Real Estate Investing: Buying, Flipping, and Renting (A Realtor Experience)

If you’re interested in investing in real estate but not quite sure how to go about it, how to choose the right house, how to flip or choose the tenants to rent to, in this guest post, by Erin Goddard, you will find the answers to all this and more.

I am honored to be a guest on Ray’s blog. This is something very special, but I can only hope to be as helpful as Ray.

I hope to offer some ideas on the great potential investing in real estate can be through our experiences of flipping and renting out homes. I do believe we have had successes, done mistakes, and learned a lot that are all worth sharing.


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Our Background

My husband and I started a small business in the real estate market in the beginning of 2016.  It is a relatively new endeavor to us, but in that time we have bought a total of 6 homes: 3 of them we turned into rentals, and 3 of them we flipped.

We also sold the first home we ever bought and owned to move when my husband changed jobs and relocated. So far, we have learned that no experience has been the same and the learning experiences in each process have been great, as in massive, but also good.

I was a math teacher with very little construction knowledge. My husband was an environment compliance manager at the time we started, so he also had an unrelated job. He, however, did have finish carpentry experience, plumbing experience, and roofing experience from past jobs and working with family members in these fields.

How to find the right real estate property for investment

To buy a home at a low cost is ideal obviously. This takes a lot of time searching, establishing good connections, and sometimes having plain old luck.

The Search

MLS feeds

Multiple Listing Services are the networks real estate agents in regions of each state link into to post the listings they have. Companies like Zillow and Auction will connect all of these regional networks nationwide.

Zillow and Realtor are what we use. I am afraid we have not ventured outside of these two.

Realtor does update its MLS feeds more often. This allows you to see the listings go up a little quicker and also the statuses change.

The various filters on Zillow, like looking at the maps, comparing costs, looking at tax histories, all make Zillow a little more user friendly. We constantly would be surfing and checking into these sites.

Sheriff sales

Sheriff sale schedules can be found on county websites. The sheriff sales are homes in foreclosure that the lender has handed over to the county to try to sell. On the sheriff sale site, there will be a time and location (often the courthouse), and it is an auction where the house goes to the highest bidder.

Buyers do not necessarily get to see or know the condition of the house. There is usually a reserve price (a starting bid), and the home tends to be sold in “As Is” condition. The risk, of course, is not knowing the conditions of the home, unless you have snooped around it- which I confess, I encourage.

Be aware of  the “As Is” contract. In most contracts, the home comes with disclosures. The contract between buyer and seller is based on the agreement of the truths of the disclosures.

If the roof is leaky, and the seller lied, there are legal means the buyer can get out of the contract. Not in an “As Is” contract.

Our experience with buying through a sheriff sale was great. The reserve price/starting bids sometimes are surprisingly high, but those we just walked away from.

The homes eventually go up for auction again for another opportunity to buy at a lower reserve. Keep an eye on them. Go in with a set price you want and try not to budge.

Auction.com

This is an interesting company which I compare to ebay for houses. Sometimes Zillow will link to an Auction file for a home. These again are bank repossessions.

The fine print really needs to be read for these homes because sometimes the foreclosure process is not as far along as you would hope. Closing could take a long time, and may not close at all..

Banks go to Auction.com to try to get a sale on their homes. These run the same risks as the sheriff sales with the “As Is” conditions.  

I registered for a user name, and it was very easy to do. I also easily placed a bid. Four days later, after no one upped my bid, we won, and I was kind of in shock in the fact I had clicked a few buttons, and now we had bought a house. So, this was easy to use.. Almost too easy.

Auction had people contact me right away. Communication was very quick and also helpful. I would say Auction had good customer support, but they are an even more distant third person seller than a sheriff sale.

The one hiccup we had was the abstract never came to us. We ended up having to pay for getting a new one made. Abstracts run between $1000- $2000. Still, overall I would say our experience with Auction was very good.

Connections

Getting in touch with the real estate agents in your area can really save time on the searching; however, one thing to know is often times real estate agents already have a calling list of established real estate investor; be persistent!

Call and politely inquire. Really present yourself as someone ready to renovate or invest. If you can get a trustworthy, strong relationship with a real estate agent, that really sets you up for more success in the search.

