So let’s jump right into the answer to the main question. Affiliate Marketing is not a scam. It is a legitimate work from home, online business generating extra, often passive income, for loads of people worldwide. Many people use this opportunity to supplement their income, sometimes replacing their normal job and generally provide an opportunity to retire early or at least in better shape. This is an affiliate site itself and so not completely independent although I hope my advice is unbiased.
You can feel a “but” coming right? The “but” is that there are scam artists out there so like all online things you need to keep your eyes open, do some homework and generally be alive from the neck up. I deal with some tell-tale scam “red flags” towards the end of this guide but let’s cover off a few key points about what affiliate marketing is and isn’t straight off.
- Affiliate Marketing. Affiliate marketing is simply matching a person looking to buy something with a supplier. If the customer goes to the supplier via a link on your website and buys a product – any product, not necessarily the one you featured – then you will be paid a commission.
- This is not a get-rich-quick scheme. Like all legitimate businesses, this one takes time, effort, training and some luck. You should not expect to make money your first day, week or even month. It will take time to learn the ropes, develop a following and establish your credibility. This may sound daunting but if you follow a steady education and development program it’s not really. A real case of eating the beast one mouthful at a time.
- Time Commitment. You can put as much time as you like into this. I would suggest that a minimum of 2-4 hours a week is required to keep things running. In the early stages you may put in time each day to work through the training and establish your website as you get caught up in the initial enthusiasm of setting up your own business. If you already have a job or, like most of us, have commitments to family, don’t put that at risk. Do have a plan and allocate some otherwise waste time from surfing the internet, watching TV or just being idle. Be warned though …. the community is very engaging so you can while away quite a bit of time talking online with others and watching some development videos but at least the time is productive and going to a good cause – YOU !!
- You will need a website but don’t freak out about this. The major affiliate programs all provide step by step training on how to do this. In all likelihood you’ll be using an online system call WordPress and even if you don’t join one of the training programs, there’s plenty of stuff out there on how to do this. Remember – YouTube is your friend.
- Driving Traffic. Ultimately success is all about getting people to your website, known as driving traffic, engaging them with something they are interested in and getting them to click through to one of the suppliers or products that you are promoting.
Who would this suit?
There a wide variety of people who get into affiliate marketing with an even greater number of reasons but generally they fall into four main categories:
- Those who want to stop working for a wage, own their own business, be in more control of their own destiny and have more independence. This doesn’t necessarily mean that people want to earn more income, although that’s always nice, but rather have some lifestyle and life choice options.
- Often successful people who wish to “retire early” and develop passive income streams without being tied to a 40++ hour grind each week.
- People looking to work from home. Often these are moms with daily children commitments but who have some time while the kids are at school.
- One thing all affiliate marketers have in common is a desire to earn some extra income. This could be to supplement income in retirement, add to income from a full time working partner or just cover the costs of a blog which is promoting an otherwise charitable or community based theme.
In my own case I was looking for something when I was notified of being made redundant. As you can imagine that was quite a shock. So I didn’t drop into debilitating depression, I started to look for ways to start a business with little or no money. I found this affiliate marketing thing and toe dipped into it. I had no experience with blogging, making websites or online marketing generally but I do have belief in myself. My first attempt with an affiliate program didn’t feel right – too pressured – so I looked around again and landed here with Wealthy Affiliates. Within a day I had my own basic website up and running and within a week had finished the initial training (all free). After three months my site is getting easily 100 hits a day, is ranked in Google and Bing …. and I’ve made three sales; modest ones sure but it’s a start and shows that this does work.
There are various categories of participants who make up the affiliate marketing ecosystem. They have different roles but without any one of them your affiliate marketing business will struggle to succeed.
- Customers or clients. First and foremost! Without an eventual buyer there is no business. It may seem obvious but some times people get so mix up in the process of marketing that they forget about the end user, the person who is actually going to part with some money to provide your commissions. They need to be engaged, respected, treated fairly and transparently and given value.
- You – The Publisher. You find the products and customers, makes the marketing material and run the campaigns. You do most of the work but you also get the vast majority of the profit – not to mention an education and great satisfaction along the way.
- The Affiliate Networks. These are the organizations that run the affiliate system on behalf of the individual suppliers. They have searchable lists of products and suppliers which you select from for your business niche. They will vet you, administer your commission payments, provide the marketing material and all important affiliate links for your website. Some online retailers are big enough to run their own affiliate programs, Amazon being the obvious example, but other common networks include Rakuten / LinkShare, ShareASale and Pepperjam. There’s lots out there but, at least initially, stick with the larger players with good range and reputation. Personally I’ve had the best success with ShareASale.
