Where to Start with Affiliate Marketing, How Does It Work..and Successful Names in the Industry
Updated: Feb 23
In our era, where the internet has dominated most aspects of life, there are millions of ways one can make money from the internet. From freelancing to marketing and selling products and services online, one can really make a fortune through the internet. However, some ways of making money through the internet have remained arguably undisputed for a long. One of these ways that have stood out from the rest is affiliate marketing. There are hundreds of legit online marketing ways, but affiliate marketing has proven to be one of the best based on its returns and legitimacy.
You probably heard about affiliate marketing? How much do you know about affiliate marketing? A typical quick Google search will have you believe that affiliate marketing is all about generating thousands of profits without any effort, basically telling you how to start with affiliate marketing with no money.. Well, that may be true, but the bitter truth is that it might be a little more complex than that.
Can I Start with Affiliate Marketing with No Money? Yes, it is possible to make a good fortune through affiliate marketing with very little investment. And to make it more interesting, you can make good money passively while you sleep. Below is our affiliate marketing guide for beginners. First, let’s get to understand what is this affiliate marketing and what it is about.
Affiliate marketing definition
To make you understand better, we’ll give you a real-life scenario. As an internet user, you must be familiar with visiting different websites going over different online content. In the process of reading, let’s say, a blog article, you come across a recommendation by the author to use a certain product or service. When you click on that product, you get redirected to the online merchant’s website, for example, Amazon, Wayfair, CBD brand stores, where that product or service is offered. That is affiliate marketing.
In other terms, affiliate marketing is typically classic advertising in a less intrusive manner. Rather than using visual ads to promote products and services on your website, affiliate marketing is embedding the product link in the website content, such as a blog article.
Simply put, affiliate marketing is when an online retailer pays you commissions for sales generated through your referrals.
In an expert’s language, affiliate marketing is a form of online marketing where a company/ online retailer/ advertiser pays someone (affiliate) based on his/her performance in promoting products through an affiliate link.
How does affiliate marketing work?
For affiliate marketing to work, two key players must be presented; the affiliate company (online retailer, advertiser, or brand) and the affiliate. Affiliates are mostly bloggers or other content creators who make the content of industries similar or closely related to that of the company or the online store whose goods and services they’re promoting.
To get started as an affiliate marketer, you need two basic things; a website and a niche of affiliate products to promote (we’ll cover that below in details).
The best way to select your affiliate products is by joining an affiliate network. An affiliate network is a platform that connects advertisers (brands) with affiliate marketers. The most popular affiliate networks are ShareAsale, CJ Affiliate, and Amazon Associates (be aware of the recent commission drop) .
The good thing about affiliate networks is that they have insights and data on how well a product sells. Therefore, they are the best shot if you want to choose affiliate products with huge returns.
When you chose the niche, it’s your job now to help users realize the right product or service for their needs. It is done through high-quality content. most affiliate marketers prefer to have a website where they review products/services, although you can use social media for this purpose. We've wrote about how to monetize your Instagram with affiliate marketing.
Your job is to promote the selected product or service through generating content such as writing blog posts, making videos, social media posts, and publishing text links for marketing purposes. When a visitor makes a purchase through your affiliate link, you get paid.
In a nutshell, this is how affiliate marketing works:
You recommend a product to your followers or visitors through content on your website or social media.
The followers or visitors purchase the product through your affiliate link.
You get a commission for the sales generated through your affiliate link.
How do you get paid?
Remember that there are numerous affiliate programs available. Therefore, various ways in which the different affiliate programs pay affiliates besides commission from generating sales. Essentially, affiliates get paid for performance. Below are the three forms of performance-based models for affiliate marketing:
Pay-Per-Click (PPC): this is where an affiliate marketer gets paid on all the valid clicks generated through his/her affiliate link regardless of whether they resulted in sales or leads. However, PPC is quite rare these days as brands prefer to pay per Action (CPA) or PPL such as Sale or Lead.
Pay-per-Lead (PPL): this is where advertisers pay a fixed commission for every valid action. Example: app installation, online form submission, free-trial sign-up, or completion of a short online survey.
Pay-Per-Sale (PPS) or Cost-Per-Action (CPA): this is the most common model where affiliates are paid an agreed commission for every sale generated through their affiliate links.
At this point, you have a know-how of the basics of affiliate marketing and how it works. If you’re planning to venture into the business in 2021, at least you know where to start!
I'm the affiliate marketing newbie. Where do I start?
Starting affiliate marketing in some way is similar to starting a business. Like any other business, it’s crucial to know where to start. Before reaching the level where you’ll start interacting with merchant partners, there is a great deal of up-front work needed before you become an affiliate. To help you get where you want to be, we have a guideline that will solidify your foundation as you start your affiliate marketing adventure.
