How-To Guide

How to start affiliate marketing: A creator's guide

Adding a new income stream to your business may seem like a headache, but affiliate marketing is one of the simpler income streams to set up and automate.

Part 1
How to start your affiliate marketing business
14 min read
In this Article

Everyone loves the idea of making money while they sleep, but few people know how to actually do it.

They hear about successful entrepreneurs who have mastered the art of passive income, but trying to duplicate their efforts can feel tough when you aren’t sure what goes into it.

Where do you begin?

Many influencers and content creators start with affiliate marketing. Since affiliate marketing allows you to generate revenue from selling other people’s products, it is one of the fastest and easiest ways to make an income online.

Fast and easy? Can it be true.

Yes it is…if you do it correctly.

If want to learn how to start affiliate marketing, don’t worry. We’ve got you covered.

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Affiliate marketing tips for beginners

Why should content creators care about affiliate marketing?

As an affiliate, you will partner with companies that fit within your niche and promote their products using your social media presence, blog, or website.

When a purchase is made through your affiliate link, you will make a percentage of that sale simply for promoting the product. It’s one of the best forms of passive income for bloggers and entrepreneurs who want to monetize their content.

Think about the last blog post you wrote or video you recorded. Maybe you mentioned a product or tool you love inside the content you created. With affiliate marketing, you can make money when you promote products you already use and love.

Affiliate marketing sounds great, but can it actually become a sustainable source of revenue for your business or blog?

With some of our ConvertKit users earning substantial incomes from affiliate marketing—like Pat Flynn, Barron Cuadro, and Brooke Schoenman—we can confidently say that it is a proven and lucrative stream of income!

With intentionality and focus, you can create highly actionable and valuable content that will scale with you as you grow.

Once you put the effort into creating evergreen content upfront, you can monetize it for years on autopilot with affiliate marketing. Not only that, but you can also fit affiliate marketing into the business model you currently have.

It doesn’t matter if you have a freelance business that offers services, an ecommerce shop that sells physical products, or a podcast that allows you to connect with thousands of people each week.

You can add affiliate marketing to your business model and diversify your income, which is something we always recommend when building a sustainable income.

6 simple steps to start affiliate marketing

How to start affiliate marketing in 6 simple steps

Adding a new income stream to your business may seem like a headache, but affiliate marketing is one of the more simple income streams to set up and automate.

It doesn’t take a huge upfront investment of time or money to get started, and you can monetize the audience you currently have. To make it even simpler, we’ve created a six-step guide on how to start affiliate marketing like a pro.

How to start affiliate marketing- understand each roleUnderstand each role in affiliate marketing

Before you jump into affiliate marketing with both feet, it’s good to understand the three roles involved in affiliate marketing. The first role is the company who manufactures and ships the product.

By becoming an affiliate partner (role #2), you essentially promote their product but when a sale is made, they have to handle the order fulfillment and shipping. This is great news for bloggers and entrepreneurs who are more interested in creating content than handling the back-end tasks of running a dead-simple shop.

The last role is the consumer, meaning the person who clicks on your affiliate link and makes a purchase.
The roles in affiliate marketing

Without them, you may be spending precious time creating affiliate content that doesn’t give you any return. You and the company both need the consumer for your partnership to be successful.

How to start affiliate marketing-choose your nicheChoose your niche

Now that you know how affiliate marketing works, you can brainstorm ways to become a better affiliate partner for the companies you promote. One way to do this is by choosing your niche early on in the process.

Narrowing down your niche gives you an advantage over competitors that create broader content. While you may think that having a niche means you won’t connect with as many people, it’s actually quite the opposite.

How to choose your affiliate marketing nicheHaving a niche means you are focusing on one segment of a larger audience and coming from a different perspective or angle than other content creators.

For example, there are thousands of people who are trying to help young kids learn through their blogs and websites. To stand out, Vanessa of Pre-K Pages decided to use her teaching experience to create activity pages specifically for pre-K aged kids and markets her membership community primarily to other teachers.

Her niche, while specific, has been incredibly successful!

