Is Affiliate Marketing Hard? The Cold Hard Truth Revealed

man playing chess to represent is affiliate marketing hard

How sexy is the concept of affiliate marketing? It’s the only business model on the planet where you don’t need to create your own product or deal with the hassle of stocking and shipping, or customer complaints.

But, as alluring as the benefits sound, some of us can’t help but wonder: 

Is affiliate marketing hard? 

Is the journey as sweet as the destination?

That’s the topic of today’s article.

The Love Work at Home team has banded together to create a no-BS guide on what it really takes to succeed with affiliate marketing in 2021.

Whether you want to create a new source of income from home or completely escape the 9-to-5 rat race, this article will empower you to succeed in this online business.

But first, let’s address the elephant in the room…

Is Affiliate Marketing Hard?!

Is looking East to see a sunset hard?

Of course it is… because you’ve got the wrong strategy.

Is working your job hard when you “hate work”?

Of course it is… because you’ve got the wrong mindset. 

Is paddling hard using a stick?

Of course it is… because you’re using the wrong tools.

Is affiliate marketing hard?

It absolutely can be. In fact, it’s safe to say it can be a vortex of your time, money, and fulfillment if you’ve got the wrong strategy, tools, and mindset. 

That being said, the truth about affiliate marketing is that it can also be very, very possible and highly lucrative. In fact, if you play your cards right, you can eventually earn a decent income from affiliate marketing.

I mean, would there be successful affiliate marketers splashed all over the Internet and social media if it wasn’t? 

Would there be affiliate marketing industry conventions if it wasn’t? 

Would there be an abundance of affiliate marketing platforms such as Rakuten, Flexoffers, or Share A Sale if it wasn’t?

Of course, not. 

There are no affiliate marketing secrets. It has always worked. But what separates the successful from the failures is how you do it. 

Done wrong (like most people), and you’ve lost time and energy that you can never gain back. 

Done right… and you’ve just found the perfect work from home business.

So, who exactly is doing this affiliate marketing thing right?

Affiliate Marketing Success Stories

There are many examples of people killing it in the affiliate marketing industry. 

Take Miles Becker, who helps aspiring entrepreneurs launch and scale their online business.

iles Becker's website - affiliate marketing success story

He makes money through the tools, courses, and other helpful resources he promotes on his website.

Or, you may have heard of NerdWallet.

Is affiliate marketing hard? Nerdwallet is an example of affiliate marketing success

This is a well-known comparison website that offers financial advice and connects prospects to a product or service. They earn commissions from the tools promoted on their website.

RunRepeat is another great example.

affiliate marketing

They review almost every athletic shoe under the sun while making commissions through the shoe suppliers (such as Running Warehouse or Wildfire Sports) when someone clicks on a link and makes a purchase.

While the above examples are in different niches, the strategy remains the same. You can make an income from affiliate marketing in almost any niche out there.

But with every business, there are pros and cons. And it’s worth being aware of them now, rather than later.

Pros and Cons of Affiliate Marketing

PROS

Starting an affiliate business doesn’t require a lot. After the cost of setting up your website (web hosting and a domain), there isn’t much else you have to spend on. This is very different from other business models that need huge start-up budgets to get the ball rolling.

On top of that, it’s a great home business that you can run on the side of your day job. In fact, many people treat it as a side job, then go full-time once they start earning good money.

Where other businesses require huge offices and advanced equipment, affiliates only really require a website to succeed. 

This cost me no more than $20 a month, making it more than affordable for most people.

You simply earn commissions from someone else’s product. 

The commission rate will vary, but there are many affiliate programs like Clickbank, that offer up to 75% for every sale you refer. Some even offer 90%! How cool is that?

But why would they offer such high commissions? What’s the point for them? Good questions. For the product owner, they care more about the email address they’ll acquire through the sale because they can keep selling to these people other products over time. 

Also, a high commission rate inspires more affiliates to do the marketing. Smart right?!

