How I Make Money as a Blogger: A Beginner’s Guide to Affiliate Marketing
The secret is the links in this email are affiliate links. I am telling you this as a disclaimer and to follow the rules. I could possibly make a bit of money through commissions if you chose to click a link and purchase any product, course, or whatever it might be you find useful at no extra cost to you. If you want to learn how this works read this article to the end.
Over the past year, I’ve taken a crash course in making money blogging.
I’ve experimented with freelancing, self-publishing ebooks, creating online courses, offering to coach, and selling digital products.
It seems everyone these days want to know the best way to make money blogging. And you want to know how to make money right away.
Can you get started if…
- you’re not an expert on a subject?
- you don’t have a massive audience?
- you don’t want to publish books, create products or run courses?
You can! Here’s a simple blueprint to make it happen. And the simplest way to start is Wealthy Affiliate.
How To Start Affiliate Marketing
If you’re already writing about products and services you love, why not make some money by sharing your finds with others, ask Kyle and Carson, creators of Wealthy Affiliate.
I like that I get to earn a bit of money just by helping others find what they genuinely want or need.
I like introducing my readers to new resources and helpful experts they might not have heard about before. One of my friends and mentors Matt McWilliams who developed several training courses. Some of my favorites you can find here.
At Wealthy Affiliate, Kyle helps readers learn how to get paid to write blog posts and offers so many online courses, training, and coaching from a community of seasoned bloggers. And as an affiliate, you can make money recommending other people’s products to other readers. This can be skyrocketed by emailing a list of subscribers. More about that in the next few articles.
In its simplest terms, online affiliate marketing for bloggers means:
- You write about a product or service on your blog.
- You link to it with a special tracking link.
- You get a commission on the sale when your readers click the link and make a purchase.
Imagine you just read the perfect how-to book on cooking Indian food, and you want to recommend it to others.
Write a blog post or email newsletter reviewing the book, and link to the book with your Amazon Associates link. If your review convinces a reader to buy, you’ll get a piece of that sale!
Affiliate marketing happens on a spectrum, from an average Joe sharing a link on his blog or social media to a massive publication making special advertising deals through marketing agencies.
So, how can you, as a new blogger, make money from affiliate marketing?
Of all the ways I’ve tried to make money blogging, affiliate marketing is my favorite.
The number one reason I’ve been more successful as an affiliate than as a publisher, coach, or anything else is that it’s easier to sell someone else’s product than my own.
Self-promotion is challenging for the person doing it — and it’s not too palatable for the person watching it.
Whether it’s a tweet about a blog post or an email promoting an online course, my readers are far more receptive to my promotion of someone other than myself. And I’m much more comfortable touting someone else!
Here is a good tip!
Build trust with your audience by clearly disclosing that you receive a commission. The closer the disclaimer is to your recommendation, the better, according to the Federal Trade Commission.
There are always a few people who reply all excited, saying that what I just linked to is exactly what they needed — that is so awesome and leaves you with a sense of pride knowing you have helped someone.
From the reader’s point of view, this is simple: When they see you bragging about someone else, that someone instantly has some social credit. They’re good enough for you to promote.
And it’s just plain less annoying for the reader when you share resources from other people than when you constantly “brag” about your own products.
Also, I’ll get a grouchy email from someone who wants me to apologize for telling them about anything with a price tag. But those are less common, and you don’t hear them complaining about paying for what they want.
Why talk about affiliate marketing in 2019? Isn’t that a thing of the past?
Back in the ancient times of blogging — say, 10 to 15 years ago — you could create a blog and litter it with ads and affiliate links and bring in decent money.
It was fairly easy: People were looking for things on the Internet, and there wasn’t much there.
In that landscape, your blog was like the one gas station on a dusty two-lane highway between Idaho and Utah.
It didn’t matter that the coffee has been burning for three days and the bathrooms have a permanent puddle of (hopefully) water on the floor — people would stop, because it was the only business they’d seen for 75 miles.
Now, we live in more of a Starbucks-on-every-corner era of blogging. Readers have more choices online than they can comprehend, and they’ll likely stop somewhere familiar before even knowing what’s down the block.
Another good tip!
Making money as a small blogger in 2019 is less about being the only one in your niche and more about cultivating a community of fans around what you uniquely offer within that niche.
You’re down the block, in the little artisan coffee shop. You don’t do nearly the volume of business as the nearest Starbucks.
But your regulars are die-hard fans who will try your latest Flavor of the Day even if it’s peppermint-caramel-raspberry because they trust your taste. And this is the key to affiliate marketing. How do you do that? Here’s a simple step-by-step guide I recommend to anyone just getting started blogging.
Now In 2021
There are a few more things to consider if you want to be competitive.
1. Build an Email List
There are endless ways to grow a blog and make money online.
Nothing’s guaranteed, and none are perfect, but I can tell you what works for me and what is highly recommended by most experts I’ve seen: Build an email list with List Launch Challenge.
In a world where Buzzfeed screams louder than a hangry toddler and Google changes its algorithm faster than you can say “organic website traffic,” being heard above the noise is your blog’s biggest challenge.
An email list cuts through that noise.
Readers subscribe to hear specifically from you, and your emails land in their inboxes. That elevates what you’ve written to a level of importance much higher than it would achieve on your blog alone.
