*This post may include affiliate links. I may be compensated if you purchase through one of my links – this does not impact the price to you.*
No matter who you are, no matter what you do for a living, I believe absolutely everyone should have affiliate marketing as an income stream. Honestly, you’re kinda silly not to! There’s zero downside and unlimited upside. I also think that most people don’t have a complete understanding of affiliate marketing, so today I want to break down what it is, how it works, the different types, pros, cons and how you can get started.
What is Affiliate Marketing
Affiliate marketing is a type of advertising that rewards individuals or companies for providing their audience with exposure to a product or service. At the simplest level, affiliate marketing is recommending a product or service to someone in your network.
It used to be that products and services were marketed primarily through television and radio ads, print ads and billboards. However, the explosion and accessibility of social media opened doors for a new, more effective approach.
Companies are shifting dramatically (and often completely) to compensating individuals for promoting their products or services directly to their own audiences, where relationships exist. If I follow someone on Instagram, even if I don’t know them personally, I likely trust their recommendation for mascara more than I trust a random print ad. Plus, seeing this person on Instagram apply the mascara provides me with a more honest experience of the product than a highly produced television commercial.
Jewelry companies used to rely on print advertisements or expensive television spots. They’d pay a premium whether the ads were successful or not. Now, they’ve realized it’s a lot more effective and affordable to connect with individuals who share their target audience and compensate them for wearing or sharing the goods.
Sometimes the payout is a flat fee for exposure and other times it’s based entirely on conversion. Sometimes affiliates are compensated with product, other times their compensated with currency and sometimes it’s both. There are countless models for affiliate marketing and different levels of accessibility.
That’s one of the things that most companies adore about affiliate marketing – the option to only pay for advertising that is successful. For example – I’m an affiliate for Fatco (my discount code is PRIMAL) but they only have to pay me if I bring them a customer. It’s a much more attractive proposition for companies than paying out even if the campaign flops!
We’re all part of this engine. Every single one of us. The difference is, not all of us are getting paid for it (yet). I’d like to change that! I believe that absolutely everyone should have affiliate marketing as an income stream!
Here’s something important to keep in mind as we explore this further: affiliate marketing is for everyone. While not every company or product has an affiliate program and some have lofty requirements for participation, there are tons of affiliate opportunities that exist even if you have no audience! There’s money to be made no matter who you are!
Why it Makes Sense
The old way of marketing is OUT. Sure, television commercials, billboards and magazine ads still exist, but they’re no where near as impactful, effective and profitable as affiliate marketing.
How many times have you bought an outfit because you saw someone on social media wearing it or you loved it on a friend from church and asked her where she got it?
Are you more likely to buy a book because you saw an ad in a magazine or because your friend raved about it?
People trust people more than people trust companies, so as social media has grown in it’s use across all demographics, affiliate marketing has replaced old school advertisements. I was just telling a girlfriend that I basically only buy clothes when I see someone on social media wearing them, especially if it’s someone who is about my same size. Affiliate marketing has changed how we shop! I’m curious: how many times have you been “influenced” to buy something because of the recommendation of a friend, of someone you follow online or a family member? Whether they were compensated or not, that’s affiliate marketing!
Imagine if Coca-Cola ran a commercial during the Super Bowl but they only had to pay based on the number of people who bought Coke as a result of the commercial. Affiliate marketing allows that kind of confidence in your ad spend.
Beyond that, every one of us need additional streams of income. I don’t care if you’re making multiple 6 figures and are debt free or if you’re a struggling single mom. Having multiple streams of income has moved from a “nice to have” to a “need to have”. The winds of change will impact all of us at some point; gone are the days of having all your financial eggs in one basket.
Besides, you’re going to refer products anyway! You’re going to tell your friends, family or co-workers about products and services you love. Why not get paid for it?!
Different Types of Affiliate Marketing Deals
You might think that you can’t possibly take advantage of affiliate marketing because you don’t have an audience. You’re wrong! Sure, there are audience requirements for some affiliate opportunities, but certainly not all of them!
