience” or a group interested in the same thing.
It might be hard to come up with a niche if you’ve never done it before, but all it takes is a bit of brainstorming ideas. Just keep in mind that anything can be a niche and every niche can make money.
As a rule of thumb, it’s better to pick something narrow for your niche instead of too broad:
- Broad: Basketball
- Broad: Gardening
- Broad: Weightloss
- Narrow: Basketball for kids
- Narrow: Gardening for small spaces
- Narrow: Losing weight with a keto diet
A narrow niche will have less competition and it’ll be easier to establish the site as a go-to information source for your visitors.
You can always broaden your niche later to cover different areas if you feel like you have exhausted the topic – or change your niche entirely.
In fact, most people prefer to read the viewpoint of an “average Joe” because it’s more relatable.
It’s much easier to just share your experiences as you learn (no need to prove anything), as compared to trying to establish yourself as an expert (need to prove everything with facts).
There is also a good chance that you already know more than the average person if your niche is built around your passion or hobby.
Whatever your niche is, eventually you will become an expert in the topic, but it is not required when starting.
Never get into a niche based on “what’s the most profitable niche”.
If you do, you’re just going to hate every second of it and waste time (& probably earn nothing).
You have to create a lot of content about your niche so it is crucial that it’s about something you enjoy.
This is why I recommend choosing a niche around your passion, hobby, or something you want to learn more about.
There will come a time when you are frustrated and having that enjoyable niche can make or break your motivation.
You have many ways to make money online without a website, but none of them bring stability and reliability like a website. None.
Some might disagree, but without a website, you’re not building a real business.
Your website is an asset that increases in value over time and it’s something no one can take away from you.
I guess this question stems from the expectation that running a website is hard, but trust me; it’s not.
Creating and managing websites is really easy these days and anyone can do it.
It’s almost as easy as creating a Facebook account and posting stuff on your feed.
There is obviously a small learning curve but it’s the same with any new service you sign up for. It’s nothing you can’t get over.
Getting traffic comes down to two options:
- Free traffic
- Paid traffic
Free traffic is awesome and often more reliable than paid traffic, but the downside is that it takes time to build up.
Out of many traffic methods, I recommend getting organic search traffic using content marketing (i.e SEO).
It means you will be publishing articles on your website.
Once published, those articles get ranked in search engines like Google and bring free visitors to your website. When people search for something on Google, they can find your website in the search results if your article answers their search query.
It’s a powerful way to get free traffic and you will also improve your writing skills while doing so.
Paid traffic on the other hand gets you traffic almost instantly, but the downside is that it’s damn expensive and you can lose a lot of money even if you are experienced.
Many newcomers to affiliate marketing start with a shoestring budget and that’s why I recommend them to start with free traffic options. It’s not fun to dump a few grand to ads and realize that your page doesn’t convert as well as you thought.
Affiliate Marketing Summarized
- Easy & cheap to get started with low-risk
- Multiple long-term passive income sources
- Turn any of your passions into a thriving online business
- You can work from anywhere in the world
- No need to create products, handle customer service, or buy inventory
- Realistic potential to scale into a 6-7 figure per year range
- Requires patience & dedication to make it work (6-12 months).