Businesses for Beginners: Affiliate Marketing

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Businesses for Beginners: Affiliate Marketing

So far this series has focused on creating and selling products or services. But what if you don’t want to go that route? Affiliate marketing might just be for you.

This post is part of a series called Businesses for Beginners.

Out of all the business models in this series, affiliate marketing is by far the widest ranging.

There are a few subcategories within affiliate marketing, from the small time blogger to the huge money-making ad campaigns you see online.

What Is Affiliate Marketing?

Affiliate marketing is commission based advertising.

That means if you are the advertiser, you only get paid if you generate a sale.

Even if you didn’t know about affiliate marketing before, chances are you see it every day. Nearly every product or service has an affiliate program, and a huge portion of the ads you see online are using affiliate marketing.

It works very well online, because it is easy to track where the clicks came from.

The Three Categories of Affiliate Marketing

There are an endless variety of ways you can use the affiliate marketing model, but I’m going to talk about the three main ways that I see people doing it.

Category 1 – Personal Recommendations (the Blogger Method)

You can get paid simply by recommending products or services that you use.

If you have a blog, you can recommend products that you use and like, and get paid when someone buys them.

The easiest way to get started is with Amazon Associates. Sign up, and when you want to recommend something, just go to Amazon, click a button to generate a special link just for you, and include that link in the blog post. Then, whenever someone clicks the link and buys a product, you get a percentage of the sale.

Amazon commissions are not very high, but they can add up. In fact, with Amazon, you get a portion of whatever they buy within a certain timeframe, 24 hours I think.

If you’re ready to step up to a bigger commission, you can look for other products or services that you use. If you’re a blogger, chances are you’re paying for hosting. You can write a post recommending your hosting provider, using your affiliate link.

There are millions of opportunities out there for affiliate income. Do you like your blender? Chances are they have an affiliate program too.

If you want to step up even more, many of the online courses you see have commissions in the hundreds of dollars. Just get a few of those sales each month and you have a pretty nice side income from your blog.

Take a quick look around Commission Junction and ClickBank, two of the larger affiliate marketplaces, to see thousands of things you can become an affiliate for.

Being Ethical

You can see how this power could be used for evil. You can easily recommend things having never used them before, or bad products. If you do so, you can quickly ruin your reputation.

If you decide to do this, it’s really important that you only recommend products that you would truly recommend even if you weren’t being paid for them.

Businesses for Beginners: Affiliate Marketing

Category 2 – Building an Authority Site

This is very similar to category 1, just applied to a targeted market.

If you wanted to go beyond using just a personal blog, you can follow Pat Flynn ( and Spencer Haws ( methods, and build an authority site.

You can build a website around a topic, create high-quality valuable content, and monetize it by recommending products and services related to the topic.  Check out Pat Flynn’s niche site duel series.

This is basically the same idea as using a personal blog, but you’re more likely going to be able to build it into a bigger money generating site if it’s focused on a topic that people care about and trying to learn more.

What Is The Potential for Categories 1 & 2?

Affiliate marketing, because it’s so broad and so ubiquitous, is hard to give an estimate for. This one really is all up to you, and depends on your audience, quality of content, how much effort you put in, and your choice of products to recommend.

You could make nothing, or it could make you rich. Last month my buddy Johnny FD made $11,118.94 from affiliate income. That’s a lot, but he’s been working at it for at least five years.

The best known blogging affiliate marketer out there has to be Pat Flynn. In December he made $40,800 by recommending a hosting service, just one of his many affiliate recommendations.

I think this is best as a side business. Affiliate marketing seems to be a pretty slow burn – it starts from nothing and it slowly builds into something steady.

If you made me, I’d guess that $300-3000 per month is a good expectation for most people, without putting your whole energy into it.

In my opinion, this is a good business model if you are passionate about blogging or a specific topic. It should come from passion first, and the money will follow later. Plus, it becomes truly passive, which is a wonderful thing.

Learn More About Categories 1 & 2

If you want to learn more about making money with your blog, I’d suggest you check out what Pat Flynn has to say, starting with this overview. The only course that I know about is by Johnny FD, Earnest Affiliate (not an affiliate link). I have not taken this course, but my guess is it’s pretty good.

Category 3 – Advertising

As I said before, affiliate marketing is a very broad business. The next category I want to talk about is drastically different from the other types. It’s so different that it’s really a different business model. The only thing it shares with what I described above, is that you get a commission for a sale.

This model can be very similar to traditional advertising, just done online.

Have you ever been using a free app on your smart phone, and seen an ad pop-up, telling you to check out this other new app or website? Ever seen an ad for a dating website? Chances are they were from affiliates.

I actually know very little about this business model, but it’s something that you should be aware of, and people are making enormous sums of money doing it. They are not special people, and you don’t have to know about advertising to be successful.

Anybody can do this, but my impression is it’s a pretty high intensity business to get into.

What Is The Potential for Category 3?

You could lose a ton of money, or you could make a ton of money. This is an extremely high risk high reward business. I’ve heard of people making thousands of dollars per day.

Learn More About Category 3

I actually know very little about this kind of the affiliate marketing. If you’re interested in learning about it, Charles Ngo is one of the better known marketers, and you can learn a lot at his blog.

Johnny FD also has a good podcast episode discussing the different categories of affiliate marketing. His guests talk about Stack That Money as being a good place to start learning.

Are You An Affiliate?

Do any affiliate marketing? I’d love to hear about your experience! Just let me know in the comments below.

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