21 Affiliate Marketing Truths You’re Better Off Knowing From The Start

Simon is a former UK call-centre worker who has gone on to build several highly successful affiliate marketing businesses in various different niches & become officially recognized as a Super Affiliate by the world's largest affiliate marketing training platform. He has since relocated to Thailand & now teaches affiliate marketing to others through Commission Academy.

The decision to become an affiliate marketer is less about how you make a living and more about how you live your life.

And the affiliate marketing lifestyle comes with its own set of pros and cons.

You’re your own boss and you can reach 6 figures a year if you want, but it’s not all sunshine, rainbows and drinking margaritas on a tropical island. You’ll encounter many challenges and obstacles along the way and most don’t have the stubborn tenacity to stick it out.

Don’t get me wrong, I believe affiliate marketing is 100% worth it.

Taking that step of faith to launch my first affiliate marketing business is one of the smartest decisions I’ve ever made.

That having been said, here are a few truths about affiliate marketing (I had to learn the hard way over 9 years) that I wish I’d known when I was starting out.

1. Anyone Can Do Affiliate Marketing, But 95% Will Fail

Just because anyone can do affiliate marketing, doesn’t mean everyone will succeed.

The truth is 95% of affiliate marketers quit.

Why such a high failure rate?

For a bunch of reasons.

For some, it’s a lack of proper training and accountability, for others it’s more work than they expected. Mostly, it’s because they get impatient and don’t give enough time for their online business to grow.

On the flip side though, there’s a far greater reward for those willing to stick it out and do the things others aren’t willing to do.

2. It’s The Best Online Business For Beginners

I tried dropshipping. I tried MLMs. I tried online teaching. I even tried selling books on Amazon.

You name it, I probably tried it.

It was only when I learned affiliate marketing I finally quit my call centre job and made the move to Thailand for good.

Affiliate marketing is (hands-down) the best online business model because:

  • It’s easy to start
  • Low start-up costs
  • High-profit margins
  • It’s commission-based
  • You can work wherever and whenever you want
  • You open yourself up to limitless earning potential

3. You Need To Start A Website If You’re Serious

Too often I see newbies getting into affiliate marketing thinking all they need to do is spam a few Facebook groups with links and they’ll be set for life.

If only it was that easy!

While you might get lucky and make a few sales, you can only get so far with third-party social media platforms you neither own nor control.

If you really want to replace your income and succeed at this you need to create a website and build it into an income-producing digital asset that attracts daily traffic in droves and generates sales for you around the clock.

4. Affiliate Marketing Is (Kinda) Passive

Part of the genius of affiliate marketing is the ability to make your time work for you.

I’m not talking about that fake “Click your mouse 3 times and you’ll make $34,614 in 24 hours” crap.

What I am talking about is you being able to put in the time and effort into creating a blog post, shooting a video or writing an email ONCE and then getting paid for that time and effort again and again and again.

For example, let’s say you start a photography blog to promote camera equipment as an affiliate. Imagine it takes you 4 hours to write a blog post and you do this every day for a whole year.

By the end of that 12 months, you would’ve invested 1,460 hours into your affiliate marketing business and now have a blog with 365 posts.

Now imagine each of these posts ranking well on Google, getting page views and clicks to your affiliate links. You could easily be making $10,000 a month even if you never went anywhere near a keyboard again.

That’s what I mean by making passive income with affiliate marketing.

It’s not crazy fantasy – it’s something you CAN make happen, it just means putting in the hours upfront.

5. It Takes Money To Make Money

You can start affiliate marketing for free with $0 down but at some point, you’re going to want to reinvest some of your profits back into training and upgrading your tools so you can take your income next level.

And that’s good news because you don’t have to let a lack of finances hold you back!

If you’re on a tight budget you can take the first step with $0 down and go from there and our free Commission Academy training is a great starting point.

6. 80% Of Affiliates Make Less Than $80k A Year

And 15% of affiliates earn between $80,000 and $1 million per year.

That means the remaining 5% are making more than a million in a year.

It’s a textbook example of the 80/20 Pareto Principle at play where 20% of affiliates generate 80% of earnings.

How much you can realistically make with affiliate marketing will come down to:

  • The popularity and competitiveness of your niche
  • The price points and commissions rates of the products you promote
  • How much content you have
  • What your traffic levels are
  • And how much time you can put in

The truth is affiliate marketing is a level playing field where everyone has the same opportunities and the sky is the limit when it comes to earning potential.

It’s what you do with it that counts.

7. You Have To Be The Tortoise Not The Hare

Affiliate marketing is a marathon and not a sprint. Cheesy but true.

Affiliate marketing is hard, especially in the beginning. You’ll start out pumped to get going then go through a steep learning curve where everything seems overwhelming.

You’ll have good days and bad days. Days when you’re celebrating new milestones and days when you just wanna throw the laptop out of the window. This is completely normal.

the life of an affiliate marketer

Stick it out though and things will eventually get easier and feel more natural over time.

Heck, once you get good you’ll actually start seeing results and enjoy the process!

So remember, Rome wasn’t built in a day and be patient with yourself.

