Affiliate Marketing: A Nearly Perfect Side Hustle

Are you looking for a side hustle that can generate a lot of income with some elbow grease and side ...

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Are you looking for a side hustle that can generate a lot of income with some elbow grease and side effort? If so, affiliate marketing may be the perfect option for you! Affiliate marketing is simply helping other companies sell their products or services online and getting paid a commission.

There are many ways to get involved in affiliate marketing, and plenty of high-earning opportunities are available. In this introduction, we will discuss affiliate marketing, how it works, and some of the best ways to start building affiliate sales.

how to start affiliate marketing for beginners

Who I Am And Why I’m Worth Listening To

My name is Josh, and unlike most online, I am not trying to sell you anything. I give away all my help for free here on purpose. I make my living through running niche websites and my day job, and I don’t need to sell hopes and dreams to make my living.

This space has slowly disgusted me as it is full of people selling what they call “secret sauce” and “courses” that are at best glorified YouTube content yet charging vast amounts to get into their “special” FB group, then upsell you to “masterminds” where the smartest of marketers will be.

Instead, my goal is to fully disrupt this scheme and allow you to keep and use your money to get your own side hustle growing and, hopefully over time, possibly choose to convert it into your full-time job.

I can’t tell you that you will make money or become the next Elon Musk, but I know that the people who make it in this line of business are dedicated and willing to keep going even when everyone tells them it can’t or won’t work.

Affiliate marketing is fantastic, and it is a business nearly anyone can start, even on a shoestring budget which is highly unique as most brick-and-mortar stores will require heavy investment just to launch, let alone sustain and achieve longevity.

I continue to build my sites and build my side income sources which allow my family to take more vacations than others, to buy things we want without using credit to get them, and to generally enjoy life more than otherwise possible.

I created this site to get people mobilized, to get those who want to get away from the grind of work to find their opportunity to strive for a different life. If you think this may work for you, keep reading, as affiliate marketing can be life-changing, and you don’t need to buy in like MLM or other “businesses.”

Who Can Do Affiliate Marketing?

This is where affiliate marketing shines over nearly all other side hustles; it is an opportunity nearly anyone can get started with very little investment and time. Your investment is all before earning anything, and the work must always be done before the payment.

The internet, over the last few decades, has become a staple of life and society. It is used for a wide variety of things like entertainment, keeping in touch with friends and family, or running a business.

Affiliate marketing allows business owners to leverage a highly connected world by allowing you the ability to promote products or services online and earn a commission from it.

This means that you don’t need to create a digital or physical product, you don’t need to maintain inventory, and you don’t need to deal with shipping or returns.

Instead, as an affiliate marketer, your job is simply to drive traffic to a company’s site, and when someone makes a purchase, you earn a commission.

It is that simple!

Why Become an Affiliate Marketer?

Let’s face it building a successful business takes a lot of work, time, and money. The barriers to entry are high which is why most people choose not to start their own businesses.

Affiliate marketing provides a unique opportunity to bypass many of these traditional barriers by allowing you to get started with little investment and time commitment versus a more standard business startup.

In addition, affiliate marketing offers a nearly limitless opportunity to earn income. There are millions of products and services online that you can promote as an affiliate, meaning the earning potential is nearly limitless.

The other great thing about affiliate marketing is that it is largely able to function as a passive income source not needing constant tending and “open” hours.

This means that you can continue to earn an affiliate commission for years to come based on the work you complete today.

Basics to How Affiliate Marketing Works

This hopefully can give you a taste of how affiliate marketing works and how it can be an excellent opportunity for you to start your own side hustle. I just want you to understand this before diving in, as it isn’t a get-rich-quick scheme.

Affiliate marketing is a type of performance-based marketing in which a business rewards one or more affiliates for each visitor or customer brought by the affiliate’s own marketing efforts.

Create Amazing High-Quality Content

What will drive your business forward is a focus on creating the best and most helpful content for your visitors as possible, this doesn’t mean having hundreds of links to try and make money but a focus on being a truly helpful and assistive content creator to your target audience.

This means not just trying to “get by” with what you write and instead really think about what the searcher is trying to find and making sure that you provide that answer to them and then maybe some additional closely related content on additional questions you feel they may have.

