Since I started my side hustle, I’ve tried a few different business models depending on my day jobs and availability and I’ve realized a couple of things:
- There are a lot of great resources out there already
- I need a way to monetize my blog while still thinking through what services I can offer.
- Technology tools are amazing, especially for side hustlers.
- The time and energy I have is limited so I can’t really help people as much as I’d like.
After realizing those things and starting to think through how I wanted to show up in my business, I decided to really dive headfirst into learning about affiliate marketing. This course was really helpful.
I'm sharing the 12 steps I've learned so far so that you can also start exploring this as a passive income for your side hustle:
- Why affiliate marketing?
- What is affiliate marketing?
- But isn't this sleazy?
- What can you be affiliate for?
- How to get started
- Apply to affiliate programs
- A disclosure about disclosures
- Make your links “pretty”
- Make money from old blog posts
- Write new blog posts
- Create a Resources page
- Become BFFs with your affiliate managers
1. Why affiliate marketing?
As side hustlers, we often struggle with finding the balance between the day job and the side hustle. And if you’ve recently started a new job, the balance game is even worse. So you are looking for opportunities to make passive income – where you don't have to actively do something at a certain time to get paid. Most of what you can do for it, can be set up once and still make you money months down the line.
You don’t need a huge email list.
You can market affiliate products to the list that you have (whether that's 100 people or 1000), during your coaching calls, and even on social media.
You can get started right away.
You don’t have to create your own product, which can take research, money and time. These products already exist. By promoting other's products, it is actually a great way to see what products and services resonate with your audience too.
You share a link with your readers and that’s it. You don’t have to worry about tracking sales, providing customer service, setting up payments, or anything else. All that support is handled by the merchant.
You don’t need to expend extra effort or risk.
Because this is a way to make money from things you are probably already doing – recommending tools and products and services. While affiliate marketing isn’t exactly passive income, it doesn’t require a significant time or money investment on your part.
You don't need a team.
Are you a team of one like me? No problem. Affiliate marketing is completely doable even if you’re a solopreneur.
2. What is affiliate marketing?
Affiliate marketing is a way to offer products and services to your customers without creating them yourself. It’s like getting a commission on a sale. So you find a product or service you like, recommend it to your readers, and earn a profit on each sale you make. Usually, the commission is money, but depending on the program, it can be free months of a product, credit or other bonuses.
I also like to think of it as a way to make money recommending tools you are already talking about. You most likely already have links on your blog to products and services you love. Why not see if there is an opportunity to turn those into affiliate links?
This is why I have really been exploring this way of making money because my brand has evolved to be a lifestyle, curator type brand. And affiliate marketing fits right in with that. But you can add affiliate marketing to any brand style which makes it a nice income stream addition.
3. But isn’t this sleazy?
If you are already blogging for a particular area or topic, this can be easy. The trick here is to find an area that you know well. Are there things that people can buy to help this in this area?
If you’re already blogging about pets, for example, there are probably books, tools and resources you already recommend anyways even in your daily conversation. Start jotting those down.
The key here is that you should only become an affiliate for products, programs and books that you have personally used and love. Because this is about your reputation. You want to share this product because you’ve found it useful or you love it. This way you won’t feel sleazy or unethical.
Recommending products you've used also makes you an expert to your audience. So if your audience has questions or needs help getting started, they can come to you as a resource.
4. What can you be an affiliate for?
When thinking of products you want to be an affiliate for – start with documenting all of the products you use and love. This could be anything from the categories below.
You can start searching for the product or company you want to promote on Google. If you don’t find it, you can always try to google the product or company name + affiliate program to see if they have a program.
If there is not a clear answer, sometimes I’ll even search on twitter to see if someone has asked the question previously or I’ll ask if not.
But what kind of products can you promote as an affiliate?
If it's available in your state, you can sign up to be an Amazon affiliate. When you are an Amazon Associate and include links to Amazon products on your site you can earn up to 15% in referral fees. I earn a little bit of money from this by recommending books and other products I love.
The other cool thing about Amazon is if someone clicks on your affiliate link and buys anything from Amazon within 24 hours you'll get a percentage of that sale even if it's not the original product you recommended.
There are some sites that aggregate affiliate programs like ShareASale and CJ Affiliate. You can sign up to be an affiliate on these sites and search available products to refer to your audience. You may also find that some affiliate programs you want to apply for are through these networks too.
Is there a certain camera that you use to make your course videos? What kind of laptop do you use? What goes in your backpack or messenger bag? Think of everything you use to run your side hustle.
Digital Products / Software
What web tools do you use to run your business? Some of these can provide commissions if you refer someone to their product or you can possibly get a free month or a discount on your subscription. Think about what you use for social media management or web hosting.
Another good affiliate program that bundles together digital products is Ultimate Bundles. They promote various bundle related to blogging, productivity, finances, healthy meal planning and more. Based on your audience, you may pick a bundle or two to promote.
Personal Life Things
What do you use in your personal life? You may be able to earn a commission or get some credit towards your future purchase. Think about subscription boxes (like StitchFix) or online rebate programs (like this one) that you may use.