Luck

Sometimes after all of that time, nothing will show up. Sometimes, it really just takes a little luck and good timing.

Learn how to choose the right property for investment.

How to start investing in rental properties

Something we heard repeatedly as we looked into renting properties was screen your tenants.

The quality of tenants can make a world of difference in the experience and the profit of your real estate. You must be careful to be fair, however; and it is illegal to deny tenants for reasons related to sex, gender, race, sexual orientation, etc…

We did applications for our tenants. Applications serve a lot of purpose. You have the right to know who will be living in your property and the potential tenant can show their initiative and a bit of their character by fully completing an application.

You need fair rules for your screening. Check your state for laws on being a landlord.

When it comes to screening tenants, I would say of the most important things to include on the application would be information about the following:

  1. Criminal record: look into their records. I suggest state online court records. I also suggest looking at facebook.
  2. Work history: Look for steady employment.
  3. References: Call the references. You could even have something for the references to fill out.

You want responsible, respectful, and financially able tenants.

Eforms have tweakable applications for free and can be downloaded as a word or PDF file.

Are rental properties a good investment?

We purchased two rentals at about the same time a year into the start of our small real estate business. After a successful renovation and sale of our first flip, we rolled the profit we got into two low cost homes.

They have been doing great for us in bringing a nice stream of income. We have had good relationships with our tenants, low maintenance requirements, and a steady stream of income.

I highly recommend rental properties as a fairly  passive income. We continue to be on the search to add more rentals to our binder, and will be happy to move on the right property.

The pros of investing in rental properties

1. Doesn’t require A giant capital

You are usually not looking for ritzy and glamorous homes. For the rentals we have, we never went in to transform them; we cleaned them. That’s it. Rentals are a good starter up project for passive income in real estate.

2. Passive income

With good screening practices, there should notbe a lot of the hands on stress of maintaining a good property with good tenants.

I do not think I need to say how great passive money is. Really we are just sitting back from a month to month basis, and we have an investment which is an asset to our financial folder bringing in income.

Again, assuming you have good renters, the property is for the most part maintaining itself. The home is truly an investment, growing in value with the market under the care of the renters and a little bit of your overseeing.

The steady monthly income is not huge after considering costs, but it is better than nothing. It is a $450 check a month in our hands that offset any of the costs, so we are losing nothing and coming out ahead.

3. A double money maker

After the home has provided affordable living for the rentee, and brought in a nice income for the renter, it can be brought up to date for resale.

Whether you have met the break even point or not through the renting period, the home can bring in a profit should you decide to sell.

The cons of investing in rental properties

1. Money gets tied up

Money gets tied up specially if you have a mortgage on the rental. I almost said a steady trickle of income above in the pros. The costs of mortgage, taxes, and insurance, not to mention maintenance, take away from a strong flow.

Make sure to do the math that you are coming out ahead. This is a slow and steady journey to break even, and your money is not as fluid to roll into other investments.

As an example, we have one rental we put $4000 down on. Based on our carrying costs and the rental amount, it will be about two years for us to break even on it.

2. Renter drama

We have not experienced renter drama. We have been fortunate to have great people renting. I’d like to say we did a good job screening.

But even with screening, tenants can go wild and thing can get legally ugly. The time taken to meet your renter’s needs and establish a respectful relationship is so worth the while.

3. Property damages

Things break. My husband has done some dryer troubleshooting. We have had to buy a new refrigerator all of a sudden. There has also been hail storms where we had to deal with a lot of insurance and hiring for repairs.

The responsibility as landlords to the tenants can cause for some sudden stress.

How to get started in the flipping houses business

We had a first dream flip that started us out. There was a little luck involved. We found a home that had been sitting on Auction. It was a first flip home in consideration, so we were kind of weary of Auction.

The auction ended having not met the reserve. Now, most times, the homes go right back up and through another “auction.” We did not know this and called a local real estate agent. It just so happened, the bank had listed it with a real estate agent specializing in foreclosures, and we called the day she got it.

We ended up with it. Here are some of the before and afters.

It was a mess, but we got it for very low. Again, this price will be trivial because it totally depends on the city you are buying in, but we landed this home for $27,500.