For many new affiliate marketers, this is the hardest part to adapt and get past, they don’t know why someone would read something they publish but just know that everyone has something unique they can bring to any topic.

Drive Traffic to Your Affiliate Site

This is where the rubber meets the road, you need to get visitors to your website or everything you have done will be worth very little, now before you rush off to spam your friends and family online let’s just look at how you SHOULD do this.

You need to figure out what traffic you are going to want from a post, the most common will be organic search traffic you get from search engines like Google and Bing.

This is managed by choosing “keywords” or the words search engines use to organize their data and how they use this data to provide results to the searchers online.

You want to learn how to find the right keywords for your business and grow the organic side of your business at all times as this is the “passive” traffic, the people who are looking for you and your information.

This means you write to fulfill their search needs, not to get personal feelings off your chest, this is a huge failure for most new affiliates.

This can take some time to learn and get a feel for how to do it, but once you get the hang of how this works, you can and will begin the process to dominate your niche.

Later in the courses, we can dig into the other traffic types you may want to target supplemental, but for now, this is a good concept to prioritize.

Now where the money side will begin to come in, within the posts you write, you can let the visitor know of important or essential products to resolve the pain point they are experiencing that led them to you.

Adding more links won’t translate into making more money in many cases so instead of liberally placing links instead, make sure to place proper links and really sell them to the visitor with some details of HOW they helped you and why that will help them.

Convert Clicks Into Sales

If you have done a proper job selling your visitors on a product link then they will lead to clicks that will send them to the affiliate offer, this is where you will receive a commission should the visitor make the purchase.

This is where you start to see the benefits of what you have done as you get rewarded for all of your previous work, it is important to note that this isn’t an overnight process and will take some time to grow and mature.

The most important thing for you to focus on is how well you are helping the searcher, if they believe what you have written and think you are providing good information, then the conversions will come.

This is how you build a successful affiliate marketing business, by focusing on the searcher and not necessarily always on your wallet.


After you finish one post you go back to the beginning and you start this whole process over again, this is how you consistently grow a business online.

As you write and become more proficient in your niche then you can look to start branching out your content creation by adding in outsourcing, which is paying others to write content for you.

But never lose focus on the most important part which is to focus on how well your site helps those who visit it and how you are connecting with them.

What Are the Benefits of Affiliate Marketing?

Affiliate marketing is an amazing opportunity for a person looking to add on to their current income or even replace a current job they may have.

It has many benefits which include:

You Don’t Own the Products You’re Promoting

Unlike other businesses where you may need to invest in inventory or create a product yourself, you don’t have to worry about any of that as an affiliate marketer.

You are simply promoting somebody else’s product and will receive a commission whenever someone completes a desired action, such as making a purchase or starting a free trial.

This also means you don’t have to deal with returns, customer support, shipping, or any of the other headaches that come with owning your own product.

You can Start With Little to No Money

Another great benefit of affiliate marketing is that you can start promoting products and earning a commission with very little upfront investment.

In most cases, you need your website or blog and some content to get started. You don’t need deep pockets, a friends list on social media, or other money to begin.

Of course, as you generate more income, you can reinvest that money into your business to help it grow even faster.

It’s a Passive Income Source

The writing effort has to be put in prior but if done well you can reap the returns for a long time afterward with very little upkeep other than an occasional check to make sure nothing has changed in the topic itself.

This is what makes it such a great opportunity for those looking to build a long-term business they can eventually automate or even outsource. For many over time, this can become a fully functional business where they hire out all the roles to other people!

High Earning Potential

There is literally no ceiling to your earning potential with affiliate marketing. The sky is the limit as to how much you can earn and it really depends on how much effort you’re willing to put in.

Of course, your results will also depend on many factors such as the niche you’re in, how well you convert visitors into sales, and the quality of products you’re promoting.

But if you’re putting in the effort, there’s no reason why you can’t start moving towards earning a full-time income from your affiliate marketing side hustle.

Low-Cost and Low-Risk

One of the lowest costs to start and maintain, is a self-owned business focused on affiliate marketing as it will require a minimum of about $10 a year for the domain and then just the costs for hosting your website per year.

