Need cash? Consider affiliate marketing

8 min read
Quentin Aisbett

If your neighbours ask for your opinion on which laptop to buy and you tell them to buy an ASUS, that’s called word of mouth advertising. But what if you send your neighbours a link to a specific ASUS laptop and when they click on the link and order the laptop, you receive a commission? Well, that’s affiliate marketing.

Affiliate marketing is earning money from word of mouth, which is what many influencers are doing.

But don’t shy away from it if you don’t identify yourself as an influencer. We should all understand that we influence people’s buying decisions on a regular basis, whether it’s simply your close friends and family or the 10,000 fans you have on Instagram. So why not earn a couple of extra dollars on the side?

Editor's note: A high-traffic blog is the perfect vehicle for affiliate marketing. Don't have one yet? Start a WordPress blog this weekend with GoDaddy.

Start earning passive income in 5 steps

Once you have a website, blog or YouTube channel that is attracting steady traffic, follow these steps to start earning a little extra every month.

  1. Plan.
  2. Sign up to an affiliate network.
  3. Produce amazing (strategic) content.
  4. Start gathering email addresses.
  5. Promote the affiliate products.

Before we walk you through the steps to getting started, let’s quickly explain how affiliate marketing works to earn you money.

How does affiliate marketing work?

Affiliate Marketing People Reading Their Phones
Once you’ve earned their trust, you can start recommending products to your followers.
Photo: Zoe Holling on Unsplash

Brands or companies sign up as a merchant with affiliate networks that pay commissions on particular sales. These brands or companies networks provide ads, graphics and even deals to make the job of referring their products easier.

You as the affiliate marketer browse the merchants on offer and sign up. If you’re approved, you grab your unique affiliate link to the brand’s website and start sharing it.

But the offers can be structured very differently. For example, here are three basic offers:


This offer is particularly popular with eCommerce websites, where every step of the buyer’s journey can be tracked.

  1. You share a link
  2. Someone clicks through and purchases
  3. You receive a percentage of that sale (anywhere from one to 18%)

It’s simple and straightforward.


This offer is most often used in service-based businesses or businesses where the sale is not completed online (which makes it hard to track). So the arrangement is you get paid per-lead instead. It is more likely to be a fixed amount.


For many businesses, a sale or a lead is not the overarching objective — getting online traffic is the goal. So they reward affiliates who generate clicks to their website. There is a very low return for each click, but obviously the barrier to success is far lower.

How to get started

If you want to start earning passive income online and affiliate marketing sounds like a great fit for you, then let me walk you through some basic steps to get started.

1. Plan

Start thinking about what you are good at or what you know more about than most.

  • Is there a particular angle or unique perspective you can lend to a topic to make you stand out?
  • Is there an audience that is being ignored you could appeal to?

A global audience of just 1,000 people can earn you a great affiliate income.

For example, if your expertise is in do it yourself computer repair, it would make sense to be an affiliate for a company that sells computer/printing supplies.

Affiliate Marketing Rakuten
You want to find a match between your expertise and the products you promote.

If you’re nodding yes so far, then start browsing the major affiliate networks including Rakuten and ShareASale. Do you see products that would be a natural fit for what you are (or are going to be) talking about? Great, keep reading.

2. Sign up to an affiliate network

If you’ve found a few products you believe will be a great fit, then sign up to the network that’s managing them.

If you’re a travel blogger, you might want to be an affiliate for a company that sells luggage.

If your claim to fame is home maintenance tips, you could promote products related to home care.

Jump in and have a look at the commission structures to identify if they’re attractive enough. Do they offer any deals for you to share with your audience to make your job of promoting them easier for you?

3. Produce amazing (strategic) content

Attracting a sizeable following takes time, but if you can’t produce amazing content then you’re up against it from the start.

This content could be a blog or social media posts — even unboxing videos.

Identify topics you can cover that will help you to build your audience and establish trust before you start scattering affiliate links everywhere.

Blogging is a great way to attract a loyal audience online — just make sure the topic is something you’re interested in, as you’ll need to post regularly for a year or two to build up a following worthy of affiliate marketing.

Of course, websites can also be used for affiliate marketing, assuming they are attracting a sufficient number of visitors. You can learn all you need to know about building a high-traffic website or eCommerce store in this A to Z guide.

And everyone knows that social media influencers are making money this way — the top Australian influencers can make as much as $7,500 USD per post. Keep in mind that this is the result of years of consistent effort on their part.

4. Start gathering email addresses

Don’t ignore email just because you’re a budding social media star. These social media platforms own you and your audience and they can take it all away if they like. As long as your contact with your fans is restricted to social media, you must rely on the network to continue giving you access to them.

So implement processes to get email addresses, a task that is much easier for bloggers to do. Simply add a newsletter signup form to your blog, inviting readers to have your content delivered straight to their in-boxes.

Once you get permission to use readers’ email addresses, you own those emails until you stop providing value, which is when your contacts will simply unsubscribe. But at least you have some control.

For those of you who would like to focus on social media, check out online tutorials like this one to learn how to collect email addresses from networks like YouTube.

5. Promote the affiliate products

Don’t go for the cheesy sell. Protecting your relationship with your audience should be your primary objective. If your fans begin to think that you’re only providing helpful articles and videos in order to make money, they might leave.

So be open and transparent about your affiliate links. Stick to products that your audience would expect you to recommend. And don’t promote products you haven’t used and enjoyed yourself.

Who is affiliate marketing good for?

Affiliate Marketing Wooden Figures
If you have a thousand followers online, affiliate marketing is a good option.

If you have an audience, whether it be friends, family, social groups or even an online audience that trusts your opinion on a specific topic, then you could be in a very good position to begin affiliate marketing.

It sure does help to have an online audience or email database.

Sharing a simple affiliate link can ensure all activity is tracked and monitored so you receive your fair compensation.


So the first candidate for this type of setup is bloggers. A successful blogger attracts and maintains a loyal audience by building trust with them over time.

When an established blogger recommends a product or service, their recommendation is often acted upon. While the amount you earn for each click may be low, if you have enough followers it adds up.


Social media influencers are the other logical candidate for affiliate marketing. Whether you have 1,000 or 100,000 followers on social, you’ll be in a great position to recommend products/services that can earn you affiliate revenue.

I should point out though that the number of followers you have does not have a direct correlation on trust and influence. The only way to build trust is to provide high-quality advice and help on your topic — month after month.

Get paid for who you know

Affiliate marketing is a genuine revenue opportunity for all of us. But the key is in your audience. You must maintain their trust while continuing to amaze them. If you can do those two things, then you can be a successful affiliate marketer and live the dream of working less and earning more!