After you think you have found a good house- low in price and shabby, but not too shabby, you will want to weigh the possibility of flippling.

Flipping takes a leap. It is risky, but you also can arm yourself with some risk minimizers.

Mistakes to avoid when buying a house to flip

  • Drug houses. Homes with ammonia smells are commonly associated with meth.
  • Structural issues. We just are not knowledgeable of foundation fixes, and we would have to hire it out. Foundations can be expensive.
  • Ugly Houses. This may be weird, but you should be able to have vision of what you can do to the house. We do not tear down walls and transform. This, I think, is a common mistake for new flippers. The goal is not to pour a fortune into making an entirely new house.

Here was another home. You can see how we really just worked on what was there; refinished the floors and painted.

How much money do you need to flip a house?

This is hard to go into because it will vary entirely on the region you are working in. I did just want to show a glimpse of some costs to consider.

For our first home, our most successful, here is the profit we got.

cost details of flipping houses, real estate investments

It is also good to keep track of how many hours you spend. We tracked our time doing all of the work as well as any expenses we made using a shared Google spreadsheet. We documented about 800 hours.

Keep the receipts and this documentation to help with income taxes, which as seen in the table is a big chunk we kissed goodbye.

Is flipping houses a good investment?

We were hooked on flipping homes on our first home, and it profited enough to get us rolling into more rentals and more flip homes.

Despite the hard work, the satisfaction and profitability makes flipping another great investment if you are willing to put in the work and time.

I have to sometimes remind myself of the great light at the end of the tunnel when we are in the middle of the project, sweaty and on our knees in renovations, but the investment is worth the while.  

The pros to investing in flipping houses

1. can be very profitable

I put this statement here ignoring its counter argument. There is risk, obviously of the opposite, a flop. Some homes can be huge money pits, and we have seen some in the walk through where it would take more renovations than you could ever get out.

With good managing, however, the profits can be huge- another whole income to the yearly income. As I showed in our table above, we nearly doubled our investment in the end in a year’s time. We walked away that year with an amount written on a check larger than we had ever seen on one little piece of paper.

We have not ever gotten into the larger markets around here (we have tried, but they are very competitive). We have stuck to rural locations with smaller home costs. The gross profit in the larger markets would be riskier, but as the saying goes, also could be much a much higher reward.

2. Being your own boss

Our flips have been done on the side of full time jobs. My husband would go to his job, and then off to the renovation home he would go. Or, he would come home to watch the kids, and I would go do my jobs. I am a stay at home mom, but I too consider that a full-time job.

We worked with our schedules, and it was manageable- tiring, but manageable! We both enjoyed having the power in our hands to make this business work.

3. Satisfaction

We have had great satisfaction in the end. Though the process is rough at times, the finished product is amazing. We had the opportunity to dive into something we really loved to do. This job is a job of being the boss of yourself.

I do believe, the harder you work in this job of flipping houses, the better the pay off. It takes a lot of time, bargaining, work, and sweat, but if all of those are played right, a hugely profitable reward comes.

The cons to investing in flipping houses

1. It is A LOT of work

The man hours we recorded were on the low end of 800 hours. On shows, you see crews getting homes done in a month. We, being just two people took a lot longer. It always seemed we would miss our goal to finish by a couple months.

The end is particularly difficult, getting the last touch ups and details done, cleaning all of the construction out. It is not glamorous; it is dirty, sweaty, ugly, and exhausting.

I also do not know I would encourage flipping without having some construction skills and background. The profit margin would be greatly reduced if needing to hire out the jobs.  

2. Flops happen

We have not had any loss, but it is tricky. The costs add up, and you need to be careful. Having said it is a lot of work, we have had a home come out to have $8,000 of gross profit. The return rate was still better than putting gaining interest from letting that money grow in a savings.

Still, better than nothing, but if you consider we put about 1000 hours into it, we were managing and working an $8 per hour wage. The type of work that goes into it this is not an $8 an hour job. Flops will happen. This market can be risky.

Do your research and GO FOR IT

If you have read all of this, I commend you. You are getting a good start with researching. If you have not already found “Bigger Pockets,” I definitely recommend their content and joining their network.

