What Is Affiliate Marketing? (and How To Start) For Beginners

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Dale is a former electrician that has since gone on to generate over $1 million in all-time affiliate commissions & become officially recognized as a Super Affiliate by the world's largest affiliate marketing training platform. Alongside running his own affiliate marketing empire, he now also teaches affiliate marketing to others through the Commission Academy platform.

Quick Answer: Affiliate marketing is the process of promoting products or services for companies online in return for commissions that are paid out on successful sales. Start with our free training.

So you’ve heard of affiliate marketing (or you’ve seen people making money with it on social media) & now you’ve found yourself wondering what is affiliate marketing? How does it work? And how can you get started?

Well, the good news is that you’ve landed in exactly the right place because in this guide I’m going to explain exactly what affiliate marketing is (in a simple way for beginners to understand) & I’ll also be revealing how you can get started with affiliate marketing as soon as today & even begin generating your very first commissions.

Meaning that if you stick around & read this post right through to the end then not only will you learn everything you need to know about affiliate marketing but you’ll also learn how you too can begin making money from it for yourself (without actually having to pay any money to get started).

What Is Affiliate Marketing?   |   How Does It Work?   |   Are There Any Requirements?   |   Does It Cost Anything?   |   How Do Affiliates Get Paid?   |   Can Affiliate Marketing Make You Rich?   |   How Long Does It Take To Make Money?   |   Is It Legit?   |   Do You Pay Taxes?   |   How Do You Become an Affiliate Marketer?

What Is Affiliate Marketing?

Affiliate marketing is a method of making money that involves promoting products or services for companies online in return for commissions that are paid out on successful sales.

So, for example, you could sign up as an affiliate of Amazon (which is free to do) & then that would give you the opportunity to promote any of the products from their website to others in return for commissions.

You’d simply get a special link to the products (known as an affiliate link) & the link would contain an ID that’s unique to you. This means that if somebody clicked the link & bought something, Amazon would know that it was you that sent the customer there so you’d get credited for the sale & you get paid a commission.

And Amazon isn’t the only company that has an affiliate program. In fact, these days, many of the big companies that have an online presence also run affiliate programs through which people can sign up & make money.

Watch our ultimate beginner’s guide on affiliate programs for full details:

What’s more, is that some affiliate programs even pay commissions in excess of 80% per sale. 😮

So it’s safe to say that affiliate marketing can make for a relatively easy way to earn money & as a result, there are many affiliates that earn 4, 5 or even as much as 6-figures per month.

Amazon Affiliate Earnings

Pretty crazy stuff, I’m sure you’ll agree.

But the best part is that since the job of an affiliate is just to promote other companies’ products or services, all of their money can be earned without having to actually deal with handling stock, shipping items, managing refunds, and responding to customer support requests, etc. The companies they’re promoting handle all of that.

All an affiliate needs to do is simply find a product or service they like, promote it & generate sales.

And that’s why affiliate marketing has become so popular, because not only is it relatively straightforward & easy to do, but it’s also completely free to get started with & there are opportunities with it all around the world.

However, whilst it is easy to get started with affiliate marketing, whether or not you find success with it is largely dependent on how effectively you can promote things online. That’s why we put together free step-by-step training explaining one of the most powerful (and yet simple) ways to do affiliate marketing.

So if you’re looking to dive right in & get started, do be sure to sign up for our free training.

Alternatively, if you’re looking to learn more about affiliate marketing before getting started, continue reading & I’ll explain in more detail exactly how it works, how you get paid & how long it takes to actually make money.

How Does Affiliate Marketing Work?

Whilst affiliate marketing may seem complex at first glance, the reality is that it’s actually quite simple.

In fact, it can actually be stripped back to a simple, 3-step process & that process involves:

So, as an example, let’s say that you wanted to become an affiliate for Amazon & earn commissions by promoting products or services from their website. The first step would be to sign up for their affiliate program.

Then, once you were accepted into their affiliate program you would need to go ahead & grab your affiliate links.

An affiliate link is basically just a special link to a website that contains a tracking ID that is unique to you. So you would send somebody to the website via your affiliate link & then if they happened to purchase something, the company would be able to determine it was you that sent them there & you’d get credited for the sale.

