Back in June of 2017, I decided to leave the world of a consistent paycheck notoriously known as the “9 to 5” to try my hands at an internet business. I had already built up a small YouTube channel that was earning me around $1,000 per month, and I believed that if I could dedicate more time to this channel I could replace the income from my job. Not only that, I was far more passionate about the work I was doing on my YouTube channel as opposed to my day job. Since then, I have tried many different methods for making money online. To name a few, I have sold courses, created a membership site, sold merchandise, sold 1 on 1 coaching and even hosted live events. By far, the most profitable venture for me has been affiliate marketing. For those who are not familiar, affiliate marketing is simply a business of referrals. You send someone a customer, they send you a kickback. It’s really that simple.
What Is Affiliate Marketing?
For example, consider your favorite restaurant. Do you recommend this restaurant to friends and family? Of course, you do! The only difference between this and affiliate marketing is that an affiliate marketer is getting paid for their recommendations. Let’s say your favorite restaurant had an affiliate program, it might look something like this… They give you coupons to give out to your friends for a free appetizer. At the bottom of the coupon is a discount code, which is linked to you! For every customer that comes in and redeems the coupon, you get $10.
This is exactly what I do on both my YouTube channel and my blog. I have a personal finance blog called Investing Simple
where I provide content about investing, personal finance and money. The biggest money maker in terms of affiliate marketing for both the blog and the channel is the brokerage accounts we compare and review. For those who are not familiar, when you invest in the stock market you have to do so through a brokerage account. On my channel and over on the blog, I provide reviews of these different brokerages to help viewers and readers to determine what one best suits their needs. Each time I generate a referral, I earn a commission.
Here is one example of this. One of the brokerages I am affiliated with offers new users a completely free stock when they sign up for an account. So, throughout the review, I mention this free incentive. When someone clicks on my link and signs up, they get a free stock for using my link and I get a commission of $60. It is a win-win-win relationship. The brokerage company acquires a new customer, the customer gets a free stock and I get a commission for introducing the customer to the brokerage.
How To Get Started?
“That’s great! Ryan! But how do I get started with affiliate marketing?” is what you are probably thinking. Well, the number one piece of advice I can give you is that getting started with this type of business actually starts with your interests and passions. I have always had a natural interest in money and personal finance. Largely, this comes from my father being a financial planner and my grandfather being an accountant. Sure, there are some niches out there that are more profitable than others. But the number one thing that you need to focus on is what niche interests you at a natural level?
Since I started my YouTube channel, I have made over 500 videos. Now, not all of them are public because I’ll be honest, some were not my best work. On top of that, over the last year we have produced almost 100 articles on the blog. I have written many of them, but some have been written by our writer or my business partner. The point being, that is a lot of content! If you simply go out there and pick a random niche, do you think you will be able to write 100 articles or produce 500 videos on the topic? My guess is, no! I made this mistake countless times when I was younger. I would try to start these niche blogs that I just wasn’t passionate about. One was on headphones, only problem being I knew nothing about them! Another one I tried a few years later was all about testosterone supplements. Again, something I had no interest in. So, as I am sure you could have guessed, both of these blogs went nowhere.
All that being said, here are the steps to follow to get started with affiliate marketing in 2020. It can obviously become more complicated than this, with the use of paid advertising or tools like messenger bots or email autoresponders. However, this is a beginner’s guide, so we will keep it simple.
We covered this one already, so I am going to be brief. You want to choose a niche that you are naturally interested in or passionate about. For me, this was the niche of investing in the stock market.
That is the topic I cover on both my blog and my YouTube channel. One of the most common mistakes I see people making is going too broad when it comes to your niche. I will admit, my niche is relatively broad. So, this is one of those cases of “do as I say, not as I do.” Where I see most people having success is working in a very specific niche. For example, dogs is not a niche. An example of a niche would be best all natural dog foods. You want to get very specific about the niche that you are in, and then become the authority on that given topic. It is impossible to become the authority on all things dogs. It is very possible to become the authority on all natural dog food.
