I’m all about adding multiple streams of income, so you don’t have to rely solely on one source (even if that is your 9 to 5 job!) And of course, the more passive that income is, the better! Which is why I want to talk about how to get started with affiliate marketing.
Why affiliate marketing?
Well, if you’re already blogging, it’s one of the easiest ways to make some extra money on the side, pretty passively. Basically you put together a blog post that would be appealing to your target market, promote it on social media (Pinterest, specifically), and watch the passive income come in.
Now, I realize that is over-simplifying it, but I’m here today to break down each of those steps into actionable advice.
First, let’s talk about passive income… what is it, exactly?
I go into this more in-depth in What Is Passive Income? (That link will open in a new tab so you won’t lose your place here!) but basically passive income (in the way we’re covering it today) is money that you make on something you’ve done once (like creating a blog post with affiliate links) and you continue to earn money from that thing for months or years to come.
I will say this: making money with blogging and affiliate marketing is almost always a long game: you’re NOT going to get rich overnight (unless you hit the Internet “lotto” and you have a post go viral… if so, lucky you!) In fact, you may never get rich from it at all.
But if you could make an extra $100-1500 a month with affiliate marketing, wouldn’t that be awesome? I think so!
I feel like I need to add a little income disclaimer here: just like any other aspect of your business, the income I mention is not guaranteed, and results will vary (depending on so many things, like: the effort you put into your blog posts, promoting them, your followers, any advertising you may or may not do, the products and/or services you choose to promote, etc.) I’m not trying to be negative! But I do want to give you a realistic view. My first month as an Amazon affiliate I earned $3.31. Soo… yeeeaaah! Not exactly rolling in cash! 😁
But, that $3.31 came from sales on a blog post where I shared my favorite business books. I posted the page once and it continues to make me money (in the form of passive income) every month.
So that, in a nutshell, is passive income.
Now let’s talk about affiliate marketing: what is it, exactly?
The dry definition is this: an arrangement between two businesses (you and another business) where you agree to promote their products and/or services, and in exchange they pay you a percentage of each item sold in commissions. Percentages are typically between 3%-50%, depending on the companies you’re working with. They may also pay you a commission for leads, or a flat rate per sale.
The person who buys the product and/or service is not charged more for it based on this arrangement (and in fact, you can sometimes convince companies to offer discounts to you blog readers in order to get more sales! But that’s a more advanced idea, and so we won’t worry about that just yet.) And the company you’re working with will track each person who clicks on your link for a limited amount of time (typically 30-120 days, in the case of Amazon it’s just 24 hours). If that person comes back later and makes a purchase within the pre-determined time period, you will earn a commission.
There are a couple of different types of affiliate programs (also know as “referral programs”): those that are directly operated by the company you are an affiliate for (like Amazon or ConvertKit), and affiliate networks: like AWIN (my personal favorite), ShareASale, MaxBounty, Skimlinks, and more.
Networks are nice because you sign up within the network, and then pick and choose which companies you want to work with from their list. I love AWIN (mostly) because they are the affiliate network for Etsy, and I love being an affiliate for Etsy! (I made a video class about that and you can take it right here for free!).
Sometimes networks will pay yo to refer other affiliates, too! It’s a win-win! (That’s called two-tier affiliate marketing and you can read about it here.)
But for the most part, you will probably earn commissions by creating blog posts about or around products and services you either: use and love, or love and want. You may also create posts around what you think your target reader uses/wants/and loves! The ultimate is when there is an overlap.
You’ve probably seen this in action on blogs and places like Pinterest. If there is a gift round up, or an outfit post on Pinterest, it’s more than likely monetized with affiliate marketing. But now that you know you can make money as an affiliate, it’s your turn to create a post with affiliate links!
How to Get Started with Affiliate Marketing
First you’ll want to decide on a business to become an affiliate for. You do this by thinking about your blog audience, first.
Who is your target reader? Do you have an avatar for them? What might they like to read about on your blog?
Let’s get into this a little bit… If you’ve been blogging about your art, and all of a sudden you start blogging about how you can get a logo made on Fiverr for $5, it might not be a good fit. But if most of your readers are say, 30-40 year old moms who love to shop online, you could blog about things like:
- Your favorite Etsy finds
- Deals you found at Target
- Art you love
- How to style a room with art (using affiliate links for the furniture and decor)
- DIY art projects
If you’re a jewelry maker, you could blog outfits that go with your jewelry. Same goes for accessory makers! Clothing makers could blog about what jewelry and accessories to go with your clothes. If you make products for kids, why not blog about children’s room decor, or little’s fashion?
Hopefully these ideas are giving you some inspiration for your exact area of expertise. (If not, tell me about what you do in the comments below, and I will help you try to come up with some good ideas!)
You could also do product review posts, include affiliate links on your resources page, share affiliate links in social media posts, email you list with affiliate offers (although don’t do this with Amazon: they have a strict no-email policy for their affiliates!), write a tutorial using a product or products, and you can even add affiliate links to old posts (where appropriate.)
