In today’s society, it’s pretty normal to be working an hourly wage. But there’s actually much more than exchanging your time for a set amount of income. Another way to work and earn money is through passive income. With passive income, you put in the work for something upfront. And then, the money that comes in feels totally passive because you’re receiving payments days, weeks, months, even years after you put in all that work. All of the sudden, you’re earning money while you sleep.
One of those ways to make passive income is by something called “affiliate marketing.”
When you first start blogging, especially if one of the reasons you start blogging is to make a little money on the side, one of your first questions is probably ‘how can I make money blogging?’ One of the easiest ways to get started making money blogging is through affiliate marketing.
- You start building your relationship with the reader.
- Affiliate marketing helps you practice your sales skills.
- It’s typically easy to sign up for, and easy to implement, affiliate marketing.
- Once you set everything up, the income feels super passive.
And, yes: affiliate marketing can be incredibly passive. Earlier this year, Mike and I spent two weeks exploring France. I’m used to always having access to wifi or data, but this wasn’t the case in France. Plus, I had a very limited time to work on my blog, post to social media, etc. And yet – we’d still come back from a day of exploring and see that we’d gotten affiliate sales during our trip.
Like, what?! It felt like we didn’t have to do anything, when in fact we just put in work before we left.
And you can achieve this, too.
This guide introduces affiliate marketing for beginners, along with strategies anyone can implement on their blog to start making money from affiliate marketing.
This post contains affiliate links to keep our blog up and running!
To learn more about affiliate links, click here.
What is affiliate marketing?
First, you might be wondering: what the heck IS affiliate marketing?
Affiliate marketing is when you promote a company’s service or product and that promotion is tracked via a special link. Every time you inspire a reader to click your link and do something, like make a purchase, you receive a small commission or some form of compensation.
Affiliate marketing is a “cost-per-action” type of advertising. This means that advertisers/companies pay YOU a cost-per-action. For example, you can get paid a commission if someone clicks your link and does something like enter their email address or complete a survey. Alternatively, you can get paid a commission when someone clicks your link and makes a purchase after a certain amount of time.
The terms are different for each advertiser, so when you sign up for a program it’s best to read the fine print of the agreement to see what your audience would need to do in order for you to earn that commission.
Still, affiliate marketing is one of the easiest ways to start making money blogging. You’re basically promoting other companies’ services or products, so you don’t have to spend all the time it takes to create your own. It’s a great way to start learning what may or may not work with your audience.
Are you afraid you may seem inauthentic to your readers by promoting products?
- Promote companies and products that will benefit your audience
- Show your readers how a product can benefit them by writing a “how-to” guide
- Write informative, helpful posts that give readers a wealth of information (beyond the product)
- Connect with readers by providing a personal experience with the company, or a photo of you using the product!
So, how do you start helping your readers and monetizing your blog?
- Brainstorm a list of companies you want to promote in your niche
- Google “company/brand affiliate program”
- If they have an affiliate program, follow the steps to apply for their program
Can I use affiliate marketing on my blog?
If you’re using a free host (like Blogger, WordPress.com, or Wix), you have to adhere to your host’s Terms and Conditions. So while they may allow affiliate links, they may also restrict your use of them.
However, if you’re self-hosted, you own your content. You can use affiliate links at your own disclosure.
For beginners, it’s confusing – that’s why we distinguished the difference between free WordPress and self-hosted WordPress in this guide.
Starting a self-hosted and profitable blog is actually pretty affordable compared to the start-up costs of any other business. Through sites like Siteground and Bluehost, a non-tech-savvy person (trust me, that’s us) can start a blog at less than $4 per month and still get access to 24/7 customer service that walks you through any troubles you have.
Update: Bluehost has offered our readers a special price of $2.95/mo. hosting plans! Your purchase includes a domain so you can start blogging in just a few minutes after setup! Click here to take advantage of their special deal.
Regardless of what platform you’re promoting affiliate links, in the spirit of having a marketplace free of deception (aka a marketplace free of people promoting products just because they’re getting something from it, not because it’s totally awesome), there are some guidelines we bloggers have to follow.
Yup, there’s a legal side to affiliate marketing – but don’t let that dissuade you!
