The past two year have brought many new challenges that no one was expecting. For some, unfortunately, it’s meant you’ve had to take a look at your sources of income and decide to take some new paths. Terrifying? Of course, but this is also a great opportunity.
But where to begin? You know affiliate marketing is a big industry and there are lots of moving parts to consider. Also, you know that starting a business can cost money, something that may be in short supply for you right now.
At ShareASale we’re here to help. We’ve broken down the costs associated with becoming an affiliate marketer, laid out some tips to get you going, and done the research on some great free resources to understand the industry.
What is affiliate marketing and how does it work?
Affiliate marketing is a type of performance-based marketing. Publishers, also known as affiliates, promote products and brands for an advertiser, also known as a merchant or a brand. For each sale that they generate they are awarded a commission.
The system works via trackable links and data. Each publisher is given a unique link or code that identifies the customers that they have pointed toward an advertiser’s brand. By keeping track of these customers, an advertiser can tell who has assisted them in making final sales and can award their affiliates with commissions for their efforts.
It is much easier to do all of this by joining an affiliate network, such as ShareASale. We simplify the entire process by creating unique affiliate links, keeping track of all the data associated with affiliate marketing for both publishers and advertisers, and even more importantly, we provide a platform where the two can meet and form great partnerships.
The goal for publishers is to get their audience to click on their affiliate link and make a purchase. Want to know more? Explore what affiliate marketing is further.
Do you need money to start affiliate marketing?
In short: yes. But only a little. There are associated costs with establishing any business, which is what you are doing by becoming an affiliate marketer. The important thing to remember is that everyone has to start somewhere and even the industry’s most successful publishers probably started out with very little to begin with.
Whether you want to make the costs of starting up in the industry large or small is really up to you and your skill level. For example, a great place to start with affiliate marketing is to establish your own blog, website or landing page. If you have some technical knowledge you may be able to do this easily. There are many simple web building tools available out there, some incur small costs. For example, Squarespace starts at $12 per month for a website of up to 20 pages and a Wix Combo Plan is $8.50 per month. WordPress offers free services too, but be aware that you would need to build on WordPress.org not WordPress.com, as the latter has strict rules that affiliate marketing is not to be done through these sites. These services are great to build your first website on and have a range of templates. But if the thought of this overwhelms you, you always have the option to employ the services of someone else to do this for you- costing a little more but certainly providing peace of mind.
You will need to purchase a domain name (this is the website URL), pay for ongoing hosting (this is where your website lives on the internet) and potentially ongoing SSL (secure certificates to keep your website and your audience’s information safe) if the hosting company you select does not provide this.
There are also a variety of ways to do affiliate marketing without your own website. Each method can potentially have varying costs associated, which you may be able to offset with your affiliate earnings.
Many successful publishers find it effective to use paid advertising; however, this should be a long-term strategy to utilize toward the future once you have some traction for your affiliate efforts.
Eight tips to start affiliate marketing with no money
Build an audience
Building an audience who trust you is the number one key to success with affiliate marketing. There are many ways to do this. Creating content around a niche topic that you are passionate about will assist in building a trusting and engaged audience, but first you need to establish which platforms you will use to create content on. Think about the ways you’re comfortable creating content – whether that be long or short form video, photographs, styled images, written content, podcasts, email marketing or combinations of them all.
You should also consider where your desired audience is. People are, of course, multifaceted and will use a variety of platforms, but is there somewhere they are spending the majority of their time? For example, younger demographics may be spending far more time on TikTok, whereas older demographics may frequent Facebook more often. Do your research on the platforms to see what best suits both your and their needs.
Utilize social media to your advantage
Almost all social media platforms today are free to sign up, even as a business. This is extra exposure for whatever industry you’d like to be involved in.
Though we don’t recommend using social media solely as a way to promote your affiliate links, combining sponsored posts with other relevant content will build your audience’s trust and your exposure. Using social media to build your ever-valuable audience is the most impactful approach to the platforms.
