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What are Affiliate Programs and How Can You Earn Money With Them?

What are Affiliate Programs and How Can You Earn Money With Them?

Vallery Henings

June 20, 2019 (modified on March 9, 2023)


As you are grinding through the last couple of hours in the workweek, you might find out that your focus has shifted from what you are supposed to be doing to another traveling blog. Or, you could be checking out that life planner on another blog that promises to have your life sorted out in just a couple of days.

You don’t care, because you are probably underpaid for your hours, either in reality or in your personal opinion. There are just so many hours in a lifetime, but unlimited opportunities are playing with your fear of missing out, just outside the office doors. You wish you were doing something you love, so that you don’t come home as tired as humanly possible, and that you had enough hours for things that actually make you happy.

What if it were possible? What if you could actually spend your time doing and writing about your happiness, and get paid for it? Yes, we are talking about blogging as an alternative to your daily job.

Blogging as a job?

While you can earn money from your blog, turning it into a well-paid job can be a bit of a hassle. Still, there are many shortcuts you could take, and there is quite a number of options. The easiest one, which will turn into profit in no time is Affiliate Marketing. With many affiliate programs out there available for you, you could start earning cuts in no time.

So, for example, you are a fan of traveling, camping, or trekking. Wouldn’t it be perfect to just to go and do it, write about your experience, and recommend a piece of equipment or two, that had made it more practical or enjoyable? If the answer to this is a sound “Yes”, you should definitely head on and exchange the 9-5 grinding for affiliate marketing.

What are Affiliate Programs?

Part of an elaborate marketing arsenal, affiliate programs, aka associate programs, are a cheap and successful way of raising awareness of a product, and therefore, increasing sales. In short, an online merchant will pay you, the affiliate web site, a commission to help them sell their product.

Based on the agreement, there are several ways for you to earn through these programs. You can help them out by sharing a link and get the money for every reader that lands on their site thanks to the link. Or, it can be more specific so that you only get paid if the person buys something from their website, or perform another action.

In short, if you help their business succeed, raise awareness, or sell more, you will earn the commission you agreed on when signing up for the affiliate program.

Where do I sign up?

Don’t get overly excited, though, as this won’t happen in a day. You need to set up the foundations for that to happen, and it might take some time. You could go from door to door and sell their stuff, but that would be no different than your current 9-5. What you should be looking for is the convenience, setting up your own rules and hours. For that, you need a blog and some time to put in.

Follow this to do list, to shorten up the process, and to get started as quickly as possible!

Step 1: Figure out what you will be writing about

What is your passion? Who are you? What are you good at or enjoy doing that could help other people on their way? These are just some of the questions you should ask yourself at this point to determine your niche.

Step 2: Create the blog

While there are possibilities of signing up for an affiliate program without having a blog, this makes it so much easier, and it will pay out more in the long run. However, this is, interestingly, the most challenging step to take. So, as many great people will recommend, start with the most difficult task, then the rest will be more enjoyable.

Pick a name

Take your time with this part, as the name of your blog will be one of the most important decisions on the way. You want to be memorable, unique, classy, and after all, timeless, as it will be rather difficult to change it down the road.

Pick the hosting provider

This is another battle you should take your time with, but you can fix this one down the road, as most of them offer free migrations. What you want to make sure is that your provider is reliable and that it can guarantee the uptime of your blog.

Customize the blog

The industry standard for blogging is WordPress, but if you are looking to avoid the curve, you can go ahead and choose a website builder or even a done-for-you affiliate solution. The latter will figure out numerous steps that you would otherwise have to figure out for yourself, such as logo, content, and niche, after all.

Step 3: Personalize the blog

Just picking the name would not cut it. You have to stand out; otherwise, you will probably drown in all the other blogs trying to accomplish the same. Get the right theme if you are going with WordPress and have a logo designed. Figure the right words for your About me page. Select the right pictures, colors, fonts. Make sure your blog screams you.

Step 4: Write an initial blog post or two

Don’t worry about making it perfect. Make it useful, easy to read, and relatable. From “Who am I and who is this blog for” to “My top ten tips for picking the right hostel”, you are good to go.

