Is affiliate marketing worth it? Is it right for you?

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Affiliate marketing can be profitable and fulfilling, but success won’t happen overnight, and your results will depend on various factors. In this post, we’ll examine several considerations to determine if affiliate marketing is worth it for you.

Affiliate marketing involves promoting products and services, and affiliate marketers earn commissions when their promotional activities result in leads or sales. For example, Jennifer, a blogger, publishes a listicle entitled “The 12 Best GetResponse Features.” As readers click on her affiliate links and visit GetResponse’s website, Jennifer will earn commissions on premium plan sales.

Primary considerations

Here are some critical considerations to help you determine if affiliate marketing is worth it for you:

Content creation: Affiliate marketing involves creating content, such as writing reviews, creating tutorials, making videos, developing social media campaigns, or other forms of digital media that will resonate with your audience. Updating or creating new content is a weekly task, at the very least.

Skill alignment: Affiliate marketing is a digital marketing activity. Therefore, robust digital marketing skills are necessary to succeed and will differ depending on your content distribution channel. For example, essential skills for bloggers include writing, keyword research, search engine optimization (SEO), and web design. By contrast, YouTubers require scriptwriting, video editing, and graphic design skills. They’ll also need title, description, and search engine optimization skills to rank high in YouTube search results.

Income type: Affiliate marketing produces passive income, i.e., money earned with minimal or no ongoing effort or active involvement. For instance, a blogger may make minor updates to keep a post ranking well in search results, whereas a coupon site owner will update discount codes periodically to ensure they work. 

You can also earn recurring passive income from companies that pay lifetime commissions, like GetResponse and other software companies. 

Market size and ROI: Naturally, you’ll want to enter a growing, not declining, market. Global affiliate marketing is expected to surpass $36B by 2030, resulting in a compound annual growth rate (CARG) of 7.7%. Additionally, companies see the value in affiliate marketing, with creators generating $27 for every dollar spent on advertising and marketing, which is more than double the industry average.

Global affiliate marketing platform market forecast. Source: Research and Markets
Global affiliate marketing platform market forecast. Source: Research and Markets

Niche and audience selection: Affiliate marketers create content for their chosen niches. So, being genuinely interested in their niches will help to satisfy their audiences by providing authentic and rewarding experiences. Secondly, affiliate marketing allows you to choose from various niches and industries. Therefore, you can promote products you are passionate about or have expertise in.

Competition: Content is everywhere, and breaking through the noise to get enough traffic isn’t easy and will not happen fast. Moreover, competitive niches like health and wellness can be more challenging but may have higher earning potential. Finally, untapped niches and audiences are hard to come by, resulting in few first-mover opportunities.

Time and effort: Affiliate marketing can require a significant time investment, especially in the beginning. Also, it could be weeks or months before you generate sizable commissions. So, consider if you have the time, resources, and perseverance to see your efforts through.

Bonus: Learn how other affiliate marketers started their online venture in our brand-new interview series – The Hot Seat.

Affiliate marketing pros and cons

Understanding affiliate marketing pros and cons can also help you determine your next steps.

Pros

Low startup costs: As an affiliate, you don’t need to create products or services, eliminating the need for research, manufacturing, inventory, and storage costs. Instead, you can operate an affiliate marketing business for less than $100 monthly.

Sales and customer support: The merchant processes sales and handles customer support, including inquiries, complaints, and refunds, freeing you from those responsibilities. Your primary duties are creating content, marketing, and directing traffic to merchants.

Scalability: You can scale your affiliate marketing efforts by creating more content and promoting multiple products or services, potentially increasing your earnings.

Flexibility: Affiliate marketing is an online gig, allowing you to work from anywhere with an internet connection and manage your schedule. Do you want to take the afternoon off? No problem.

Unlimited earnings: Affiliate marketing is performance-based. So, your income is highly correlated to your content creation and marketing efforts. The more effectively you promote products, the more you can earn.