Once you’ve got a general idea of what kind of blog posts you might start with, find a company or companies to become an affiliate for.
You can join an affiliate network, like these:
- AWIN – this network includes companies like Etsy, Aliexpress, Paperchase, Fiverr, CoastalCo, FabFitFun, and around 200 more.
- ShareASale – they include companies like RedBubble, TailWind, CreativeLive, Blick Art Supplies, PicMonkey, Zazzle, Freshbooks, Craftsy, and 4400+ more!
- Skimlinks – this affiliate network partners with companies like Sephora, Nordstom, Udemy, Freshly, Society6, Target and 23k+ more. (YEP, 23,000+ companies you can partner with immediately upon approval into Skimlinks!)
- FlexOffers – this affiliate network has over 10,000 merchants (that’s so many, it can feel overwhelming… but don’t let it be! Just choose the companies that are the best fit for you and your blog, one at a time.) They include companies like Target, Urban Outfitters, Nordstrom, Hobby Lobby, StubHub, Khols and (obviously) many more.
Some larger companies sign up with multiple affiliate networks (you’ll notice that Target and Society6 were both listed under two above) and/or may have their own affiliate program. If you know of a specific company you’d like to be an affiliate for, simply go to their website and scroll to the bottom and look for something like “affiliate program,” “referral program,” or “Partners.” If you don’t see anything right away, you can also Google it. Just search for “Does Xcompanyname have an affiliate program?”
Once you’ve chosen one or two (or more!) companies to be an affiliate for, you’ll have to apply. Sometimes you’ll be instantly approved (or not! I was turned down instantly for a clothing company, with no explanation at all), sometimes it will take a few days. It all depends on the company(s) you’re applying to.
If you’re turned down there are two things you can do: suck it up and move on, or, if you really want to work with a certain company, find the affiliate contact email and ask why you weren’t approved. I had a friend go through that when she applied for the Etsy affiliate program, and she asked them why, she got feedback, and she did what they asked her to do. After that she asked to be reconsidered and was accepted!
So a no in this case isn’t always a “hard” no, it could be a “we need you to do x, y and/or z and then we can reconsider your application.“
While you wait for your approval, why not start creating your blog post now? Programs like AWIN and Skimlinks allow you to add a snippet of code to your posts (before or after you’ve published them) that makes any direct link in your post to a company you’re accepted as an affiliate for a live affiliate link. Pretty cool!
One thing to note before you start blogging with affiliate links:
As you probably noticed, I included a disclosure at the top of this page that this post contains affiliate links. That is because the FTC requires that I do so. It’s to protect consumers from being mislead by endorsements and such. It’s kind of a bummer, but hey, it’s the law! So make sure you understand the law and disclose any pages with affiliate links – and not just in blog posts but also anytime you share links in an email, social media post, etc. YES, there are people who skip this part, but that doesn’t mean it’s okay.
Make even more money with two-tier affiliate program or recurring payouts.
Two-tier affiliate programs not only pay you on the sales you refer, but when you refer other affiliates and they make sales, you earn a portion of that, too. Some companies that offer this are: Printful, RedBubble, ShareASale, FlexOffers, MaxBounty, Skimlinks, etc.
Recurring payouts are the bee’s knees, if you ask me! These occur when you sell a product that is, say, a monthly membership or software application. You get paid on referred customers, typically for the life of that customer, or, in some cases, for a pre-determined amount of time (like 9 months or 1 year). ConvertKit is one such company (which is GREAT for me, as I use them and love them so much, they are easy to recommend!) Some others I use and recommend are ClickFunnels, Shopify and Tailwind.
The fun part: creating your post!
As I mentioned above, there are many different ways you can include affiliate links in your website and beyond. But for today, let’s say I was doing a round-up of modern, handmade jewelry.
I would first log into Etsy and search for modern jewelry and open anything I want to include in a new tab. I usually shoot for 10-15 items in one blog post. I will almost always have individual pictures of each item in the post, as well as a tall, Pinterest-friendly image at the top that includes some, or all, of the items I’ve included in the round-up. Here is an example of what I mean from a recent post I created:
These alt-text descriptions help in a few ways: it’s great for SEO, but it also helps auto-populate the description when someone (yourself included) goes to save the images onto Pinterest, instead of it just saying something like “IMG276e7_etsy.jpg” or worse: nothing at all! And Pinterest is my favorite place to promote these types of blog posts. (Well, ALL blog posts, actually!)
I really love promoting things with affiliate marketing. (I mean, obviously with this website and 2 niche sites that earn income almost 100% exclusively from affiliate marketing!) It feels like a genuine win-win for myself and other businesses (from small, one person online businesses to, well, Amazon!😋)
And don’t worry about those makers on Etsy. Because Etsy is the one that pays you the commissions: not the sellers! Etsy considers it part of their marketing budget, so you’re never taking any income away from the seller(s).
There you have it: how to get started with affiliate marketing! And once you get started, you can just create more and more posts like this, promote them on Pinterest and other social media, and over time your affiliate income can grow and grow! It’s pretty awesome stuff, if you ask me.