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Is Affiliate Marketing Legit?

Is Affiliate Marketing Legit? (Everything You Need to Know) 

Type the words “affiliate marketing” into Google, and you’ll be greeted with a million different definitions of this side hustle. Some sites even say that the affiliate marketing industry is a complete scam and not worth your time and energy.

While it may sound too good to be true, affiliate marketing is legit and it can allow you to turn your passion project into a lucrative, passive income source. However, building your affiliate marketing business will take more time and commitment than certain affiliate marketing gurus (aka influencers) may lead you to think.

Today, we’ll help clear up the misinformation, tell you exactly what affiliate marketing is, why this side hustle is legit, and everything else you need to know about affiliate marketing.

We’ll also share some of the best affiliate marketing programs available for beginners (carefully selected with our expert eyes).

What is Affiliate Marketing?

What is Affiliate marketing?

If you’re…

  • an avid gamer streaming on Twitch,
  • a digital nomad blogger sharing your travels and experiences with fellow wanderlusters, 
  • a YouTuber vlogging all your home DIY projects and crafty creations…
  • a passionate fashionista sharing your daily fits
  • anyone looking to share your internet finds or preferred products

Good news! Affiliate marketing is going to be right up your alley.

Affiliate marketing is a strategy for transforming your passion into a marketing side hustle! 

You’re essentially paid to promote products that represent your passions in the content you create. 

Out of all the side hustles out there, affiliate marketing is by far one of the most rewarding side hustles for content creators because, as any artist would agree, the tools of the art are gems discovered no better way than by recommendations from like-minded creatives. 

Recommending products or services that you truly care about to your audience (and likely already use yourself) keeps the community and resources strong in the industry you’re passionate about!

Here’s how affiliate marketing works: 

  1. Consider the kinds of services and products that align with your online content, and would love to share with your audience. For example, if you’re a gamer you could look for companies that produce gaming peripherals or streaming gear. 
  2. Apply to the company’s (the merchant) dedicated affiliate program. Once you’ve found a product or service you love, you can usually find information about the signup process on their FAQ page. 

Some companies only operate their affiliate programs through third-party affiliate networks and don’t offer direct affiliate programs. 

  1. Wait until your application is approved by the merchant. The exact wait time can vary, though you generally hear back (and hopefully get approval) within a week.
  2. Request to be an affiliate (aka publisher) of the product or service you’re interested in. The merchant or network will then provide you with a special “affiliate” link that links back to this specific product or service. 
  3. Add the affiliate link to your blog posts, video descriptions, or social media pages, and promote the product or service to your audience, explaining why you love it (and why they’ll likely love it too!). 

For every user that clicks on the affiliate link, and then engages with the merchant’s business, you receive a commission. The exact commission can vary, but you’ll typically receive more if the referred user goes on to purchase the merchant’s products or services.

Affiliate marketing fits many different lifestyles, and it’s a relatively easy venture to get into — even for 9-5 office workers and stay-at-home parents battling hectic school day mornings! 

There are no startup costs to worry about, and the dedication required is a short list: 1) create your content (which you may be doing anyway), 2) connect with affiliates (affiliate network platforms manage your relationships for you), and 3) include affiliate links throughout your content.

And, while you’re talking about your passions and strategically sprinkling a few links throughout, your content goes on to generate passive income for years to come.

Best Affiliate Marketing Programs (and Networks)

Best Affiliate programs and networks

To start affiliate marketing, you can ask a merchant directly for enrollment in their affiliate program. Alternatively, you can find merchants through an affiliate network — let your decision be guided by whether you’re scoping the landscape for affiliate opportunities to match your content, or already have a fave merchant in mind and are dying to strike an affiliate relationship with them. 

Affiliate networks are third-party platforms that facilitate your connection with merchants of your choice from a database. Working through a network saves you the hassle of having to research and find relevant affiliate programs yourself.

*Note that some merchants also only offer their affiliate programs through affiliate networks, so it’s important to familiarize yourself with a network and the merchants they work with to choose one that’s right for your content.

Best Affiliate Marketing Networks for Beginners 

Joining an affiliate network can be a convenient way for beginner publishers to start building their businesses. Most also provide additional tools and features (like advanced data tracking) to support you as you develop your affiliate side hustle. However, some do have stricter eligibility criteria than independent affiliate programs. 