Ample selection: There are thousands of affiliate programs to join on a handful of reputable affiliate networks, including Impact, CJ Affiliate, ShareASale, FlexOffers, and Rakuten Advertising. Also, each of these networks has over 30 product categories, including B2B, education, electronics, fashion, finance, food, health, marketing, pet, software, and travel. There’s something for everyone.

Cons

Initial learning curve: If you’re new to affiliate marketing, there can be a learning curve to understand effective marketing strategies and how to optimize your content.

Ownership: While creators own their content and websites, they don’t own the businesses they promote and must rely on them to convert traffic into sales. They also don’t own third-party content platforms like YouTube, Facebook, or Instagram, which have rules and terms users must follow. Those factors keep affiliates on the outside looking in with very little recourse when unfavorable events occur.

Merchant performance: Your success depends on the quality of the products or services you promote, merchant conversion rates, and consumer/market changes. Unfortunately, these items are out of your hands. Still, you can review monthly reports to adjust your program focus and marketing efforts.

Fluctuating commissions: Commissions can vary widely, and companies can change their commission structures or terms, affecting your income. For instance, I’ve seen cases where commissions have dropped by 20% to 40%. Additionally, merchants can terminate their programs for failure to gain momentum or achieve sales targets.

Delayed gratification: Affiliates get paid after sales cycles end, involving potential returns, chargebacks, or fraud checks. The typical payment cycle is 30 to 60 days, forcing compensation delays. On top of that, some programs have minimum thresholds like $50 or $100 before issuing payment. 

Program management: Many affiliate managers have no publisher-side experience and don’t understand the complexities of being an affiliate. Also, some programs are managed better than others, resulting in poor support, untimely information, and lost opportunities. 

Disclosure and trust: While maintaining trust with your audience is vital, disclosing affiliate relationships can negatively affect your earnings.

Myths and misconceptions

Swindlers are everywhere touting affiliate marketing as the quickest way to make thousands daily. They frequently show fake income reports and reviews to get you to buy their overpriced courses. While making thousands is possible, it will take dedication, time, and a long-term perspective. Also, dispelling common myths will help you set realistic expectations.

Myth 1: Affiliate marketing is a get-rich-quick scheme

Truth: Affiliate marketing is not a guaranteed path to quick riches. Building a successful affiliate marketing business requires time, effort, and skill.

Myth 2: You need a large audience to succeed

Truth: While a large audience can be beneficial, niche-focused and engaged audiences can be more valuable than a broad one. Additionally, quality often trumps quantity in affiliate marketing.

Myth 3: Affiliate marketing offers passive income from the start

Truth: Passive income in affiliate marketing is possible, but it usually takes time and work before things get going. Additionally, you must create and optimize enough content to get sufficient traffic and clicks.

Myth 4: Affiliate marketing is for everyone

Truth: Not everyone will succeed in affiliate marketing, nor will everybody enjoy it. It requires grit and digital marketing, content creation, and communication skills.

Myth 5: You can promote anything and make money

Truth: Promoting products without considering quality, relevance, or audience fit can damage credibility and hinder success. Instead, effective marketing requires thoughtful product selection and careful planning.

Myth 6: Affiliate marketing is saturated

Truth: While some niches are very competitive, there are always opportunities in less crowded markets or in finding unique twists within popular niches.

Myth 7: Affiliate marketing is only about sales

Truth: Affiliates are responsible for building trust with their audiences and providing valuable content. Merchants are responsible for sales conversions. Secondly, affiliates can earn for generating leads, not just sales. Some programs pay per lead, resulting from actions like email subscriptions, trials, new accounts, and demo requests.

Myth 8: You need a website to start

Truth: While a website or blog can be beneficial, it’s not the only way to approach affiliate marketing. Social media like Pinterest or TikTok, email marketing, and other platforms can be effective affiliate marketing channels to distribute links.

