Whenever you Google “affiliate marketing,” most of the results that come up are companies trying to sell you on how you can make quick money fast. However, as an experienced affiliate marketer, I can promise you there is no such thing. In fact, though being in affiliate marketing has been the dream business for me, there are some disadvantages of affiliate marketing. So instead of trying to sell you on some big promises, I thought I would talk a bit about some of these downsides so you can have a more realistic picture of the industry. So here are what I consider to be some of the disadvantages of affiliate marketing.
It Takes Awhile To Get Established
In spite of what many of the “guru’s” and product-pitchers want you to believe, becoming a successful affiliate marketer does not happen overnight. So if you are looking for a quick transition into something that will be immediately profitable, affiliate marketing is the wrong choice. I often have people email me telling me they are getting into affiliate marketing because they lost their job and need to make some money fast. I always cringe when I see this. Affiliate marketing is not a solution if you need money quickly. It is a LONG TERM business strategy.
On average, it takes me anywhere between 18-36 months to start earning a real income from affiliate marketing sites, and that is if I work on the site just about every day. Building an audience, getting ranked in search engines, gaining the trust of readers, and finding lucrative affiliate partnerships takes a while. So in the beginning, most successful affiliate marketers run their business on the side. This can be a challenge if you already have a lot of obligations and responsibilities, but as long as you do SOMETHING on your site every day and stick with it for the long-term, you will find success online.
Here’s a video I made showing how long it took to gain traffic on my site DogFoodInsider.com.
Affiliate Marketing Requires A Lot Of Self-Discipline
Another one of the disadvantages of affiliate marketing is that unlike with traditional jobs, there is no established agenda, routine, or guidance. The work you put in you have to do completely by yourself, at least when you’re first starting out. You also have to be able to set your own goals and stick to them. The only person you are accountable to is yourself. This can be hard, especially in the beginning when you aren’t making a lot of income yet. Compound all of this with the massive amount of distractions that come with working from home, and it can be very hard for most people to stay motivated. Truth be told, working from home isn’t always what it’s cracked up to be. If you are not a self-motivated person, affiliate marketing may not be the best career path. However, if you have a lot of self-discipline and can focus on long term goals, you will thrive.
You May Run Into Bad Affiliate Partnerships
Beyond just the challenges you will face with the lifestyle of an affiliate marketer, there are some industry disadvantages of affiliate marketing. The first is that not every affiliate partner will be a good partner. Sometimes your affiliate partner will decide not to pay you for your work or may even change leadership or go out of business. For example, I used to partner with Chewy.com to sell dog food products, but they discontinued their affiliate program. I have unfortunately also had the experience of not being paid correctly, or even at all in a few rare circumstances. You have to do a lot of research before becoming an affiliate because you may end up in a bad partnership otherwise.
You Have No Control Over Pricing Or Commissions
Another one of the big industry disadvantages of affiliate marketing is that you usually can’t negotiate product pricing. This also ties into having very little control over commission rates, which are often set by the company. For example, the Amazon Associates Affiliate Program pays a certain percentage based on how much you sell and it is non-negotiable. Though most companies offer a sliding scale where you will make a higher percentage if you drive more traffic, if you are consistently sending them great customers, you will never be able to negotiate for more money for your work. This can be frustrating especially in long term affiliate partnerships. Here is the current payout percentage with Amazon Associates, which was just changed in 2017.
There Is A Lot Of Competition
One of the biggest industry advantages is also one of the biggest disadvantages of affiliate marketing. What makes affiliate marketing so attractive is it has a low barrier of entry. Unlike other entrepreneurial activities, you don’t have to have a lot of startup capital or skills or training to become an affiliate marketer. Most people, if they have the patience and self-discipline are qualified to become an affiliate marketer. That means a lot of people all around the globe are doing it. Would you believe that about 140,000 new websites are started every single day? So no matter what products or services you sell, you may be facing stiff competition from competitors who may be more established or have more time to build their business. This is why when first starting out, finding the right niche is so crucial.
Choosing What Products To Sell Can Be Daunting
Even when you’ve found a great affiliate partner, you may become very overwhelmed by how many products are available for you to offer your customers, and finding an ethical company that produces high quality products can be more difficult than originally thought. When I’ve worked with larger affiliates like Amazon or Target, I found that it was really overwhelming. The first inclination is to always sell the items that offer the most commission, but many times those items were not related to my interests or expertise. Then when I’d decide on a category, there would sometimes be thousands of items available to promote and trying to decide which my readers would find most enticing was pretty daunting. What’s funny is that though this is one of the disadvantages of affiliate marketing, having a variety of products to choose from can also give you a market advantage. You just have to do a lot of research and really understand your readers.
There Isn’t Much Support
As stated before, this really is a career for self-starters and that is because you will be pretty much on your own. If you get stumped by something or run into a technical problem you don’t understand, you typically just have to figure it out by yourself. Affiliate marketing can be a lonely job. Luckily, I have found a way around this. After trying to go it alone, I ended up doing some research and found a company called Wealthy Affiliate. This is the exact service that taught me how to build my first money-making affiliate site. It’s not one of the get-rich-quick companies you’ll find on Google, they are a support network that offers everything from technical help and web hosting to topics and ideas to community boards where you can meet other affiliates and team up. So though you mostly go it alone, if you join a program like Wealthy Affiliate, you will have much more support.
There’s More Than Just The Disadvantages
Now I know this article focused on the disadvantages of affiliate marketing, but I do want to include some of the positives. Affiliate marketing really is a great way to start a company without a large investment. You can make a good income if you work hard and make smart choices. Most of all, you’ll finally be able to free yourself from the rat race and really pursue a career in something you are passionate about. I’ve traveled extensively since I started affiliate marketing and have been able to work from anywhere I decide to go. It’s amazing.
So if you are a self-starter, who can patiently build your business, and know the hiccups you’ll face in the industry, you’re going to start in a much better place. I wish when I was first starting out in affiliate marketing someone would have talked to me about the disadvantages of affiliate marketing so I better understood what I was signing up for. All this being said, I would still become an affiliate marketer. So don’t let the disadvantages of affiliate marketing discourage you, instead use them to motivate you to avoid some of the pitfalls of the industry.