Developing one high-income affiliate marketing skill at a time and mastering the art of delayed gratification is what’s going to keep you in the race and get you to the finish line.

8. Going Full-Time Is A 3-5 Year Gameplan

Making money with affiliate marketing might take longer than you think.

Your website will be a virtual ghost town for the first 3 months. After that, your traffic and income will start to pick up but it’ll be a slow and gradual increase. You want it that way.

The time it takes is a barrier to entry that causes most of the wannabes to give up. And if they didn’t give up you’d end up making a lot less money.

Nobody talks about this…

All the big-name super affiliates that make millions don’t necessarily have a higher IQ or possess skills you don’t have, they’ve just been playing the affiliate marketing game a bit longer is all.

You can absolutely go full-time with affiliate marketing and earn 6 figures plus, just change your time horizon from 30 days to more like 36 months.

9. You Can Succeed In Any Niche

Let’s debunk a big affiliate marketing myth right here and now:

You don’t need to go into the health, wealth or relationships niches to hit the affiliate marketing big time.

The truth is, you can absolutely be successful in any niche you’re passionate about.

There’s no such thing as a saturated niche as you can always find a way to stand out.

Think of it this way:

5 billion+ people go online every day.

And we know Google processes 8.5 billion searches per day.

These people are searching all kinds of questions on every possible topic, from “How do you fix a broken tap?” to “What are the best protein supplements”.

We also know that we spend $996,596 online every second and 7.5% of that is through affiliate links!

Clearly, there are affiliates out there killing it in every niche imaginable. And so can you.

So pick a niche based on what you’re passionate and knowledgeable about, not because you think that’s where the money’s at and you’ll do very well for yourself.

Take a look at these affiliate marketing niche ideas if you want help choosing a direction.

10. Affiliate Marketing Has A Dark Underside

Affiliate marketing is legit, but there are lots of affiliate marketing scams out there.

You know the ones. They offer easy instant profits for doing nothing…

Then there are the done-for-you affiliate marketing systems.

Avoid these like the plague. Trust me, they never work.

Always remember the golden rule:

If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.

Stick to tried and tested affiliate marketing training and be willing to go through the process and you’ll save yourself a ton of cash, frustration and headaches as you start out.

11. Aim For Progress Not Perfection

Start affiliate marketing and you’re going to make mistakes.

It’s just an inevitable fact of life and that’s okay.

You’ll need to get the hang of:

  • Keyword research
  • SEO
  • Content creation
  • Email marketing
  • Website design
  • Traffic generation
  • Copywriting
  • And more

And learning affiliate marketing is just like learning any new skill, like playing a musical instrument or speaking a second language – you’re going to make mistakes.

So be kind to yourself!

Perfectionism or getting things right the first time around is never the goal; learning from your mistakes and getting better over time is.

The truth is every successful affiliate marketer started not very good, but they kept practising and made fewer blunders. Every time they wrote a headline, gave a call to action or created an image got better.

As long as you’re making progress like this then you’re on the right track.

12. You Will Eventually Make Money In Your Sleep

I hesitated including this one but you’re here for the full truth about affiliate marketing, so here it is:

I wake up every morning with notifications on my phone telling me I’ve made several affiliate sales overnight. Honestly, I used to get excited but it happens every day now so I’ve kinda got used to it.

But that’s the beauty of affiliate marketing:

Your website is live on the web and you’re reaching a global audience, so you make commissions 24/7.

Follow the right strategy, put in the work and you’ll start to see a small trickle of sales…

Then those sales become more and more frequent…

Until you’re earning revenue around the clock.

Whether you’re eating at a restaurant, playing a game of golf or yes… even if you’re asleep!

13. Shiny Object Syndrome Is The Biggest Killer

Aside from impatience, shiny object syndrome is the biggest obstacle for aspiring affiliate marketers looking for their big breakthrough.

If you haven’t experienced it yet, you will at some point. We all do!

It’s when you start on one track but then get pulled off into this YouTube video or that SEO training.

Before you know it, you’ve gone through a dozen courses and learned hundreds of different techniques, strategies and methods with no way of piecing them all together.

I liken it to the Stretch Armstrong figures where you get pulled in all different directions.

It’s stressful and confusing and most people will hop from one shiny object to another before eventually calling it quits.

The truth is, whether it’s Commission Academy, Wealthy Affiliate or any other bona fide affiliate marketing course out there, you just need to stick it out long enough to see results.

14. Imposter Syndrome Comes A Close Second

Imposter syndrome happens when we feel like we have to be an expert on a topic before we can talk about it, but the truth is you can run a profitable affiliate site on a topic you know nothing about.

You don’t need a degree in sports science to start a fitness blog.

You need to be a qualified vet to start a dog blog.

If you’re interested in the topic and want to know more about it then go for it with your head held high. You don’t need to fake it ’til you make it.

Just say:

“Hey guys, I just got a pet poodle. Never had a dog before so this is new for me but I’m gonna share what I learn as I go!”

See what I did there? Now there’s no pressure to pretend to be someone you’re not and you’re free to be your genuine, authentic self and keep that pesky imposter syndrome at bay for good.