The Legal Side of Affiliate Marketing
First and foremost, please bear in mind that we are not lawyers, so our recommendations should not be taken as legal advice. We’ve simply done our research on FTC Endorsement Guidelines and summarized what we understand.
The American Federal Trade Commission (FTC) requires marketers/bloggers to disclose their relationships with companies if they receive something in exchange for something like an affiliate link, for example:
- If you receive a commission if someone uses your affiliate link,
- Any product or compensation a company gives you in exchange for posts on social media or your blog.
Initially, you might feel weird about having to disclose your relationship with companies. You may even fear that people won’t trust you if you’re disclosing that you could get paid if they use your affiliate link.
Scrap that mindset.
Don’t let your fear of losing readers stop you from the potential of making money blogging. On this blog, Reroute Lifestyle, we monetized from the get go and started making money immediately. On Krista’s lifestyle blog, she monetized from the get go and made her first $0.44 commission from Amazon Affiliates within one week of starting her blog.Push past your fear of being looked down upon for trying to make money blogging about your passion. Click To Tweet
Push past your fear of being looked down upon for trying to make money blogging about your passion. Instead, embrace the beauty of being totally upfront with your readers. Just strive to give your readers valuable and helpful content that makes them walk away from every post a better person.
Best Affiliate Marketing Programs for New Bloggers
ShareASale connects bloggers with companies like Etsy, Missguided, Tailwind, and Freshbooks. They have programs that are both commission-based and pay-per-lead, so there are always opportunities to make money via ShareASale.
The minimum you must make from ShareASale is $50 before you receive payment. Payments with ShareASale are sent via direct deposit or check via mail.
Awin connects bloggers with companies like Etsy, Trusted Housesitters, Fiverr, and Swagbucks. They also have programs that are both commission-based and pay-per-lead which makes it easy for bloggers to meet their $20 threshold.
They ask for $5 for you to sign up with Awin, but you get the $5 back in its entirety when you receive your first payment. Awin sends payments via direct deposit (US), check, or international wire.
If you don’t use Ebates, you’re missing out! First of all, bloggers in practically every niche can partner with Ebates – fashion, food, travel, personal finance, books… Your readers will love that Ebates is a totally free website where they can make money when they shop online.
Plus, your readers get $10 for using your referral link and making their first purchase (you can click here to use ours). And you get $5 per referral which scales as your amount of referrals grow per quarter.
Ebates sends quarterly payments via check, or Paypal.
Maven is perfect for bloggers in the lifestyle, travel, fashion, food or beauty niches. Basicalllyyy with Maven, you pin products you love to your own boards. Those boards are shareable via social media, your blog, your email list, etc. If someone clicks on a link from your board, and makes a purchase (it does not have to be the item you recommended), you get a commission for that sale!Remember to enter your blog URL when you apply because they add you to a list of contacts for special sponsored opportunities!
Maven’s minimum payment threshold is $20, and they send monthly payments via Paypal.
Flexoffers is an affiliate network that offers something for everyone. From surveys, to partnerships with personal finance companies, to shopping or travel affiliates, they definitely have something for everyone.
Their minimum payout threshold of $100 is sent via direct deposit (US) or Paypal.
There are products in every niche available via Amazon Affiliates – whether you’re writing about fitness, parenting, lifestyle, travel… yup, the list goes on! Amazon typically pays its affiliates 4% of sales for most products, and $5 for qualifying Audible subscriptions. No matter your niche, you can really make Amazon work for you and your audience.
Amazon’s $10 minimum payout threshold is paid via direct deposit (US) or Paypal.
Shopstyle Collective works best for fashion, lifestyle, and maybe even travel bloggers. You can create pretty widgets full of products and add the widgets to your blog posts. If someone clicks on your link, Shopstyle Collective pays a $0.05 commission. And if they make a purchase, you get a percentage of the sale!
Shopstyle Collective does require a minimum payment threshold of $100 payable via Paypal.
If you’re obsessed with creative digital products and have an audience of readers who love digital products (we’re talking themes, fonts, graphic packages, Photoshop brushes, etc.), they will LOVE Creative Market. They even give sets of free goodies every week, so you can keep your eye on them and let your audience know when you see something they’ll love.
