This comprehensive guide, published by a 6-figure affiliate marketer, walks you through how to become an affiliate marketer.
Affiliate marketing is one of the best and most rewarding ways to make money from home. I know because I’ve earned 6-figures annually as an affiliate marketer for years. It’s a great way to supplement your income or even make a full-time living, working from the comfort of your home. But it’s not easy.
There’s a lot of competition out there, and if you don’t have the right skills and knowledge, you won’t be successful. That’s why I want to help you learn how to become an affiliate marketer.
With the U.S. affiliate marketing spend projected to reach 8.2 billion U.S. dollars by 2022, there’s a lot of potential to make money. But you need to know how to do it.
Before we get into the nitty-gritty of how to become an affiliate marketer, let’s first discuss what affiliate marketing is.
What is Affiliate Marketing?
Affiliate marketing is the process of earning a commission by promoting other people’s (or company’s) products.
You find a product you like, promote it to others, and earn a piece of the profit for each sale that you make.
It’s a simple process, but it’s not easy. There’s a lot of competition in the affiliate marketing world, and to be successful, you’ll need to put in the time and effort.
But if you’re willing to work hard, it can be a great way to earn extra income – or even a full-time income, like I do.
How Does Affiliate Marketing Work?
A brand or company creates an “affiliate program.” The affiliate program outlines how much commission the affiliate earns. The affiliate (or publisher) promotes the product on their website, blog, or social media channels. When someone clicks on the affiliate link and makes a purchase, the affiliate earns a commission.
It’s that simple. But like I said, it’s not easy. If it were, everyone would be doing it.
Who Affiliate Marketing is Good For
Anyone that influences a buying decision can be an affiliate marketer. That includes bloggers, YouTubers, Instagrammers, TikTokers, Podcasters, etc. – really anyone with an audience and a platform that can promote products.
The Pros and Cons of Affiliate Marketing
Now that you know a little bit more about affiliate marketing let’s discuss the pros and cons.
- You can make a lot of money (I make more than 10,000 in a single month and know others that earn 6-figures in a month. It’s a great way to supplement your income.
- You can work from home (or anywhere with an internet connection).
- It’s a flexible way to make money (you can set your own hours)
- There are no upfront costs (you don’t have to buy inventory)
- It’s relatively easy to get started.
- It’s creative
- You can be your own boss.
- You can work around your current job or commitments.
- It’s scalable
- It becomes passive income over time
- You don’t have to build anything
- There’s no inventory
- No clients or customers
- It’s a lot of work (you won’t make any money without putting in the time and effort)
- You need a platform (a website, blog, YouTube channel, etc.)
- It can take time to build an audience
- You need to be creative
- You need to be persistent
- Requires patience
- May not see income for a while
- Affiliate programs close without warning
- Varying commission rates
- You are at the mercy of algorithms
- It’s competitive
Now that you know a little more about affiliate marketing let’s discuss how to become an affiliate marketer.
How to Become an Affiliate Marketer
Becoming an affiliate marketer is not as simple as signing up for an affiliate program and promoting products. Anyone can do that. The key to success is in finding the right products to promote for your niche, building an audience, driving traffic to your affiliate links, and monitoring your results.
Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to become an affiliate marketer:
Step 1: Find a Profitable Niche
If you already have an audience, great! You can skip this step. But if you don’t have an audience or platform, the first step is to find a profitable niche.
For example, I earned a large following from teaching lead generation in the real estate niche. When I shifted to teaching people how to make money online, I was able to leverage the audience I already had. They trusted me because I had already helped them achieve their goals in the real estate industry.
But if you’re starting out, you don’t have that luxury. You need to find a niche that you can build an audience around. And the best way to do that is by finding a profitable niche.
There are a few different ways to find a profitable niche:
Look for gaps in the market: Find products or services that are missing in your niche. For example, when I started my blog, there weren’t many blogs teaching real estate lead-generation strategies. I was able to fill that gap and carve out a profitable niche.
Think about your passions and hobbies: What do you enjoy doing? Is there a way to make money from that? For example, could you start a blog about hiking gear if you love hiking? Or, if you’re passionate about personal finance, could you start a YouTube channel teaching people how to save money?
Look for problems that need solving: Another way to find a profitable niche is to look for problems that need solving. What pain points does your target audience have? What are they struggling with? Find products or services that can help them solve those problems.
For example, during the pandemic, live-streaming fitness classes became popular because people were stuck at home and needed a way to stay active. If you’re a fitness instructor, that could be a profitable niche for you.