The more specific, the better! It will help you become the go-to resource for whatever it is you want to write about.

Here are a few questions to ask yourself if you are struggling to decide on a niche:

  • What topics am I already passionate about?
  • What would I like to be known for?
  • What perspective can I offer that my competitors can’t?
  • What unique experience do I have?
  • What industry is my business or brand in? How is it different from others?
  • What is my elevator pitch? (what you do, who you are, who you help, how you help, etc.)

You can write your answer down in a journal or on your Notepad app. Remind yourself of your answers over the next few days and see what comes from your reflections. Spend some time exploring what niche you want to pursue and keep an eye on what niche your competitors are in.

How to start affiliate marketing- choose your productChoose your product

Once you have your niche, you can move into the phase of choosing the affiliate products you want to market to your audience. Since you’ve spent a lot of time building trust with your audience, you don’t want to lose it by promoting a brand that doesn’t fit into your values.

It’s best to choose products that you have used and would recommend to a friend. You want to choose not only products but also companies you can stand behind. If you partner with companies who have a poor reputation, you run the risk of having that rub off on you.

Choosing your affiliate marketing productTry to do your research before you promote any affiliate product, even those that you use and have experience with. When you create your own product review, be honest about the benefits and pitfalls of the affiliate product. You’ll win points with your audience if you are upfront about your full experience.

It’s also a good idea to choose affiliate products that fit within your niche.

If you run an outdoor lifestyle blog but start creating affiliate content about your favorite journals, it might create a disconnect with your audience. If you do choose affiliate products that are a little outside of your industry, make sure you tie it into your overall theme in a creative way.

How to start affiliate marketing- research affiliate programsResearch affiliate programs

There are two main ways you can sign up to be a part of existing affiliate programs.

One is to directly search for companies you love and look for their affiliate program page when visiting their website. If there is a tool you use inside your business or a product you just can’t stop talking about, going directly to the source is a great idea.

The other is to look at multi-brand affiliate programs that allow you to take advantage of several affiliate programs through their service. You will commonly see lifestyle, fashion, and beauty influencers using these affiliate programs because it makes affiliate marketing multiple items really easy.

Keep in mind that each brand will offer a different commission inside the program.

When you are looking at what affiliate programs you should partner with, here are a few questions to ask yourself before creating an account:

  • What does success look like for me with this affiliate program?
  • What percentage of each sale do I get as a commission?
  • Does the commission make it worth my time and effort as a content creator?
  • Does the affiliate program give me additional resources that help me market their products as a better affiliate? (We love creating this kind of content at ConvertKit for our affiliates!)

How to start affiliate marketing- build a blogBuild a blog or website

Many affiliate marketers start by posting their affiliate links on social media, but there’s only so much you can do on social media without coming off as spammy. Your content is also shortened on social media because on many platforms, you only have so many characters before your content becomes overwhelming.

Building a separate blog or website for your personal brand allows you to create a home base for your affiliate marketing content. Then you can use your social media accounts to drive traffic to your website.

You have more control over the look and feel of your blog and website than you do with social media. Also, if your primary social media platform disappears tomorrow (like Vine in 2016), you will still have a central hub for your audience to interact with. This is essential if you want to create a sustainable income with affiliate marketing.

As you build your website, you will also want to start creating high-value content. You don’t have to put affiliate links into every article you write or every video you record.

In fact, it’s good to pair affiliate-driven content with content that is only meant to be educational. You can also include personal storytelling, tips, and tutorials inside your affiliate content to make it unique and feel less like a traditional sales pitch.

How to start affiliate marketing- start promotingStart promoting affiliate products

Now that you know how to start affiliate marketing, you can take everything you’ve learned and put it into action! As you prepare to sign up for affiliate programs and create affiliate product reviews, we have some best practices for you to keep in mind.

Affiliate marketing tips: Goal setting for beginners

Goal setting can make or break your intentions.

Good intentions and solid ideas are a great place to start, but you need action and goals surrounding them in order to make an impact.