15. You Can’t Forget To Feed The Google Monster

When people ask me if I work for myself I joke that no, I really work for Google!

And since 80% of my traffic (and therefore sales) come from the biggest search engine it’s kinda true.

When it comes to generating traffic, Google traffic is king because it’ll get you way more sales than social media ever will.

The downside to that is you can become overly reliant on Google’s every whim and algorithm update.

Google has an insatiable appetite for new content and if you want the execs at Google to shine their faces upon you then have to keep feeding them with fresh content.

affiliate marketing truths

You’ll need to publish 100s if not 1,000s of posts and/or videos answering people’s questions.

Of course, as your income grows you can outsource this to a team of writers but the fact remains, your affiliate marketing business relies heavily on keeping the search engines happy so you’ll find your main job as an affiliate marketer is producing helpful high-value content.

Just something you should know.

16. You Never Stop Learning

Henry Ford once said:

“Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at 20 or 80. Anyone who keeps learning stays young. The greatest thing in life is to keep your mind young.”

If you want to be successful at affiliate marketing then you need to become a lifelong learner to stay relevant.

This means you keep an eye on the latest cutting-edge strategies and stay on top of the current events in your niche. Read up on competitors. Be intentional about always getting better. Learn all that you can.

I used to think this was a downside to affiliate marketing but I’ve grown to love it. Things in the online world are changing at such a fast rate, but it keeps things interesting and keeps me on my toes.

17. Affiliate Marketing Is Highly Scalable

If you want to do affiliate marketing as a side hustle, you can.

If you want to turn affiliate marketing into a rewarding career you can do that too.

Most of us work jobs with a capped hourly rate or annual salary.

Maybe if we work hard and put in overtime we’ll get a promotion and pay rise, but that’s out of our control.

With affiliate marketing, YOU are in control of your own financial future.

And because affiliate marketing is infinitely scalable, you can set your income goals at whatever level you want and make new ones once you smash those.

You can build one niche website into a beast of an authority site or you can create several websites in multiple niches. You can focus on promoting one affiliate program or you can build multiple income streams with several affiliate programs.

You can scale up with paid ads to increase revenue or you can build a team of virtual assistants to help lighten the load and take your earnings up a gear.

It really is up to you.

18. Affiliate Marketing Is Not A Pyramid Scheme

Pyramid schemes are where the majority of income comes from recruiting new members, rather than the sale of actual products. It’s an unsustainable business model that’s banned in most countries.

Affiliate marketing, on the other hand, is all about selling other people’s products online via affiliate programs that are free to join and making commissions on each sale.

In other words, affiliates get paid based on direct product sales only. There are no downlines or complex compensation plans and there’s no recruitment involved whatsoever.

19. You Can Turn Into A Hermit If You’re Not Careful

The best thing about affiliate marketing is I can work from home.

The worst thing about affiliate marketing is I can work from home.

It’s an introvert’s dream career.

But while I love working in my T-shirt and boxers from the comfort of my home office, it can make it hard to switch off.

I’ve gone through periods when I’ve been totally obsessed with my online business.

Wake up. Work. Go to bed. Wake up. Work…

And on it goes until you burn out.

It’s not healthy and you’ll need to learn how to strike the right work/life balance.

Affiliate marketing can be very lonely because of the extended social isolation and according to Time, being a hermit for too long can actually shorten your life expectancy.

So while I love the hustle, make sure to switch up your scenery and work from a coffee shop, take the dog for a walk, join a church or a gym and be sociable!

20. The Future Of Affiliate Marketing Is Bright

Naysayers have been declaring the death of affiliate marketing every year since it became a thing, but the truth is there has never been a better time to start.

Stats show affiliate marketing has grown 10% each year for the last 5 years and that’s a trend set to continue.

81% of brands now have affiliate programs, including Amazon, Sony, Walmart and Hugo Boss and affiliate marketing now accounts for 5%-25% of their online sales.

Safe to say, affiliate marketing isn’t going anywhere. It’s a safe and solid business model you can use as a vehicle to better your financial future.

21. Affiliate Marketing Can Be Truly Lifechanging

This year I reached $1 million in affiliate commissions since I started 9 years ago. When I started I had no idea how life-changing affiliate marketing would turn out to be.

Thanks to affiliate marketing, I’ve been to kiss my old boss goodbye and book a one-way ticket to Thailand. I’ve gone from living in a sleepy English village to a stunning riverside condo in central Bangkok.

It’s allowed me and my family to live our dream life and I would never have it any other way.

Start Your Affiliate Marketing Journey Today

I didn’t write this post to scare you or put you off. I wrote it so you’d know the real truth about affiliate marketing – both good and bad – so you’d know what to expect and have a higher chance of success.

If you are the type of person who doesn’t take “No” for an answer then you’re probably stubborn enough to see this through.

You have what it takes.

So take your first step and enrol in our free Commission Academy training now.

This course will set you up with the right know-how, tools, support and everything you need to start a thriving affiliate marketing business in 2024.

It’s totally worth it and your future self will thank you.

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