Are there other bloggers in your topic area or industry that you are following? See what types of products they are promoting. You may get inspiration from that.
5. How to Get Started with Affiliate Marketing
By now you may have an idea of programs and services you use that you can become an affiliate for.
Set a timer for 15 minutes and mentally start going through all of the tools and resources you use in your business. This could include courses, technical tools like calendars and hosting services, and even books or gear that you use to make videos and get ish done.
Grab this spreadsheet and “Make a Copy” to create your own affiliate spreadsheet. Start listing your programs and services in the “Tools” column. This is what I use to keep track of affiliate programs for my side hustle. It'll help you start off organized and you can keep everything in one place.
Important Note: Make sure these things are products you use and would recommend.
Because I believe the important part of being an affiliate is to be trustworthy. If you recommend something just to make money, that's when you are risking your relationship with your audience. You also want to know how these products work in case your audience wants to reach out and ask questions.
6. Apply, Apply, Apply
Once you have your list, it’s time to check each tool and see if it has an affiliate program.
I’ve found that if you go to the Products main site, you can search the menu or bottom navigation for affiliate. Or you can google the”product name + affiliate” to find out if they have a program or not. I've also searched their Twitter account in the past with the keyword “affiliate” if I wasn't able to find any information on their site.
Start applying to the programs!
Each program can be a little bit different as some applications can take longer than others. Some require you to have a blog and may ask you questions about your page views.
Keep track of your status, your application approval and your links in your Affiliate Spreadsheet! You can also use the tracker to note any program rules, commissions and any other special notes.
In your emails
It can also be helpful to create a label or folder in your email called “Affiliate” so you can keep track of all of your affiliate emails.
7. A disclosure about disclosures
It is always good to let people know that you are sharing an affiliate link with them. It helps to show that you are honest. And a lot of times, people will want to use your affiliate link knowing you’ll be compensated because they want to support you. Not to mention, that it's legally required by the Federal Trade Commission.
Make sure to read the rules of each program to make sure you are disclosing properly. In general though, here are some suggested ways to disclose your affiliate links.
On your website/blog:
If you are writing a blog post, you should try to disclose your affiliate relationship before the link. Also, keep in mind that a lot of people may not know what an affiliate link means.
I normally add this blurb to the top of my blog posts that have affiliate links: Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links which I'm happy to promote. All thoughts and opinions are my own. Much love & thank you for your support. ?
You can add a P.S. to your emails letting your audience know there may be affiliate links. This is what I use in my #jesspicks emails, “P.S. This email may contain affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I may receive a commission (at no additional cost to you). I only recommend products that I use and love.”
On social media:
I normally just put #affiliate or say somewhere in the text that this is an affiliate link.
8. Make your affiliate links “pretty”
When you sign up for an affiliate program, you are normally given a link that looks like this:
You can use a WordPress plugin like Pretty Link or bit.ly to turn that link into something that’s super memorable for you and your audience. So that link could become:
This way you can remember something short when you are recommending a product instead of that long gobbledygook web address.
Add your “pretty links” to your spreadsheet so you’ll have that information handy.
9. Make money from old blog posts
Now you have your affiliate links and you are ready to make some money!
One of the easiest ways to monetize your blog quickly is to add affiliate links to existing blog posts.
If you have a lot of blog posts, you can go into Google Analytics to see which of your posts is getting the most traffic and see if there are opportunities to add affiliate links.
Also, take the opportunity to update these posts with new information and then re-share on social media as a way to get fresh eyes on them.
10. Write new blog posts
As you are planning content for your blog for the rest of the quarter or year, think of some ideas to incorporate affiliate links or showcase them. Here are some ideas:
You can write a review of one of your affiliate products or services to share more about it with your audience. You can be super honest here – it should be unbiased. You could point out the things that you like and areas of improvement.
Tutorial / How-to Post
Tell your audience how to use one of your favorite affiliate products. You can use a tool like Loom to create tutorials of the products and tools you are using.
Roundup or List Post
Group a list of tools together, some affiliate, some not that can be useful to your audience. Here is an example. In that post, only two of those links are affiliate links.
Who is your audience? Can you create a Top 10 gift ideas for coffee lovers post? This could be another way to showcase some of your favorite resources.
11. Create a Resources or Tools Page
People are often curious about what tools and products you use. Creating a “resources” or “tools” page on your website is a good place to direct them.
That master list of things you love that you created before? This can become your Resources page with a mix of affiliate links and regular links. Write a couple of sentences about why you love each thing and link to any additional resources or content you’ve created.
Here’s mine as an example.
Once you create this page, share it with your list and on social media.
12. Become BFFs with your affiliate managers
For some affiliate programs, especially those run by individuals, you can form a relationship with them.
For example, I have established an email relationship with one of the founders of BluChic, a WordPress theme site that I use. She recently sent me an email about two blog posts I can add affiliate links to as a way to start making money.
This relationship can serve you well in the future so start building it now if you can. Once you sign up for their affiliate program, ask them if they have any top tips for affiliates. That'll give you some good information to get started.