The biggest benefit of affiliate marketing is that you can make money without creating or even keeping stock of the products you are selling.
All you have to as an affiliate marketer is to promote the products and if somebody buys the product thanks to your marketing efforts, you will get a commission.
The lower capital and overhead requirements of affiliate marketing are what makes it a popular way to start making money online for beginners.
This does not mean it is easy to make money using affiliate marketing. You still need to put time and money into your affiliate marketing business in order to make money from it.
But compared to other businesses where you have to keep stock, manage employees, affiliate marketing can provide a good income without the headaches that come along with an e-commerce business selling physical products for example.
As online shopping continues to become more and more popular among Malaysians, the time is now right for anyone interested to gain from the large e-commerce pie to grow their business.
If you have always wanted to make money using affiliate marketing but do not know how to start, this post is for you.
In this post, I will explain to you how affiliate marketing works and most importantly, guide you through step by step on how to get started.
Are you ready?
Let’s get started!
Myths about affiliate marketing you should stop believing
Before we jump right into how affiliate marketing works, I thought it would be important for me to talk about some of the common misconceptions about affiliate marketing.
These are misconceptions that most people have that will slow down their growth. I wanted to highlight this to you first so you can avoid them and not allow them to slow you down.
What are these misconceptions?
Let’s take a look:
Myth #1: Affiliate income = passive income
There is half-truth in this. In a way, the money you make through affiliate marketing can be considered ‘passive’.
What do I mean by this?
You see, unlike a conventional job where you are unlikely to make money unless you are actively working, the beauty of affiliate marketing is that you can make money while you sleep.
But you won’t get there unless you work really hard to build a system that helps you generate the income from affiliate marketing.
You will need to invest time, effort and money (yes, money, but we’ll get to this a little later) before you can see the results of your affiliate marketing.
So if today is your first day of beginning your journey in affiliate marketing, you are unlikely to earn any money within a week of starting.
In short, affiliate marketing is not a get-rich-quick scheme. Like any other business, you need to work hard be successful in it.
Myth #2: You need a website to make money using affiliate marketing
Years ago before social media was as popular as it is today, most affiliate marketers made money by using websites.
But today, social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram can be just for affiliate marketers as websites.
As long as you have an account on the social media platforms, you can become an affiliate marketer. Though so, how successful you become will depend on the time and effort you put into building your brand on the social media platform as well as how good you are at helping brands make sales.
Myth #3: You don’t need any capital
Although affiliate marketing is one of the most affordable ways to start a business, that does not mean that your starting costs will be zero.
Depending on which platform you choose for your affiliate marketing, you will likely need to prepare some amount of money for ads or to create content.
This is especially true if you are just starting out and have not yet gathered a large following yet.
For example, if you want to do affiliate marketing using a website, you will need to spend some money building the website, designing it and then maintaining it.
On the other hand, if you prefer using social media to do affiliate marketing, you may need to spend some money promoting your brand using ads. This is especially true on platforms like Facebook where organic reach continues to drop.
Affiliate Marketing Explained
Now that we’ve looked at the common myths people have about affiliate marketing, let’s look at how exactly it works.
First, let’s look at the parties who are normally involved in any affiliate marketing model:
Affiliate Marketer (Publisher). This is you. As the publisher, your role will be to share the deal with your audience. If anyone from your audience makes a purchase thanks to your marketing, you will get paid a commission.
Merchant. This is the brand owner whose products you have decided to help promote.
Affiliate Network. This is the company that helps brands set up their affiliate programs. Brands who don’t want to spend the time and effort to set up their own affiliate program from scratch will normally partner with an affiliate network to save costs and overheads. Though so, not all brands will choose to partner with an affiliate network to market their products.
Consumer. This is the person who buys the products from the brands you promote. These can be people from your regular audience or people who have seen your paid ads about the products.
Here’s an illustration from eBay partner network on how each party interacts with the other:
As the publisher, the merchant or affiliate network you have decided to sign up with you will provide you with unique links to specific products you want to promote.
