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Affiliate marketing is one of my favorite monetizing methods because it can feel quite passive over time when your blog is set up correctly along with the right type of content published to an audience that is interested in what you have to say.
I won’t say that making money with affiliate marketing is 100% passive because it does require a lot of upfront work especially when you’re a total beginner. Just like any other form of passive income ideas, nothing is ever fully “passive.” For example, saving money and socking that away into your investment account will require hard work at the beginning to build your army of minions and watch that income grow over the years.
I’ve been blogging for almost 3 years and affiliate marketing has always been my main source of blog income. Today, 80% to 90% of my online income comes from affiliate marketing!
This is an example screenshot of just one of my affiliate earnings using an affiliate network – $50,651.43. I will explain more about what an affiliate network is later in this post.
For beginners, no matter how new or small a blog, anyone can start earning with affiliate marketing.
Of course, you will need some traffic for affiliate marketing to work, but you DON’T need to wait until you have 50,000 monthly page views to start earning your first affiliate income!
I personally started affiliate marketing when I was getting around 18,000 to 20,000 monthly page views and I REALLY wish I started a little sooner. Based on my experience, I now realize that your success in affiliate marketing really depends on the quality of your traffic!
What Is Affiliate Marketing?
Here’s a quick glimpse for beginners of what affiliate marketing is.
In a nutshell, you can think of affiliate marketing as referring products/services that you love and believe to your readers and followers.
This is no different than you recommending your family and friends to your favorite restaurants because you truly love the food and service there.
In the online space, your recommendation comes in the form of a special link (AKA referral or affiliate link). You can get your affiliate link when you join affiliate programs, which I talk more about later.
So, here’s where the magic starts happening.
When the reader makes a purchase or signs up to something, you’ll get rewarded with a commission at NO extra cost to your reader.
For example, in my one of my personal finance posts, I like to mention the $5 Meal Plan because it speaks to readers who are looking for ways to save money on food.
Let’s take a look at how I placed my $5 Meal Plan affiliate link two times in this paragraph.
Whenever the reader clicks into these links and signs up for the free trial, I’ll earn a small commission depending on which meal plan they choose:
Based on my personal experience, affiliate marketing is very effective when you are 100% honest about your recommendations or product reviews. You won’t be able to convert very well or make much money when you spam your blog posts and social media channels with affiliate links.
I love using this as a monetizing strategy on my blog because I can recommend almost any product that I think will be helpful for my readers.
Plus, if I’m already enjoying the product, I may as well mention it to my readers because it could help and benefit them as well! So, it’s a win-win!
How To Make Money With Affiliate Marketing For Beginners
To get started with affiliate marketing, I always recommend starting a blog for people who are new to the world of online marketing. I personally started making money with affiliate marketing as a beginner using this method.
Not only is starting a blog very inexpensive (it only costs less than $3 a month), but it is a very effective way for beginners to learn how to make money online using affiliate marketing. By starting a blog, you can promote affiliate offers when you write a review or mention the products you use on your blog.
For example, when I write about my favorite ways to save money, I would often recommend saving-money resources or apps I use to my readers. Just like how I did with my blog post about my review on Rakuten.
Readers will only purchase or try something if they are educated more about what that product or service is. No one is going to randomly click on a link and make a purchase if they have no idea what the offer is.
If you don’t have a blog yet, I highly recommend reading my tutorial post that will teach you step-by-step on how to start a blog for beginners with no experience.
Once I started my blog, I learned how to create content for my readers and applied some affiliate marketing strategies onto my blog posts.
Because most of my blog is about saving money and making money, I only mention products and services that are related to this topic. For example, I like to promote budgeting resources to help my readers manage their money better. When it comes to earning extra income, I like to promote online jobs and business tools that will help people make money from home.
Depending on your niche, you can promote pretty anything as long as they are products and services you use and believe in that is related to what you blog about. Never will you see my blog promote high-end furniture or home décor products from Wayfair because that wouldn’t align with what my readers want!
How Much Money Can You Make As An Affiliate Marketer?
I know you’re wondering, how much money can you make with affiliate marketing? My readers love asking me this question, and I always say it depends on how well you implement your affiliate marketing strategies.