They have a vast amount of experience to offer dealing with most of the questions concerning investing in real estate, whether it is renting, flipping, airbnb, or whatever else. They have a podcast and blog, and they are both great with very relevant and helpful experiences.

A lot of being a successful real estate investor is to be proactive and not reactive. With any business endeavor, the more risk, the more reward.

Real estate is risky, yes. We have found it very rewarding. We have been able to use our skills, learn new ones, and pave a foundation for a working business we enjoy. I wish this fortune to everyone.

Thanks, everyone, and thank you, Ray.

Erin is a blogger at Erin Baby Steps where she ponders out and takes on a mission to spread an awareness for math as it relates to toddler home learning/education, finances, projects, and even date night activity ideas.
She would love any support and suggestions as she takes one baby step at a time in raising family and meeting some personal goals.

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Passive Income: Investing In Index Funds For Beginners

If you have no clue what an index fund is or how to invest in one, in this post, I answer 7 questions that briefly cover all you need to know to start investing.

Let me begin by saying that investing in the stock market is one of the topics I have been avoiding to get into (there’s a list of them) because of how intimidating it felt. I had absolutely no clue what to do with this and every time I try to read about it, I get a headache!

However, eventually, I reached a dead end because I couldn’t find another topic for this week. And I figured I’ll have to get into this eventually if I wanted to properly create a diversified investment portfolio.

If you look at any established investor, you will find that they have to have money in the stock market, one way or another.

Diversification is a protection against ignorance.

Warren Buffett

But since I am a beginner, I’m not going to jump in and start buying individual stocks all by myself, then cross my fingers and hope for the best. I figured I should start with the beginner’s level for stock investments: Index Funds.

Investing in index funds is the easy and safer route to take if you want to invest in the stock market but lack the experience and knowledge it takes, or if you simply don’t feel like taking the risk.

And it seemed like the second best investment to get into after real estate for me. So I decided to look more into this as someone who has never been anywhere near the world of stock market.

If you too have no idea how to start in this kind of investment and maybe considering giving it a try, then this post is for you.


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What are index funds?

An index fund is a type of mutual funds, it is like a collection of funds that follow the performance of a number of different markets/companies, packaged together into a single fund called an index fund.

So, instead of making a choice and buying a fund in individual stock (which requires a great knowledge of that specific stock and its chances of rising or falling in price), you buy a bunch of them into one single fund.

This means more exposure to the stock market, however, with less risk.

Who should invest in index funds?

Anyone can invest in index funds, you don’t need to have extensive knowledge in the stock market as a whole.

You do, however, need to have some basic understanding of how this works and how to choose where to buy your index funds and which funds to buy.

The lower the price of the fund and the account expenses, the higher the profit you will make. And the more broad and diverse the stocks held by the index fund, the less likely you are to face losses.

You also need to know that investing in index funds is mostly a long term investment. Meaning that you need to be willing to hold on to that fund for a while (5-10 years and sometimes more) before you see real profits.

This is usually the long-term investment suggested for retirement, similar to retirement accounts.

What are the types of index funds?

Index funds can be classified into:

  1. Stock index funds
  2. Bond index funds
  3. Commodity index funds

In this post, I’m mainly focusing on the stock index funds. However, I briefly went over the commodity ones in both Investing In Gold (ETFs & stocks)and Investing In Real Estate (funds). You can check them out for a quick overview.

As for stock index funds, these can also be classified into a number of types:

1. Broad market index fund

This is when an index fund is following the performance of an entire market. Famous examples of such funds are ones following the performance of the S&P 500 or Dow Jones.

2. Sector index fund

This is an index fund that follows the performance/profits of a certain industry in the country, such as the banking sector, the real estate sector, or a more broad sector like technology, etc.

3. International index fund

This one is an index fund that follows a number of companies from different countries.

It does not follow the performance of the stock market of these countries, but the performance of the companies whose stocks are part of the fund.

4. Global index fund

This follows the performance of the stock market of a number of countries. This index fund has main stocks from different nations, such as the FTSE 100 for Britain or the EGX 30 for Egypt.

