The world of work and business has changed beyond recognition thanks to the Internet. Millions of office workers are now able to enjoy the flexibility and freedom of working from home. Businesses can now sell their products in global markets without the need for additional staff or offices. Anyone with some entrepreneurial flair can start a business on a shoestring budget and become financially independent.

If you’ve ever thought about making money on the Internet, affiliate marketing is an exciting place to start. The benefits include –

1) Little or no investment required.

Internet marketing must be one of the only legal businesses you can literally start with nothing and become a millionaire. You don’t even need to pay for hosting or buy a domain name as you can use free blogging platforms and social media. Compare this with a traditional ‘bricks and mortar’ venture where you may need to pay for a business premises, wages for staff and the cost of stock, machinery and equipment.

2) You can work the hours you choose.

You have to be prepared to work around forty to fifty hours a week and be there when customers want you to be in most business ventures. Don’t expect affiliate marketing to be an easy ride, but you can certainly work flexible hours to fit around your family and other commitments.

There are some fantastic software tools to automate online marketing ventures. As well as sophisticated shopping carts and software for processing and delivery orders, you can track conversion rates and manage social media activity on auto-pilot.

3) You can follow your passions.

There are groups of people with a vast range of interests on the Internet, and they are often looking to buy things related to their passions. As many marketers will tell you, if you can find a ‘hungry crowd’ there are profits to be made. One of my great passions is photography, and I’ve been able to turn this into a very profitable affiliate marketing venture. Successful Internet marketers have made millions by selling everything from products for tropical fish enthusiasts to collectors of rare coins. The more you know about a subject, the easier it can be to turn it into a business venture.

The Unique Advantage of Affiliate Marketing Businesses

The range of benefits makes starting an affiliate marketing venture highly appealing, but there’s one thing in particular that makes it the ideal business for me. That is that you can start small and literally build a global empire. Many people only want a part-time venture to help pay the bills at first, but they often realize that their efforts can be scaled up to generate a serious income. You may be a stay at home parent wanting to earn a couple of hundred dollars a month or an ambitious entrepreneur with plans to retire at fifty. Affiliate marketing can be the answer for a wide range of people.

In its simplest form, an affiliate marketing business could start as a blog promoting an ebook. This could be expanded into a series of websites selling courses, physical products and online consultancy. For example, you might start a blog explaining how you’re losing weight and getting fit after having a baby. Eventually this could have thousands of followers wanting to buy books and information, diet products and exercise equipment.

At first it makes sense to do everything yourself, but once your affiliate marketing business reaches a certain size you can outsource most of the work. Freelancers can manage your website, create and distribute content and manage social media activity on your behalf. Once you have a customer base you can even develop your own products for even greater profits.

How Much Money Do Affiliate Marketers Make?

This is one the most common questions I get asked by people interested in Internet marketing. They also ask how quickly they can build a business to replace their existing income and pack up work. Some research I read recently suggests that around twenty percent of affiliate marketers earn less than twenty thousand dollars a year. The same research indicates that the top fifteen percent earn over a million dollars a year. The difference between these levels of success may be explained by the niches they operate in and the types of products they promote, but I bet dedication and commitment also play a very large part.

A typical image of an affiliate marketer is someone relaxing on a beach sipping cocktails while their websites draw in piles of cash. I’m not saying this isn’t possible, but you have to be prepared to put in a lot of work at the start. The most successful affiliates are generally the ones who plan to create a long-term business. You may be able to make a few thousand dollars promoting the latest hot product, but what do you do once your competitors catch up or the market becomes saturated?

My photography website started off as a way to share ideas about how to use digital cameras. I was often being asked to recommend books about photography, so I eventually signed up as an affiliate to Amazon and started earning money. I now sell everything from digital SLR cameras to online courses about photography, and the income from this one site is over a thousand dollars a month.

What Are the Pitfalls?

There’s a potential downside to every business of course, and affiliate marketing is no exception. One of the most common pitfalls is to pick a niche or category where people aren’t willing to spend money. You may be able to get your website to page one of Google and build a huge mailing list, but it’s a waste of time if your efforts don’t have potential profits.

Another common mistake is promoting poor quality products. This can lead to unhappy customers and requests for refunds. Remember that the goal of affiliate marketing is to build a sustainable business, and this means you need your customers to come back for more after their initial purchase.