How to Make Money with Affiliate Marketing in 3 Easy Steps
How long do you need to wait before you can make money with a blog?
At least weekly I get asked that question in some form.
Don’t wait. 🙂
The biggest difference between a “hobby” blogger and a “full-time” blogger is the full-time blogger has a way to get paid.
Now, before you go hide in a cave and spend twelve months building an online course, I have something I’d rather see you do first.
It’s called affiliate marketing.
When I started my career coach blog back in 2009, the very first thing I did to monetize was research and find affiliate programs in my niche.
Now, my niche at the time was accounting & finance professionals. So, my first thought was, “I doubt that there are any affiliate programs in my niche.”
Boy, was I wrong!
After a little bit of research, I found:
- a BIG 4 accounting hiring guide that earned me $12.50 for every sale
- CED (Continuing Education Credit) online classes that earned me 50% of every sale
- an online CPA certification prep course that earned me 50% per sale
- an online job board that earned income every time someone clicked to view a job opening
All of the above (and more) allowed me to monetize my career coaching blog BEFORE I had created my own products.
The 3 Steps to Success with Affiliate Marketing
The good news is learning how to make money with affiliate marketing is fairly simple:
- Step 1: Register for Affiliate Marketing Programs
- Step 2: Create Your Affiliate Marketing Library
- Step 3: Promote your Affiliate Marketing Products
It really is that simple.
We will go further in-depth on each of the three steps in a moment, but first…
9 Reasons I Love Affiliate Marketing for Beginners
There are at least 9 reasons I LOVE affiliate marketing for beginners.
- No barrier to entry: You can literally sign up today and start promoting offers.
- No hidden costs: There’s zero cost to sign up.
- No risk: There’s no huge investment of time.
- No fulfillment: No customer support service needed.
- Monetize now: You can start promoting today.
- Serve your audience: You become a “resource” to your audience.
- Learn what your audience wants to buy: You can create your own products and services once you know what they want help with!
- Learn how to sell: Selling is part of operating a business and a skill you can develop.
- Income is mostly passive: You can earn affiliate income today from a blog post you wrote several months ago.
I guess you can tell why I love affiliate marketing. 🙂
Before we get into our 3-step plan for affiliate marketing success, let’s answer a few common questions.
What is affiliate marketing?
What exactly is affiliate marketing to begin with? Is affiliate marketing an MLM (multi-level marketing) business model? Is affiliate marketing just a get-rich-quick scheme?
The answer is no to both. Affiliate marketing is when creators of products allow you to promote their product and, in return, you earn a commission when someone buys.
The process is similar to you being a salesperson in the real world and earning a commission when other people make a purchase. However, what makes affiliate marketing so attractive is that you can scale your promotion strategy beyond having to talk with each person you come in contact with.
How does affiliate marketing work?
The great thing about affiliate marketing is there is zero startup cost to get started. All you need to do is get approved to promote the product (the process is easy). You will then be given a special affiliate link that is specifically attached to you.
When other people click on your link and then make a purchase, you will get credit. You will receive your commission check either by Paypal, checking account deposit, or a check in the mail.
What are the different types of affiliate marketing?
For simplification, I’m going to break affiliate marketing into four different categories. Each of them has its own unique advantages.
1. One-Time Affiliate Program
This is the most common type of affiliate program, and it’s been around since the dawn of the internet. You can find one-time affiliate commission programs all over the internet, including places like Amazon, Walmart, etc.
I’m calling it a one-time commission because you will receive a commission from each purchase made. Later, I’ll share some of my favorite ways to promote these programs.
2. Recurring Affiliate Program
What if you could make one sale and receive an on-going commission each and every month? The recurring affiliate program is by far my favorite one. You will mostly find these programs on products that have a monthly subscription. For example, I use and promote ConvertKit as my favorite email list building service.
Besides being a great tool, they currently offer a lifetime, recurring 33% commission on every person you refer. In other words, you make one sale, and then receive a commission check each and every month for as long as that person is a customer of ConvertKit.