As an example, here’s what an Amazon affiliate link looks like:

Amazon Affiliate Link Example

And that particular Amazon affiliate link takes the visitor to a specific product on the Amazon website.

So if I shared that link with somebody, they clicked it & then they happened to purchase the product as a result of going via my link, Amazon would know that I generated the sale & they’d pay me a commission in return.

Make sense?

But whilst the process itself is pretty simple, as I mentioned in the previous section, whether or not you actually find success with it depends on how effectively you’re able to promote your affiliate links online.

After all, if you can’t get anybody to click on your links then you won’t find yourself earning any money.

And whilst you might think that you could just blast links to all of your friends on social media, many programs (including Amazon) don’t actually allow this & participating in such practices could get you banned.

So how do people do it? How do people actually make money with affiliate marketing?

Well, there are actually many different ways that people promote affiliate links online. Some people with a huge following, for example, are able to leverage social media platforms & many others leverage paid advertising.

But what if you don’t have a huge following or the budget to risk on a paid ad campaign?

Well, there is a (free-ish) alternative that anybody can quite easily do (even if they don’t have a huge following or large budget) & that is to simply leverage search engines such as Google, Yahoo & Bing.

This is the exact method we teach at Commission Academy & it revolves around Online Content Creation.

You see, when you create content online (such as a web page) it automatically gets discovered by search engines & they list it within their results as an option to click on when people search for things that are related to it.

The more relevant & helpful it is, the higher it gets listed within the results.

So as an example, let’s say you had an interest in dogs & you wanted to promote dog-related things as an affiliate to earn some extra cash, you could create a small, simple (but helpful) dog-related web page.

And for the purpose of the example, let’s say that on this page you outlined the best toothbrushes for dogs.

The search engines (such as Google) would automatically discover the page that you had created & then whenever somebody searched for something related to “dog toothbrushes”, the page would show up as an option for them to click on within the results like you can see in the image below:

Dog Toothbrushes Google Search Results

And once people start clicking through to the page that then gives you the opportunity to begin promoting products to them as an affiliate, which is exactly what the owner of the website shown in the screenshot above is doing, as you can see in the next screenshot below:

The owner of that web page has listed what they believe to be the best toothbrushes & then next to each one they’ve added affiliate links that the visitor can click which takes them directly to the product page on Amazon.

So if somebody searches in Google, finds that page and buys a toothbrush, the creator of that page will get paid a commission… And that could be happening multiple times every single day, even whilst he or she is sleeping.

Meaning that from a small, one-time effort of creating the page, the person behind it could now be earning a completely passive income for as long as they keep the page online. Plus, there’s also no limit on how many of these types of pages they create, meaning they can also grow their income as large as they desire.

And that’s how some affiliates are able to make whopping 4, 5 and even 6-figure monthly incomes.

Are There Any Requirements To Become an Affiliate?

The majority of affiliate programs don’t have any requirements at all meaning that anybody can apply regardless of age, experience, location, etc.

However, there are some that have very strict requirements. For example, some programs may require you to:

  • Be 18+ years of age
  • Have an established website
  • Have a minimum amount of traffic
  • Be able to generate a number of sales in a certain period of time
  • Live within specific regions

But the good news is that because there are simply so many affiliate programs out there, not meeting the requirements for a specific one (or getting rejected after applying) isn’t necessarily a big deal.

There’ll always be something that you can promote, regardless of your age, location or experience and anyone can be successful with affiliate marketing.

And you might be wondering, why do some affiliate programs have restrictions when others don’t?

Wouldn’t it make sense for them to just let everybody become an affiliate to help them make more sales?

Well, kinda – but at the same time brands need to protect their image. For example, if a newbie affiliate signed up & began spamming the links on social media then that could be damaging to the brand’s image.

So for this reason, some companies will only work with more experienced affiliates who know how to promote things effectively without using spammy tactics or other tactics that could hurt the brand’s image.

Pretty understandable, I think you’ll agree.

The good news is that in the free Commission Academy training, not only do we teach you how to easily find affiliate programs, but we also teach a method that will pretty much just about guarantee approval.

So if you haven’t yet checked out our training, it’s definitely wise to do so before you leave.

Does It Cost Anything To Become An Affiliate?

