If you create online or social media content — or just think you’d like to — affiliate marketing is one way to use it to earn money passively. Once you do the upfront work, it is possible to sit back and watch the money roll in.
That’s what makes affiliate marketing so alluring. However, it is important to remember that affiliate marketing is not a get-rich-quick scheme.
In fact, it will require lots of time and effort to build your affiliate marketing business before you earn a dime. That said, you do have the potential to earn real money with affiliate marketing.
If you are interested in learning how to earn income through affiliate marketing, then keep reading.
Table of Contents
- What is Affiliate Marketing?
- Is It Possible to Earn Real Money Through Affiliate Marketing?
- How to Get Started With Affiliate Marketing
What is Affiliate Marketing?
With affiliate marketing, a company pays you a percentage of the sales that you help them make. When you write or speak about a product or service online or through social media, if someone in your audience buys the product through a special affiliate link, then you will earn a commission on that sale.
For example, let’s say you’ve found a product that you think will benefit your blog’s readers. Once you place an affiliate link for the product in your blog copy, your audience members can click on the link and be taken to a page on the affiliate’s website that can lead them to a sale. Any time someone buys the product through your link, you will receive part of the money from that sale.
You can find affiliate programs for everything from a fun cookbook, to a beauty or fashion item, to a financial product. Whatever your audience needs, you may be able to find an affiliate link for it. The beauty is that you are able to provide links to products that could really help to improve your readers’ lives, and you are able to earn a profit in the process.
Is It Possible to Earn Real Money Through Affiliate Marketing?
If you are new to affiliate marketing, then it may seem unlikely that this can really earn you a decent income. But it is 100% possible to earn real money — and even eventually a full-time income — through affiliate marketing.
It is a really simple process. Many people are afraid to start because it seems overwhelming at first. Don’t let that happen to you! Instead, learn everything you can about the process as you start to pursue this path.
It is important to realize that it is possible to earn an income with affiliate marketing, but it not easy to earn an income with affiliate marketing. It will take hard work and dedication to build a lucrative affiliate marketing website. You will need time to build your audience and gain their trust before you are able to perfect your affiliate marketing strategy.
If you have trouble believing that it is possible to earn an amazing income with affiliate marketing, then check out these awesome success stories:
Jeff Proctor and Ben Huber
The dynamic duo behind Breaking the One Percent and Dollar Sprout have been able to earn an amazing living through affiliate marketing. The pair has proven that it may take a while to reach affiliate marketing success, but the rewards can be worth the effort.
Although it took several years to start earning an income from affiliate marketing, their blogs now make thousands of dollars a month through affiliate sales. If you are interested in finding out more about their blogging income, then check out their income reports.
Michelle from Making Sense of Cents consistently earns over $50,000 per month from affiliate marketing on her blog. Again, it took years to build her business, but eventually, she was earning a substantial amount of money from her blog. Michelle tried out several successful affiliate marketing strategies on her blog, and they worked!
Because of all of this hard work, she has been able to start living a life of full-time travel that has taken her all over the world while earning an amazing income.
Can You Achieve Similar Success?
Of course, it will not be easy to hit these lofty goals right away. Do not expect to earn thousands (or even hundreds) of dollars a month through affiliate marketing immediately. In fact, you should expect it to take some time to grow, especially if you haven’t built your audience yet.
Although it may take a long time to increase your affiliate marketing income, it is completely possible to do. You will need to be willing to invest time and effort into building your audience and perfecting your affiliate marketing process. Even if you never reach the amazing levels that these bloggers have reached, you can still make a good income.
I recommend starting with small goals and making them happen. Every time you hit a goal, just increase your expectations and settle in for more hard work. The point of affiliate marketing is that it will become more passive over time. However, you need to be willing to invest time and effort upfront to make that long-term payoff a possibility.
We will dive deeper into what it takes to build a successful affiliate marketing income stream below.
How to Get Started With Affiliate Marketing
The first step is learning everything you can about affiliate marketing and applying that to your content. Just by taking the step to read this article about affiliate marketing, you are off to a good start. Congratulations! Keep your momentum going to hit small goals on your way to bigger earnings.
Find Your Niche
Before you can build an audience, you need to decide on a specific niche. If you choose something that is too broad, then you will have difficulty finding affiliate products that resonate with your followers.
