For individuals looking to try becoming an affiliate for the first time, here is how you, and anyone with an internet connection, can get started as an affiliate marketing representative.
Prepare for Launch
Let’s start with defining what affiliate marketing is, and Google sums it up succinctly in its dictionary entry:
For example, let’s say I sell mugs online. If you become my affiliate rep (aka affiliate partner), you can help me sell a mug somehow and I give you a cut of the profits. Pretty simple.
But maybe you don’t want to sell mugs. You know nothing about mugs or who would buy them. Now that you know what affiliate marketing is, the first step is to figure out what product or service you want to market. The good part is that there are literally millions of options to choose from! But, that’s also the bad part. Which do you choose?
What Do You Like? What Do You Know?
A good place to start is with a little introspection. What are your interests, hobbies, and/or expertise? What’s something you’re more passionate about than the rest of the general population? Can you write 500 words on this topic fairly easily? What do you find yourself reading or learning about just for fun? What products have you already recommended to your friends and family?
Once you have made a short list for yourself, now it’s time to vet your options to determine…
Is Your Niche Profitable?
You might be an expert in a certain niche, but in terms of affiliate marketing, it doesn’t do you any good if you can’t make much money off of it. The two main problems you will run into that may hinder your attempt are:
- Niche not popular enough — maybe you’re really, really into this one band; but no one else knows or cares about them. It’s going to be tough to market something so specific when there isn’t an audience.
- Niche too popular — you like Marvel movies. So does the rest of the planet. With a topic so popular, you’ll face too much competition unless you narrow down your scope.
Ideally, you’ll want to find a Goldilocks scenario where your venture involves a product or service that’s not too popular, but not too obscure. But always err on the side of “too popular.” That way, at least there is an audience to market to, even if it’s a crowded field. Need ideas? Here is a list of the top ten niches in affiliate marketing.
Once you have an idea of the niche you want to try out, do some Googling to see if there are affiliate programs out there for that niche. The more results, the more popular you know that niche is. Search “affiliate marketing programs for [niche]” and see what comes up.
What’s Your Bullhorn?
Meaning, what will be your method of drawing in an audience online? In general, you will have to become a “content creator” if you aren’t already, but what type of content? What type of Influencer do you want to be?
Blogging — If you’re a half-decent writer, writing blog content about your niche is a great, low-cost way to get started. It costs nearly nothing to buy a domain and slap a blogging platform like WordPress on it, and you’re on your way.
Video — Especially good for reviewing products, starting your own YouTube channel focused around a niche can quickly earn you both a following and the attention of affiliate merchants. Of course, producing videos is a much more involved process than just writing a blog post, but you don’t have to be Spielberg from the get-go.
Social Media — Maybe you already have a following on Instagram or Twitter or Facebook that you can leverage to shout-out products. These days, it’s hard to make a splash unless you’ve got tens of thousands of followers, but the social media component to your affiliate marketing can grow along with the other approaches (blogging, YouTube, etc) and eventually be a powerful bullhorn by itself.
Microsite — Similar to blogging but wider in scope, you can create an entire website dedicated to your niche. Think of it as sort of a one-stop-shop for people who are interested in learning about (and purchasing) a specific product or service. This one is more ambitious than the others, but also has the potential to propel your affiliate marketing into a full-fledged business venture.
There are plenty of other ways to get people’s attention online, and as technology marches forward, new ones crop up all the time. Keep sharp and keep creative as you embark into this world.
Put it in Action
Now that you’ve done your prep, you can start building an online presence for yourself. Fire up that laptop, iPhone camera, or Instagram and start creating content that will bring in eyeballs.
While the topic of “what makes for good affiliate marketing content” could fill an eBook in of itself, there are some basic guidelines that will help you get started:
Check out your competitors — What sort of posts are other marketers (Influencers, bloggers, YouTubers, etc) creating in your niche? Take inspiration from them (don’t copy them!) as you create your own posts.
Be truly informative — Google likes longer, thorough content both as text and as video (they own YouTube). Blog posts should be around 1200 words and videos that are in-depth, 10-minute long reviews are par for the course these days. Get nerdy with it.
Be visual — Especially if you’re going to leverage video or photos, you want the product to look as good as possible. And don’t rely on images you find online. Try to get your hands on the products you want to market. Think of it as an investment into your affiliate marketing business.
Have a personality — In our experience, the affiliate reps that have crafted a voice and personality always perform the best. Nameless, faceless reviewers don’t get very far. Consumers want to listen to (and purchase from) people they can trust. A good Influencer knows how to market themselves as much as the product.
Become an Affiliate
Now that you’ve got some content under your belt, now you can start signing up for the affiliate programs in your niche. Again, you can Google to see what’s available (“[product name] affiliate” will do the trick) and most of the time, companies that offer affiliate programs will have a sign-up form or an email for inquiry.
One great way to find companies to work with is via the Refersion Marketplace, which has hundreds of merchants looking to connect with reps just like you.
It’s free to register and easy to navigate, so you can find exactly the types of companies you want to work with. See their commission rates, read their terms & conditions (always read the terms & conditions!), and view images of their products.
The Refersion Marketplace is basically a shortcut to quickly find a merchant to partner with, instead of having to find them via Google and vet them on your own. These merchants have already been verified as legit by Refersion, so you know you’ll be working with quality businesses.
Embed Your Affiliate Links
Once you partner with a merchant, usually you will get a unique link to use that will track any customers who click on it and buy, so you get the credit and commission. The link may look something like:
Those who click on it will go to the product you’re helping to market, and as long as they buy within the cookie-length, that purchase will be attributed to you. So be sure to use your specific link in all cases! Your blog, your video, your social media; they should all use that link. Everything hinges on making sure you get people clicking that link!
And soon, you’ll make your first commission. Congratulations! Now…
Keep the Engines Firing
While many people call affiliate marketing “passive income,” it still takes an active hand to make sure the commissions keep coming. You’ll want to keep creating content so more customers keep coming. It’s a fun way to make a living, but it’s still making a living.
Trust us, we hear from merchants all the time who complain about lazy or flaky affiliate reps who don’t do much, or do things wrong (ie. violating those terms & conditions we told you to read!). The last thing we’d want is to give affiliate marketing a bad name, and you especially don’t want to give yourself a bad name. It may make potential merchants hesitate before working with you in the future.
The Bottom Line
So produce killer content, blast it out to everyone you can, and maintain a good level of communication with your merchant to make sure you’re on the right track (they really do want to hear from you!). Keep it going and you’ll see the benefits of your hard work soon enough.
The beauty is you can really work as much or as little as you want, since you work off commission. We’ve seen reps turn affiliate marketing into full-time jobs, while others keep it as a side hustle. It’s completely your choice.