There are affiliate marketers who make close to $0 (because they are not implementing the right strategies) and there are those who are able to earn $1,000, $5,000, $10,000, or even $50,000 per month!
Personally, when I first learned about affiliate marketing a few years ago and started as a beginner, I earned a big fat $0 and that’s because I had no clue what the heck I was doing!
As a brand new blogger at that time, I kept hearing the term “affiliate marketing” and every successful affiliate marketer I encountered was earning thousands of dollars a month. They all made it look so easy and that’s when I started inserting affiliate links onto my blog posts but realized it wasn’t working at all. You may think it’s as simple as slapping or sprinkling affiliate links into your posts, but that’s not the way to go!
It wasn’t until I invested in this one affiliate marketing e-course for beginners that I immediately made my first $300 within that month of using affiliate marketing. This first income I earned with affiliate marketing was the turning point for this blog and that’s when the number quickly grew to $500, $3,000, and $5,000 in monthly earnings within the first year of following the strategies from the course.
I was able to make over $40,000 in affiliate earnings within my first year of taking this affiliate marketing course! It was definitely worth the investment since I earned more than 150X on what I spent on the course (that’s over 16,500% return)!
Of course, I have to factor other things like investing my time to learn and implement the strategies, but despite the time I spent testing and tweaking things around, it was still money well spent for a beginner like myself!
Here is my blog income progress as a total newbie when I started using these affiliate marketing strategies on my blog. As time progressed, I learned and tested various strategies to help grow my affiliate earnings.
You can check out my honest review of Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing course over here, along with my interview with the course creator, Michelle, who shares her secret tips and tricks on how to get started with affiliate marketing for beginners.
None of this would’ve happened if weren’t for me starting my blog and investing my time to learn how to use affiliate marketing!
You can check out my blog income report series (with legitimate screenshots and proof of both my display advertising and affiliate earnings) where I share my beginning journey from the perspective of a brand new blogger. These blog income reports were made to inspire and encourage beginners who haven’t started a blog yet, or new bloggers who are still trying to figure out how to monetize their blogs and earn their first $1,000.
I want to say that your earnings using affiliate marketing will be volatile, and it depends on a lot of factors like traffic, season, sales, promotions, authenticity, how you write your blog posts, how helpful and convincing you are to your readers, your relationship with your affiliate manager, and luck, etc. Yes, luck does play a small role, believe it or not, and this is the part affiliate marketers don’t tell you.
I’ve had times where my monthly affiliate income spikes to a higher number like $18,000! There are also times where my affiliate income fell to $9,000 a month. But despite the crazy ups and downs, my affiliate income has been consistently earning me over $10,000 every month and this number doesn’t include my other blog earnings from sources like display advertising.
How Does Affiliate Marketing Work?
Now that you know how much money you could earn with affiliate marketing, let’s go back to the example I used previously about Rakuten’s cash back program to help you understand how affiliate marketing works.
I’m sure you’ve downloaded an app that you fell in love with and without delay, you immediately rave about it to your closest friends.
Chances are those apps you downloaded or sign up for (such as money-saving apps like Rakuten) have programs where the company encourages you to spread the love and share it with your friends.
Some even offer a small reward to you when you tell your friends about it. For example, they could reward you a $1 to $25 for every friend that downloads and makes a purchase through the app using your referral or affiliate link.
Pay Per Lead
When you refer a friend or family member to an app you use, you’ll get compensated when they sign up and use it too (at no extra cost to them). This type of affiliate marketing is called a “pay per lead” because the company or merchant will pay you, the affiliate marketer, based on the conversion of leads that you’re able to persuade the person to sign up for a free trial or product.
Another form of pay per lead is getting your subscribers to sign up to an e-mail list.
For example, Stella and Dot is a jewelry, bags and accessories shop that offers not only an affiliate program that rewards you for recommending their products based on a percentage of the sales (I talk more about this method later).
They also have an affiliate program that rewards bloggers or influencers who are able to get their readers/followers to subscribe to their e-mail list. So, in exchange for one reader’s e-mail (yes, just their e-mail), Stella and Dot will reward you $1-$2 per subscriber.