There are little to no startup costs as you don’t have to worry about things like inventory, shipping, returns, or customer support. It’s also a very low-risk business since you’re not investing any money into the process of creating your own products.

The only thing you could potentially lose is the time you put into it, which is why it’s important to choose a niche and products you’re passionate about.

Easy to Scale

Once you are successful then scaling is simpler as you don’t need to have costs to make a new building, instead, you can simply add more content, hire writers, and continue to grow!

This is how many people have turned a little side hustle into a full-time business that generates six or seven figures a year.

All of these factors make affiliate marketing an amazing opportunity for those looking to start their own business with very little risk and the potential for high earnings.

How Much Can You Make as a New Affiliate Marketer?

Within the first months you can expect to make zero, like I said before I am not going to blow smoke and try to act like you will be amazingly successful right away, can that happen, yes, but this is by no means normal.

In the long term, there are many who reach 24 months and are making over $4000 a month per this program. I have seen this sentiment quite frequently online in more open Facebook groups where the longer you stay and work hard the more people tend to make.

Each person and niche though will vary and how much you make will depend on how many hours you are willing to put into your niche site, keyword selection, and many other factors.

To optimize earnings you will want to find higher quality affiliate opportunities in your niche that pay well along with providing products you believe in and can speak to.

Primer: How to Start Affiliate Marketing as a Beginner

To provide you an overview of everything we will be covering later in courses I figured it would be good for you to see a general manner of how affiliate marketing is built from start to finish so you can think about them as you read and experience more of the courses to come.

Decide on a Niche

The first step before buying a domain and finding out what platform and hosting you want is to dig into finding the right niche, this will be what you will need to focus on for the next 24 months at a minimum in most cases.

This is also where most new bloggers fail to spend time thinking about, they are so ready to start that they grab the first dog they know about and start their sites, this is not optimal and may mean you are starting into something highly competitive.

There are a couple of ways you will want to look for your niche, first, is there an opportunity, and how much competition is in that opportunity. To find this you can use the SERP in Google or tools like SEMrush which we will go over later.

What you want to do after finding some potential niches is to look at how many people are searching for things in that niche, you can use SEMrush to dig into the search that exists from their data sources but note it is typically estimated and not exact.

You want to find a niche where there are enough searches being conducted that you could realistically rank for but not so much competition that it would be nearly impossible.

After finding a couple of these niches, it is time to look at the affiliate programs being offered in those niches. What you want to do here is find a couple of companies that offer affiliate programs within your niche and see how much they pay per sale.

The reason you want to do this now is so you can get an idea of how much money you could potentially make if you were to rank for some keywords and get traffic to those affiliate links.

Choose Your Platform

Next, you want to look at the platform you want your site to be on, I will always suggest WordPress unless you are an active developer and wish to spend time not being a blogger.

WordPress can be installed and ready to use in minutes on hosts like Host Armada or Siteground. This and the amazing range of free support online makes WordPress the perfect platform for most bloggers to get going fast!

WordPress is perfect for informational content like what you will be writing along with being perfect to build an email list as it comes with many plugins to do so.

Find Relevant Affiliate Marketing Programs

You will want to start with Amazon Affiliate first as they cover items in nearly any niche but tend to pay lower commission rates but can make up for it in overall conversion rate.

For most niches, though there will be other big brand names where you can get good conversion but also much higher commission rates, this is why you want to look at this after finding a niche as you can find companies that would be perfect for your site.

To find other affiliate programs, you will want to search Google or use a directory like Share-A-Sale which has an extensive list of companies and their affiliate programs.

Create Valuable Content

You need content, not 10 posts, not 20 posts. For instance, Google has said that even up to 50 posts they more than likely don’t really know what your website is about.

Most content sites will need to build to at least 100 posts and for bigger sites, this can reach 500 or even 1000+ posts to cover all the topics in detail to be an authority site.

To create content, you will want to start by doing keyword research, and this can be done with a tool called KeywordChef, which is free to use with my link here for up to 1000 results on lower competition queries.

We will also cover how you can do these kinds of searches using Google autocomplete in a future course to find which methods work best for you.

