It almost sounds too good to be true: make money online even when you’re not hard at work. But it is true. Affiliate marketing is real, and when done correctly, it can generate a generous passive income like it has for me these past 5 years.

Of course, many people go into affiliate marketing with the wrong mindset or they go about it in the wrong way, which yields little to no results. Because of this and the many affiliate marketing scams that exist online, many people feel skeptical about affiliate marketing. Is it a legitimate way to make money online? Is it possible to make a significant income with it? How does it even work?



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Affiliate marketing is a completely legitimate way to earn money, but the idea that it is an easy way to earn money — especially when you’re just starting out — is a bit convoluted. It requires a lot of hard work to make money online as an affiliate marketer, but in the end, it can really pay off.

How Does Affiliate Marketing Work?

The idea behind affiliate programs is simple: you get paid a commission for referring people to a particular product or service.

When potential customers purchase said product or service, they’re not charged extra. Instead, the company or business gives you a cut of whatever the sale is. In the grand scheme of things, the sale wouldn’t have even happened if it weren’t for your referral, so companies will gladly reward you for sending new clients and customers their way.

You may receive a percentage of every sale or a set amount, and the kickback you get can range from a few cents to a considerable monetary bonus. And when it all adds up, it’s extra income that you have simply because you referred someone to a new product or service.


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Sounds Easy—What’s The Catch?

Honestly, affiliate marketing can be easy, but it’s not going to get you hundreds of dollars overnight. Successful affiliate marketers make money online because they’ve put in time to learn the business, are constantly adapting to an ever-changing landscape, by investing initial earnings into outsourcing work, and were incredibly patient. I’ve said it many times before and I’ll say it again… the vast majority of people do NOT have the patience to succeed in affiliate marketing.

It’s more than just setting up a website and throwing up some affiliate links — after all, you need to have readers visiting your site and trusting your opinions in the first place. Just imagine if you were walking down the street and someone came up to, raving about a new pair of headphones they got. You don’t know this person, and they don’t even know if you’re in the market to buy a new pair of headphones, so you’re more than likely going to ignore them. But if a good friend comes up to you to chat about your favorite music and tells you about their new favorite headphones, you’re more interested and invested in what they have to say. Building a trustworthy website does not happen overnight. It takes time.

If you’re interested in affiliate marketing, you generally need to put a little thought into what types of products you’d like to feature. Having a niche or some kind of focus will help get eager buyers to your site much quicker than simply advertising anything under the sun. Next, purchase a domain name and website hosting, and then get your website up and running.

From there, results vary over time. Successful affiliate sites are updated regularly, have a clear focus that excites visitors, provide lots of useful content, and many affiliates find the their highest referrals when they invest in advertising as well. I generally write one 1,000 word article per day (minimum of 5 per week) on new sites and it usually takes at least 6 months before I earn my first cent. Most of my sites don’t start earning the ‘job quitting income’ until a couple years after I start them. You can learn more about how long it takes to succeed in affiliate marketing here.

The Different Ways To Make Money As An Affiliate

It’s helpful to first know that you actually don’t even need to sell anything to make money as an affiliate. With some affiliate links you do, but others simply reward you for providing traffic. Here are the three types of payment terms you may find:

  • Pay per Sale — Once a purchase is complete, you receive a percentage of the total sale.
  • Pay per Click — You get paid based on the number of visitors you redirect to the company’s site, regardless of a sale.
  • Pay per Lead — Once the referred visitor provides contact information on the target site, you receive a kickback.

It’s important to understand the terms of an affiliate program before you join, so you can clearly know the end goals. This will give you better results in the end and help you decide which programs are best for your site.



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Maximize Your Potential Earnings

If you truly want to make money, or even a living from affiliate marketing, you should engage in good business practices. Don’t simply promote products just to make a sale; instead, promote products you like and truly believe in.

Whatever products or services you advertise on your site should make sense for your niche and audience. When you try to sell products or services that will undeniably resonate with your audience, whether they are blog readers or your social media following, they will feel engaged and intrigued. When you try to sell products or services that don’t relate to them or make sense for their lives, they will immediately sense they are being “sold to,” and will become less interested in you and what you have to offer.

If you want to make money online as an affiliate marketer, you’ll also want to evaluate your game plan. Does your site have a compelling design? Do you include high quality photos of products? Have you created an overall professional look for what you do and the ways you promote yourself?

People are visual creatures, and we equate poor design with poor products. Putting a little more time and money into making your work streamlined can, quite literally, pay off. Visitors will view you as more professional and will essentially trust you and your recommendations much more, making it far easier to become successful as an affiliate marketer.