Say you’re thinking of starting a blog about running. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of running blogs. To reach passionate readers who will be more likely to engage with your blog, you need to narrow it down much further — say, to women over 40 who are just beginning running.
After you find your small niche, keep it in mind as you look into affiliate possibilities. You cannot market things that do not make sense for your audience.
For example, if you are building a healthy lifestyle site like Well Kept Body, then you would not choose to market a “magic diet pill” to your audience. Something like that would not fit into your niche. Avoid pitching products to your audience that will not help them in some way.
Build an Audience
Without any followers, it will be impossible to earn any money through affiliate marketing because no one will buy the product through you. Without that connection, you will not be able to earn a commission.
If you do not already have an audience, don’t worry! It is completely possible to build an audience from scratch. First, you need to choose where you want to build an audience. You can build a blog, create a social media following, record a podcast, start a YouTube channel, and more.
Each method presents its own challenges, but each is a valid way to build an audience. A popular way to build an audience is through a blog. You can also earn money with Instagram or other social media platforms by building a following that has the potential to be monetized through affiliate marketing.
No matter what you decide to do, it is important to build trust between you and your audience along the way. Choose to create quality content that will help your readers. You are more likely to gain a following if you put your audience first. Be sure to solve their problems and provide information that matters to them.
In addition, build an email list along the way. Not sure how to do that? Start with Jennifer Maker’s tips on how to build an email list.
Once you start monetizing your audience through affiliate marketing, your email list will become one of your greatest tools. In your emails, remember to keep providing content that will help your readers solve their own problems. Build the trust of your audience before moving on to the next step in your journey.
Find Products Your Audience Will Love
The key to affiliate marketing is to find products that resonate with your audience. In fact, if you promote useless products, then you may actually lose followers along the way.
Think about this from the audience’s perspective. Let’s say you find a blog about healthy living that you like and sign up for its email list. For a few weeks, you enjoy their health-conscious weight loss advice until one day you receive an email about the latest fad diet and a link to purchase the latest weight loss pill.
Instead of buying that pill through the link, you would likely close the email and potentially unsubscribe from the list. If you were the blogger in this scenario, you would have lost followers and likely would not have earned much money from this affiliate marketing attempt.
However, if you find products that really resonate with your audience, then you will gain trust and your audience will be more likely to buy through your links. Your followers will get products that help them, and you will earn a percentage of each sale.
The bottom line is that you need to promote affiliate products that will help your audience. Otherwise, be prepared to lose followers.
Find Affiliate Marketing Programs for the Products You Want to Promote
Once you have found some products to market to your audience, you will need to secure the affiliate links for the product or service. Luckily, there are several ways to find affiliate programs.
Affiliate marketplaces like ShareASale and ClickBank have hundreds (or thousands) of affiliate programs to choose from. Marketplaces make it fairly easy for you to find several affiliate programs to compare. You can find affiliate programs for entire companies as well as individual products to share with your audience.
You simply have to sign up for the marketplace, then search for the specific program you are interested in. Once you find a program that fits your interests, you can sign up for the program directly on the marketplace.
Marketplaces allow for easy access to several affiliate programs under one umbrella. As you grow your affiliate income, you may appreciate having several affiliate links in one easy-to-access place.
Individual Affiliate Programs
If you cannot find a specific product in an affiliate marketplace, then check out the brand’s website. Many companies have established affiliate programs that accept applications. Some companies choose this method to create a more exclusive affiliate program. Typically, these programs have stricter audience requirements than affiliate marketplaces, but it is still worth a try. When in doubt, apply for the program.
Ask Non-Affiliate Brands to Start an Affiliate Relationship
If a brand you love doesn’t currently have an affiliate program, they may be willing to work with you if you pitch your case. Explain why you love the product and how you can help them sell more by marketing it to your established audience.
Make sure to have solid numbers that support claims about your following, and present them nicely through a media kit of some kind in order to get a better reception.
If you are wondering why a company would want to work with you, then consider this. Companies want to sell their products through the path of least resistance. If the company feels that you can help sell more of its product, it may be willing to give you an incentive to do that.
Do not be afraid to reach out and ask for an affiliate incentive of some kind. The worst that could happen is they say no. Either way, you have nothing to lose and everything to gain.