I am an affiliate of Stella and Dot myself and although these aren’t high affiliate payouts compared to other programs, they are a great start for beginners with no experience to gain some experience in affiliate marketing. Here is an example screenshot of some passive earnings I get consistently without actively promoting them:
Stella and Dot Jewelry is a great affiliate program for blogs that write about fashion, jewelry, accessories, wedding, and proms.
For blog niches in work from home, online jobs, or make money, you can promote the Stella and Dot Work from Home Program.
If any of these niches apply to you, then I encourage you to sign up for Stella and Dot’s affiliate program here so you can start mentioning about their offers to your audience who is interested in this topic.
The payout from these types of affiliate is lower but the pro is you don’t need to hard-sell their products – the company does all the selling and you get compensated just for bringing in a potential customer.
Pay per sale
On the other hand, the most standard affiliate marketing method is using “pay per sale.”
In this case, the company or merchant will pay you, the affiliate, a percentage of the price of the product or service you sell to the person.
For example, when I recommend an author’s digital ebook for $79, I would earn a commission based on the sale of their product. This commission can be anywhere from 15% to as high 50% depending on the affiliate program.
In the simplest terms, you can think of affiliate marketing as a “referral” or “recommendation” that pays you once a transaction has been made. That transaction could be a purchase, subscription, or sign up.
NOTE: Your success in earning a commission will depend on your marketing strategy, your authenticity and how well you convince readers that the product you’re recommending will add value to them.
How Affiliate Links Work
We discussed the basic understanding of what affiliate marketing is and how it works, so let’s explain how affiliate links get tracked.
In the next section, I give you a list of affiliate programs and networks that you can join so you can start promoting your favorite products and services to your readers!
When you apply for an affiliate program, you’ll be given an affiliate link that looks something like this:
This is actually the raw affiliate link to Stella and Dot’s program I promote on my blog.
By using one of these WordPress plugins, you can hide or cloak your affiliate link and make them look more presentable like this:
When you click on this affiliate link, it will bring you to the same page as the raw affiliate link.
When someone clicks on your affiliate link, your affiliate ID is stored in something called a “cookie” and this is how your referrals are tracked when a purchase is made or an action is taken. This is how to ensure you get compensated for your recommendations.
The life of your cookie
Depending on the affiliate program, your affiliate ID stored in the cookie can be a short life or long life. Technically the cookies can be stored forever as long as the cookies from the person’s browser are not cleared.
Here is one example.
A Pinterest Virtual Assistant e-course I promote offers a 365-day cookie tracker from the day the person clicks on the link.
Longer periods are better because it gives you a higher chance of earning the commission when the customer completes an action. Most people who click on links don’t usually action or purchase a product immediately. They generally spend time to think about it and come back to it days, weeks, or months down the road.
Having that said, the duration of the cookie with your affiliate ID can impact your affiliate earnings, so it is something to keep in mind (though I wouldn’t fuss too much over it). It’s not a huge deal breaker but just something to think about.
How Do I Become An Affiliate Marketer?
To become an online affiliate marketer, you’ll first need to join affiliate programs and networks. You may hear the term “affiliate program” more often than “affiliate network.” I’ll quickly tell you what they are and the difference between these two terms.
What is an affiliate program?
An affiliate program also known as an “associate program” is where a company or an individual business owner (the “merchant”) pays you (the “affiliate” or “publisher”) for recommending their products or services with affiliate links on your website, blog, or social media platform.
As I mentioned earlier, you only get compensated when an action has taken place (e.g. sold a product, a reader signs up, fills out a form, or subscribes to the company’s e-mail).
Amazon Associates is a good example of an affiliate program that I talk more about later.
You can apply to an affiliate program and work directly with the company or small business owner.
Another way to apply for an affiliate program is through an affiliate network.
What is an affiliate network?
An affiliate network is middle-man that connects a group of companies (group of “merchants”) with affiliates (you, the publisher or blogger).
When you apply for an affiliate network, you’ll gain easy access to thousands of affiliate programs in one spot.
The good thing about affiliate networks is you can easily search for affiliate programs or companies you’re interested in partnering up with. You don’t have to go through the hassle of finding them individually or contacting them on the side.