Before setting your goals, here are some clarifying tips and questions to help you identify the core ins and outs of your affiliate strategy. Once you’ve nailed these down, you will have realistic goals with a time frame and clear expectations.

Affiliate marketing tips- know how much you want to makeKnow how much money you want to make

Affiliate marketing is not for the faint of heart. It takes time, effort, and money to put a solid strategy in place.

If you have a monetary goal it’s easier to decide how much time and money you want to invest. And the size of the goal will depict how much energy you want to invest. So what is your yearly, monthly, and weekly revenue goal?

It could be $100/month or $1000/month. It’s up to you! But I highly recommend not investing any time in affiliate marketing without setting a monetary goal first.

Affiliate marketing tips- know how much work you want to put into itKnow how much work you want to put in

Much related to the question above, it’s important to be realistic with how much time you want to spend on this portion of your business.

If you have higher revenue goals, are you willing to put in three to four hours a week creating content, funnels, videos, etc?

This also touches on how much time you want to be spending maintaining your affiliate content? Once you narrow down what metrics you want to track (traffic, conversion, etc), how often do you want to check in on them? One a week? One a month? Every day?

Affiliate marketing tips-core income stream?Know if affiliate marketing will be a core stream of income for your business

This one can be tricky because you may not have a clear yes or no answer now. But could you see affiliate income becoming a large portion of your monthly revenue?

If so, perhaps you set smaller goals at first when you’re in the building stage and then increase them every quarter or every six months.

If you want affiliate income to be a large revenue stream, set realistic goals that will scale up to the ideal dollar amount of you.

Affiliate marketing tips- know your whyKnow your why

Life isn’t just about money.

Money helps. It makes things easier and with money comes opportunity – no doubt. BUT you have to know your “why”. What is the driving force behind why you want to have a business?

It could be your family, it could be to get out of debt so you can finally take that much-needed vacation…it could be a number of things.

But if money is your only motivator in life, you will always want more and come up feeling empty. A “why” with true meaning is what will keep you from quitting and keep you committed to your goals.

Affiliate marketing tips- diversify your affiliate strategyDiversify your affiliate strategy amongst 3-4 platforms

I highly suggest diversifying where you put your affiliate links. You can’t just put your affiliate link in one place and expect it to drive massive impact.

By placing it in different places, it increases the traffic to your link and gives you a chance to test different content strategy.

For more info on the different affiliate strategies, click here!

Affiliate marketing tips- test the products you promoteTest the products and services you’re promoting

Affiliate marketing comes down to trust and how much your community really believes in you and what you recommend.

Do you use the product personally, and if not, have you at least tested it out? The best testimonials and advertisements are genuine.

Give yourself enough time to test and try out all the products and services you are promoting so if someone asks for more details you can give them your full, well-rounded opinion.

Affiliate marketing tips- running specialsKnow how often you want to run special promotions 

Depending on the affiliate marketing program, sometimes there are special deals and promotions that are time-sensitive.

If you plan on running special promotions or deals for affiliate products, make sure to add these to your promotional calendar for the year!

Affiliate marketing tips- know your conversion rateKnow what conversion rate you are shooting for

Conversion rates for online products vary from 1%-4%. What is your conversation rate goal?

Tracking conversion rates allows you to measure the performance of your web pages and apps. Understanding what percentage of your users are completing the goals that drive your business allows you to gauge the success of your site or app and identify areas for improvement.

Setting clear goals for conversion gives you a metric to consistently track and make changes accordingly.

How to start affiliate marketing for online creators

The more you know about affiliate marketing before you get started, the easier it will be to start generating income from the first affiliate posts and videos you create. Start by learning about the ins and outs of affiliate marketing in this issue.

Start your business today

When you’ve got an idea, don’t waste your time and money building a website. Starting your business with a landing page and a email list means you can start today.

Kayla Hollatz

Kayla Hollatz is a copywriter and content creator for creative entrepreneurs who want their words to connect and convert. Few things make her happier than ghostwriting for clients in her studio, aka her four-season porch with a lake view. She can frequently be found fighting Minnesota winters with a mug of hot chocolate in hand.