I. Find a suitable niche.
Finding a suitable niche is one of the most crucial steps that will determine how successful you’ll be in your new denture. Selecting a suitable niche requires you to find out which affiliate products to promote. However, when finding the right niche, there are two things you should avoid. First, avoid the greediness of trying to pick too many niches since you could risk over-extending and turning your efforts ineffective.
Secondly, don’t be the kind that thinks for one to succeed in business, it is better to avoid the competitive niches and not pick the most complicated ideas that no one else has thought of. Instead, select a popular niche and do it as if no one else has ever done it before. The uniqueness of your niche doesn’t matter that much, but rather how you execute it.
So, how do you determine the niche that’s suitable for you? The best way to do this is by conducting a simple self-assessment. Bear in mind that an affiliate's job is to be a reliable advocate for the product or brand you are promoting. Therefore, it’s crucial to ensure that you’re in the right space.
Start by asking yourself the following questions:
What topics do I have passion for?
What niches do most people search for? (some analysis required using marketing tools).
Will demand in my niche remain consistent?
These self-assessment questions will help you narrow down the products you can promote and whether your market will be consistent. No matter the marketing tactic you adopt, the questions above are the make-or-break questions.
How do you find answers to these questions? While the question about your passion is entirely upon you to answer, there’s somewhere you can find the other answers to your questions. To determine the niches that people regularly search for and if the demand will remain consistent, you can get the best answer using a tool like Google Trends, which shows how often users search for a particular topic. Enter your query and choose Trend in the past 12 months. Pay attention to Breakouts down below. These are related queries that were recently popular. Google trends is free tool to use, which is great news!
II. Find a suitable Affiliate Network.
After doing niche research, the next step of becoming an affiliate is to find an affiliate network or program in this niche. An affiliate network is a platform that serves as a middleman between merchants/brands, and you, the affiliate. There are tons of affiliate networks out there, some attached to popular companies such as Amazon while others specialized in specific product or service niches such as ClickBank, Revoffers, Cannaffiliate, etc..
To identify a network that’s best for you, research the following:
Are your preferred brands utilizing the affiliate network you’re looking at?
How often does the platform pay commission? (some platforms only issue the payout once you reach $100 or even $500 in commission and/or can pay you once a month vs twice a months, or on demand).
What kind of support do you get from the network?
Remember that finding a suitable affiliate network is another step that will make or break your success in the venture since it’s the bridge that helps you land profitable partnerships.
Sometimes the brand will host the affiliate program outside the affiliate network. In this case you'd have to reach out to them directly and to join. In this case as a newbie you may miss on tip and guides that affiliate networks provide to affiliates regularly. If you're the affiliate marketing beginner that's quite important. By joining the affiliate program outside the network you may be left along with your questions as the merchant-brand may expect you to be equipped with marketing skills.
Remember to ask how often the payout is issued and if there is commission threshold.
The bottom-line is to be sure the brand you chose to work with is reliable and has the full time affiliate team to support the affiliate program.
III. Create your website.
With a suitable niche and affiliate network, you’re now ready to start building the website that will see you through as you're improving your affiliate marketing skills.
Creating a website comes with so many benefits to an affiliate. There are tons of website builders options. The most popular ones among affiliate marketers are Wix and Wordpress. With both you can find your perfect domain name, hosting, and the actual website builder tool. There are free and paid themes for a website, however the domain name and hosting services are always paid. The average price for hosting starts around $100/year. This cost is what you should expect when thinking about how to start with affiliate marketing no money.
IV. Generate top-notch content.
With a website, you now need to generate content to publish on it. Content is what you need to attract an audience. Remember the saying ‘content is king?’ Internet is just an assembly of content. So, if you don’t contribute to anything, no one will ever notice you.
There are numerous types of content that you can post on your website. But not every type will earn you an audience. What type of content do you need to stand out and capture a sizable audience's attention? Remember also, the content type can be as simple as this blog post.
Well, to some extent, the type of content you should generate points back to the ideas that interest you. However, there are a few good starting points that are common to affiliate marketers. They include; product reviews, blog posts, and guides, and "how to" posts.
Writing product reviews for different products in your niche is a common starting point for most successful affiliate marketers. The growing eCommerce stores are always in search of product reviews that convert customers.
Similarly, blog posts are another means you can use to start building an audience in your niche. Moreover, blog posts can help boost your sales over time as you continue improving your affiliate marketing skills. The best way for this to work is by using blog posts to address the common questions or issues in your niche.