The thing that many people don’t consider is you can contribute to sites and engage with posts without creating a business page or profile. You can simply use your own profile, if you’d like. Comment on discussions on places like Reddit, in Facebook groups or in the comments section of Youtube – you can find relevant discussions to your niche, add some interesting thoughts or commentary and drop your affiliate link.
If you are using social media for your affiliate marketing efforts it’s important to be aware of the guidelines around disclosure. Many countries and regions require users to disclose paid partnerships to their audience and can penalize you for failing to do so.
Positively reviewing a product or brand is a core concept of affiliate marketing. As such, you should use reviewing platforms to your advantage. People will come to trust your input if you are consistent in your reviewing process.
The key is to be honest when doing so, only commenting on products or services you have actually used.
Using review style websites or the review section of a product website can allow you to give honest feedback while promoting your affiliate links or pushing other viewers to your content. Your content could then contain more in depth reviews and explanations, while embedding your affiliate content.
Watch the experts
What are those who are already succeeding in your desired field doing? Do that, because clearly it works. Now, let us be very clear: never copy someone else’s work. That’s a very quick way to get blacklisted from the industry and also face potential legal ramifications. However, you can observe the techniques of successful people and apply them with your own spin. How do they talk to their audience? What order is the information on their website placed in? Where are the buttons? What kind of ideas do they talk about? What kind of ads do they run? These are all great questions that you can use during your research then apply to your own marketing techniques.
Craft inviting CTAs
If your focus is on developing and building upon your own website or blog, you’ll want to understand the concept of a CTA (Call To Action). Crafting great content that makes people want to act is vital to success in affiliate marketing. We’ve gone into great detail on how to craft great CTAs that will lead you to success in the field.
Tell great stories
Marketing of all kinds is truly the art of being a convincing storyteller. Sometimes the best way to win over a potential customer isn’t in the cold, hard facts of a product or service, but rather the story you tell around it. Storytelling isn’t about fairytales and making things up; instead it’s about being inviting, rich, compelling and engaging. There is a LOT of content on the internet these days, great storytelling can help you stand out from the crowd.
We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: consistency is key. If you can’t pay for the reach of a large audience, you have to build one. Consistently creating content of value is the best approach to this. This is why growing organically (growing with no money) takes time.
Join an affiliate network
Because affiliate marketing is such a large industry, trying to go it alone at the start can be extremely challenging, especially if you don’t have a strong digital background. Joining a network like ShareASale gives you the freedom to search for the right partnerships and see what’s out there. You can join as few or as many as you like.
We’re also experts in the field and provide support to publishers and advertisers, alike. By jumping on board with us you’ll have access to a wealth of knowledge and a strong team to help you when you’re feeling a little lost.
Free resources to start affiliate marketing with no money
YouTube is filled with great content to help you learn the ins and outs of affiliate marketing. A simple search will bring up many videos to help get the ideas flowing and give you some great free tips.
However, we’re a little biased. We think the best channel to head to is our own. We have webinars, tutorials, interviews and insights into the current market.
If video isn’t your style and you prefer to read your research, the world of blogs is extensive on this topic. Case in point: you’re reading one right now. We have plenty of blogs explaining everything going on in the affiliate marketing world to suit beginners all the way up to experts.
Publisher training though cheap, doesn’t often come for free. Also, you’ll probably find a wide world out there of supposed experts trying to sell you their courses or training; it’s hard to know who to choose.
To simply the confusion, we provide free publisher training on our website. Here we cover topics like:
Every year, Awin puts out a report on the state of affiliate marketing that contains all the valuable data you could need to grasp the state of the industry. This is a great place to freshen up your knowledge and understand the landscape of affiliate marketing and the wider digital world.
A final note
Getting started with affiliate marketing is certainly possible with no money, it might just take a little extra time and hustle. What this does mean is you have the opportunity to build a solid foundation to be able to expand as a publisher through your growing success.
To get started as a publisher with ShareASale, sign up here.