Usually, it will be completely free to sign up to become an affiliate. There are, however, some (very rare) instances when a company may charge a fee for you to participate in their program or become active on their network.

And when I say very rare, I really do mean that. In fact, in over 10+ years of working full-time affiliate marketer, I have only come across at most, 3 legitimate programs that have charged some sort of joining fee to affiliates.

So if a company is asking for you to pay a fee to become an affiliate then I would strongly urge that you do some serious due diligence before joining because 9 times out of 10, those “affiliate programs” are actually just scams.

The exception to the rule is the Awin network. Awin is one of the largest affiliate marketing networks out there & they charge a “£5 application fee” which they claim is to help them deal with compliance issues.

If approved, the fee is added to your balance & paid out when (or if) you reach your payment threshold. If rejected, you can request to have the fee refunded back to the card that you used to make the payment.

But whilst affiliate program applications themselves are generally free, you shouldn’t expect affiliate marketing as a whole to be completely free of charge. Not if you want to actually make good money as an affiliate anyway.

You see, whilst you could by all means simply post your link on social media & attempt to promote without paying out any money, ultimately, this is not an effective method for most people without a huge following.

Instead, most affiliates will be required to purchase some additional things in order to promote their links effectively. These things could include:

  • Domain names
  • Web hosting
  • Email marketing tools
  • Research tools
  • Training courses
  • Paid advertising

The good news though is that even if you were to purchase all of those things (with the exception of paid advertising) it would be unlikely that you’d find yourself spending more than $100 or $200 per month at most.

Here’s a full cost breakdown:

And that’s obviously a VERY small amount of money when you consider that you’re starting a business (yes, affiliate marketing is a business) that could potentially pay you 4, 5 or even 6-figures per month.

So it’s safe to say that even though it may not necessarily be 100% free, the potential ROI that affiliate marketing offers is extremely high & it’s easy to see that the small costs are more than worth it in the long run.

How Do Affiliates Get Paid?

One of the most common questions from new affiliates is “How do I get paid?” The answer to this question is however you like. All you need to do is simply find a program that pays out via the method that you’d prefer.

For example, if you wished to receive payments via PayPal, then you could just specifically look for affiliate programs that pay via PayPal.

Or if PayPal wasn’t available in your country & you wanted to be paid by cheque, you could just look for an affiliate program that pays via cheque instead.

Heck, some affiliate programs now even pay out in cryptocurrency.

But the most common methods of payment without a doubt are as follows;

  • Wire transfer
  • Direct deposit
  • Cheque
  • PayPal

And in many instances, if you’re sending enough volume to a company & generating enough sales, they’ll happily work with you to pay you through a method of your choice, even if they may not “officially” support it.

So in terms of getting paid, there are generally lots of choices but if you need to use any specific method of payment then just simply check the program’s details (or contact the program’s manager) prior to applying.

Can Affiliate Marketing Make You Rich?

Absolutely, and not just in terms of monetary richness either. Affiliate marketing can provide you with time freedom, money freedom and location freedom, so it’s safe to say it can make you very rich indeed.

In terms of money though, there are many affiliate marketers that have gone on to earn millions & what’s most surprising is that the majority of them actually had no technical or marketing skills prior to getting started.

So this really shows that affiliate marketing presents an amazing opportunity, even for the “average Joe”.

And to highlight that point, here are some income reports from various affiliate marketers:

But with regards to what YOU can earn with affiliate marketing, well, the sky’s the limit.

You see, unlike at a job where your income is capped by the amount your boss is willing to pay you, with affiliate marketing you can earn as much as you like. The harder you work, the more you can earn.

And as I mentioned a little further above, alongside “money freedom”, affiliate marketing can also enable you to achieve time & location freedom too since you can work when you want, from wherever you want.

So whatever way you define “rich”, affiliate marketing can certainly make you rich for sure.

How Long Does It Take To Make Money?

Technically, you could make money right away. If you were to sign up for an affiliate program, share your link & get somebody to purchase a product or service as a result of clicking it, you’d get paid a commission.

So to answer the question “How long does it take affiliates to make money?” properly, I’d have to say it all depends upon your methods of promotion.

For example, if you have a huge social media following already, then it is likely that you could very quickly begin making money from affiliate marketing simply by promoting things to your existing audience.