Some of the best affiliate marketing networks include:

  • CJ Affiliate: Wide selection of brands in all different industries, including big names like Verizon, Barnes & Noble, and Tripadvisor. Releases payments on the 20th of each month, though affiliates must earn at least $50 in commissions to receive the payout. 
  • ShareASale: The catalog primarily consists of small and medium-sized companies (who are much more likely to work with beginner affiliates than big brands!). Pay is issued on the 20th of each month, with a minimum payment threshold of $50.
  • ClickBank: Specializes in digital products, such as online courses and software. Pays on a weekly or bi-weekly basis, with a minimum payment threshold of $10. 
  • Impact: Known for its easy-to-use interface and works with brands of all sizes, such as Lenovo, Adidas, and Cricut. Impact has a minimum payment threshold of $10, and you can choose to be paid on a fixed day of the month or when your balance reaches a certain amount (you can set this at $10 or higher).

The 3 Best Affiliate Marketing Programs Offered by Merchants

We’ll share some of our all-time favorite marketing programs below (two of which operate through beginner-friendly affiliate networks!). We’ve scoured the web for you and highlighted options that we feel offer competitive commission rates and are accessible to beginners. 

Cricut (via Impact)

Cricut makes smart cutting machines for cutting shapes and designs out of materials like paper, vinyl, and leather. You can join Cricut as an affiliate, and encourage home crafter creativity, by promoting the company and their products on your DIY vlog or other media.

As a Cricut affiliate, you can make 8%-12% commission (the company touts 25% but our review found that a little misleading), and affiliates get a one-time 30%-off discount code for products so you can upgrade your own home crafting. 

We love Cricut’s around-the-clock support, and their weekly newsletter highlighting the latest promotions and incentives to help affiliates maximize earnings. 

Tripadvisor (via CJ Affiliate)

Tripadvisor is a widely trusted travel brand that helps the digital nomads among us land incredible adventures as well as get those great hotel bookings with wifi so we can blog about our travels! 

As a Tripadvisor affiliate, you can keep your fellow hikers, backpackers, and road trippers engaged by including Tripadvisor’s hotel links to your blog posts and website pages. 

For every user that clicks on a hotel link, and then engages with a hotel booking partner, you receive a commission. The exact commission can vary, but it’s at least 50% of the revenue Tripadvisor earns from the hotel booking partner.

Though your audience already knows and trusts Tripadvisor as a top brand in the travel industry, just be mindful that the industry is competitive and you’ll likely need to work extra hard to find a way to stand out from the crowd.

Amazon Associates

Amazon Associates is one of the largest affiliate programs in the world and it comes with a low entry barrier that makes it accessible for beginners. 

You can apply if you have a website, blog, or social media account, and when you’re accepted into the program you’ll be able to get affiliate links for millions of products in all different categories, from pet care to kitchen appliances.

The commission rate can vary depending on the products you promote, but expect to receive up to 10%. While this may seem small, Amazon has extremely high conversion rates because it’s the most popular e-commerce platform out there. Plus, its vast product catalog means finding products that relate to your content is a breeze. 

The Amazon Associates program is a great choice for bloggers who love to review products and publish buyer’s guides, as they can naturally incorporate multiple recommendations (and therefore affiliate links) into their posts. 

However, some product categories have extremely low commission rates. You should take the time to research if your particular niche area is profitable on Amazon Associates, and if not, consider other options.

How Much Can I Make Doing Affiliate Marketing?

How much can I make affiliate marketing?

On average, beginner part-time and freelance publishers earn around $100 and $500 per month, and those with a large online presence and wide audience increase to $1,000 per month (the most successful affiliate marketers can even earn thousands!).

Top Tip: Treat this as a rough guideline; Affiliate marketing isn’t a get-rich-quick scheme The exact amount you can make doing affiliate marketing can vary drastically, depending on the affiliate program you use (i.e. commission rates), your audience outreach, and user engagement with your platform. 

Beginners, don’t lose heart! Though you might not think that your initial profits look like much, remember that $100 to $500 is a relatively substantial profit for beginner freelancers. Most work-from-home gigs in the beginning stage offer less net profit due to the costs of starting a business, but with affiliate marketing, there are no startup costs involved. 

Plus, while you do have to keep an active online presence, you don’t have to put in as much time, effort, and energy as an affiliate marketer as you might for other business ventures. 