How to choose an index fund?

There are a few things you need to consider and decide on before you take the step and buy an index fund.

Type

First thing you need to decide which type of stock you want to follow.

Do you want to follow the global stock for multiple countries? Or would you rather go for a certain industry’s performance, like banking? Or ones that track currencies or metals, like gold and silver?

There are plenty of options, and if you are not sure which one is to choose, you should go for ones that cover a bigger and broader market.

Fees

Before you buy an index fund, you should check first what kind of fees you will need to pay.

There are commission fees that gets deducted from your profits periodically, you may need to check the percentage and see if it is low enough for you to still be making a profit.

There are also some brokers or index fund companies that charge you to create an account, you will also want to consider this charge.

One last thing is the trading charges. How much you will need to pay to buy or sell your funds (you can buy or sell an index fund at the end of the trading day only).

Broker

In most cases, you will need to buy a certain index fund through a broker or a brokerage firm. You can invest through a brokerage firm locally or go with an online broker.

It is important that you first research this broker and read what other clients have to say about their service.

You can read more about how to choose the right broker here. Or you can find out about international online brokers instead.

How much money do you need to invest in index funds?

Investing in an index fund is known for its low cost. And this is because it is basically holding all the stocks in one package instead of hiring a professional to pick the right stocks to buy. So, that leaves you with not much expenses to pay.

The price for an index fund varies based on where you are buying it from and which fund type you are going to invest in.

Some index funds has no minimum amount required to start and others can have a minimum starting amount of $2000, $3000, or more.

So you can invest with an amount anywhere between $10 and $10,000. But it goes without saying that the more money you put in, the more profit you will make along the years.

However, you can start out with a small amount and keep adding to it every few months or so. You can check this list of the cheapest index funds to buy.

If you invest in a very low cost index fund-where you don’t put the money in at one time, but average in over 10 years-you’ll do better than 90% of the people who started investing at the same time.

Warren Buffett

What are the best index funds to buy in 2019?

Since I’m no expert, I did what any beginner would do and started doing research. And I found that there are a number of index funds that are always at the top of every list of best index funds to invest in. They are mostly the ones with the lowest fees and low to moderate charge for opening an account.

This is a list of index funds that are suggested by most stock experts/advisers (in order from lowest to highest annual expense ratio).

  1. Fidelity Spartan 500 (0.015%)
  2. Schwab S&P 500 (0.02%)
  3. Schwab Total Stock Market (0.03%)
  4. Vanguard S&P 500 (0.04%)
  5. iShares Core S&P 500 (0.04%)
  6. Vanguard Total Stock Market (0.04%)
  7. Vanguard Total World Stock (0.10%)
  8. Bloomberg Barclays High Yield Bond (0.4%)

Some of these funds you can invest in from anywhere in the world; however, depending on your country, you may need to invest through a local brokerage firm and not directly through the index fund provider.

What are the available index funds in Egypt?

As one of the largest and most developed countries in the MENA region, Egypt has a huge potential for economical growth and many opportunities for investment.

If you are a resident of Egypt and want to know which funds you can invest in locally, or if you are not a resident and simply want to invest in funds in Egypt, below is a list of some of the funds you can consider:

You can also check this article out to have an idea of the top ranking funds in Egypt for this past year and how much profit each made.

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Till next week, happy days!

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Getting Started With Affiliate Programs For Beginners

A short guide to familiarise you with what affiliate programs and marketing platforms are, how they work, and how to start becoming an affiliate marketer. Plus 5 briefly discussed examples: CJ Affiliate, Rakuten Marketing, ShareASale, FlexOffers, and Amazon Associates.

For those who are just getting started in affiliate marketing and want to have a quick overview of what it all means, this is the post for you.

I have briefly discussed affiliate programs in this post 5 Online Businesses That Work, however, at the time, I hadn’t yet tried it and so I only knew very little information. Now that I have been doing this for a while longer, I came to know it much better and summed it up in a few points where it can make it easier for someone who is just getting started.


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So, first things first!

What Is An Affiliate Program?

Affiliate programs are programs where a certain company provides you with unique links and banners to their products and services and encourages you to advertise them in exchange for a certain commission.