3. Affiliate Launch Program
Affiliate launches have become powerful promotional tools over the last decade. These are usually related to online course programs that open once or twice per year. The reason they are such a powerful marketing tool is the built-in scarcity involved. They often have a limited time enrollment period.
Also, you don’t have to have a huge audience or mailing list in order to qualify to promote these programs. If this method interests you, I’d encourage to sign up to Matt McWilliams’ Affiliate Launch Notification List. You’ll hear about upcoming launches you can promote.
4. Affiliate Webinar Program
To take advantage of this program, you’ll need to be able to attract at least 150 or more webinar signups. The way you earn income with this strategy is to promote a webinar that someone else (your affiliate partner) will be teaching. They will handle all of the tech setup, running of the webinar, and even the promotional pitch.
All you are responsible for is promoting the webinar and getting people to register.
How to Make Money with Affiliate Marketing in 3 Easy Steps
Affiliate marketing is not a “get rich quick” scheme. But it is a simple model to earn an income once you know the steps. In order to be successful with affiliate marketing, you’ll need to execute three vital steps.
Step 1. Register for Affiliate Marketing Programs
For the majority of affiliate programs, you’ll just need to register an account. There is no approval process needed except for providing the right information. Every program will ask you to provide either a social security number or an EIN (Employer Identification Number) during the registration process.
I’d recommend that you apply for a Free EIN Number so that you’re not sharing your personal social security number all over the web. Check out our blog post on how to easily apply for your free EIN Number.
Secondly, you’ll also need to provide a way to get paid. Many affiliate programs pay via Paypal so it will be a necessity that you get a Paypal account. All you’ll need to share is your Paypal email address. Still, other programs will want to pay via direct deposit into a checking account. This is why it’s also a good idea to register for a free business checking account.
While it would be impossible to share all of the affiliate programs out there. Below is a list of some of my favorite places to register to get started in affiliate marketing. Later in step three, I’ll share what to do with your affiliate links in order to start making money.
Affiliate Marketing Directories
- CJ.com – Also known as Commission Junction, CJ.com has been around for decades. What’s great about this program is that it’s a directory of thousands of affiliate opportunities. Companies register their products and services with CJ in order to share their products with potential affiliate marketers. CJ has both physical and digital products to promote in their marketplace.
- ClickBank.com – ClickBank has also been around for a long time. Most of the products you’ll find here are digital in nature. They are usually either a software tool or an online course of some kind.
- Amazon.com – Yes! Amazon does have an affiliate program. You can read this blog post on how to get started with Amazon’s affiliate program. There are two primary benefits of registering as an Amazon Associate. First, they are a trusted brand online. Second, you get credit for everything in a customer’s shopping cart (not just what you referred them for).
- Linkshare.com – Another solid program that has some great products and services you can promote no matter what niche you serve.
Individual Affiliate Programs
In all of the programs shared above, you get access to promote products from many different companies. However, there are many companies who simply use their own affiliate program. The best way to find these programs is to:
- Go to their home page
- Scroll down to the bottom of the page
- Look for “Affiliate Program” or “Partner Program”
Below you’ll see an example from Shopify.com.
If the company’s page doesn’t have an obvious affiliate or partner link, you can also Google the company name with the phrase “affiliate program” or “partner program.”
Step 2. Create Your Affiliate Marketing Library
If you haven’t noticed by now, you’ll discover soon enough that it’s easy to become quickly scattered. Each affiliate marketing program has a unique login, a certain pay structure, etc. In order to keep your sanity, I’m going to recommend that you create a spreadsheet directory where all your programs will live.
The Affiliate Marketing Library Spreadsheet
I created a simple spreadsheet that helps keep me organized. With this spreadsheet, I’m able to quickly find my affiliate links at a moment’s notice and be reminded of the commission structure.
I have four columns on my spreadsheet to keep me organized: Name, Affiliate Link, Type, Special Notes.
- Name – This can be helpful when you need to find your affiliate link fast. You can sort the column by alphabetical order saving you precious time.
