We doubt there’s any other question that appears as frequently in affiliate marketing discussions as “How much money can I earn”?. Pick any social media group or message board for new and experienced affiliates, and you’ll soon see numerous messages from affiliate newbies asking when exactly they will get their first paycheck and how big it will be. Or about when they can quit their tedious 9-5 job and live off affiliate marketing income. So many people earn incredible amounts just by blogging or having their video channel that it shouldn’t be too hard to follow their lead, right?
On the other hand, the failure rate in affiliate marketing is rather high – most affiliate newbies never even earn enough for a payout.
So, the critical question is: can you really earn money from affiliate programs, and how much can you count on making? We’ll try to answer that tricky question in this article.
Let’s start by explaining how exactly you earn money through affiliate marketing. After signing up for an affiliate marketing program, the program owners will tell you the requirements for earning commission. For example, it might be encouraging someone to sign up for a newsletter, download a free trial, schedule an appointment, or (most often) buy a product or service.
You’ll also get a unique affiliate link to include in your content. Once someone completes the required action by clicking on that link, the program owner will know that a customer came from you. You will then get paid depending on the action that customer takes and the commission type.
Now, there are two main ways in which you might get paid for your hard work:
Seems pretty straightforward, right? The problems start when you compare commission between different niches and even programs from the same industry, because the rates might vary wildly.
If we look at some software and SaaS affiliate programs, you’ll see that commission fees ranging from $50 to over $100 aren’t anything unusual. For example, the cloud-based hosting service Kinsta offers up to $500 for every referral plus 10% recurring commission for as long as a customer uses their services. Banking services have pretty tempting commission rates as well – CIT Bank offers their affiliates $100 for every qualified lead they bring.
The above was to do with digital products and services, so what about physical products? Here the commission rates might seem to be so low it’s almost unprofitable. For example, with Amazon, one of the biggest affiliate programs out there, you can earn from 1% to 10% commission depending on the product type. Commission rates vary from 1-2% to even 50% in the health and fitness niche.
If you want to start earning quickly, then it should be a no-brainer to go for the niches and products that can offer you the highest commission fees, right? You would have to sell so many items on Amazon just to earn as much as you could from one hosting deal.
But when you join a popular niche, you have to compete with many affiliate marketers who picked the same program for exactly the same reason – to earn high commission fees. So unless you have studied such crowded niches first and can take many experienced affiliates on, it might be a better idea to first look for low-cost but easier-to-sell products.
Now we’ll go into some hard facts – how much, on average, does an affiliate earn during a year? PayScale estimates that the average income for an affiliate marketer is around $51,700 per year. Low-tier marketers earn about $38k on average, while the top affiliates make roughly $71k a year.
Glassdoor’s research into affiliate marketing income gives even higher numbers. The average base pay is $65,356 a year, with the lower end of the range being $42k and the upper $83k per year. And here we are only talking about average affiliate income. The earnings of top affiliates like Pat Flynn, Finch Sells, or Missy Wards are much higher than that.
It might sound impressive, but the main problem with affiliate marketing income is that it’s in no way a stable and reliable source of money. It’s getting harder to attract potential customers’ attention and encourage them to click on affiliate links. So you shouldn’t be surprised that one month you might earn a sizable paycheck and the next make just a few or even no sales.
While we are on the topic of earning money, you have surely heard many times that affiliate marketing could provide you with passive income. What does that mean? Passive income is any money you earn in a way that doesn’t require too much effort and is easy to maintain. It might be an ebook you wrote some time ago or a video tutorial – as long as it keeps earning you money, it counts as passive income. So how does it work with affiliate marketing?
Let’s say you have a cooking blog on which you share various recipes you have tried out, rate places you have visited, and review cooking courses, utilities, and gadgets. As long as people keep clicking on the affiliate links you added to a review of a handy cooking gadget, you’ll earn money from them. You may still earn commission even several months after you wrote the review.
However, it’s not as easy as just slapping an affiliate link into your posts. As with all forms of passive income, you’ll have to put in some serious work first – from choosing the right products to promote to creating content and building an audience. Plus, you’ll also have to keep an eye on affiliate metrics to know how your content is doing and find any gaps in your affiliate strategy so as to not fall behind.
Almost everyone who gets into affiliate marketing dreams of having four or five digits of income per month. Unfortunately, only around 1% to 5% of affiliate marketers can make that come true, and success won’t come overnight. Typically, it takes about 6 months to even a few years before you start seeing any profit. Sadly, it’s far more likely that you’ll only see financial losses rather than solid earnings at first. But three things can make all the difference when it comes to the success of your affiliate marketing:
Finding the exact right niche for your affiliate efforts will make all the difference. Having an interest in the area you picked will make it easier for you to know what your audience is looking for and to create content around that. It will also take less time for you to find a matching product to promote.
If you already have a blog or channel with a loyal audience, then the best idea would be to look for affiliate programs that match your niche and then weave the product promotion into your regular content. If you are starting from scratch, you’ll have to spend a bit more time finding a topic that is related to your interest that you can confidently write about. But that time spent will be worthwhile.
As an affiliate marketer, your main job is first to show your followers products that they might find helpful. Then you have to gently nudge them towards purchasing the products you recommend, which is what your affiliate content is for. Whether posting a review of a gardening tool or showing a makeup tutorial, your content should answer the questions or problems that your audience is facing and allow you to recommend solutions.
When using affiliate links, don’t forget to inform your followers that you partner with an affiliate program and that you will get paid if your readers purchase a product from the links in your posts.
Since there are so many programs and networks to choose from, you might feel like it’s a pretty daunting task to pick one. Where can you start? As already mentioned, you should always look for programs and products related to your niche rather than focus on the available commission. Not only because the competition in the high-paying programs can be overwhelming, but because it will simply be easier for you to create content centered around a topic that you know a lot about and you will be happy to share your knowledge.
Considering how e-commerce, the SaaS industry, and online shopping keep growing, there’s definitely more than enough room for anyone to start earning money from affiliate marketing. You need to remember that you won’t see the results straight away – not even Pat Flynn became a millionaire overnight. But with patience, determination, and content that resonates with your audience, you will be on the right path to slowly working your way up.
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