And similarly, if you have a large budget then you could run a paid advertising campaign & begin sending visitors through to your affiliate links right away.

But whilst you could “technically” make money right away as an affiliate, being realistic, I would say that you should generally not expect to make money “fast” as an affiliate marketer, especially if you’re brand new to it.

And the reason I say that is simply because if you’re new to it, then there is bound to be a learning curve.

For example, even if you do have a large budget that you could throw at paid advertising, that doesn’t necessarily guarantee that you’ll actually make sales & generate a profit. Instead, you’ll first need to learn how to use the advertising platform & how to actually effectively convert visitors into sales to generate a healthy return.

And in my professional opinion, if you’re new to affiliate marketing then you should start out with a free method such as Online Content Creation (the method we teach at Commission Academy) to avoid risking losing any money…

But whilst this method carries less risk, it can take a little longer before you start seeing results…

So my advice, especially if you’re completely new to affiliate marketing, would be to allow yourself at least 3 to 6 months before expecting to make money. It may indeed happen sooner, but setting a realistic expectation like that will prevent you from putting unnecessary pressure on yourself & giving up as a result of feeling frustrated.

The good news, however, is that once you do actually gain momentum & begin generating revenue, you’ll likely be able to start scaling things much more quickly & your income will grow like a snowball rolling down a hill.

As an example of that, take a look at the chart below which shows the tracked income of a brand new affiliate:

Affiliate Income Example

The particular affiliate who created the chart tracked his income right from the very day he got started & whilst initially it may have appeared as if not much was happening, by month 6 he was earning over $2,000 per month.

…and my month 10 he was earning over a whopping $6,000 per month!

So whilst things may not necessarily happen overnight with affiliate marketing (especially if you’re new to it), you can likely now see that in the long run, it is more than worth it as it can prove to become very lucrative indeed.

Is Affiliate Marketing Legit?

Absolutely. Affiliate marketing is just a form of advertising through which you’re paid commissions for any successful sales that you manage to generate & it’s perfectly legitimate.

That is, of course, providing you’re promoting things in a legitimate way…

For example, whilst the method of affiliate marketing itself is legitimate, if you were promoting illegitimate products as an affiliate or using trickery to get people to purchase products, then that wouldn’t be legitimate.

So ultimately, it’s all down to how you personally go about it.

Providing you promote legitimate products or services that you believe will actually truly help your audience & you make it clear to your audience that you’re earning commissions for promoting them then you’ll do just fine.

Do You Pay Taxes on Affiliate Marketing?

Doing affiliate marketing means you’re essentially running an “advertising business” & you may be required to pay taxes on your earnings (depending on your country or state), just as you would be with any other business.

The good news is that generally, you won’t need to report anything until you actually start earning money & then all you’ll need to do as soon as you start earning is simply reach out to a qualified accountant for advice.

The accountant will be able to handle everything for you & so long as you keep all of your receipts & a record of your transactions they should even be able to deduct any expenses for you as well to save you some money.

How Do You Become an Affiliate Marketer?

Well, there are 2 different ways that you can become an affiliate marketer. The first way is to try & figure everything out by yourself by leveraging sites like Google, YouTube & so on…

But as you can likely imagine, that’s not really the most efficient way to go about it so instead, what we would recommend you do is sign up for a step-by-step affiliate marketing training program.

And it just so happens that’s exactly what we offer here at Commission Academy.

So if you haven’t done so yet, we highly recommend that you sign up & take advantage of our free step-by-step training. Throughout the training, you’ll learn everything you need to know, even if you’re just a beginner.

You’ll discover things such as:

  • How to find a niche (and what a niche is)
  • How to find lucrative affiliate programs
  • How to get web pages ranked in Google
  • How to get people clicking your links
  • How to turn visits to your links into sales
  • How to leverage YouTube to speed up your results
  • How to use paid advertising to scale your business
  • How to build an email list & multiply your revenue

…along with much more.

And the best part is that as mentioned above, the training is completely free of charge.

So if you’re ready to dive in & not only learn more about affiliate marketing but also begin making money from it too then do be sure to create your free account at Commission Academy & begin your journey to success today.

P.S. Have any additional questions? Feel free to leave them below & we’ll answer them as soon as possible.

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