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Affiliate Marketing 101: What it Really Takes to Earn Commissions

Affiliate Marketing 101: What it Really Takes to Earn Commissions

When people hear that I make tens of thousands of dollars a year just in affiliate commissions, the question is always “How do you do that?”

Let’s spend some time going over what it really takes to get started in affiliate marketing, earn your first commissions, and build a foundation that keeps commissions coming even if you aren’t selling.

What is Affiliate Marketing?

My very basic definition of affiliate marketing is referring a product or service you like to your friends and/or clients. It’s really that simple.

 The only difference between you doing this in a conversation because you love the product or service, and you being an affiliate marketer is the commissions you will earn.

But at its very core, being an affiliate means sharing information about products you promote with someone.

Why Can Affiliate Marketing be Better Than Selling My Own Products?

You can absolutely create and sell your own products if you want to. You don’t have to give this up if you decide to promote other people’s products or services.

But affiliate marketing does have several advantages over creating your own digital or physical products.

  • You can skip the entire creation process and all the time and stress that goes along with it.
  • You don’t have to pay merchant fees on sales. Each time someone purchases, the merchant fees are taken out of the product creators’ funds, not yours. Obviously, that saves you a good deal of money.
  • You don’t have to provide customer support. After the purchase, if people have questions about what they have bought, the product creator provides that saving you lots of time.
  • There is a never-ending list of products you can promote as an affiliate. There will never be a shortage of things you can offer to your followers.
  • You will never get burned out on what to create again. Because there is an enormous supply of affiliate products, you can just pick and choose at will.

There are many times that I see higher profit margins from promoting an affiliate product versus creating and promoting my own digital courses.

Are There Disadvantages to Being an Affiliate?

Yes, a few.

  • You do not have control over the products or services you sell.
  • Affiliate managers can choose to end their affiliate programs and stop paying commissions at will. That means an abrupt end to a revenue stream, which is never a good thing. I have only had this happen two or three times in the 20+ years I have been an affiliate marketer.
  • If your folks don’t like the product or service you are promoting, they could come back to you with complaints because it was your recommendation. When at all possible, purchase and/or look through the affiliate product before you promote.
  • You have to have patience. Like anything else, if you are starting from scratch it is going to take you some time to get things in place before you make any sales.

What is a Niche and Do I Need One to be an Affiliate?

A niche simply refers to the specific type of business you are in. For example, you may be in the weight loss space, but you are involved with Keto in particular. So, Keto would be your niche.

Does it have to be that specific? No. You could be involved in weight loss (or healthy diet) and focus on low-carb, Whole 30, Atkins and intermittent fasting. 

While it may seem backwards, the tighter your niche, the more engaged your followers will be, and the more likely they are to buy. It’s fine to have two or three niches in your space as long as they are very closely related.

For instance, I help online entrepreneurs with blogging, printables/Etsy, affiliate marketing, and passive income. Online businessowners can benefit from all of these, and incorporate them into their overall revenue stream regardless of their specific niches.

Where Do I Find Affiliate Products to Promote?

How do you get started as an affiliate marketer? Especially for beginners, keep things simple. Pick one product or service to promote and apply to be their affiliate. Try recommending that one product/service first and see how it goes.

After you are approved for the affiliate program share your recommendation and affiliate link with people you know.

Here are a few affiliate marketing tips:

  • Make sure the affiliate product is tightly targeted to your niche. If your online business deals with dog training courses, and you decide to promote a set of printable recipe cards. The results probably will not be great. The product you promote needs to be something your followers are interested in.
  • Approach smaller companies at first. They will likely require less information from you and you will get approved sooner. Also, the customer support from smaller businesses with affiliate programs is usually much better than with larger organizations.
  • When you’re first starting out, I recommend that you avoid affiliate programs that have minimum payouts. For example, a company may have a $20 product that offers a 25% commission which sounds great! You will earn $5 every time you make a sale. But they have a $100 minimum commission balance before they will send your payout. You will have to make 20 sales before you get paid.
  • Look for affiliate programs that pay frequently. Don’t sign up for programs that hold your money for 30 days and then take 30 more days before they send payment. Unless you don’t mind waiting two months for your commissions!
  • If you decide to sign up as an Amazon affiliate, make sure you understand the commission rates. Except for Amazon games and luxury items, you’ll only be getting 5% or less per sale.

If you want other pro tips for finding affiliate products that are a great fit with your audience and offer you the best benefit, this will help.

How Do I Find People to Promote Affiliate Products To?

Where do you connect with friends, family or customers now? Is it through:

  • Your email list?
  • Social media accounts?
  • Online or in-person groups?
  • On your blog?
  • On your website?
  • Through your podcast?
  • On YouTube?
  • At the pickleball courts?
  • At church?

Do you have a blog, podcast, or YouTube channel, but have a hard time coming up with content ideas? While these are called Blog Post Shortcuts, they are awesome to use for all sorts of content including blog posts, videos, lives and podcasts. The Reviews 3-Pack is especially good for affiliates.

If you think about it, you will be able to list lots of places where you run into other people in person or online.

Here are some affiliate marketing templates that will help.

Do I Have to Have a List to be an Affiliate Marketer?


You can promote affiliate products in places that attract a lot of people. YouTube is a great example. People come to YouTube looking for two things primarily: instructions and entertainment.

If you create simple how-to videos or review videos you can post them on YouTube to drive traffic to your affiliate link.

You can also share your affiliate link with people in person like the groups, pickleball, church, and other ideas listed above.

However, I do strongly recommend that you immediately start to build a list if you do not have one. Email is a simple and profitable way to earn commissions as an affiliate.

If you do you already have your own list but aren’t sure how to write promotional emails, these templates will help.

Tips for Affiliate Marketing Beginners

  • Set some goals. For example, decide that you are going to work on affiliate marketing for seven hours a week for three months. Give it a fair chance to work.
  • Make a plan. Just like everything else in life, if you go at it sideways with hit-or-miss efforts, you probably won’t earn anything. You need to have structure.
  • Be prepared to wait. The earning potential is high, but it all depends on how much time you have to put into it. There is obviously a learning curve and it takes time to get things set up.

There’s a lot involved with affiliate marketing, but don’t stress out! Take it one step at a time and don’t try to do everything all at once. That way you can make steady progress, earn some sales to keep you encouraged and lay a strong foundation for long-term affiliate commissions.

Have questions about affiliate marketing? Talk to me below!

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