It’s true; some companies only establish affiliate relationships with individuals or companies that meet certain audience exposure requirements. I remember when I first reached out to Levels because I was recommending their product anyway, they told me they only worked with a select few individuals with huge social media followings. Based on their criteria, I was out. That’s okay! Not everything is going to be a fit with where you’re at. Interestingly, because I did a podcast anyway (I talk about things I love whether I have an affiliate relationship or not), the company saw my ability to influence for their product, and they offered me an affiliate partnership.
Other companies have very low or no audience requirements. For example, GreenStalk (the vertical garden I use) had an audience requirement when I started with them, but it was extremely small. As of when I’m writing this, companies like Amazon and Audible don’t have any audience requirements. Rest assured, there are lots of affiliate programs with no audience requirement because there’s little to no risk to the company. If you don’t bring them new customers, they don’t pay you, so they have nothing to lose. When in doubt, ask!
Type of Compensation
This is where you’ll see a lot of diversity and where it’s important to get all the information. There are many different deal types. You will find:
- compensation via product credit
- compensation via free product
- flat rate deals where you’re paid $x for a post, story or blog
- flat rate per new customer (here you’d get a flat rate no matter how much a customer spends)
- percentage of sale (you’d get a set percentage of the amount of revenue your relationship brings in)
- payment on new customers only
- payment on any customer that shops through your link
- one time payments
- residual payments
You could see any number of different types of compensation arrangements or any combination of multiple. Let me give you a few examples.
Some affiliate relationships offer a benefit to your customer (like a discount code or link) and other times there’s no perk to your customer base. Both of those deal types are very common. Amare allows me to offer you a discount by using my code (BENTON) but with Amazon, you don’t get any kind of discount by using my link.
Many years ago, I was on a Viking Waffles kick. Viking Waffles are pre-made low carb, high protein waffles and I really loved them for a while. After being a repeat customer for months, I reached out to see if they had an affiliate program. They did, and their offer was for product credit. Essentially, if I brought them new customers, they’d reward me with free waffles. Their process was kind of clunky, so it didn’t end up being a good fit for me. But if there’s a product you love and purchase anyway, product free product relationships can be awesome!
Fatco offers a pretty common affiliate program. They give me a unique coupon code (PRIMAL) and when customers use that code, I get paid a percentage of the sale.
Amazon works in a similar way, but via links and not discount codes. If you sign up as an Amazon affiliate (they call it “associate”, you gain the ability to grab a special link from any product and are paid a teeny, tiny commission if someone purchases through that link. The other day one of my girlfriends asked me what potty training toilet seat we were using for Roman. I sent her the link using my affiliate link, and if she purchases, I’ll earn a small commission.
I have affiliate relationships with about a dozen companies, but my far-and-away favorite is Amare. Here’s why (in no particular order):
- I love the products and use them daily. Roman and Chris use them daily too, which makes for lots of opportunities to share about them. (It’s more profitable to have affiliate relationships with products you genuinely use regularly than those you might use every once in a while)
- Their program offers a discount code to new customers so there’s a benefit to them, not just me. Using the code BENTON, new customers save $10 on their first order
- I earn in multiple ways and I simultaneously earn: money, product credit, completely free products, prizes and trips. It’s literally all these things at the same time
- I earn more than 20x more via Amare than other affiliate partnerships because:
- If I bring them a new customer, they pay me EVERY SINGLE TIME that person purchases, not just the first time
- The % of commission I earn increases as I bring them more business. So, while I might start out earning 10%, I can earn up to 38% commission based on how much business I bring (to give context, 38% is insane. Most other affiliates max out around 5% and the rate often doesn’t increase with your performances or effectiveness)
- They have products that appeal to almost everyone. I love my vertical garden, but not everyone is interested in that, so the income is limited. But with Amare, they have kids products, they have protein powders, they have probiotics, vitamins, natural energy drinks, natural pain relievers and more. The wide array of products makes earning easier.
