Workers looking at chart on tablet
By promoting products from other companies, you can earn extra income for yourself or your business. — Getty Images

Are you looking for a new source of income? Or, perhaps you’d like to add a revenue stream to your business? If so, you may want to consider affiliate marketing. By promoting other companies’ products, affiliate marketers earn commissions. The best part is that it’s fairly easy to get started and requires little to no funds. The challenge, however, is taking the time and effort to be successful.

How does it work?

Merchants can expand their marketing reach through affiliate marketers. An affiliate signs up via an affiliate marketplace, or network, which manages the program terms and provides the affiliate with a unique URL so that sales they generate can be tracked. It’s also possible to work directly with a merchant who manages their own affiliate programs. There is usually no cost to become an affiliate.

Once the affiliate posts their unique URL and someone clicks through and makes a purchase, that affiliate receives a commission. The amount and terms of this commission are determined by the merchant and should be outlined in the agreement with the affiliate.

Steps to becoming an affiliate marketer

The process to get started is pretty straightforward. Here are the steps:

Sign up

Visit an affiliate marketplace, such as Shareasale, MoreNiche or Clickbank, review the affiliate program options, and select the product(s) you want to promote.

Get your materials

You’ll receive a unique link for your campaigns that identifies you as the source of the sale. The merchant may provide promotional materials, e.g., banners, other ad graphics, marketing copy and more to help you promote the product.

Promote the product

There are many marketing vehicles you can use, such as:

  • Blogging.
  • PPC ads.
  • Social media posts.
  • Email campaigns.
  • Ads on your site.
  • YouTube videos.
  • Podcasts.

Receive commissions

If you use your unique link, the vendor can track purchases you generate, provide you with reporting, and send you commissions.

[Read: 5 Easy-to-Start Business Ideas]

Merchants can expand their marketing reach through affiliate marketers.

How to be successful with affiliate marketing

While it’s easy to become an affiliate marketer, many don’t earn much income. With some intentionality and wisdom, however, you can create successful promotions, drive customers to merchants and enjoy your earnings. These tips can help:

  • Select the right product: While a variety of merchants participate in affiliate marketing programs, it’s important to select products that fit your personality, so that you promote them with passion and they’re relevant to your established audience, if you have one. If you are just getting started, visit several of the affiliate marketplaces to see what niches — e.g., health and fitness, travel, business, technology, education, etc. — are available and consider which align with your interests and audience.
  • Compare programs: As you compare your options, read the terms and assess the benefits of each program. ShoutMeLoud, a blogger community, proposes affiliates compare the support offered, minimum payout terms, payment methods and tax document requirements. You’ll also want to know the amount of the average sale and the commission structure as some merchants pay recurring commissions and some pay for leads or clicks. Your odds of earning commission can increase if merchants track consumers’ repeat visits via cookies.
  • Start small: While promoting many products may increase your chances of making revenue, be sure you allow time to understand the niche, review the products, and gain some experience. The Balance Small Business suggests finding a niche with a lot of vendors so you have many potential products to promote, but then starting with just two or three and adding more over time.
  • Take advantage of your blog, video or podcast channel: If you have an established blog, YouTube channel or podcast, this may be your avenue for promotions. However, you’ll need to select products that align with your established message and audience. Take time to personally review and learn about the products you promote. This will help maintain your integrity and demonstrate your respect for your audience, which can position you as a trustworthy resource for product recommendations.
  • Know your customers: suggests an established business can add revenue through affiliate marketing by considering what products its customers need that it does not offer. Once you determine the need, seek out affiliate marketing programs that offer the right products for your customers.

[Read: Looking to Be Your Own Boss? 10 Home-Based Business Ideas]

Learn and grow

As with all marketing, measure and evaluate your affiliate marketing program success. Review reports provided by merchants. Determine which products generate the most income for you. Assess which marketing techniques drive the most purchases, then focus more on what’s working and improve what’s not.

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

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