Commissions can be a fixed amount per product sold or a percentage of the whole sale made.

This commission you get does not affect the price of the original product/service, so the buyer is not affected by such deal.

In most cases, in order for a company to agree to your request to become an affiliate partner for them, you first need to have a platform of some sort. They will need to know what kind of channels you will be using to promote their product/service and how many people you can reach.

In this post, I’m mainly addressing people with websites or blogs, but the same thing goes for people with social media pages, youtube channels, or email lists.

The requirements differ based on each company, some may require you have a minimum number of views/followers/visitors before you are accepted; some may only accept websites with domains you own while others can accept free blogs.

What Is An Affiliate Marketing Platform?

It’s a network through which affiliate marketers/publishers can find a wide range of companies from all industries to join their affiliate programs. It’s an easier way to connect affiliate marketers with advertisers.

When you sign up with an affiliate marketing platform, you then have a variety of affiliate programs to sign up for. All you need to do is search for the product/service type that suits your niche and you will find a company that you can sign up for.

The First Thing You Need To Know Before You Start With Affiliate Marketing

Before I started with affiliate programs, I read a lot about it; and the one thing that everyone stresses on endlessly is that you should only promote products you trust and have used before (which is quite interesting because if everyone knows that, then how come we have all those scammers?)

Jokes aside though, this is absolutely important. You should definitely refrain from ever promoting anything on your website/blog/channel that you are not 100% sure of its integrity and quality.

Simply because if you have readers who trust your opinion and follow your suggestion and buy or subscribe to something that was promoted on your website, and then that thing turns out to be a scam or a bad service/product, not only have you lost that reader’s respect and trust, but they might as well tell others about their experience, and you end up with a bad reputation which will certainly jeopardize your business and the integrity of your content overall. Now, why would you ever want to be in such position?

How To Choose Which Affiliate Programs To Sign Up For

In order to make money using affiliate links (and in most cases, to actually get accepted by said program), you need to be promoting something that has to do with what you are already blogging about or close to the niche of your blog/website.

For example, every now and then I write a blog post about book recommendations where I share the things I found inspiring in a certain book that I’ve read; so I share links for the readers to direct them to where they can buy that book to read it too.

My website revolves around ways to make money and grow financially as well as mentally, so you will never find an affiliate link here that suggests you buy a cook book, for example, or some cleaning detergent or something (even if I did use them and know how good they really are!). This just doesn’t give a good overall impression for the visitor who may be visiting your website for the first time.

It is better to stick to things that someone who is interested in reading the content of your blog will be interested in purchasing. If I am on a cooking website, chances I will be interested in buying a new laptop are quite slim; however I will like to see, and maybe buy, the kitchenware and ingredients this blogger used to cook that certain recipe I’m reading about.

Where To Find Affiliate Programs

If you are undecided about the product you want to promote, it will be helpful if you are signed up with one of the major affiliate marketing platforms like Share A Sale, CJ Affiliate, or Flex Offers (discussed briefly later in this post), where they offer you a variety of options to choose from.

However, if you do have specific products in mind, every product or service you are using most likely has an affiliate program. In most cases, when you visit the website for this product, you will find something that includes “Affiliate” at the bottom of their homepage. When you click that it redirects you to the page where they give you the information about their program and how to sign up for it and if there are any requirements in order to be accepted.

Some websites sign you up directly through their website, while others will direct you to the affiliate marketing platform that they advertise through, and there you would need to sign up to that platform first then apply to the affiliate program of that company you want through the platform.

In case you don’t find the Affiliate option on the homepage of the product/service you want to promote, you can always just Google “company name affiliate program” and you will find the affiliate page there.

It is worth mentioning though that there are some companies that just don’t have an affiliate program.

How To Add Affiliate Links To Your Website/Blog

This is one of my biggest pet peeves. It is when I visit a website and feel like I just went into a website for ads that occasionally has content. These kinds of website just automatically start the “scam alert” in my brain.

When placing ads/affiliate links, make sure you choose wisely where to present them. Think of the person whom you want to check out this product, will they need to see it first thing on your homepage? Or is it something that would go better within a certain blog post?