Affiliate Programs and Networks to Join
This is a list of popular affiliate networks you can join. They are all networks that I currently use as a publisher.
Within each network here, you can find many different programs in many different niches. All you have to do is search for products and services that are a good fit for YOUR niche.
An affiliate should never be asked to pay any membership. You are ultimately “advertising” for merchants and they WANT YOU to help them make money by promoting them, so they are all FREE to apply and join.
Shareasale – This network is one of my favorites and I use it to promote work home jobs, saving money resources, survey sites, and online business tools.
Shareasale has been in the business for 20 years and they are indeed one of the most well-established affiliate networks today. They offer a wide range of programs and services. One of their highest ranked affiliate programs include:
- Zenbusiness (business services and bookkeeping)
- Reebok (clothing, apparel and sports)
- YesStyle (cosmetic, beauty and skincare)
- Smile Direct Club (health and wedding)
- Sally Beauty (cosmetic, beauty and skincare)
- FreshBooks (business, billing and freelancing)
- Avocado Mattress (home, garden and lifestyle)
There are over hundreds of other affiliate programs to join. Believe me, there will always be something within your niche. You just need to search for them in the network once you join.
You can apply for Shareasale here.
MaxBounty – Many people tout this as a great affiliate network for surveys, contests, prizes, and free giveaways. This affiliate network is a good fit for bloggers in the business, freebies, coupons, personal finance, saving money, and make money niche.
They also offer affiliate programs that fit well with bloggers in the health and beauty niche since I’ve seen dental, skin care, and keto products.
It’s worth giving MaxBounty a try because there are many bloggers who love and rave about it. I have to say that the good thing about MaxBounty is they have over 1,000 affiliate programs to choose from!
On top of that, I’ve been receiving steady payments via PayPal or Payoneer from them so there are no concerns about getting your money.
You can apply for and join MaxBounty here.
Aragon Premium – I only recommend this to bloggers who write about personal finance, make money, save money, loans, bookkeeping, taxes, or business.
They offer many affiliate programs such as student loans, personal loans, insurance, saving money and budgeting tools, money apps, programs for side hustles, and credit score checks.
I use this to promote a few affiliate programs in the personal finance niche and so far I don’t have any issue with them. I’ve been fortunate enough to have an affiliate manager who responds to my e-mails and offers support. You can apply for Aragon Premium here.
Other Affiliate Programs
- Sheismedia – From fashion and beauty to parenting and education, this affiliate network is great for any niche. At the time of writing this, they have almost 200 affiliate programs listed and are growing.
- Impact Radius – Similar to Sheismedia, this affiliate network has a wide range of products and services you can promote on your blog.
- Amazon Associate – I explain more about this in the next section.
PRO TIP: Some affiliate programs/networks recommend a minimum amount of page views before applying. Some don’t have any minimum requirements like the Amazon Affiliate Program. Read their guidelines and requirements before applying because you don’t want them to reject you the first time. It may be harder to apply for the second time. To play it safe, make sure your blog looks organized and user-friendly prior to applying.
About the Amazon Associate Program
Amazon Associates or “Amazon Affiliate” is another program you can learn more about. It’s an affiliate program where bloggers, influencers, YouTubers, and website owners can advertise almost any products from Amazon.com on their sites by using their Amazon affiliate links.
How much you earn with Amazon Associates depends on your niche, what posts you write about, how well you rank on Google searches, how “viral” your blog post goes on Pinterest AND whether those people who clicked on your Amazon links are actually going to be purchasing things on Amazon!
How does Amazon Affiliate Program work?
Here is a quick and simple example of how it works.
Let’s assume you are a food or lifestyle blogger and you love using the Instant Pot so you decide to recommend the product in your “Instant Pot Review” blog post or another post that talks about the Instant Pot.
When you log into your Amazon Associates account, you can obtain your own Amazon affiliate link to use for your blog post.
When someone clicks on your Amazon affiliate link via your blog post, they will be directed to the Instant Pot product on Amazon’s website.
To the reader or customer, it will look very standard like this:
Amazon affiliate links have a lifetime of only 24 hours.