Health, wealth, and relationships are some of the most profitable (albeit competitive) niches. But there are endless niches out there. And with a little creativity, you can find one that’s perfect for you.
Here’s a list of the most popular affiliate marketing niches for 2023:
- Health & Fitness
- Personal Finance: Wealth creation, Budgets, Debt reduction, Investing,
- Relationships & Dating
- Parenting & Family
- Food & Drink
- Hobbies & Crafts
- Beauty & Fashion
- Travel (#VanLife)
- Home Improvement & Gardening
- Outdoor life: Camping, Hunting, Fishing, Hiking, Golf
Finding a sub-niche of a niche can be profitable. For example, you could start a blog about solo female travel or budget travel rather than starting a general travel blog.
Instead of a generic beauty blog, you could start a blog about natural beauty products or Korean skincare.
Instead of wealth creation, you could focus on real estate investing or stock market investing.
Start small, and scale up. It’s less competitive, and you can build an audience more easily. Make sure there are affiliate programs that pay well in that niche.
More on that in a bit.
Step 2: Create a Target Audience
Getting a clear understanding of the target audience that you’re trying to reach is critical for your affiliate marketing success.
Who are they? What do they like? What do they dislike? Where do they hang out online? What motivates them to make a purchase?
The more you know about your target audience, the easier it will be to find products they’ll want to buy. And the easier it will be to sell to them.
You can’t choose a platform or start creating content until you know your target audience.
Let’s take the traveling niche as an example. Instead of starting with the broad traveling niche, we’ll take cruising as our sub-niche.
The first step is to understand who our target audience is. Are they families? Retirees? Young adults?
If you are going to specialize in high-ticket cruises, you might be aiming toward a more affluent audience. The age range is probably going to be 45 and up. They might have some disposable income and be looking for a luxurious vacation.
If you want to focus on budget cruises, your target audience will be younger. They might be college students or young adults who are just starting out in their careers. They could be young families who are looking for an affordable vacation.
Choosing a Platform
Now that you know your target audience, it’s time to start thinking about where you want to reach them.
Do they spend most of their time on social media? If so, which platform? Are they active in forums or online communities?
Do they prefer watching videos or reading blog posts?
Your answer to these questions will determine which platform you should focus on.
For example, if your target audience is young adults and you know they spend most of their time on TikTok, then that’s where you need to be.
On the other hand, if your target audience is retirees and you know they spend most of their time on Facebook, then that’s where you need to focus your efforts.
Youtube is best for long-form informational content like how-to videos and vlogs. Instagram is great for visuals like photos and short videos.
A podcast might be a good option if your target audience is busy professionals who commute to work or spend time driving.
And a blog might be the best platform if you want to write in-depth articles about your niche. And if you want to reach an active audience in online communities, Reddit would be a good platform to focus on.
There is no right or wrong answer here. It all depends on your target audience and where they spend their time online.
Consider your own familiarity with a platform as well. If you’re not comfortable with a particular platform, it will be difficult to produce high-quality content.
And if you’re not familiar with the algorithms of a particular platform, it will be difficult to get your content seen by your target audience.
For example, My main platform of choice is a WordPress blog. I’m very familiar with the platform, and I know how to get my content seen by my target audience by ranking on Google.
My second platform, which is supportive of my blog, is Youtube. I create tutorial-style videos complimenting my blog content and help me reach a wider audience.
I also have a presence on Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instagram, and Twitter, but those are my least active platforms. I only use them to share my blog posts and videos or engage with others in my niche.
But if I decided to start a TikTok account tomorrow, I would start from scratch. I would need to learn about the platform and figure out how to get my content seen. And that would take time away from my blog and Youtube, which are my main focus.
However, if I start promoting a product or building a niche where the audience is in TikTok, I would make the effort to learn the platform and create content for it.
The key here is to focus on one or two platforms that you’re comfortable with, and that will reach your target audience.
Don’t try to be everywhere at once. It’s better to have a smaller but engaged following on one.
So when choosing a platform, consider your target audience, your familiarity with the platform, and how much time you’re willing to invest in learning about it.
Choose an Affiliate Network
An affiliate network is a platform that connects advertisers with publishers.
Advertisers are usually companies that have products or services to sell. They need people to promote their products and are willing to pay a commission for each sale made through an affiliate link.
Publishers are usually bloggers, YouTubers, or social media influencers. They have an audience to promote products to.
Affiliate networks are the middlemen between advertisers and publishers. They provide a platform for both sides to connect and do business together.
There are many different affiliate networks to choose from, but some of the most popular ones include ShareASale, AWIN, Clickbank, and CJ.