What Most People Don’t Get 🙄
Let me first say that I don’t expect everyone to know or understand affiliate marketing, especially if they haven’t invested a lot of time, energy or experience into it. However, it chaps my a$$ a little bit when someone who doesn’t have an understanding throws out inaccurate judgements as if they know what they’re talking about. Just because you think you’re right doesn’t mean you are, ya know?
There’s an important difference between multi-level-marketing and affiliate marketing. There are companies who offer both, but that doesn’t mean you need to participate in both. And again, for the people in the back: they’re not the same.
I’m not an expert on multi-level-marketing so I won’t pretend to be, but as an affiliate, you don’t need anyone “on your team” in order to make money. So, while Amare has a model for multi-level-marketing, they also have an affiliate program, which is what I take full advantage of (and love).
Do you know how many people I need to have “on my team” to make multiple 6 figures annually from Amare? Zero. That’s right. Zero.
So how many people would you need on your team to make money as an affiliate with Amare? Zero.
Anyone who wants to make uneducated statements is welcome to do so, but my energy and time isn’t available for that. 🤷🏻♀️
Most people think you need to be an influencer to take advantage of affiliate marketing. Well, I’d argue that every single one of us are influencers. When my mom asks me what book I’m reading, I’m an “influencer” in sharing it.
When my friend at church asks where I got my cute green pants, I’m an influencer for those green pants.
We are all influencers. Influencing doesn’t require intentional audience creation.
Yes, I have a podcast audience. But you can take advantage of affiliate marketing without ever intentionally building an audience.
Remember when someone asked you where you got your adorable potholders? You can text them your Amazon link and earn a small commission.
Affiliate marketing is for everyone! We all do it, we just aren’t all getting paid for it (yet).
Getting Started with Affiliate Marketing as an Income Stream
I’ve used the same skincare products for about 10 years. At least a few times a month, a family member or friend comments on my skin and asks what I use. After a few years of eagerly recommending Fatco, I reached out to the company to see if they had an affiliate program. Sure even, they did! They gave me a discount code (PRIMAL) to share with my friends and I’ve been getting paid every time someone uses my code ever since.
Sure, it’s not a ton of money because it doesn’t come up hundreds of times a day, but, as you create more affiliate relationships, it adds up!
I did the same thing after trying Levels. Many of my friends and colleagues were using the continuous glucose monitoring program from Levels. I purchased it, loved it, found myself telling my friends about it and then reached out to see if they had an affiliate program. They offered me a personalized link. Just the other day, an acquaintence posted on her social media asking if anyone had experiences with a CGM. I shared my experience, let her know I had a link, she decided to try it and I get paid!
As I said earlier: we’re doing this anyway! We’re just not all getting paid for it!
The goal (as I see it) isn’t to get paid from products you don’t love. I think we’ve all seen enough influencers promoting Magic Spoon cereal to understand that not everyone takes only only products they genuinely love and use, but that’s the approach I strongly recommend. When your recommendation is genuine and enthusiastic, it shows!
Of course not every product or service has an affiliate program (yet) and you might not always meet their criteria, but there’s something out there for you, so start looking!
As of when this is being written, I believe almost any adult can be an Amazon affiliate. That way, if someone asks you what laundry detergent you use for your newborn, you can send them your Amazon affiliate link. Or, just yesterday, I asked a friend where she got her pool furniture. She got it from Amazon. If she had an affiliate link, she could have sent me her unique link and she’d have gotten paid for her recommendation!
Audible is another company that has minimal requirements for an affiliate account.
As I said, Amare is one of my favorite affiliate relationships because their payout and benefits are second to none and I genuinely use the products daily – as do Roman and Chris! While there are some countries in which it’s not available, almost anyone can sign up right now!
When in doubt, reach out! Connect with the companies you love and ask if they have an affiliate program! If they don’t, ask if there’s an interest list you can be placed on to be notified if one becomes available.
Are you an avid reader? Share your own links for those books!
Do you love finding great deals on Amazon? Get that affiliate/associate account.
Are you always raving about your probiotic or nail polish? Monetize what you’re already doing.
Where multiple streams of income may have once been a luxury, it’s now a necessity.