So, if the reader clicks into your link and buys this Instant Pot within 24 hours, you’ll earn a small commission of the sale.
However, if the reader isn’t interested in buying the Instant Pot but decides to browse around Amazon and purchases other non-related items (e.g. electronics, home décor, furniture, groceries, dried food, clothing, etc.), you’ll still earn a commission on all the qualifying items they purchased.
Even if they close the browser or turn off the computer but they come back to Amazon’s website within the day, you’ll still earn a commission from Amazon because your cookie was stored in their browser.
TIP: Most people who use Amazon Affiliates actually earn a bulk of their income from products that they did not promote directly. Many readers or visitors who click on a blogger’s Amazon affiliate link may end up buying other things not even related to the product they mentioned in their blogs.
Going back to the Instant Pot example, the reader may have been interested in a different Instant Pot model or purchase a pressure cooker of a different brand.
The key to doing well with Amazon affiliates is finding the right type of blog post to write. Gift guides and a round-up list of things to buy tend to do well, especially when you’re able to rank first on Google searches or Pinterest.
How to Apply for Amazon Associates
Many newbie and even experience bloggers will say this to you:
“As a new blogger with no traffic, you can get started with affiliate marketing by applying for the Amazon Affiliate Program.”
Yes, that is true.
However, I want to point out a few things before you make the decision to apply now or later. This could save you some hassle down the road.
Once you’re accepted to the Amazon Affiliate program, there is a “window” approval, which you can think of it as a probation period.
You’ll have up to 180 days (six months) to generate your first 3 qualifying sales or you’ll have to reapply again.
Having that said, I highly recommend learning how to get a good consistent amount of traffic to your blog prior to applying.
There’s no hard rule but I would say once you get at least 10,000 monthly page views onto your blog, your chances of generating your first 3 Amazon sales will be higher.
Is Affiliate Marketing Easy?
I’ve been learning and testing affiliate marketing strategies on my blog and I have to admit it wasn’t an easy ride.
It was especially the hardest to grasp when I was a brand new blogger and you will likely make a TON of mistakes, but you will learn and grow from those mistakes.
I will tell you that no matter how much you’ve read from a course, nothing will work unless you actually implement what is taught. And most of the times, even after you THINK you’ve correctly implemented what was taught, you’re still going to make mistakes and you won’t realize or catch them until you go through a lot of testing and experimenting with your blog.
Once you’ve understood the basic concepts of affiliate marketing and how it works, your success will come from applying those concepts in real life experience through trial and error based on YOUR audience and traffic – there is no one answer or a magical solution that is a one-size-fits-all.
Your success in affiliate marketing and how much money you make will depend on you and how persistent you are even when something isn’t working out for you – it goes beyond learning the concepts and following a guide from a course instructor.
Wrap Up On How To Make Money With Affiliate Marketing For Beginners
Affiliate marketing is the process of earning an income simply by promoting a product or service to a targeted audience (e.g. family, friends, readers, etc.). You earn a small commission when the person you’re mentioning the product to purchases it using your special affiliate (or referral) link.
If your readers or followers don’t like what you say or don’t trust you, they will not make a purchase using your affiliate link. So, for affiliate marketing to work, you’ll have to be honest about the product or service you’re promoting.
There are many different affiliate networks or programs you can apply for and join.
Once you are approved for a program, you can start placing your special affiliate links onto your blog post or social media channels. These affiliate links track your readers’ purchases and have a duration from anywhere between 24 hours to as high as 365 days.
Affiliate marketing can become a very lucrative way to make money online but in order to be successful at it, you must make sure that what you’re promoting is what your reader is looking for and is going to help solve their problem.
Affiliate marketing may sound easy in theory but it’s not when it comes to implementing the actual strategies. If you are a newbie who has absolutely NO experience in affiliate marketing, then I highly recommend investing in an affiliate marketing course like the one I took to learn how to monetize using affiliate marketing strategies.
Again, I encourage you to start a blog if you want to learn how to make money with affiliate marketing because it’s an effective way to communicate and promote the products you love to your readers. If you don’t have a blog yet, I have a free 7-day e-mail course that teaches beginners how to start a profitable blog which you can subscribe below! 😊