Some affiliate marketers like to work within a single affiliate network and promote the programs offered within. They may like how the Datafeed works or the user interface is easy to use.
Others prefer to work with multiple affiliate networks, so they have a wider range of programs to choose from. Affiliate marketers like me find the product first and join the required network. That said, sometimes, a brand will be part of multiple networks with varying payouts in each.
For example, I promoted an online course builder for years that paid a one-time payout per conversion. I found the same brand in another network that offered a recurring commission each month the subscriber renewed their subscription. In this case, I would promote the recurring commission affiliate program because it was more lucrative.
It was easy to change my affiliate link because I use Thirsty Affiliates. I can change a link one-time, and it will update every use of that keyword and link throughout my WordPress website.
There’s no right or wrong answer here. It all comes down to what you’re looking for and what’s best for your business.
When joining an affiliate network, you’ll set up a profile that includes your websites and social channels. Brands will determine your qualifications – usually, they’re looking for established bloggers, YouTubers, or social media influencers with a large following and publishers that are “on-brand.”
Once you’re approved as an affiliate, you’ll be able to select the programs you’d like to promote. Many networks have a variety of programs to choose from, spanning different industries and niches.
You’ll then create special links called affiliate links that track your sales. You’ll earn a commission when someone clicks on your link and makes a purchase.
Affiliate networks will also provide you with resources and support to help you succeed as an affiliate marketer. These can include training materials, email and live chat support, and performance reporting tools.
Pick a Few Good Products to Promote
As an affiliate marketer, you’ll be promoting products from other companies. It’s important to choose products that you believe in and that your audience will want to buy.
Example of a good Affiliate Product
I promote an AI writing tool called Jasper. I pay for the software and use it myself. I like it because
- It pays 30%, which is a hefty commission.
- It pays recurring, which means I get paid every month as long as the person I refer remains a customer.
- It’s something my audience would be interested in
- The affiliate dashboard shows me sign-ups and conversions.
- 24% of my free-trial leads become paying subscribers. That’s significant!
Here are a few things to look for when choosing affiliate products:
It’s in your niche: You should only promote products that are related to your niche. For example, if you’re a dog trainer, you wouldn’t want to promote cat food.
A good product: Choose a product that’s high quality and likely to be popular with your audience. It should be something that you would use yourself. You may want to pass if there are many returns or chargebacks.
A good reputation: Choose products from companies with good reputations. You don’t want to promote a product only to have it fail and reflect badly on you.
A good payout structure: Choose products that offer high commissions, high conversions, and recurring commissions. You may earn less per sale, but you’ll eventually make more if they recur.
A good conversion rate: Choose products that convert well. This means people buy the product after clicking on your affiliate link. Some affiliate networks will disclose conversion rates and EPC rates (Earnings Per Click).
A good relationship with the affiliate manager: If they’re difficult to work with, it will make your job as an affiliate much harder.
Brand Assets: Make sure the company you’re promoting has good brand assets that you can use, such as logos and banner ads.
As an affiliate marketer, you’ll be promoting products from other companies. It’s important to choose products that you believe in and that your audience will want to buy.
Once you’ve identified your competitors, take a look at the products they are promoting. If several competitors in your space promote the same product, that brand likely has the Midas touch.
There’s frequently a wave when a new program is launched. The brand may be running a contest with special rewards for the publisher or influencer with the highest number of sign-ups. Or, in the case of the AI tool I promote, AI apps are trending, and everyone wants to get in on the action.
The best time to start promoting a product is when it’s new, and there’s a lot of buzz around it. This way, you can get in on the ground floor and help the product gain traction.
When a product is “hot,” more resources are often available from the affiliate program, such as B-roll or demo videos, high-quality pictures, influencer reviews, etc. You’ll also have a better chance of getting approved to promote the product.
How Affiliate Marketers Get Paid
Affiliate marketers get paid in several ways:
Pay per click: You get paid a commission every time someone clicks on your affiliate link, regardless of whether they buy anything. Here is a list of some pay-per-click affiliate programs.
Pay per sale: You only get paid when someone you refer buys the product. The commission is usually a percentage of the sale price. For example, if you refer someone to a $100 product and they buy it, you may earn a $10 commission.
Pay per lead: You get paid when you refer someone who takes an action, such as signing up for a free trial or giving their contact information.
Programs may offer variable commissions, recurring commissions, bonuses, and other types of compensation. You’ll find the payouts listed in the program’s terms of service. While most affiliate programs offer standard base pay, most are negotiable.
Tiered commissions: You may earn a higher commission as you refer more people to the program. For example, you may earn 5% for each person you refer but 10% for each person your referral refers.
