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How Does Affiliate Marketing Work?

In a nutshell, affiliate marketing is when you advertise someone else’s product or service, and provide a link or code for your audience to use when they make a purchase. The business you are advertising for then allocates a percentage of the sale price to you as a reward for finding them a new customer.

If you or your students are interested in starting a business where you are providing information or entertainment, it can sometimes be difficult to find customers willing to pay for this information. Examples can include: recipes, travel destination reviews, book recommendations, evaluations of the latest movies, breaking down your favorite tv shows, walking people through different skills in video games, etc. People love the information, but in the beginning, it can be challenging to convince customers to pay for it in the form of single payments or a membership.

Instead, a strategy called affiliate marketing can come into play. This is different to advertising. Advertising is when a business pays you a fee to promote their product or service on your platform because they value your audience and want them to know about what they are offering. As your audience size grows, you can command more money for advertisements on your platform. Affiliate marketing on the other hand is a commission based system. You get paid based on the number of people you convince to buy the product or service. This is a double-edged sword. On one side, your potential income is limitless since you can, in theory, keep finding new people to click on your affiliate link and buy someone else’s product. On the other hand, you have no guarantee of income, and need to be ok with fluctuating numbers based on how your audience responds.

When considering using affiliate marketing to support your business, there are a few guidelines to keep in mind:

  • Don’t recommend a product or service that you have not tried yourself.
  • Pick businesses with good reputations and with products/services that you are proud to be associated with. Giving a recommendation for a bad product looks bad on you too!
  • Pick products and services that are relevant to your content and platform. If you are creating a podcast to review tv shows, then you have no business recommending insurance products.
  • Pick one or two affiliate programs to start off. The last think your audience wants is to be bombarded with advertising all the time.
  • Tell stories about how you use the product or service, and the positive impact it has had on your life. You want to paint the picture for your audience of how their lives will be better off with this product or service. It’s the same thing you do for any of your own products or services!
  • Add a disclaimer letting your audience know that you stand to gain financially if they buy through your link or code. Legally you are required to let your audience know that you are going to financially benefit from a recommendation. Also, by being up front and sharing with your audience that they can support you by purchasing through your link, they may be more likely to use it and show their appreciation for the wonderful content you are putting out there.

How Do I Find Affiliate Partnerships?

Look at different products and services you use in your business or personal life, that are related to your content. Identify the ones you would want to be associated with and then go to their website or conduct a Google search to see if “[company] affiliate program” exists. If so, you can then see what their requirements are for becoming an affiliate such as audience size, restrictions on where you can share affiliate links, and minimum sales targets you need to hit to continue being an affiliate.

Some of the most common affiliate programs out there are:

  • Amazon
  • Target
  • (You can become an affiliate for The Simple StartUp Workbook!)
  • ShareASale
  • ClickBank
  • Ebay
  • Gumtree
  • Redbubble
  • Fiverr
  • Credit Cards
  • Banks

As an example, one book that really helped me learn a lot about affiliate marketing (as well as a ton of other helpful information) and which I love to recommend is Pat Flynn’s book Superfans. Pat Flynn is the host of The Smart Passive Income podcast which I also highly recommend but does not have any affiliate programs linked to it, so that’s just a free recommendation. The book link however is an affiliate link through If you click on the link and end up purchasing the book, I will receive a percentage of the sale price. It does not cost you any more to buy it through my link, but it is a great way to support me and what I am doing.

It is also possible to approach companies that do not have affiliate programs, and ask them if they would consider adding one because you are super passionate about what they sell and you’d love to recommend them to your audience. The worst they can say is no!

The final point on Affiliate Marketing is you need to have an audience for this to be effective. Focus on increasing your audience size, build a relationship with them, provide great content that gets them to visit and read/watch/play/listen, and then deliver your message with your affiliate links naturally included.

If you have gotten value from The Simple StartUp, and you are interested in supporting it, you can become a, Amazon, Target, or Barnes & Noble affiliate, and recommend the workbooks to fellow entrepreneurs, students, teachers, parents, or organizations who are interested in starting businesses for little to no money! You can also reach out to me by email [email protected] if you would like to be an affiliate for our virtual courses, and be rewarded for anyone who signs up through your recommendation. Our virtual courses take kids and adults through The Simple StartUp process and guides them through starting their own businesses.

If you have a Simple StartUp that uses affiliate marketing as a source of revenue, please share your experience in The Simple StartUp Community and even hit us with a sample article, video, episode with affiliate links included.

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