I have many banners/ads for free online courses on the website here, but I make sure to not scatter those links randomly everywhere. For example, if I’m writing a post about saving money, that’s when I expect someone to be interested in this Managing My Money* course, or if it’s a post about ways to invest your money, then yea maybe the reader will want to check a course on investment.* But they won’t necessarily feel interested in these courses when they are reading the intro to my website. So adding them there will just create distraction.

Generally, just make sure every link you add has a reason to be there, and put yourself in your website visitor’s mind, looking at the content of this page, are they likely to click on this link/ad?

Also, it’s important to pay attention to the overall appeal of your website. Don’t over crowd it with ads, even if relevant. I have some links on my homepage, but I choose to place them at the very bottom, for example, and I choose small banners to place, so it does not take away from the overall look that I’m going for, which is classic, presentable, and somewhat formal.

Your homepage is probably the first thing most visitors will see, so make sure you pay extra attention to that.

The 5 Affiliate Marketing Platforms I’m Currently Signed Up To

I normally sign up for certain platforms because the company that sells a products I want to promote is using that platform as their affiliate service. So for example I didn’t know about ShareASale until I wanted to sign up for Redbubble’s Affiliate Program (which was rejected). But that’s how I find out about affiliate marketing websites.

On these websites however you can search for a company to sign up to using search options, you can filter if you want companies of a certain niche. Some companies will take a few days to review your request before accepting or rejecting you as an affiliate partner. And in rare cases you may get accepted immediately once you apply. It all depends on that company’s policy.

ShareASale

ShareASale logo banner

It is one of the most popular affiliate marketing platforms with lots of reputable companies listed as advertisers there. Even though I only signed up to this program to become a Redbubble affiliate and that got declined, I thought of checking it out anyway, and I ended up signing up with a few other great advertisers whose services I have already been using and loving

ShareASale also has a referral program of its own, so if you are a publisher on their platform and you direct someone else to sign up and make money through them, you get a bonus. You can read more about it here*.

CJ Affiliate

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This is one of the biggest affiliate marketing platforms out there with companies like Apple Inc. as advertisers and one of the oldest too (established 1998). Though I only found out about it when I wanted to sign up with ebooks.com, and I’m glad I did.

One of my favourite things about this platform is that every now and then they send you emails about new offers and discounts to help you promote, whether with advertisers you are signed up with or potential ones that you may be interested in, which I find very helpful because I don’t always have time to check each website for offers, so it’s cool when it’s delivered to my email instead.

Unlike the other platforms on this list, this one does not have a referral program. You can check this page to know more about their program and join.

Flex Offers

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I knew about this initially from an article I read by someone who I, unfortunately, can’t remember right now. It was among the articles I was reading to educate myself about the matter before I got into it.

So this was the first program I signed up for when I was still trying to figure out how this whole thing works. And this was the hardest for me to get through its application, it felt almost impossible to do; big part of that was due to the fact I had absolutely zero knowledge.

Anyway, they require you to add a code on your website’s header as part of your application process, but there is an option if you don’t have access to the actual HTML code, you can email them and they will tell you an alternative to add the word “flexoffers” on a visible page on your website and email them the link, so they make sure you are the owner of the website/blog (and it took me AGES to figure that alternative out, which is probably why it took so long to get through the application).

This program has a variety of advertisers to choose from and the cool thing about it is they are all sorted by categories so you can easily find something in your niche.

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One other thing FlexOffers has is an affiliate program of their own called FexRev Share when you direct another person to sign up to become an affiliate on their website, and that person makes money, you get a commission.

While the other affiliate platforms have similar referral programs, with FlexOffers you can get commissions as high as 50%. Click this link* if you want to get started.

Rakuten Marketing

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Another huge platform, that is also among the oldest affiliate networks (established 1999). I joined it when I wanted to signed up for *Future Learn‘s affiliate program.

This one along with ShareASale both have a really easy-to-navigate, user-friendly interface. It won’t take long before you know how everything works.

Rakuten Marketing also has a referral program of its own, you can read about what they offer publishers/marketers here*. They also have an option to get coupons which you can use to buy products from the likes of Samsung, Macys’s, Walmart, and more. You can sign up here* to get started.