Lifetime commissions: You get paid every time someone you refer buys the product for as long as they remain a customer.
Recurring commissions: You get paid every time someone you refer buys the product and for each subsequent purchase they make.
Bonuses: Some programs offer bonuses for referring high-value customers or making a certain number of sales in a given period.
Pay per Post: Some affiliate programs offer payment for a well-written article, social post, or video.
Most affiliate programs have a delay before you receive your commission, such as 30 or 60 days. This ensures that the customer has time to receive and use the product before you get credit for the sale.
Most affiliate programs will pay via Paypal, Stripe, or direct deposit to your bank account. I still get checks mailed to me for a few.
Thresholds are also common. Before requesting a payout, you may need to reach a minimum balance, such as $100.
Affiliate Program Terms of Service
When you join an affiliate program, you’ll need to agree to the terms of service. These outline the rules of the program and what’s expected of you as a publisher.
Be sure to read the terms of service carefully before signing up. Some programs have strict rules about how and where you can promote their products. For example, some prohibit affiliates from bidding on branded keywords (such as “Acme Widget”) in search engines. Others may require that you use a specific link format or disclose your affiliation when promoting their products.
The terms of service will also include information about payouts, such as the commission rate, payment schedule, and how to request a payout.
Some of the terms I look at right away are:
The Referral Window (cookie)
A tracking cookie is a small file that’s stored on the customer’s computer. When they visit the affiliate’s website, the tracking cookie sends information back to the affiliate program, allowing them to track which customers came from your website. This helps ensure that you’re credited with the sale.
The terms of service will specify the length of the cookie’s expiration, such as 30 or 60 days. This is when you have to refer a customer before they’re no longer considered your lead.
Cookies are being replaced due to privacy concerns, but there will be a solution for affiliate publishers.
The Commission Rate
In affiliate marketing, a commission rate is the percentage of the sale price that an affiliate receives for promoting a product. Most affiliate programs offer standard base pay, but commissions are often negotiable. Commission rates vary based on the program and the product.
The Payment Schedule
Most affiliate programs will pay you via PayPal, Stripe, or direct deposit to your bank account on a set schedule. For example, you may be paid weekly, monthly, or quarter. Be sure to read the terms of service carefully to find out when you’ll be paid.
Minimum Balance (Threshold)
In most cases, you must reach a minimum balance before requesting a payout. This threshold is usually $50 or more.
Most affiliate programs will pay you via PayPal, check, or direct deposit to your bank account. Some programs may also offer payment in Bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies. Be sure to read the terms of service carefully to find out which payment methods are available.
A Datafeed is a file containing a list of products and product information such as name, price, and description. Datafeeds are used by price comparison websites and shopping carts to display product information.
Some affiliate programs offer data feeds to their affiliates. This can be a helpful way to get started because you can use the data feed to create product listings on your website. Be sure to read the terms of service carefully to determine if this is an option.
EPC stands for “earnings per click.” It’s a metric that shows how much money you can earn for each click on your affiliate link. EPC is useful because it allows you to compare the earnings of different affiliate programs.
To calculate your EPC, divide your total earnings by the number of clicks on your affiliate links. For example, if you earned $100 from 1000 clicks, your EPC would be $0.10.
Most affiliate programs will allow you to use text links, banner ads, or product links. Be sure to read the terms of service carefully to find out which link types are allowed.
Text links are simple HTML code that you can place on your website. Banner ads are images that you can place on your website. Product links are special URLs that redirect customers to the product page when they click on them.
And as I mentioned earlier, I look for recurring commissions rather than one-time payouts. I have one relationship that is over $8,000 per month after several years of sending referrals that converted to subscribers and stayed with the program.
Creating Affiliate Content
Most affiliate marketers are publishers. That is, they have a blog, YouTube channel, or some other type of content platform.
Whether your goal is to rank on Google with written content, Youtube with videos, or build an audience on social media, your affiliate content should be high-quality and consistent.
Many affiliate marketers do well by demonstrating the products they promote. This can take many forms, such as showing off the day’s outfit, popular home hacks, or using an air fryer.
SaaS affiliate marketers like me create tutorials, comparisons, and product reviews.
When creating content, it’s important to keep your audience in mind. What are they interested in? What problems do they need to solve? Your content should provide value and answer these questions.
If you’re starting out, it may be helpful to create a content calendar. This will help you stay on track and create the right content for your audience.
Becoming an Affiliate Blogger
Most affiliate bloggers start by doing keyword research to find topics they think their audience is interested in.
They then create content around these topics, optimizing their posts for search engines.