In order to gain a commission from the sales you make, you must include your unique link whenever you are doing a promotion. The merchant or affiliate program will track all the clicks and sales from your unique link and pay you for all the sales made after somebody clicked on your link.
Affiliate Marketer Case Study: Interview with Frank Ravanelli, former full-time affiliate, current Head of Affiliates EMEA & Asia for FOREO
To give you an idea of what it’s like to be an affiliate marketer, I’ve invited Frank Ravanelli, who was a former affiliate and current Head of Affiliates EMEA & Asia for beauty brand FOREO to share his experience.
Frank started as a part-time affiliate marketer who later transitioned full-time and was able to travel to North America using only his income from affiliate marketing.
If you’ve always wanted to know how it feels like to start with affiliate marketing and what it’s like to transition into a full-time affiliate marketer, check out Frank’s story:
What got you started in affiliate marketing and how long did it take for you to earn enough to go full-time with affiliate marketing?
I started to test affiliate marketing back in 1999, earned a few hundred every month. I initially considered it as some additional pocket money.
However, in 2004, while working in Internet Advertising in London, I became aware of bigger trends and started to focus on it more seriously. By mid-2005, my affiliate marketing income was my only source of income, allowing me to travel, and work very long hours on a flexible schedule.
How did you make the decision from going part-time to full-time in affiliate marketing?
A good part of my customers in London were affiliates and they were almost begging us to make them spend more on ads. That made me understand the ROI on that spending must have substantial, otherwise they would not have spent so much. Other than that, I had also wanted to be able to travel through North America, and affiliate marketing gave me that option.
What made you decide to move from being a full-time affiliate marketer to the corporate world? What are the main differences between earning affiliate income full-time vs doing affiliate marketing for a company like FOREO?
My strategy was to get sales and traffic through SEO. That meant I could work 1 to 3 months without seeing any substantial increase in my affiliate commissions. But once my SEO tactics allowed my sites to climb Google’s ranking, then I would have a sudden increase in profits overnight. However, SEO became tougher and tougher, plus the mix of paid/organic results changed a lot in favor of paid listings.
I had to make a choice: would I risk more on SEM or take my experience to the other side of the table, the one of affiliate programs management? By then I had gotten very good offers to manage the affiliate programs of leading US SaaS, real-estate and eCommerce sites, so I went for the latter.
The main difference between being a full-time affiliate versus being leading an affiliate program is the stability of income the second option brings, plus the daily-routine one has to follow.
As an affiliate, it is all about perfecting your main traffic sources, that being SEO or SEM or social media etc plus cultivating a good relationship with the affiliate managers at the 2-3 affiliate programs that bring you most of your commissions.
When leading an affiliate program, however, the focus is all on nourishing the top 10-15 affiliates in the program, helping the long-tail affiliates to grow, and recruiting new top-performers to increase sales and balance risks.
So the affiliate marketing knowledge necessary is similar, but its application is very different. Considering my experience on both sides of the equation, I usually can understand what affiliates want, and I can provide that in a way that makes financial sense to the program I manage.
What are the top three most important skills for a person to be successful in affiliate marketing?
First, a good knowledge of one-two ways to drive traffic and sales. If you want to be a one-person-band affiliate business, you must have such knowledge to build up your income stream.
Once the commissions are coming in, then you can decide: do you want to scale-up, – meaning you need to hire people strong in other traffic sources – or do you want to keep it as it is, doing the daily work yourself? Both approaches have their advantages and risks.
What are some of the most common myths about earning affiliate income online?
Some people associate affiliate marketing with Multi-Level Marketing. That is a big mistake. No reputable program should ask you to buy anything.
Of course, if you know well the products/services you are promoting, and are passionate about them, then you become more effective. But no serious merchant will ask affiliates to buy or pay for anything. If they do, you should probably go elsewhere.
Other people think that affiliate marketing means “get rich quick”.
Yes, when you find an effective strategy to get traffic, your affiliate income can go from 1 to 100 overnight. But in order to get to that glorious day, you would probably need to have invested at least months in work. So yeah, affiliate marketing can be an instant success in terms of the change of profits you make, but one that took months in the making.