- The Advertiser or Supplier. These are the people who have the product you are marketing. Typically, you will find them through one of the affiliate networks. With a few exceptions they only pay you when a sale is made from your website link. If you want to get a quick idea of the range think of a product and google + affiliate program e.g weight loss + affiliate program …. prepare to by astounded by the number and range but also the potential opportunity.
- The portal or source of traffic. This is your website, just like this one is one of mine. This is the engine room of your business and is what attracts consistent traffic through your sales funnel to the supplier of the products your customer is looking for. Much of the reason it takes a while to earn consistent income is about getting your website featured high up the search engine ranking for your topic, ideally on the first page. There’s plenty of competition out there but no some much that is consistent in delivering value. This get explained at length in the training modules but getting authority and recognition for your site is a combination of reviews, articles, guides, comments from users and just straight numbers.
There’s another group involved in this industry as well, The Affiliate Marketing and Training Networks. While these networks are not strictly necessary to a successful online business they make it much, much easier. If you have the technical website skills, understand the online market place and a good grasp of how affiliate programs work then you probably don’t need them. For the rest of us mere mortals though, these guys add great value and are really an indispensable tool to success.
The two main ones I’ve looked at and signed up with are Affilorama and Wealthy Affiliates (WA). As I mentioned earlier while I got some good training and a start with Affilorama, I feel more comfortable with Wealthy Affiliates. Their pace suits my, perhaps slower uptake and I like the fact that I can replay, redo, reconsider the training until I completely get it. Apart from the fact that I could start two websites completely free, I like the one stop shop approach for advice, training and hosting. Other options seemed to have me dipping into my pocket pretty quickly to gain any real progress or anything other than some pretty basic training.
How does this work?
There is a well trodden path to success with affiliate marketing. As I’ve said a few times, it takes time and while there is the opportunity for you to add your own flair, don’t be in too much of a hurry. Step through whatever training system you’ve settled on and keep at it. Most people fail because they stop. They give up. There is a saying from the martial arts world that is relevant here:
Question: What’s a black belt?
Answer: A white belt who kept turning up.
It’s the same with affiliate marketing. Keep at it and you’ll get there – wherever that is for you.
Typically your progress will follow this kind of pattern
- Learn the basics
- Research and select your niche
- Establish a web site
- Publish interesting articles, reviews and blogs
- Start getting noticed by the search engines
- Research and sign up for a few affiliate programs
- Start using one or two social media channels to get more traffic e.g Pinterest
- Start getting regular traffic
- Make a few sales
- Monetize your site with a few ads
- Realize you’re making a modest regular income
- Invest some of your income to grow your business e.g paid marketing through Google & Bing
- Revenue is steadily increasing and your initial goals are within reach
- Leverage your business by contracting writers
- Consider and possibly develop other niches
- Set your goals a little higher then achieve them too
Are you sure this isn’t a scam?
Well I’m sure that what I’m doing through Wealthy Affiliates isn’t a scam. I know I’m honest but you don’t, right? So here’s some indicators which have and do give me confidence. If any of them are missing then start thinking carefully before you commit. The main point is that if you’re not parting with any money or credit card details, there’s no profit for a scammer so they wouldn’t do it – there’s nothing in it for them. The only sure way is to bite into the fruit and see if it’s a lemon or a peach but if it’s costing you nothing then you’ve nothing to lose.
- No money up front – sign up should be free
- No credit card details supplied ( watch out for the free for 30 days then billed scams)
- The owners are visible and publicly verifiable
- Solid community with few legitimate complaints – nothings ever perfect plus there’s’s always trolls out there
- Meaningful free initial training
- Free initial website and hosting (sometimes all the rest is a hook to get you locked into expensive hosting costs)
- It feels good – some times your own gut is the best measure. If it seems too good to be true then it probably isn’t.
Hopefully by now you can see that affiliate marketing is not only a real thing but also has great potential as a retirement supplement or work from home business for you. Sure it’s not instant and will take some effort and education but I can assure you it’s worth it; not just achieving your ultimate success but all the little milestone successes along the way. Even though you won’t have made any money by then that first message saying that an article on your website is ranked in Google is a great buzz !!
Although this isn’t about Wealthy Affiliates, I’ve talked a bit about what they have offered me. If that is something that could interest you then click one of the sign up links in my full review and I’ll be standing by to get you started in achieving whatever goal you’re aiming at.
Thank you for reading this article. I hope you found it informative. If you have any questions or comments please leave them in the box below and I’ll get back to you in a day or two.