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

cj affiliate by conversant icon

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

flexoffers flex rev share logo banner

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.

flexrev share

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

Rakuten Marketing logo banner

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

amazon associates logo banner

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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Passive Income: 5 Online Businesses That Work

This has been a hard post to put down because there is a crazy number of methods where you can make money online. Not all of them will make someone rich of course, but they do add up. However, I figured I better not overwhelm myself by trying to list every single one of them, but rather choose the ones that would actually have a decent return of money over time. 

I will most likely write another post later on the other little ones that do make money, but not as much as the ones on this list.

So, here we go! A list of the profitable online businesses (in no particular order):

1. Affiliate Marketing

In a nutshell, this is you helping someone else make sales and getting a cut. If there is a particular service or product you have tried and found to be of good benefit, you can sign up for that company’s affiliate program to have a unique referral link, and then start telling your followers/friends about it and every time someone makes a purchase through your link, you get a commission. 

Now I have not tried this thing yet because, well, I am just starting out, but mostly people who do make a lot of money out of this are those who have a huge following on social media websites, on YouTube, or on their own Website. So, if you do have a decent number of followers, you might start making money this way.

The most popular affiliate program is Amazon’s; you can sign up and advertise all products that are sold on Amazon and any other Amazon-linked ones like Kindle or Audible. There are some territories that may not be allowed to sign up with Amazon though. A good alternative to that is flexoffers.com, it has a similar affiliate program with variety of categories, and you can sign up from anywhere in the world.

If you want to learn more about how affiliate marketing works and how to approach this in the best way, you can check out Getting Started with Affiliate Marketing For Beginners.

2. Teaching

While teaching does not sound like a “passive income” kind of method, there are ways to turn it into one. If you are experienced in one specific field, you can create an online course on a website like Teachable.com or similar ones, where you upload videos of you teaching material of a certain course and every time someone signs up to your course, you get paid.

The good thing about this website in particular (because I signed up and checked it out) is that they provide you with resources to help you make a good course; they even offer a free webinar to show you how to create a professional course to make money. But here is a list of all the other similar websites out there. 

I initially thought that to teach, you needed to be some kind of a professor or have a teaching degree, and you ought to be teaching something academic, but, in reality, you can actually teach anything, from languages to crochet or gardening to makeup, anything, literally. You just need to be good at it and also it kind of needs to be something that someone else will have the interest to learn about. Here is a helpful article on how to start, if you want to create your own course.

There is also another option, if you’re anything like me and are not very comfortable in front of a camera, you can then go for an e-book course where people can download your course as a PDF file instead. There are several platforms where you can put your e-book up for sale and they’re mentioned in this article.

If you think of going through the e-book route though, you can go for a course, or just a guide (how-to), or maybe an actual book (which I’m planning to do at some point).

3. Photography

If you love photography you can use that hobby as a means to make money. But there are 2 types of people who love photography.

Those who are like me. (Yea, I keep telling myself I need a better camera..)

Now I’m pretty sure no one will be paying money to use this photo (by me, in case it wasn’t obvious)

And those  who are actually good at it.

Someone would definitely pay money to use this photo (by my good friend Mahmoud AbdelGhany)

So, if your love of photography is anything like me, I’m sorry to say, this one is probably not for you. If you’re more of a “I-know-what-I’m-doing” kind of photographer, then please keep reading. 

Aside from the fact that you can take on events that require a photographer, as in weddings and conferences and such, which is more of an “active” thing, but from a “passive” approach, you can certainly make money  by uploading your photos on websites like Shutterstock and whenever someone wants to use one of your photos, you get paid.

There are actually plenty of other websites you can use to sell your photos, this article lists the best of them and it also gives an insight on the types of photography that sell the most.

(Side note: I’m working on polishing my photography skills a bit, so I will be sharing some useful tips later on for those of you who are like me.)

4. Drop Shipping

This one to me seems to be the most complicated one on the list, because it requires more planning and a lot of work done before it can become “passive.” It took me a while to get everything about it.

Drop shipping is you selling certain products online that you don’t really own or have. You set up a shop for people to navigate and select their desired product. You contact the supplier who actually has the products, usually a wholesaler or manufacturer, pay them for the products that the customer selected on your shop, and then they ship the product to the customer.

The difference between this and a traditional shop is that with drop shipping, you don’t have to purchase a product until you already made the sale and have been paid by the customer. So, that is less chances of losing money.

The trick with this method is deciding on the niche or the market. Because drop shipping is a widely famous business among entrepreneurs and so some markets have a lot of competition. A high competition means that you won’t have the luxury to set high prices for your products and therefore the profit margin you make may be very small in the beginning which will require more effort on your part to reach more customers. Here is an article on how to choose the products to dropship.

The other trick is choosing the right suppliers to deal with. Because they will be the ones shipping the products to your customers, so they need to be reliable and have a good reputation. The better and more professional the supplier, the stronger the business will become since this will build trust between you and the customers who try your shop and whether or not they will want to buy again or tell others about it.

There is a very informative article with some useful tips on the steps required to build this business here.

If you want a longer, more extensive read to go even deeper in understanding this business, Shopify has a free eleven-chapter guide that walks you through the whole thing. Shopify is also one of the most popular platforms where you can build this shop.

5. Online Shop

Now this is also selling products online, but with a more traditional, less tricky approach. And this one can refer to two types of an online shop: one where you actually create and ship physical products yourself and another where you use a website that takes care of the product and the shipping and everything else and you just provide the designs to print on the products. The latter is the online business method on this list that I actually tried so far and which I will discuss in my next post.

As for the former type where you would sell your own physical products, I have read this step-by-step article earlier by Nat Eliason who built his online tea shop in exactly 3 weeks. You might find it helpful as an insight on how to start one yourself. Though I’m not sure if this actually fits in the “passive income” category.

Anyway, this wraps up the list of passive income businesses you can do online. At least, this is the list of things I know can work so far. And as mentioned earlier, I will share my experience with the online shops using print-on-demand websites in my next post.

Till then, happy days!