What are your top three suggestions for people who want to get starting earning affiliate income?
Step one, understand your goals. Do you want additional income or do you want to earn a main income from affiliate marketing? How much? For example, Jane wants to keep her day job and make an extra USD300 per month.
Step two, understand what types of verticals and affiliate programs are compatible with your goals. Ideally, you would choose something you like promoting. This will make a difference in the medium term. For example, affiliate program A pays 5% commission on sales, to promote a big catalog of electronics. So in order to get USD300 per month, Jane would need to bring to the merchant at least USD 6000 in sales per month. She needs to ask herself: Is it feasible for her? Does she like to promote electronics?
If yes, she can try and (l)earns from it. If not, she can search for alternatives. Say she finds another program, FOREO‘s affiliate program that pays 15% on each sale, she will now only need to generate USD2000 in sales per month to get her USD300 in commissions.
If she is already someone who likes to write about beauty and skin-care and has several friends/followers on her social channels that like the topic, she can start promoting FOREO products to them. This second program from FOREO can turn out to be a faster, easier and more enjoyable for her compared to the electronics affiliate program we saw earlier.
As long as an affiliate program and an affiliate are honest and willing to learn, there are no bad programs nor bad affiliates, just good or bad matches between the two. Just make sure to choose the program(s) that are in line with your expectations and personal interests.
Step three, monitor results, see what works, ask yourself why it worked, and scale it up. Drop what does not work, better if you understand why, if not just move on. Focus on your top 1-2 ways to drive traffic, focus on your strengths. You do not need to become good at everything. If you want to cover several traffic sources well, you will need to delegate. There is no way around it. Focus on what you do well and earns you commissions, and you’ll start doing it even better.
Regardless of if you want to make a full-time or part-time income from affiliate marketing, you can learn today.
What are the challenges you see coming for affiliate marketers beginning 2018?
2018 is bringing a lot of opportunities to affiliate marketing. For example eCommerce will keep growing and so will the need for each merchant to differentiate itself from the competition through content and a strong presence on shopping sites.
At the same time, some super-affiliates are already big corporations, who are consolidating by acquiring other affiliates. It means each affiliate needs to find her/his niche, for example through content.
In the case of medium-size affiliate business, there may be a need to go big, sell to a bigger competitor, or go home. We will likely see a trend where niche affiliates prosper because their audience is too specific to be reached by super-affiliates. Super-affiliates will prosper, with their increased power to bargain with merchants. And the affiliates who are in between, not niche but not big, may get squeezed.
5 Steps to Get Started With Affiliate Marketing
Now that you have taken a glimpse at the life of an affiliate marketer, it’s now time to take a look at how you too can get started.
Here are some steps I recommend taking:
Step 1: Choose your marketing channel
It used to be that most affiliate marketers made money by writing reviews on their blogs.
But nowadays, you have the option of doing affiliate marketing on social media platforms such as YouTube, Instagram, Facebook.
It is often easier to get started on a social media platform which you already have a significant following rather than starting anew on a different platform.
Step 2: Choose your products and look for affiliate programs
Once you have chosen your marketing channel, it’s time to pick the products to promote.
The most important thing you need to consider when deciding on a product is to first consider what type of products your followers are most likely going to be interested in.
If you have managed to build a large following on Instagram by creating beauty-related content, it is likely that your audience will be more interested in lipsticks rather than crowbars.
If you understand your audience well, you shouldn’t have any problems thinking about products that they might be interested in.
Ideally, you would want to pick products that have good ratings and good reviews elsewhere.
Once you have decided on the products, all you have to do next is look for their affiliate programs. Most of the time this is as easy as typing in the product name followed by the phrase ‘affiliate program’ into Google:
[product name] + affiliate program
Once you find the affiliate programs, do apply for them. Most affiliate programs will have some requirements before taking you in as an affiliate so be sure to check first.
Step 3: Introduce products to your audience
Once you have chosen your products, it is time to promote them to your audience.
The most common way of doing this is by creating a review. Nowadays other than written reviews, video reviews have also become popular. You can always test to see which type of review is more popular with your audience.