Guides and "how to" posts
Guides are another type of content you can use to laying your foundation towards becoming an affiliate marketer. Under this, you can focus on creating informational posts that help to engage with the audience. Helpful guides can consequently lead to increased sales. Guides can be in the form of “how-to” posts or videos or anything that addressing of a certain topic in-depth. As long as your content will be accurate and helpful, you’re more likely to gain trust in your niche, which you can monetize with time.
Remember your goal is to serve your audience, meaning to answer questions that they search answers for.
So can I start with affiliate marketing with no money?
Above we broke down how affiliate marketing works. Now you can see everything you need to start the ball rolling and answer the question whether you can start with affiliate marketing with no money. If you're going to produce content yourself (reviewing products, for example) and use a website, then your cost would mostly be associated with a domain name and hosting plan purchase. This is roughly $100/year. However, if you're going to use social media platforms such as Instagram, you can start with affiliate marketing completely free!
The Most Successful Affiliate Marketers to Follow
If you're down to take the affiliate marketing path, we'd want to share the stories of some of the successful affiliate marketers. Perhaps, you’ll learn a thing or two from them! Please note that the list is not in any order.
Jason Stone is an Instagram star, a serial entrepreneur, and a successful affiliate marketer on Instagram. Jason started by building his Instagram following in 2014 and currently he boasts of more than 7 million followers which on monetizing, he earns a fortune from it.
Jason is a mechanical engineer by profession. Before venturing into affiliate marketing, Jason founded an engineering firm known as Treadstone Performance Engineering which is operational up to date although he’s no longer involved in it.
According to his story, Jason was able to create such a huge audience by treating his Instagram account like a blog. He was consistently posting about his experiences as an entrepreneur, motivational quotes, and daily glimpses of a luxurious life. His consistency kept his followers hooked and gained him even more followers with time.
Currently, Jason is the founder of a social media strategy firm known as Millionaire Mentor.
Pat Flynn began his affiliate marketing journey in 2008 after he was dismissed from his job. He first began by working on his LEED blog to generate traffic and soon monetized his website. Through Google Adsense, he began to make money from affiliate marketing from the clicks generated from his website.
Today, Flynn is a very successful affiliate marketer, something he’s very open about. He believes that the best way to succeed in the affiliate marketing niche is by focusing on how you can serve your audience better. "From all the tons of information available out there, your job should be to filter the noise and provide valuable information to your audience."
On the LEED blog, Flynn addresses affiliate marketing as well as multiple other business services. Flynn also has a podcast with over 400 episodes where he addresses everything you should know about business marketing.
Missy Ward is a stay-at-home mom, a philanthropist, and an affiliate marketer. Before choosing to venture into affiliate marketing on her own, Ward spent over a decade in various companies, one of them being the Affiliate Force, where she was managing affiliate conferences. She then thought of creating a more efficient alternative of supporting affiliate marketers, an idea that was rejected by the company.
However, she never gave up. Alongside Shawn Collins, they co-founded the Affiliate Summit Corporation in 2003 on a $400 investment. The corporation provides entrepreneurs and large businesses opportunities to prosper in affiliate marketing through trade shows, conferences, and magazines, among others. On their first show, they had only about 200 attendees, a number which turned to around 5000 as of January 2020. Today, they’re one of the largest affiliate marketing events company.
Ward believes that affiliate marketing is not a get-rich-quick scheme but a venture that takes time to develop; therefore, patience is key in this venture. Ward has her website where she talks more about herself and the Affiliate Summit.
Finch Sells (real name: Martin Osborn) is a 29-year-old high school drop-out who describes himself as ‘an academic failure who sold his soul to make money from the internet.’ Finch is a successful affiliate marketer who runs his own company known as Finch Media Ltd. Finch is involved in all types of affiliate campaigns. He also works directly with brands to better their conversion funnels.
Finch did his first affiliate marketing with Clickbank, where he was selling learning kits earning next to nothing. He later came across Cost-Per-Action (CPA) marketing, which boosted his earnings. Today, he’s a successful affiliate marketer who makes a fortune from selling his Ultimate Premium Package for $119.95 and gets a commission from it. He also runs his blog, where he addresses affiliate and CPA marketing and his personal and professional.
Finch motivates affiliate marketers to take risks, create campaigns, create websites, and discover things on their own. He also believes that affiliates who succeed are the ones who understand how the affiliate, advertiser, and customer relate.
Other successful affiliate marketers that you should follow include John Chow, Ian Fernando, Zac Johnson, Kirsty McCubbin, and Andrew Payne.
From the brief stories of the successful affiliate marketers above, you must have learned something from each one of them. But at this point, you have no excuse why you shouldn’t venture into the affiliate marketing! It would be best if you tried it. We could be writing our next story about you!