Since you aren’t the product owner, you don’t need to worry about turning your garage into a storage warehouse. 

Fulfillment is taken care of by the product owner, so there’s no need to store a single item of inventory.

That’s also the responsibility of your fellow vendors (thanks, guys!). 

This gives you time to focus on building a marketing business that attracts the right people to the right products (more on that later).

CONS

Being in the affiliate marketing industry rewards you with flexibility. But, it also minimizes your control. 

You don’t have much say on the product image, the marketing materials, or various other things like that. 

And if you only promote one product and it suddenly gets removed from the market, your income may suffer dramatically.

To avoid this, smart affiliate marketers choose to first promote one offer. Then once this is earning a profit, they expand to multiple offers.

Unlike popular belief, affiliate marketing isn’t some get-rich-quick scheme. It’s a real business. And like any real business, there’s always a “buffering period” before you see any tangible results.

When the barrier to entry is low, there’s always going to be more competition.

Today, anyone can build a website. Anyone can join one or more of the many affiliate programs out there. But, again, what separates those who succeed from those who fail, is the mindset and strategy. 

With this in mind, below I’ve put together my top 10 rules for affiliate marketing success. These are a mix of the best strategies and mindset tips (from experience and research) that I wish I knew when I started.

Follow every rule, and you’ll be well on your way to earning great money as an affiliate.

10 Rules for Affiliate Marketing Success

Strategy #1 – Consider Using More Than One Traffic Source

Use multiple traffic sources for your affiliate businessA lot of affiliate marketers worry about dipping their heads in too many traffic sources. And to be honest, this is perfectly understandable. You never want to distract yourself with too many things, especially in the beginning.

However, using more than one traffic source can actually be beneficial in the long term. For one, you can reach a much larger audience. Not only that, but social media networks have different types of traffic. So when you market across multiple channels, you’re attracting a diverse pool of traffic to your offers.

What’s also worth mentioning is that social media shutdowns happen every year (like this one). 

Businesses that marketed only on Facebook or Instagram saw their income drop to zero overnight. 

But, the businesses that had multiple marketing channels? Their income remained steady, despite Facebook’s blackout.

Of course, don’t try every traffic platform when you just start. Master one first, then move on to the next. The key is to not keep all your eggs in one basket.

Strategy #2 – Utilize Email Marketing

Email marketing for an affiliate businessTalk to any super affiliate, and they’ll tell you that email marketing is one of the most effective ways to generate income through affiliate marketing. 

If you don’t know already, this strategy simply involves capturing someone’s email address, so you can continue talking to them over email. (Similar to texting your crush after winning their phone number.)

So why do top marketers swear by this method? Well, here’s one major reason: it’s insanely profitable. Did you know that you could earn $42 for every $1 spent on email? That’s a 4,200% ROI. 

I think what most affiliates appreciate most is that an email list gives you control

It’s your list and your customers. This gives you the opportunity to build a relationship while promoting products through the emails you send. An easy way to make repeat sales.

Repeat sales are a big deal. In fact, 61% of small businesses say the majority of their revenue comes from repeat business. Email marketing allows you to make sales without having to acquire new customers. 

Of course, nobody gives out their email for free. It’s usually in exchange for something valuable, like an e-book or report. As affiliates, we refer to this as a “freebie,” and it’s worth taking the time to craft one. 

It doesn’t have to be a work of art that takes you a long time either. A good freebie usually solves a problem while educating visitors about your brand.

Strategy #3 – Produce Loads of Valuable Content

Produce loads of valuable content for your affiliate marketing websiteYou’ve probably heard the saying “content is king.” And it’s true.

In today’s online world, you can’t go very far without content. Simply creating content doesn’t count, either. It needs to be valuable or else nobody will read it.

Whether it’s an article, video, or email, you need to create content that people actually want. And what they actually want is usually what they’re searching for on Google.