They use email marketing and social media to promote their content and affiliate products as they grow their audience.
Some bloggers collaborate with brands as an influencer or through sponsored posts. This can be a great way to monetize your blog and build relationships with brands in your niche.
Becoming an Affiliate Youtuber:
1. Determine what you are interested in and passionate about. This could be anything from fashion to fitness, cooking to car repair.
2. Research affiliate marketing programs related to your chosen topic.
3. Sign up for an affiliate program, and include affiliate links in your description
4. Create videos on your chosen topic, highlighting the products or services you are promoting as an affiliate. Publish no less than one video per week, maybe two.
5. Communicate with your subscribers regularly, responding to comments and questions.
6. Use social media to promote your videos and affiliate links.
7. Keep creating great content that provides value to your viewers!
Becoming a Social Media Affiliate
1. Choose a niche and sign up for an affiliate program
2. Create social media accounts on the platforms your audience is most active on
3. Post quality content that provides value and promotes the products or services you are an affiliate for
4. Use hashtags, tagging, and other features to get your content seen by more people
5. Monitor your analytics to see what content is performing well and adjust your strategy accordingly
6. Keep growing your audience and producing quality content!
Becoming an Affiliate Advertiser
Paying for ads is different than earning organic traffic. It’s easier because you don’t have to produce content, but it can be more expensive.
To get started, you’ll need to choose a niche and sign up for an affiliate program that allows paid ads. Then, you can create ads directly through the affiliate network or through a tool like Google Ads or Facebook.
Once your ads are live, people will click on them and be taken to the merchant’s website or a landing page that you build. If they make a purchase, you’ll earn a commission!
Paid ads can be a great way to get immediate traffic and sales, but monitoring your results and adjusting your strategy as needed is important.
You might also explore display ads, which are banner ads that appear on websites. These can be effective, but you’ll need to ensure they’re placed on high-traffic websites relevant to your niche.
Start exploring paid advertising as an affiliate marketing strategy and see what works for you!
Using an Affiliate Disclosure
When you’re an affiliate marketer, you must let your audience know that you are promoting products or services for commissions. The FTC requires that you disclose this information in a clear and conspicuous manner.
There are a few different ways to do this, but the easiest is to include a sentence at the beginning of your post or video, letting your audience know you’re an affiliate. For example, “This post contains affiliate links, which means I may earn a commission if you purchase through my links.”
You can also use a banner or pop-up on your website. Whichever method you choose, just make sure it’s clear and easy for your audience to see!
An affiliate marketer posting on social media often forgets to disclose his or her affiliation. Next to the link, add something like #ad, #affiliatelink, or simply (affiliate).
For example, on YouTube, if you use affiliate links in your video descriptions and someone clicks on one of the product links, you must have a disclosure at the beginning of your video telling viewers that you will earn money if they purchase the product.
You don’t want to be the one that the federal trade commission fines for not following the rules!
Here’s a quick summary of what you need to do to use an affiliate disclosure:
1. Choose where you will disclose your affiliation. This could be in a blog post, at the beginning of a video, or in a banner on your website.
2. Write out your disclosure in a clear and conspicuous manner. For example, “This post contains affiliate links, which means I may earn a commission if you purchase through my links.”
3. Place your disclosure where it will be seen by your audience before they click on any affiliate links.
4. Make sure to include a disclosure whenever you use affiliate links, even if you think it’s obvious that you’re an affiliate.
5. Don’t bury your disclosure in the footer. That’s not obvious enough and can lead to fines from the FTC.
By following these simple guidelines, you can stay compliant with the law and keep your audience happy!
Tracking Affiliate Offers
When I first became an affiliate marketer, I only had a few programs to track. It was easy. Over time, it became more difficult as I moved into double-digit territory. Then, as I built relationships with more than 100 hundred programs, it became nearly impossible to see which money I earned and from where.
I use a tool called Affilimate to help me keep track of my affiliate offers. It integrates with most affiliate networks and allows you to track your progress, earnings, and more all in one place.
If you’re just starting, you can use a spreadsheet or pen and paper to keep track of your offers. Make sure you update it regularly so you don’t miss commissions!
As your affiliate marketing business grows, consider using a tool like Affilimate to help you stay organized and maximize your earnings.
In my opinion, becoming an affiliate marketer is one of the best ways to make money online. You can be your own boss, work from home, and choose your own hours. Plus, there are tons of affiliate programs out there to promote, so you’re sure to find one that fits your niche.
If you can build an audience and drive traffic to your affiliate links, you can make a lot of money! Remember to disclose your affiliation and use tracking tools to stay compliant with the law.