Getting Started with Affiliate Marketing
Want to get started making more money online today? There are a few ways this is possible, but I believe the best all-around is affiliate marketing. Give me five minutes and I will tell you why and show you how to get started.
What is Affiliate Marketing
Unlike regular online businesses, affiliates sell or recommend products created and owned by other companies, in return for a sales commission.
It is not at all like a pyramid scheme or MLM, because first, you will be much more successful recommending things you really like, use, and believe in, and second, it is not about hitting up your friends and family. Thirdly, you should never have to pay a vendor just to be allowed to be part of their affiliate program.
While it is commission sales, the "sale" can be as simple as telling your YouTube viewer which laptop or camera you used to produce the video (in fact many YouTubers make the bulk of their income from the links under their videos).
Legally you must tell your audience ("disclose") that you could earn money from anything purchased through your links, but even if it wasn't the law, it is the ethical thing to do and your audience will prefer the transparency.
Back when I started out, there was a resistance to this kind of monetization but it is almost expected at this point, allowing me enjoy it even more. People thank me for recommending things, and one of the main emails I get from readers of Maker Hacks is asking what kind of laser cutter, 3d printer, or CNC machine should they start with.
Yep, I love affiliate marketing.
Before I tell you precisely why I like affiliate marketing so much from a business standpoint, let me explain the other options to illustrate why they work, but not generally as well for most people.
Alternative 1: Selling Services = Money Today
Firstly, if you want an actual business, and you need immediate cash flow, then selling a service is better, because if you get a sale then you can take a deposit, or in some cases the whole fee, right upfront.
If there was ever a "get rich quick" option, it would be selling high-ticket services.
The downside is you have to commit a lot of time, and of course energy. Getting refusal after refusal, having the telephone hung up on you a lot, takes its toll. This is definitely not one for absolutely everyone, but on the flip side, this is why the people who can do it well are elite and much sought after.
If "Hustle Culture" appeals to you, this might be right for you ...
You also need to have a service ready to go, naturally. That said, the service does not necessarily need to be yours - as I said, the ability to sell is very much sought after, so you could sell sales AS your service to clients who need more customers.
Alternative 2: Selling Digital Products + Services = Extreme Scalability
For people who don't necessarily need to make bank on day one, and especially folks who don't have 8-10 hours per day to put into their business, at least in the beginning, selling digital products and services can work out hugely over time.
Consider some of the multi-millionaires or billionaires that you know of. Most of those people who made the bulk of their money in the last couple of decades usually had digital products (video games as an industry is bigger than the movie industry), or "Software as a Service"
Why Affiliate Marketing
If you look at affiliate marketing from arm's length, it has the best of both options one and two AND can comfortably complement both.
Yes, you can do all three! (and I do, or rather did and will again).
With affiliate products, you can test your market in a low-risk way, hone your marketing messages and call to actions, all while being paid. If you find there is a gap in the market then you can put time and other resources into building a product that serves that need, without the risk of creating something then discovering nobody wants to buy.
Once you have put your content and links out there, you don't necessarily have to do very much to keep earning commissions.
I can't recall when I last wrote about AWeber but it was years ago, and yet I got this nice email again today like clockwork!
In addition, affiliate products can work as cross and up-sells to your own products and services even after establishing your own loyal customer base because it is impossible for you to be the primary supplier of everything they will ever need.
Now I have explained why I like affiliate marketing, let's discuss how you start.
Getting Started with Affiliate Marketing
Really, to get started with affiliate marketing you could just go to Amazon and sign up for their associates program, find a relevant product, and grab the tracking link they provide to you.
Many of my friends just naturally drop affiliate links into all of their content as a matter of habit. It doesn't cost your audience any more than normal, and can potentially make you a bunch of money.
To be truly successful takes some ingredients:
It starts with having an audience that you can get in front of in reasonable numbers. When you create an article, usually a review or a tutorial, you will need to be able to direct people there from your social media, from forums, from discord, and from other articles.
Next is to know the right products that solve the right problems.
It could be that your audience just likes the new and shiny, that is great! Or your audience might need a solution to a specific issue, such as they are hurting for traffic and you know the best SEO tool for their situation.
You can't get paid unless you have joined an affiliate program for that product.
As mentioned earlier, Amazon has their own program, Amazon Associates, and there are services such as ClickBank and Share a Sale where there are many different programs all centrally managed.
Selecting a Merchant
It's not just about choosing the right product, it is about choosing the best vendor and offer.
For example, in the 3D printing space you could send the viewer to Amazon, which is a trustworthy and well-known store, but Amazon requires the customer to buy right away for you to get paid, whereas lesser-known merchants could sell the exact same printer, for lower cost, and allow the visitor to click today and not buy for 30 days and STILL credit you with the sale.
One has more brand awareness (plus Amazon's returns policy), the other might be cheaper to the customer and more likely to pay you for the recommendation ...
That said, there is usually nothing stopping you from offering both links!
As well as the brand of the vendor, there is YOUR brand. Do your readers or viewers trust your recommendations?
This is another reason to declare your relationship with affiliate partners, because if they think you are ONLY recommending something to get paid ...
I have single pages on my websites that have made me tens of thousands of dollars, but the trick is those pages wouldn't make me 1/10 of that without all the OTHER content that makes those sites appealing to Google.
You need to keep putting out content if you are going to make a serious income from affiliate marketing, and this is why it is not entirely passive.
Call to Action
So many people get to the point of having everything they need to start making affiliate income and they forget the most obvious, but most overlooked piece.
You need to tell people what to do if you want them to do something!
Don't just put one link in one article and expect your cheques to roll in.
Go ahead and sign up to Amazon Associates if you have not already and grab a link or banner that is relevant to your next blog post.
Perhaps you have been enjoying audiobooks on your commute, walking the dog, or at the gym? Grab the Audible banner!
(As an Amazon Associates partner I might receive a commission on anything you buy through my links)
Have a favourite book, movie, espresso machine, XBox controller? Write about that and link to it.
Even if someone ends up buying something completely irrelevant, if they buy after clicking your link, you will get credited for a % of the sale ...