The next topics and blog posts will come naturally to you as you go on with doing what you love. A good rule to think of is to post 1-2 blog posts per week. Still, it is all about quality rather than quantity. So if you are writing just to fill the quota, you are doing it wrong.

Step 5: Get the people

The golden rule many bloggers swear by is that you need initial 1000 subscribers to make it worthwhile. It is an intimidating number, but growing that number even further is what fills your pocket. This is where work begins. You could get to this number, and further increase it in many ways, and you should give each way your time and effort.

What you need is an email list. You want to be seen and heard. There is no better way than to get people interested enough to trust you with their email address so that you can send them an email or two.

Road 1: Social media

“New blog on *insert your topic here* coming soon!”. Get your Facebook page, invite people. After you have written your first blog post, post a link into a group of like-minded individuals. Share it on Instagram. Draw attention to your blog wherever possible.

Road 2: Guest blogging

If you are good with words and already have a post or two, guest post it on other blogs. It is the same as writing freelance – now you are looking for clicks instead of payments.

Road 3: Give something away for free

People who find a blog with information that is of interest to them will read it, and go on with their life. Still, if your blog has useful and valid information, they might leave their email for more. However, if you give them something in return for their email address, you have raised your chances of getting their email exponentially.

It doesn’t have to be grand or expensive. A useful eBook with tips and tricks will do the same. Special discount to a relevant store is a bit more work but will perform better than your basic “Sign up here” pop up window, which is more often than not, just annoying.

Step 6: Join an affiliate program

If you are looking to get started as soon as possible, this one is a no-brainer: Just sign up for the Amazon Associate affiliate program. Since they are selling everything you could possibly imagine, you will get a lot of leeways when it comes to the products you would like to promote and recommend to your readers.

It is also rather simple to get started with Amazon. You will be able to quickly sign up and you will get the links you need to get started in no time. What you should expect, with Amazon prices, is that your cut will be rather small. The cut you will be able to get away with ranges from 1% to 10%, which is not a fortune when compared to some other programs, where cuts go up to 50%.

Still, if you are doing this for the first time, and your promotion skills are a bit low, this is the good place to get started. You will have time to polish and work on your selling, marketing, and blogging skills. While the numbers are small, you can effortlessly figure out which products in your niche perform better than others, and need more focus. Not to mention that you will have some extra time to polish the basics up and focus on creating the tactic to skyrocket your blog.

Lastly and most importantly, when you sign up for such an easy solution, you will also get the much needed time to do your best to get more traffic, subscribers and exposure. After all, if no one is buying through your links, there is no point in doing it in the first place.

Step 7: Find a better affiliate program to join.

Your blog is buzzing with people reading, leaving you their emails and reading your newsletter. You have a marketing tactic set in place, and you have created a schedule for your future posts. Most importantly, your numbers are going up, and you can finally see the first results of your efforts. They are very likely miserable, but cut yourself some slack – you have the freedom you wanted, and all it takes is a bit more work.

Think of the best-selling products on your blog and in your house. You are very likely promoting only the things you can honestly say that they have impacted your life in a meaningful and practical way.

Is there another affiliate program that will have you open up to the same and other products in the niche, but has a better deal when it comes to your cut? Look them up and sign up for them. You will start earning more than you did with Amazon, and you can finally ditch that 9-5 job and focus solely on improving your blog and earning even more!

Playing by your rules

As mentioned at the beginning, don’t expect to become a billionaire overnight without actually buying the lotto ticket. As with any other job, setting your blog properly so that it will bring you enough money with the least amount of trouble is tough work. Tougher than your 9-5? Probably. Will it pay off in a year? Definitely.

When you start off with affiliate marketing, you do have to make an effort: You’ll need a blog, decent content, and a critical mass of regular readers. You won’t get all that overnight, but once you’ve joined your first programs, your returns will rise steadily.

When all is set and in place, there won’t be much to do but to drop a blog post every now and then. However, you will have the perfect passive income which you can rely on while you are out there doing what you do best and enjoy the most!