Getting experience as an affiliate can also unlock more career opportunities for you later down the line, many of which can be incredibly lucrative! As an example, full-time, salaried affiliate marketers can expect to earn between $58 to $105k on average per year.

How to Start Affiliate Marketing

How to Start Affiliate Marketing

Anyone who is “chronically” online and loves to share their passions with the world, whether through a blog, streaming site, or dedicated website, has the opportunity to create a reliable passive income source through affiliate marketing!

Our affiliate marketing how-to is adapted from our dear partner, Michelle Schroeder-Gardner’s all-inclusive course for beginner publishers. 

Here’s a snapshot of the first steps to get you started: 

  1. Consider an area (aka niche) that you’re interested in and passionate about. This can be practically any area (even work-from-home office supplies!), provided you can stay motivated enough to discuss it at length. 
  2. Gradually establish an online presence in this area. You can set up a blog (check out Blog Start-Up 101), create a social media page on a platform like Facebook, or build a website using a beginner-friendly website builder. 

While establishing an online presence may sound overwhelming and time-consuming at first, you likely already HAVE an online presence of some sort. 

Do you post crafty DIY tutorials on your Facebook page? Do you have a personal blog where you share recipes with family and friends? Great! Use your current foundation and expand your presence — it just takes consistency and time. 

  1. Apply to affiliate programs and/or networks that align with your niche. Find hundreds more affiliate opportunities beyond our suggestions by plugging in a search for [your niche] affiliate program

Be sure to familiarize yourself with the eligibility criteria, commission rates, and payment procedures for the affiliate platform you choose.

  1. Create content that connects with your target audience and allows you to incorporate affiliate links naturally. For example, if you have an affiliate link for a camera, you could create a “must-have road trip gear” blog post and list a camera as an option. 

You can then discuss the pros of taking a camera on your travels, highlight how there are some budget-friendly cameras on the market, and then specifically recommend the camera product with its affiliate link. 

  1. Proofread, proofread, and proofread some more. You don’t have to produce the next Shakespearean play, but your content should be polished and free of awkward typos and grammar mistakes

Want to get better at writing and blogging? Watch Money-Saving Mom’s free webinar!

  1. Continue to grow your audience (and affiliate traffic) by marketing yourself online. Think SEO practices, collaborations with other content creators, and email campaigns. Don’t worry if you don’t understand all this lingo now. 

These digital marketing strategies are pretty simple and can be learned over time while you become more confident with the online realm and all its intricacies. We’ve posted about essential business tools that can help.

Michelle’s affiliate marketing course covers everything you need to know, from how to select the right affiliate products to how to increase conversions. She offers the course at whatever pace works for you, and presents the content in a way that’s easy to understand even if you’re not familiar with technical terms or marketing strategies.

How to Avoid Affiliate Marketing Scams

How to Avoid Affiliate Marketing Scams

Affiliate marketing receives huge scrutiny for good reason — some supposed affiliate programs generate fake audience traffic that misleads merchants. In just the year 2022, affiliate marketing fraud cost the industry a staggering $3.4 billion.

But, just while there may be affiliate program posers out there, there are plenty of legitimate programs — so, you’ve got to know how to recognize a fake from the real deal. A trustworthy affiliate program should check all of these boxes: 

  • Grants affiliate approval before requiring payment information 
  • Terms and conditions are posted
  • Doesn’t require affiliates to pay a membership fee — reputable affiliate programs consider applicants based on factors like their online presence, niche, and audience outreach 
  • Reviewed and recommended by reputable sources

Transparency is key — legit affiliate marketing doesn’t imply a “get-rich-quick” scheme, like claiming 6-digit profits in the first month, nor does it use pushy and pressurizing tactics, like big discounts that expire “soon”. 

Want to become an affiliate of Proofread Anywhere? You can check out our affiliate portal here!

At Proofread Anywhere, we’ve tried tons of side hustles over the years that can be done remotely, and affiliate marketing remains one of our all-time favorites. 

But don’t sweat it if affiliate marketing doesn’t win over your heart. There are plenty more side hustles that can offer a reliable source of passive income without consuming all your spare time. You can discover some other fantastic options of side hustles that pay weekly

Ready to start your freelance career in as little as 30 days? Check out Freelance Formula!

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