For example, let’s say you’re in the dog training niche. Well, your audience might be typing these things into Google:

    • How to stop dog barking  
    • How to stop your dog barking at neighbors 
    • How to make your dog stop barking home remedies

Given that these keywords are low in competition, you can create articles around each of these keywords so that they rank high in the search results.

Creating valuable content requires you to have a deep understanding of your target audience. 

That means taking time to thoroughly research your market. Who are they? What are they searching for? What are their problems, and how can you solve them?

When you nail down this part, your readers will feel like you “get” them. They’ll trust you and be more receptive to what you have to say (or promote).

If writing or filming a video isn’t your thing, you can always outsource this to other professionals (Upwork is amazing for this). I’m lucky to have a team who help do everything from writing articles to managing our social media.

Strategy #4 – Don’t Promote Only High-Ticket Products

A green price tag with a dollar signIt can seem so alluring. Earning a 50% commission on a $2500 product.

That’s surely a big payout. But, as a beginner affiliate, promoting high-ticket products isn’t always the easiest route. 

A higher payout demands a stronger marketing effort. It’s not enough to send an email with your affiliate link linking to a high-ticket product. Well, you can, but there’s a lot happening in between the email and the final purchase. Things like webinars, free trainings, free books, etc, all of which have the purpose of growing a prospect’s desire to buy.

All of the above can be time-consuming to learn at the start. If you can’t even put a website together, just imagine how hard it will be to create an entire webinar!

My advice: start by selling low-ticket products. While your commission is lower, you’ll find it a lot easier to make sales.

Strategy #5 – Promote Products You Genuinely Believe In

Yellow thumbs up iconIt can be tempting to make money from products you’ve never even tried. But don’t just promote a product because you want to make money. Promote something you genuinely benefit from and believe will help your readers or audience.

Trust me… your readers (or audience if you’re on YouTube) will pick up if you’re not 100% behind the product you’re selling. It goes a long way to building trust (aka future sales) if you’re authentic in the products that you promote.  

Pro Tip: If it’s a physical product you wish to promote, you can create an unboxing video (assuming YouTube is already in your marketing strategy) sharing your real-life experience.

Strategy #6 – Cultivate the Mindset of a Business Owner

Icon to represent the business mindsetRemember, as sexy as this business may seem, it’s still a real business. And you need to treat it like one.

Things really started changing in my online business when I no longer treated it as something I did “on the side,” but an actual business. 

That meant scheduling time in the week to work on my business. Setting weekly and monthly goals. Creating a productive home office space. Even updating myself on the latest news and trends in the industry.

I also encourage you to adopt this mindset. Start treating your “business time” as if it’s time you spend at work. Always be punctual, productive, and prepared.

Strategy #7 – Consistency is Key

Vector diagram of a cycleIt’s not enough to set up a website and a few articles. Websites like this pick up dust fairly quickly, without earning a dime.

Success comes from consistency. Rinse, lather and repeat. Stick to the plan, follow the steps…  you need to continue taking action. You need to keep creating content, even if it doesn’t receive the attention it deserves.

The downfall of most affiliate marketers comes from giving up too early. When you don’t see any results, certain tasks might “feel” meaningless, like uploading a post or answering comments.

Don’t fall for this trick. No matter what stage you’re at, moving to the next should be your goal. When you do, a snowball effect starts to occur. Your business will grow faster and you’ll be more motivated to work on it.

Whether it’s 1 or 20 hours you work on your home business each week, the key is to simply do it! It’s working on your business that matters more than how long you do it for.

Strategy #8 – Patience is a Virtue (and Necessary in Affiliate Marketing)

A money tree in a plant holderI’m sure you’ve heard this before, but I can’t stress this enough.

In an industry where everyone promises that you can earn $694,301 within 30 days, you need to learn that patience is the real key to success.

Impatience will only lead you to throw in the towel whenever the going gets tough. 