Now that you have an idea of what niche you want to be in, the next step is to decide on a platform. In my experience, blogging and YouTube are your best options. However, it is still possible to use other platforms such as Instagram, Facebook Groups, Podcasts and more. At the end of the day, the platform that you use comes down to your personal preference and comfort. Not a great writer? Stick to video! Camera shy? Start a blog! There is no right or wrong answer here. If you hate making videos, don’t make videos. It is as simple as that.
One common mistake I see from beginners when it comes to choosing a platform is that they try to do everything at once! They will start a blog and a YouTube channel and an Instagram page all at the same time. Unless you have a team of people working with you, don’t do this! You always want to master one platform first. There are only so many hours in the day, and if you are doing this as a side hustle your time is even more limited. Whatever platform you decide on, stick to that platform and master it. Once you have mastered it, then you can consider branching out to other platforms.
I can comfortably say that at this point I have mastered YouTube. I have built up an audience of close to 500,000 subscribers and I have a good idea of what works and what doesn’t work. This is the main reason why I decided to branch out and build the Investing Simple blog. I mastered one platform, and decided to diversify and begin mastering another platform. If you try to do everything at once, you will become the “jack of all trades and the master of none!”
Now that you have your niche locked down and your platform, the next thing to consider is your content strategy. The best piece of advice I can give you on this one is don’t reinvent the wheel. You already have competitors in your niche, so it is time to analyze your competition. What you want to do is look at the content they have already created and see what is working well for them. It is more difficult to do this with blogging, because most blogs do not share how many views the articles are getting. However, on YouTube you can see exactly how many views a given video has!
This is why you will often see YouTube creators or bloggers create the same content. If you go on any money blog, including mine, you will almost always find an article on the best ways to make money online.
Coincidence? Absolutely not. Every good money blog has done market research and found out that this is a gold mine when it comes to affiliate offers. There are also thousands of people searching for money making ideas every single day!
So, start a spreadsheet or grab your notebook and start doing some research. You will ideally want to pick 5 of your main competitors, but the more the merrier! Take a look at the content they have created and see what is getting the most attention. Then, use that list as your content roadmap! Begin creating your own version of this proven content. You can always create some original content too, especially if you have a good idea of what people are looking for. You just want to avoid throwing darts blindfolded.
Once you are well established as a trusted resource on a given topic, you can begin reaching out to brands. In my opinion, you should create content for at least 6 months before reaching out to brands looking for affiliate relationships. If you reach out to a brand early on before you have any content or even a logo, that is going to scream amateur. Even worse, you could potentially burn a bridge you could have used later on.
So, assuming you have followed this step, it is time to do some more snooping on your competition. Who are your competitors affiliated with? The FTC actually requires affiliate disclosures, so assuming your competitors are playing by the rules, it should be relatively easy to find out. In terms of where to place the affiliate links, it will most likely be a mixture of existing content and new content you create. For example, we have dedicated reviews of the different brokerage and investment platforms we are affiliated with on the blog. We also mention these affiliates in our article on the best ways to make money online. That is why having a library of existing content is a great strategy. Once you have some affiliates, you can plug them right into existing content!
If someone sat down and asked me what was the fastest way to start making money, I would not tell them affiliate marketing. The truth is, this is one of the slowest methods of making money online. However, it also has the most potential in my opinion. I know numerous people who have sold personal finance blogs and money blogs for upwards of $5,000,000. The thing is, they spent 10 or more years building them up. Establishing yourself as a credible expert on any platform takes a long time, and the results will be slow early on. But if you focus on the long term picture, I believe it is one of the best opportunities you have. I always think about it this way… imagine if you created just 1 piece of content per week. Over the next year, that is 52 pieces of content. Over 10 years, that is 520! A little bit of work each week over a long period of time really does add up. Be patient, and see the bigger picture of what you are creating!