Growing an email list, too, can be done in numerous ways. My favorite is through a combination of guest blogging and offering an enticing freebie (Lead Magnet). Here’s the simple formula:
Create a freebie your desired audience will love. It could be a short PDF ebook, e-guide, or worksheet; an audio or video recording; an infographic; or access to an exclusive group.
Or anything you can imagine — get creative.
The first thing I did on my site to build my email list was offering a free ebook with information on the niche selected!
I still offer this freebie, this is still the number one way to add to my growing email list.
Set up a free email list. The best way to start an email list is through ConvertKit, it does come with a monthly fee but you can start a free trial here.
Pitch and write guest blog posts. The process for pitching guest blog posts is the same as pitching an article as a freelance writer.
The only difference is you’re usually looking for compensation in the way of a link rather than money — but that shouldn’t be part of your pitch, anyway.
Link to your email sign-up form in a guest post. For this promotional step, focus on blogs that give you a bio with a link from your guest post. Use a line of that bio to promote your freebie and link to your email sign-up page.
This can be as simple as the sign-up page automatically created by ConvertKit if you don’t want to create your own landing page.
Do this for a while before even starting your blog. Focus on building your email list, so when you do start blogging, you’ll have an audience already built-in.
Set a target number of subscribers you want to reach before you launch your blog. Most sources I’ve seen recommend hitting at least 1,000 subscribers to make affiliate marketing worth your while.
I like the number, because it’s feasible for new bloggers, even though it may seem daunting. It’s also enough to start making money, even though it’s small potatoes in the grand scheme of the Internet.
Once you hit your target threshold of subscribers, you can get to the fun part: making money!
3. Join an Affiliate Network
Starting in affiliate sales begins by joining an affiliate network, an online marketplace where merchants connect with affiliates to promote their products and services.
One of the simplest ways to start is by becoming an Amazon Associate. Because Amazon sells just about anything, this will fit regardless of your field of interest.
Whether it’s an e-guide on self-publishing or the best blender for green smoothies, you can make money from Amazon by recommending the resources you love to others.
Amazon affiliate sales don’t usually bring in a lot of income, because Amazon is known for its low prices, and your cut is typically around only 1% to 10%. But it’s easy to sign up and get links, and a way to hone your blogging and promotional skills.
4. Promote the Products and Services You Use
When you’re comfortable with promotion and understand which kinds of products your readers will purchase, look into better affiliate programs. A commission of around 50% for higher-priced products or packages is not uncommon.
But you probably don’t want to just pick random products. I’ve found the best affiliate opportunities to be the products I’m already using.
Just keep this in mind, only share an affiliate link for things that you would have shared anyway, even if there were no affiliate program and no potential income. Sounds like integrity, right?
As you learn more about your niche, you’ll probably read books, follow blogs, participate in courses and join a membership community or two. Can you make a commission for recommending these to others trying to learn the same things?
Often, the person selling these products will make it easy for you to sign up as an affiliate. Who better to promote their offer than someone who already uses and hopefully, enjoys it?
Once you gain some traction, affiliate opportunities could start to find you.
For higher-priced offers like member programs or online courses, the creators will often reach out to recruit affiliate partners directly, rather than make their program open to anyone. This helps ensure higher payouts for each affiliate.
The guest blogging you did to build your email list should go a long way in building connections with influential bloggers. Stay in touch and stay on their radar, and next time they’re preparing for a launch, they may come to you.
These offers are the ones that help me make a few hundred dollars each month just from sending a few emails. For bloggers with larger email lists, these launches mean thousands or hundreds of thousands of dollars.
All of this without ever selling anything of your own!
Affiliate Marketing Can Help You Earn Passive Income
In retrospect, I look back and wish I would have started affiliate marketing through my blog sooner. It’s proven my best bet to make extra money without directly trading hours to earn it, as one would with freelancing or coaching.
Creating products and courses takes time upfront that you can’t always be sure will pay off. I am not trying to deter you from this but you have to be prepared to put in the work if you go that route.
The same goes for coaching and other income you have to trade your time to earn. The time and energy you’ll spend are much more than what it takes to write and send a couple of emails about an affiliate product.
Yet another good tip!
Affiliate marketing links include cookies that tag referral sales. Companies can track cookies for days or weeks, so even if your reader doesn’t buy right away, you still get credit. Look for affiliate programs that support longer cookies.
Affiliate marketing is less stable than other ways to make money blogging, although, affiliate marketing takes no greater effort than freelance blogging, the big difference is that you don’t know how much you’ll earn from an affiliate campaign until the sales figures come in.”
Freelancing is one of the most straightforward ways for bloggers to make a reasonably predictable income month after month. So, affiliate marketing is a smart addition to your other blogging efforts.
Even as I’ve shifted my focus away from running my blog, the website still sees traffic daily. That means even when I’m not directly working on the blog, I can still earn money from affiliate sales.
That’s a pretty cool way to make some extra money to save for future projects! I can’t think of a good excuse to not do this if you are running a blog site. Please take anything you find here and use it to help you start to monetize your blog.
Good luck with your adventures!
If you really want to nail down some residual income from your site, fill out this form to be put on the waiting list for Stu McLaren’s TRIBE membership building course.