It seems weird to ask, but how exactly do you develop patience?

Here’s one thing that helped me: setting realistic expectations from the start. 

Yes, you can earn $20,000 in your first month as an affiliate… but it’s also very unlikely (and a lot of pressure!)

Why not start with a smaller, more attainable goal like $1,000 a month? You can even go lower than that (my goal was to simply make my first dollar). Then, set a higher goal once you achieve this.

Goals don’t always need an outcome, either. “Progress” goals like building a website or writing an article are just as effective in helping you stay motivated in the long term. 

Strategy #9 – Have Laser Focus

A focus on a red circleIn a world full of distractions, it’s easy to lose sight of your goal. This is especially true in the beginning when you’re still trying to get the ball rolling.

The easiest way I see affiliate marketers lose focus is by doing too many things at once. They promote too many products. They market on too many social platforms. 

Eventually, the inevitable happens. They burn out, get frustrated, and abandon their entire business.

Also, some people are easily swayed by other business opportunities, based on the promises they offer. This is also referred to as “Shiny Object Syndrome,” and if you aren’t careful, it can rob your focus too.

Understand that the grass is never greener on the other side. Any business model you choose, whether that’s affiliate marketing, consulting, or even lead gen, comes with its unique challenges.

But instead of taking your eye off the ball when things get hard, you need to learn how to eliminate distractions. 

Avoid learning about other business models or following experts who aren’t related to your field. It sounds ruthless, but happily get rid of anything that slows you down from reaching your goals. You’ll be so much more thankful that you did in the long run.

Strategy #10 – Use Tools That Maximize Your Success

Use the correct tools for your affiliate marketing businessYou don’t need a plethora of tools to succeed as an affiliate. But, you still want the best tools for the best results.

At the very least, most affiliate marketers will need to set up a website. This requires you to buy a domain and web hosting.

While a domain is the name of your website, it’s also your brand name, so it’s worth choosing one that sticks.

As a rule of thumb, pick a domain name that’s related to your niche, but still allows room for change. For example, “paleotipsforwomenover50.com” will keep you trapped in the “over 50’s” niche. You’re essentially shooing away anyone below 50 from your website.

On the other hand, something like “marysfitnesstips.com” is more flexible, as it can be applied to any type of fitness (yoga, weight training, cardio, etc).

Once you’ve chosen a domain, you need to register it. There’s actually no need to spend time choosing where to register your domain. Registrars like GoDaddy or NameCheap work perfectly fine for this type of business.

As for web hosting, think of it as a filing cabinet for your website. (And your domain pointing to this location as a signboard.)

A lot of people waste time choosing a web host, when it really doesn’t have a huge impact on your success. Plus, if you aren’t happy with the one you pick, you can always switch to another hosting later on.

I have personally used the following web hosts, without any issues.

    • Hostgator (Easy-to-navigate dashboard, 24/7 customer service)
    • Namecheap (Affordable, and also lets you buy your domain name) 
    • MDD Hosting (Fast, yet cheaper than most web hosts)

Yes, there will be other hosts that work just as well. These are just the ones I’ve used.

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Nothing comes close to a step-by-step process created by people who have made it their passion and their life. Hacks and charlatans come and go, but these guys have dominated this space for many years and will do so for many years to come. Is affiliate marketing hard? Not if you follow these guys.

Conclusion 

Is affiliate marketing hard? It’s not a matter of whether or not affiliate marketing is hard. It can be hard just as much as it can be easy. The difference is in how you approach it.

With the wrong mindset and strategy, you’re doomed to fail from the start. Trying to succeed as an affiliate will always feel like a losing battle.

With the right mindset and strategy shared in this article, success will come to you a lot faster (and easier). You’ll have confidence in your ability to earn your first dollar because you’re clear on what you want, and where you’re heading.

Thank you for reading this article. If you enjoyed it, please don’t forget to share it with anyone who you think will find it helpful.

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