Common Affiliate Programs
If you are looking for a place to get started, consider these large marketplaces and affiliate programs:
- Amazon Associates affiliate program
- Shopify Affiliate Program
- ShareASale marketplace
- Clickbank marketplace
There are literally hundreds of viable affiliate marketing programs out there. Find the ones that work best for you and your audience. Use the affiliate links to build your next income stream.
Strategically Place Those Affiliate Links in Your Posts
Once you have the affiliate links you need, it is time to present them to your audience. As you start using affiliate marketing to talk about products, you need to be aware of how your audience perceives you. If your website appears to be only after their money through an overwhelming amount of affiliate links, then they are more likely to simply leave your site.
You need to be authentic with your audience. Create quality content that happens to contain affiliate links embedded in the post where appropriate. Do not push a product onto your audience that will not resonate with them or that you don’t believe in. Instead of earning income, this kind of move will push your followers away.
The best way to achieve affiliate marketing success is to provide good information to your audience on a consistent basis. Some posts may contain affiliate links, but your followers will want to support you through these links because you are helping them with their problems.
As you start to place these affiliate links on your website or other platforms, you need to keep everything transparent. Don’t just throw affiliate links at your audience without letting them know that you will gain a commission from the sale.
Every follower should be aware that the links on your site could lead to a commission of some kind for you. Even if you are making a simple social media post, you need to disclose that the link is an affiliate link in some way. If you do not disclose this fact, then you could out of compliance with guidelines issued by the Federal Trade Commission.
You may have noticed at the top of many blog posts there is a short disclaimer about affiliate links. For example, at the top of the posts on Well Kept Wallet, there is a statement that reads: “Some of the links included in this post are from our sponsors. Read our disclosure policy.” The link goes to a full-page explanation of how this site chooses and promotes products using affiliate links.
All websites that have affiliate links should have a similar disclosure statement. If you are not sure what you need to include, then seek legal counsel in your home state to find the best answer.
Other Things to Know
As you dive into the world of affiliate marketing, you will find that there is always a new strategy and trend that you can try on your own audience. The key is to continually adjust your strategy in order to find out what works best for you and your audience.
Here are some useful things to know before you get your feet wet:
Track Your Earnings
It is incredibly important to keep track of your affiliate earnings. In the beginning, it is easier because you are likely not earning too much each month.
However, as you grow your affiliate marketing income, it will become more difficult to keep track. You will likely accumulate several affiliate links and programs that may have different payment schedules to keep track of.
As with all other income, you will have to pay taxes on your affiliate earnings. You can avoid an unnecessarily stressful tax season by keeping good records of your affiliate earnings.
Organize Your Affiliate Links
Keep track of your affiliate links through some kind of spreadsheet or document to keep yourself organized. As you grow this income stream, you will add more affiliate links. Over time, it can become a large number of affiliate links. Start an organization system early to avoid stressfully searching for your affiliate links in a mountain of emails later on.
Affiliate marketing programs are notorious for having extremely slow payout systems. Even if you make your first affiliate sale this month, it will likely take several months before your bank account receives that money.
Some programs will only pay you once a quarter. Others will always wait 90 days before they issue a payment. The rules of each affiliate program vary but eventually, you will receive your money.
Remember, this is a slow but potentially effective way to build an income over time. You should not expect to get rich quick through affiliate marketing.
If you are overwhelmed by the idea of affiliate marketing, then consider taking a course. The best way to get over your fear of starting is by learning more about the process.
Our favorite affiliate marketing course is Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing by Michelle Schroeder-Gardner at Making Sense of Cents. As we mentioned above, Michelle is highly successful with affiliate marketing. She consistently earns over $50,000 monthly in affiliate marketing sales and tells you all of her tips in her course.
She covers everything from picking the right affiliate product and building trust with your audience, to increasing conversions and adjusting your strategies. The course even covers the required legal disclosures you need to have on your blog. Learning from this successful affiliate marketing blogger could help to speed up your journey to affiliate marketing success by avoiding some common pitfalls along the way.
As you start pursuing an affiliate marketing income, continue to learn as you go. Adjust your strategies and find ways to help your audience. By doing that, you can take your income to the next level.
Will you take the plunge into affiliate marketing? What ideas did you find useful in this article? Let us know in the comments section.