Did you know that in the US and Canada alone, affiliate marketing accounts make up 16% of all ecommerce orders, placing it within the four largest sources of ecommerce transactions in the country? Given its massive popularity, it isn’t surprising that this industry is a greatly profitable one, with salaried marketers earning an average of $59,060 per year.
Based on the above information, it stands to reason that you can make a decent living from affiliate marketing. At this point, you might find yourself thinking, “That’s great and all, but where do I even begin?” That’s an understandable question! Without the proper guidance, starting on a new career path is always a daunting one. But don’t worry: you’ve come to the right place!
In this article, we’ll explain how to start affiliate marketing for beginners, providing you with step-by-step instructions and useful tips to help newcomers navigate this new, exciting journey of affiliate marketing.
What Is Affiliate Marketing?
Before going any further, it’s worth explaining exactly what affiliate marketing is. An extremely popular and effective method of earning passive income online, affiliate marketing involves a marketer promoting the products or services of another company. This might be done through website links, social media posts or other means. The affiliate then earns a commission for any successful referrals generated from their promotion; for example, if one of their audience members was to use their link to make a purchase from the merchant, the affiliate will earn a percentage of that sale.
As you can see, affiliate marketing is fairly easy to wrap your head around — a fact that no doubt contributes to its high popularity! However, it isn’t just its simplicity that makes work in this industry so appealing; in addition, it has an exceptionally low entry barrier. Many people often wonder how to start affiliate marketing with no money, not realizing that the overhead costs associated with the job are, in fact, very low.
With that being said, while you may not need to invest much money in order to succeed in this industry, you will still need to invest a lot of time and effort. Otherwise, you will not see the results you’re hoping for.
How Does Affiliate Marketing Work?
Now that we’ve explained the basics of what affiliate marketing is, let’s take a closer look and examine how it all works. If you’re new to this industry, the copious amounts of information out there might feel a little intimidating. Rest assured, however, that getting started in this business isn’t as complex as you may think.
The first thing to do is to find an affiliate program that best suits you. Once you’ve done so, you’ll be given a number of custom links to insert into your online content. The hope is that your audience will then engage with your post and click on the affiliate links, thereby visiting the merchant’s website. This is all tracked by the affiliate program using cookies, meaning that when the user makes a purchase, you are issued a commission.
How Much Money Can You Make With Affiliate Marketing?
According to a recent report from Glassdoor, salaried affiliate marketers make between $58,000 and $158,000 per year, with an average annual salary of $59,060. This includes things like bonuses, tips and profit sharing.
But what if you’re not interested in working in a salaried position and would rather operate as a freelance affiliate marketer? Is this feasible? Well, that all depends on how much you’re willing to put in and whether you’re thinking about working part-time or full-time.
In a recent survey from Influencer Marketing Hub, it was revealed that over 50% of affiliate marketers make $10,000 or less per year; however, it’s more than likely that this is because these participants only treat affiliate marketing as a side gig. Full-time affiliate marketers are likely to make much more: estimates place their annual salary at around $30,000 to $50,000.
Ultimately, the amount of money you make depends on how much you put into your job. If you apply yourself, create high-quality content and connect with your audience, you are likely to perform better than you would otherwise.
How Do You Become an Affiliate Marketer?
When thinking about how to start with affiliate marketing, many people assume you need specific qualifications to get off to a good start, but this isn’t necessarily true! That being said, you will do better in your chosen career if you take the time to do your research. The better you understand this industry and your specific niche and the products you’re selling, the more likely it is you’ll be able to win over your audience. After all, understanding your product makes for a more convincing sales pitch.
There are a number of skills that a successful affiliate marketer will usually possess. Some of these are:
- Technical skills: You should be comfortable navigating and using social media and should have a fair understanding of website building and SEO.
- Time management skills: Freelance work isn’t without its struggles: learning how to manage your time effectively is certainly one of the biggest obstacles for some people.
- Writing skills: Whether you’re writing blog entries, social media posts or a script for your next YouTube video, it’s important to captivate audiences with your writing.
- Creativity: A necessity in this industry, creativity allows you to come up with ideas for high-quality content and also great solutions to marketing problems.
Do you have these skills? Then read on to find out how to start making money on affiliate marketing step by step.
How to Start an Affiliate Marketing Business
Right now, you likely have one pressing concern about affiliate marketing: how to start. Our guide on how to start affiliate marketing step by step should help answer this:
- Find a suitable affiliate program. The first thing to consider when thinking about how to start affiliate marketing websites is what affiliate program you’re going to choose. A few factors you should consider include the kinds of services and/or goods offered, available commissions and payment options. Once you’ve found the ideal program, you’re ready to sign up and get started.
- Begin your content creation journey. After you’ve been accepted into your ideal affiliate marketing program, you can then start making content, being sure to add the links provided to you. When someone from your audience clicks on that link and makes a purchase on the merchant’s site, you’ll earn your commission.