Building an Audience

This will start with organic traffic from Bing, Google, and other search engines. You can extend this with Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and many other social tools for additional traffic sources.

The audience you build will be the people most likely to buy from your affiliate links and also the people who will sign up for your email list which you can use to promote other products or services in the future.

Follow FTC Regulations

There are rules and regulations on affiliates and clearly, you don’t want to break any of those as they can lead to huge fines and penalties when small may not be as bad but once you grow this can be devastating.

The main thing you need to do is disclose that you are an affiliate on your website somewhere, per the FTC this needs to be clear and not hidden nor muted in color before ANY affiliate link on a website.

You will want to check out the FTC website(1) for more information on how to stay compliant with their rules.

Affiliate marketing is a great way to make money online and can be done passively if you create great content that ranks in

How much do beginner affiliate marketers make?

While I hate providing numbers, especially as beginners, don’t expect to make thousands of dollars. I would expect to make zero dollars in your first twelve months, which means you can only do equal to or better than I believe.

In my first twelve months, I made an average of 47 dollars per month which was not ground-shattering but a decent income. In months thirteen through eighteen, I averaged around $700 per month, which has continued to grow.

This is how you need to look at it, and the first twelve months are building the foundation for future growth. The faster way to accelerate this growth would be to reinvest the income back into the site instead of pocketing it for other uses.

What are the best affiliate marketing opportunities for beginners?

The best affiliate marketing opportunities for beginners are in the hobby niches as these frequently have lower overall competition and you can get started quickly, these typically have many affiliate partner options and good affiliate income.

Hobbies are always getting new people which is perfect as your site should target those questions a new hobbyist would ask as they get started, these people need product reviews, and are an engaged audience.

There are also thousands of hobbies meaning you can find them all around you, while walking around stores, checking out books and magazines, and then while on the road looking at stores that exist.

Each of these can provide you with inspiration for a new site or blog post to write and types of products to speak about. There are typically programs that fall into three basic buckets which we describe below:

High-paying, low-volume affiliate programs

These are affiliates that don’t sell often but can pay huge commissions when they do. A good example would be someone selling a high-end piece of jewelry where the average order value is over $1000, and the commission rate is around 20%.

For every sale, you get $200, which isn’t too shabby considering its passive income.

The downside is that these items don’t sell often so your overall earnings will be lower, to begin with.

Low-paying, high-volume affiliate programs

This is where the products don’t cost much, so they don’t pay well individually, but you can sell thousands in a month. A good example of this would be a cell phone case that sells for around $15 with a commission rate of maybe around 20%.

This means for every sale, you make $0.30, which doesn’t seem like much, but if you can sell 100 cases, then you’ve just made $30.

These products are typically easier to sell as people are more likely to impulse buy them.

High-paying, high-volume affiliate programs

Very rare to find, but these are the holy grail of affiliate programs. An example of this would be a piece of software that sells for around $200 with a commission rate of 50%.

For every sale, you make $100, which is fantastic considering it’s a digital product, so there are no other costs. The downside is that these products are usually quite difficult to sell as people don’t tend to impulse buy them.

To sum it all up, affiliate marketing is a great way to make money online, especially if you’re just starting out. The key is to find the right affiliate program that fits your niche and then go from there!

How to decide which affiliate programs to join

The best to start with is the lower-paying but higher converting program like Amazon Affiliate, this is because you will have less skill in writing content that will persuade visitors to higher-cost items.

Getting started as an Amazon Associate is easy; they have many tools to help you succeed and make the process easy to learn and do. As you grow, you can expand into other affiliate products if the niche and your visitors are interested.

Final Thoughts

If you’re looking for a way to make some extra money online, affiliate marketing may be just what you’re looking for. In this introductory course, we’ve outlined how affiliate marketing works and discussed the different types of programs you can join.

We’ve also provided tips on how to find the best affiliate programs for you and how to get started with Amazon’s affiliate marketing program.

Now it’s time for you to take the next step and start your affiliate marketing journey! If you need more help and assistance with hand-holding then I have a list of courses that can fill this for you on my tools page here.

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Josh With Niche University
Josh is the owner of Niche University, a blog and free resource built specifically to help teach you how to build a side hustle and hopefully freedom in life.