Brandcycle is another affiliate program that connects bloggers with brands for practically every niche. Plus, they have a simple-to-navigate website! Once you are accepted into Brandcycle’s program, you have access to all of the brands they work with (you don’t have to apply to different brands – this is amazing for bloggers who want to start adding affiliate links to their posts).
10. Ultimate Bundles
Ultimate Bundles are bundles of products (eBooks, audiobooks, eCourses, etc.) you can offer to your audience at 90% off or more. These bundles go on sale during specific parts of the year. Even better, for every bundle you sell, you receive 40% commission. There are bundles for a variety of niches, including fitness, blogging, entrepreneurship, healthy living, and even travel.
Ultimate Bundles sends payments via Paypal on the 11th of the second month after the sale date.
How can I promote affiliate products?
Okay, so you’re set up with affiliate marketing programs. Now, how are you going to promote these products? There are probably countless ways to do so, but here are a few ideas to get you started:
- Write a step-by-step tutorial of the product
- Include products or companies in a list (gift list, tools list, etc.)
- Create a resources page with links to products and services you use
- Send affiliate promotions to your mailing list
- Use Pinterest to circulate affiliate links
- Write an evergreen article, and add a section on a relevant affiliate to it
And it’s always fun to get creative. For example, Ebates is well known as a way to get cash back in the personal finance niche. But, travel bloggers can promote Ebates to their readers when they’re writing about booking accommodations, hotels, or even rental cars!
Strive to think out of the box and really stand out to your readers in the way you promote your affiliate links!
Still struggling to think of affiliate programs you can join? Download our free list of affiliate programs!
What to do after you create your amazing content
So, you’ve created your incredible content and added affiliate links to it. Now what, right?!?! It’s totally possible to generate affiliate income as a small blogger, but regardless of such, you still need to drive traffic to your posts.
- Circulate your posts via Pinterest (if you’re not driving traffic with Pinterest, click here for our Pinterest guide for beginners)
- Promote your posts on Twitter
- Add your posts to promotional threads in Facebook groups (like this one!)
- Let your Instagram followers know by promoting the post in your Insta story
Most importantly, remember to consistently promote your posts. I have posts that still make money five or six months after they’ve been written. So always keep your money-making posts in your promotional rotation!
We actually use Tailwind to really boost our blog’s Pinterest exposure. For one, you can maintain and manage your pinning schedule (this way, you can even pin while you sleep). Also, you get access to Tailwind Tribes regardless of whether or not you pay for a subscription. Tailwind Tribes are every blogger’s dream – you are part of a community of people who pin your posts to their audience. And you get access to a community full of quality content to pin to your own boards.
And most importantly, stay true to you.
The combination of affiliate marketing and blogging is a great way to start telling others about products you love. When we love something, we rave about it. If you’re that type of person who can’t stop telling all your friends about the latest gadget or product you bought, you should definitely consider pouring your passion into a blog! We’ve written this guide on how to get started with your profitable blog.If you're THAT person who can't shut up about the latest trend, you should blog for $$$! Click To Tweet
Or maybe you’ve already started blogging, and you’re looking for a little more guidance. Here are other blogging-related posts:
- Blogging 101: Building Your Digital Empire & Boosting Your Blog Traffic with Ana from The She Approach
- How to Make Money Blogging: Make Your First $1,000 Blogging
- Reroute Lifestyle: Kick Your 9-5 and Be Your Own CEO
Blogging is an incredible way to write about something you feel passionate about, share that passion with the world, and even make money from it. But it’s definitely a learn-as-you-go activity.
Sometimes your journey to monetization is an overwhelming one. So we started this Facebook community for bloggers who want to take control of their own life and make money blogging. Feel free to join, introduce yourself, ask questions, share wins, and even participate in our weekly promotional threads.
Our favorite part of the discussion happens in the comments. What are ways you’re using affiliate marketing? This guide is affiliate marketing for beginners, which means we’re definitely working on bringing out an advanced guide. So, if you’ve been trying affiliate marketing, where do you struggle? What can we help you with?