- Promote your affiliate links. Include these URLs wherever you’re allowed to! For example, you might share them on social media, on your website, in a blog post or in a newsletter. Just keep in mind that spamming your audience can be irritating, so be mindful of how you incorporate these links into your content.
- Enjoy your profits. Once you’ve reached the minimum payment amount, the network you joined will send you your earnings. Most affiliate networks offer a variety of payment methods, with PayPal and bank transfers being two of the most popular options.
Types of Affiliate Products: Physical vs. Information vs. Services
In the world of affiliate marketing, there are three broad types of products to consider. These are:
- Physical: This category includes any kind of physical product, such as clothing, accessories, books and crafting supplies.
- Information: These are digital products that are used for educational purposes — for example, online courses or study materials.
- Services: Selling services instead of products is another perfectly valid option. Examples of such services include website hosting and UX evaluation.
No single product is inherently better than the other. It’s simply a matter of personal preference. If you think you’d be better at selling a service than a product, then that’s precisely what you should do! Just remember that whatever product you try to sell, it should be something you are knowledgeable about and, ideally, have direct experience with.
Affiliate Marketing for Physical Products
Thanks to impressive affiliate programs like Amazon’s, physical products are fairly easy to promote. For instance, if you successfully enter the Amazon Associates program, you’ll be able to make a commission on literally any physical product on their site. Depending on what category the product falls within, you can earn a commission of anywhere from 1% to 4.5%.
There are plenty of other options besides Amazon, of course. However, since Amazon boasts the largest affiliate program in the world, it only makes sense as a jumping off point when thinking about how to start in affiliate marketing.
Some of the advantages of selling physical products include:
- Well-known brands are already reliable;
- They are easier to sell, as buyers can see what they’re getting;
- There are regular reorders, especially when compared to digital products.
Affiliate Marketing for Information Products
Authors can often be protective of their content, so it can be more difficult to secure a position as an affiliate for information products. However, if you’re able to make it work, you’ll find it more than worth the effort.
If you’re interested in marketing information products, you’ll usually find that you have to approach the creator directly. This is because there isn’t one central site to locate information products, as there can be with physical products.
Some of the advantages of selling information products include:
- Higher-priced products result in higher commissions;
- They’re easy to sell, as they help solve problems;
- There’s a greater sense of personality and individualism, which can make marketing easier.
Affiliate Marketing for Service Products
Think about the services you love and use frequently. What are they? What is it you like about them? How have they improved your life? If there is a service out there that you love and get a lot of use out of, there are likely others out there who will, too. Your in-depth knowledge of the product in question means you’re well-placed to market it to others.
For the most part, affiliate marketing for service products is conducted on a referral basis, with the affiliate earning a percentage of the referral fees.
Some of the advantages of selling service products include:
- Some services pay recurring commissions, making it easier to establish a stable income;
- Commissions are relatively high — usually between 15% and 30%;
- Quality services are always in high demand.
Affiliate Networks to Consider
If you’re interested in affiliate marketing, you’ll first need to find a suitable affiliate network. Just as a reminder, this is the name given to the platform that acts as an intermediary between affiliate marketers and merchants. These sites connect companies with affiliates and vice versa, making it easier for both affiliates and merchants to network efficiently.
When choosing an affiliate network, consider the following factors:
- Do you prefer a specific payment method? Is this option supported?
- Does the network charge fees? How expensive are they?
- What is the quality of the network’s publishers?
- Is the network transparent and communicative?
With these criteria in mind, here are a few of our top picks for affiliate networks!
ShareASale is home to a wide collection of merchants providing both physical and information products, including some reliable, well-known names you’re bound to recognize. This network has been around for a while and has thus built up a trustworthy reputation for itself.
PartnerStack allows affiliate marketers the chance to work with world-class B2B companies that offer information and tech-based products. When you join this network, you’ll also benefit from the knowledge and experience of partner program managers, who are dedicated to helping you make the most of your partnership with PartnerStack.
We’ve already mentioned Amazon, but it’s worth mentioning them once more just for the wide variety of physical goods hosted on their site. Although the commission rate is fairly low — 1% for categories like video games — the site’s popularity means you’re likely to see a steady stream of purchases.
Affiliate Marketing Mistakes You Never Want to Make
To ensure that you’re able to make the most out of your affiliate marketing gig, there are a few rookie mistakes that you should be sure to avoid. Below, we’ve included some of the most egregious mistakes you could make working in this industry:
- Publishing subpar content: The better the content you post, the more trustworthy you will seem to your audience members. They will come to see you as a reliable source of information about your niche and so will be more likely to take product recommendations from you.
- Neglecting to build audience relationships: Customers will be more likely to buy through you if you already have an established relationship. Again, the more they trust you, the more likely it is they’ll buy the goods and services you recommend.
- Purposefully misleading your audience: Don’t fall for the allure of making a quick buck. Be honest about the products and services on offer and steer clear of exaggerated claims.