Amazon Associates

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Needless to say, Amazon is the most popular and most likely the oldest affiliate program out there (since 1996). Amazon Associates program is different from the other affiliate marketing platforms because with Amazon you are only promoting Amazon products. And they have A LOT.

I have been wanting to write this post just so that I can write about the mistake I made when I mentioned Amazon’s program in 5 Online Businesses That Work post.

In that post, I said (and it is now corrected) that you cannot sign up to that program if you live in Egypt, but I was completely wrong (hence, I signed up!). I obviously was still not familiar enough with the website, so I misunderstood what was going on. But, I’m glad I got to clarify that here.

You can sign up from anywhere (well, almost anywhere, there are some US states and other territories that are not allowed to sign up with Amazon for tax reasons).

Upon signing up, you will need to choose which Amazon territory you will sign up for. There’s Amazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon China, etc. You would mostly choose based on from which area you receive your most views/visitors. If you get high views from more than one area and you want to sign up to more than one, you will need to fill an application for each of the different amazon territories separately, have separate tracking IDs, and therefore get separate links for the same product.

There is an option, however, to merge your Amazon accounts together if you will sign up to more than one. So that, for example, if you signed up to Amazon UK and US because the majority of your site visitors are from these two locations, then you can merge the accounts so that you can have just one unique link; and if someone from these two places purchase through that link, you get the commission.

The tricky thing about Amazon though is that they do not accept you right away. You will sign up, and wait for approval, but even when you get the approval to access their links and offers, you are still not an affiliate partner just yet.

They give you 180 days to provide your first 3 sales, and when you make those sales, they review your website again and decide whether or not you are approved as a partner. In case you do not provide the 3 sales in the time specified, your application is rejected, but you can apply for it again. You can click this link to sign up and read more about the program.

Signing Up For Multiple Affiliate Marketing Platforms

Just a quick reminder that you shouldn’t sign up with all of these, or randomly choose a few of them, but rather check the actual product you want to promote and then find where to sign up for it.

I have read somewhere that you shouldn’t sign up with many affiliate network websites, however, in my case, my target is the product not becoming an affiliate marketer, so I promote specific products, and these products happen to be with different affiliate marketing platforms, and therefore I ended up subscribing to a bunch of them.

If you will be signing up to more than an affiliate program or affiliate marketing network, it helps to be organized about it so you don’t lose track. Because you will need to check on each of these programs and see how you are doing and find if there are any special discounts or offers you can promote.

So, what I do is I have a table where I record each affiliate marketing platform I’m signed up to and the affiliate programs/companies I signed up for on that platform. This way I always know where to go if I need to find a link to promote a certain product.

Affiliate Disclaimers

One of the things I learned is that if you are going to add affiliate links on your website, you will need to make it clear that you do have affiliate links.

Honestly, at first when I read disclaimers on other people’s websites, I was not sure what the point of that was. I mean, if the person is interested in something advertised on your website and are willing to buy it, what difference would it make to them whether or not you will be getting a commission?

But then I found that the reason why it is important:

  1. Because in many countries (like US and UK) it is actually required by the law. So, if you don’t add that, you are in serious legal trouble.
  2. Due to the fact that sometimes people can say that a certain product is good just so that they would get a commission or just because they got it for free to write a good review. Now, it’s not a surprise to me that people would do that, but I wasn’t thinking of it that way.

It does make sense, as a reader, they need to know that you will be getting a commission off of their purchase so they can decide whether you are referring them to this product just to get the money or if this product is genuinely good and worth it.

And I believe that as long as you are maintaining an honest approach and only promote the things that you know are of good quality, the readers will get that, and therefore adding such disclaimer should never get in the way of you making money or not, on the contrary, it adds to your transparency and earns people’s trust.

If you want to see an affiliate disclaimer/disclosure example, you can check this page that lists some of the requirements and examples of affiliate disclosures

Speaking of disclaimers, links with the * in this post are affiliate links. For the affiliate platforms’ links, it means I will get a commission from those affiliate programs in case you signed up to one of them using my link and actually made money. (In other words, if you make money, I make money, too. How cool is that?)

Till next week, happy days!

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