Generally, you would only want to create reviews for products you are familiar with and be sure to mention not only the good things about the product but also things you don’t really like about it.
The last thing you want to do is write raving reviews about products you know nothing about for the intention of making a quick buck. This method will quickly backfire on you and bring your credibility down with it.
But reviews are not the only way to promote products to your audience. You can also try other methods such as doing live tutorial streams where you show your audience how to use a product or even conduct a webinar.
Step 4: Modify and Test Different marketing strategies
Once you have begun promoting products to your audience it’s time to refine and test your marketing strategies to come up with the one that will most effectively convert your followers into customers.
This is a never-ending process that you will need to keep doing.
Step 5: Grow your business with paid ads (for advanced marketers)
Once you have promoted products to your audience for some time, it is time to introduce paid ads into your marketing strategy.
Although many people shy away from paying for ads to promote products, I strongly recommend it and here’s why:
As I mentioned earlier, social media platforms such as Facebook are increasingly limiting a company’s organic reach. So the only way to make sure your message to reach a wide audience is to pay for ads.
Here are some guides to help you get started with paid ads on Facebook and Instagram:
Putting into practice: Getting started as an affiliate marketer for FOREO
To guide you further on how to get started, I will show you how to get started as an affiliate marketer for the popular beauty brand FOREO.
If you are in the beauty niche or you are a beauty enthusiast, you need no introduction to FOREO.
FOREO is best known for its facial cleansing product LUNA Mini 2 and LUNA Play Plus:
LUNA mini 2 on FOREO.com
LUNA Play Plus on FOREO.com
The LUNA Mini 2 and LUNA Play Plus are products that have received high ratings on international sites like Amazon:
With good ratings, you can be assured that you are promoting a product that most people would be satisfied with. So you can be assured that if any member of your audience buys this product, you will receive minimal complaints.
But these products are only suitable for you if you are in the beauty niche. Otherwise, you may need to pick other products.
Now that you have a product, it’s time to introduce them to your audience.
To help you with this process, let’s take a look at how one Instagrammer have already done this in a recent campaign for FOREO:
FOREO Video Tutorial by @Manelyk_Oficial on Instagram
To promote FOREO’s products to her audience, Manelyk Gonzalez create tutorials like the one below:
No saben lo feliz que estoy con mi luna 2 , de verdad cada vez que lo uso mi cara queda súper limpia y lo que más me gusta es que lo puedo llevar a todos lados ya que su tamaño es perfecto, además de que es súper fácil de usar y lo pueden encontrar disponible en el link que se encuentra en mi biografía @foreo @sephoramx Y #foreo #luna2 #sephoramx y #mybeautysecret
Tutorials like these give her audience an idea of how to use the product and the possible effect it will have on their skin.
To accompany her tutorial, Manelyk has also included her unique link to FOREO‘s website in her profile:
So when anyone from her audience is impressed by the tutorial, they can go straight to her bio and click on her link.
If they decide to make a purchase using her link, Manelyk will gain a commission from the sale.
Want to make some extra money on the side? Here’s how to sign up
If you are in the beauty niche and already have a following on Instagram and want to make some extra money, just click on the button below to sign up as an affiliate:
If you are not ready yet, here’s where you can find out more about FOREO’s affiliate program.
Most people dream of making passive income online. But passive income does not mean you don’t need to work for it. Often, you will need to invest a lot of your time upfront in building your passive income streams.
To get started, you need to decide on the marketing channel you want to use, the products you want to promote, look for the affiliate program and strategize on how you will promote the products.
Although you can definitely start off with only organic (free) traffic, over time, you may need to consider buying ads to accelerate your growth.
No matter what affiliate program you choose and what products you sell, you will most likely be successful if you adopt a long-term strategy to your affiliate marketing and not treat it like a get rich quick scheme.
Disclaimer: This post was written in collaboration with FOREO. FOREO is on a lookout to promote its affiliate marketing program to beauty enthusiasts. Make sure to sign up here if you are interested to make some extra money promoting FOREO products you already love!