Affiliate Marketing Tips
If you want to succeed in affiliate marketing, you would do well to arm yourself with as much knowledge as possible. To that end, we’ve gathered together a few top tips that should help you get off to a good start in the industry.
Don’t Overwhelm Your Reader With Options
When presenting your audience with affiliate link options, choose three to five of the most relevant products or services. This may seem like too few options, but, actually, including too many options can overwhelm the reader, meaning they’ll be less likely to buy anything at all.
Use SEO Strategies to Generate More Traffic
If you have your own website, make sure that you don’t neglect SEO best practices. A properly optimized website will show higher up in search engine results, meaning that it will be easier for people to find your site. This will increase traffic, resulting in more clicks on your affiliate links.
Demonstrate Your Expertise to Your Audience
Be sure to thoroughly research your niche, as well as the affiliate products you’re selling, and be sure to put this knowledge to good use in the content you post. If your content is well-researched and accurate, it will show your audience that you can be trusted, which will make them more likely to listen to you.
Avoid Seasonal Niches
Some niches are only relevant for part of the year. Wherever possible, these should be avoided, as you’ll be missing out on a consistent revenue stream throughout the rest of the year.
FAQ on How to Start Affiliate Marketing
Can I do affiliate marketing without any prior experience?
There’s no reason why you can’t become an affiliate marketer without any prior experience; however, you should conduct the appropriate amount of research before getting started. Jumping in blind to any endeavor is never advisable, and this is especially true of affiliate marketing. To stand the best chance of making a profit for yourself, be sure to seek guidance while getting started.
Are there any legal considerations or guidelines I need to be aware of?
Affiliate marketing is 100% legitimate, but there are a couple of legal considerations you should take into account before getting started. For one thing, you are required to provide a written policy somewhere on your site or social media page that states you are promoting products for commision.
Each country has its own set of regulations regarding affiliate marketing. In the States, the FTC regulates this particular industry, whereas nations in the European Union are regulated by the GDPR.
Do I need to have a website to start affiliate marketing?
No, you do not need a website to start affiliate marketing — though, admittedly, they do help! All you really need to get started in this industry is a steady stream of traffic. This could be generated by an Instagram page, a YouTube Channel or any other form of social media. As long as you have an audience, you are in a good position to get started with this new career path!
With that being said, having a well-maintained, regularly updated website can really help you make a larger impact on the digital marketing world. Using SEO techniques, you can craft a site that will appear high in the list of related search engine results, making it easier for people to find you and the products you’re selling.
How do I choose the right affiliate products or programs to promote?
When choosing affiliate products or programs to promote, consider what niche you are most interested in. It’s a lot easier to market something if you have a genuine interest in it — and if you’re actually knowledgeable about the niche in question, so much the better!
At the same time, there are some practical concerns you should take into account. Can you clearly define a target market for the product, and do you have any connection to it? If not, do you have some idea of how you might appeal to this audience? These are all important questions to ask yourself before jumping in with both feet.
How much does it cost to start affiliate marketing?
Investing money is a serious consideration, so you may be wondering how to start affiliate marketing for free. If so, good news! You don’t have to pay to join affiliate programs, meaning that it won’t cost you anything to get started in this line of work.
With that being said, you will be more successful in what you do if you have your own website to promote affiliate links on. This means that if you want to take your marketing efforts seriously you may have to contend with website hosting costs. In general, however, affiliate marketing is flexible enough that you can decide how and where your money will go.
How and when do I get paid as an affiliate marketer?
After joining an affiliate program, you will get paid when you meet the minimum payment amount. As for how you will be paid, that depends on the program you joined and the types of payment methods they offer. Means of payment vary between different programs, but you can usually count on the most popular methods being made available, such as PayPal and bank transfers. If you prefer a specific payment method, make sure to check that it’s offered by the program before signing up with them.
How long does it take to see results with affiliate marketing?
It’s difficult to determine exactly how long it will take for you to reach a steady income with affiliate marketing, if only because there are so many variables involved. On average, however, we find that it takes between a few weeks to a few months for someone to start seeing results. This depends on your niche, the size of your audience, your SEO ranking and more.
In general, the more effort you put into your marketing, the more effective your strategy and the less time it will take for you to achieve your goals. This is the best approach to take when thinking about how to start affiliate marketing.
Affiliate marketing represents a great opportunity for anyone looking to make passive income online, whether as a side gig or as their full-time occupation. If you’re working on a limited budget, this may actually prove to be an ideal choice, as affiliate marketing has very few overhead costs.
With that being said, when thinking about how to start affiliate marketing work, you must properly educate yourself and be open to being guided by experts on the matter. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself jumping straight into the deep end without knowing how to swim!
If you’re looking to start your affiliate marketing journey, we invite you to create an account with MGID to make the most of our advanced marketing tools and high-quality publishers. Get support and advice from your very own personal manager and a team of experienced creative specialists. With MGID, you’re bound to excel and make the most of the many opportunities that will come your way.