- Affiliate Link – This should be the “pretty” link you’ve set up NOT the raw affiliate link you were given. Sometimes affiliate programs switch the affiliate software you use. If you’ve created your own link using a plugin like Pretty Link Plugin, you’ll be able to easily change the target URL without changing your link.
- Type – Some affiliate programs pay instantly, lifetime recurring, or a certain percentage. This is where you can easily recall the terms.
- Special Notes – You can place anything you’d like in this column that would be helpful to remember.
Step 3. Promote your Affiliate Marketing Products
Now that you’ve registered and organized your affiliate links, it’s time to start promoting! I’m going to share with you my top eight affiliate promotion strategies.
Strategy #1: Blog Post Review Promotion
An easy and evergreen way to get started is to do blog post reviews. Of course, you'll need to launch a blog before you can use this strategy, which probably goes with out saying.
Write a post where you share the good, bad, and ugly about the product. The goal is not to “sell” the product, but to share either how to use it or your own personal experience with it.
As you write the post, you’ll share your personal affiliate link throughout the post.
Here’s an example of one I did for my review of Kajabi: The Kajabi Review: Is It Really Worth It?
What’s the cool part?
Months from now, you could receive a commission check from a blog post you wrote a long time ago.
PRO TIP: Be sure to use a free link shortener plugin like Pretty Link. Not only will it make your links look better, but it will be easier to change the raw affiliate link if that product ever changes the affiliate program they use.
Strategy #2: Website Recommended Tools Promotion
If you’re doubting whether or not your niche has affiliate programs, then at the very least you should follow this strategy. Set up a page on your blog called “Recommended Tools.” You can then share the products and services you use to run your own blog or online business.
You can share affiliate links for web hosting, email marketing, social media scheduling, etc. Once you have it all set up, be sure you have a link to this page in the navigation menu from your home page.
Strategy #3: Blog Post Mention Promotion
While this may sound similar to the first strategy, it is different. As you write blog posts, you’ll inevitably mention a product or service that has an affiliate program. Even though the focus of the blog post is not about that product, you have two choices. You can either place your affiliate link in the post or create a link that points back to your blog post review of that product.
This is a great way to sprinkle in affiliate links throughout your entire blog.
Strategy #4: YouTube Video Mention Promotion
Do you ever record videos for YouTube? If so, you should absolutely include affiliate links in the description area below your videos. I’ve done video tutorials showing how I use a software or tool and then mention my link that is displayed below the video.
This can be a great evergreen strategy to set up in your online business.
Strategy #5: Podcast Mention Promotion
If you have a podcast, you can also share affiliate links on your podcast episodes. There are two effective ways to do this.
First, you can create a 15-30 second commercial about the product. You can say something like, “This podcast episode is brought to you by…” Then share the link where they can go to learn more.
The second way you can share affiliate links on a podcast is to mention them in the content of the podcast itself. So, if I have a podcast about email marketing, then I might mention my affiliate link for ConvertKit since it’s my email marketing tool of choice.
Strategy #6: Webinar Promotion
If you love to teach, then you’ll love this strategy. Promote a free webinar on how you use a certain tool, product, or service. Spend 90% of the webinar on just showing how you use the tool. The other 10% of the webinar share your affiliate link as an easy way to get started.
Strategy #7: Facebook Live Promotion
If you have a mobile phone and a Facebook account, then you can do this strategy. Go live on Facebook and share your own experience or review of the product, then share your affiliate link in the comments.
Strategy #8: Email Marketing Promotion
Whether you have a small list or a large list, if done correctly, you can earn affiliate commissions by sending emails. You should disclose your affiliate relationship in the email.
This often works best if there is a time-sensitive discount or flash sale happening. You can also get effective results by sending an email that lists the benefits you’ve received by using the product.
Honestly, there are many more ways you can promote affiliate products, but these are my favorites.
If you follow the three steps above, you’ll begin to set up an evergreen system for obtaining affiliate commissions. Again, this is not a get-rich-quick scheme, but you can definitely earn some solid income over time.