Read more: Affiliate email marketing for beginners

Myth 9: It’s easy to copy successful affiliate marketers

Truth: Copying someone else’s strategies may not work because what works for one person’s audience might not work for yours. Also, affiliate marketing success often involves finding a unique approach.

Myth 10: Affiliate marketing is dying

Truth: The affiliate marketing industry is evolving and thriving, with new opportunities arising from changes in consumer behavior, technology, and market trends. Also, businesses love it because it’s performance-based and produces win-win outcomes.

Picture of an affiliate marketer.

A day in the life of an affiliate marketer

Affiliate marketing activities vary significantly based on niche, content, marketing channels, and personal preferences. Still, we can get a sense of what a typical day might look like for an affiliate marketer:

Morning

Affiliate marketers often start the day reading emails for updates from affiliate programs, upcoming sales events, and communications from advertisers.

Affiliates might review website and campaign analytics, including traffic, conversion rates, and earnings from the previous day or week. This data helps them assess the performance of their promotional efforts. After review, they may fine-tune their advertising and marketing activities to improve effectiveness.

Affiliates may work on content creation, including writing, editing, shooting videos, or designing graphics.

Marketers may engage with their audience on social media, respond to comments and messages, share relevant content, and promote affiliate products or services.

Afternoon

Affiliate marketers may research industry trends, review the latest affiliate marketing strategies, or watch relevant webinars or online courses.

Marketers might search for new affiliate programs or networks to join. They might also search for new promotional items.

Affiliates usually dedicate time to administrative tasks, including tracking expenses, managing payments from affiliate programs, and updating websites or promotional materials. They might also review their competitors for content ideas or new strategies.

Affiliates may review the day’s performance, checking for any significant changes in metrics or earnings. They might also make a few content tweaks before shutting down.

Marketers might plan or schedule content for the next day or upcoming week, set goals, and create to-do lists.

After a busy day, they’ll usually relax, exercise, socialize, or do whatever interests them.

When is affiliate marketing not worth it?

Affiliate marketing won’t be worth your time if you have a money-first focus. These affiliates put profits before people and promote whatever they can to make a quick buck. Also, they often produce low-quality content with the hope of making money by chance, not by skill or design. Conversely, successful affiliates put people first and seek to delight users as much as possible. Their earnings are a result of pleasing their audiences.

Affiliate marketing isn’t suitable for you if you plan to get rich quickly. It could be weeks or months before commission payments begin coming your way, requiring a long-term approach.

You’ll fail in affiliate marketing if your goal is to automate or use AI for most of your business. Likewise, some aspiring affiliates think they can outsource most of their work and succeed. First, automation and AI tools can be helpful, but depending on them too much will reduce the unique skills and experiences highly successful affiliates leverage to scale their businesses. Second, outsourcing can get expensive quickly, and paying top-notch freelancers can cost thousands, sinking your business before you start.

Finally, the goal of copying others won’t yield promising results, and your content won’t surface to the top. Instead, risk-taking, fresh ideas, and originality enable creators to achieve their income targets.

Conclusion

Affiliate marketing is worth it if you enjoy creating content and want to inform, educate, or entertain people. It’s also an excellent and legitimate way to earn passive income online without the complexities or demands of other ventures like ecommerce or freelancing. However, affiliate marketing success can take a while. So, having patience and persistence will work in your favor.

What appeals to you about affiliate marketing? Please leave a comment below.

And if you’re ready to start making money online, see how GetResponse for affiliates can help you succeed!


Chad Tennant
Chad Tennant
Chad is a digital marketer specializing in affiliate marketing. His experiences as an advertiser and publisher give him unique insights and strategies to increase sales. Additionally, he creates content to market companies, products, and services. A partial list of his work includes blogs, guides, videos, and email marketing campaigns. Chad holds a Bachelor of Commerce degree from Toronto Metropolitan University and a Project Management Professional (PMP) designation from PMI. You can reach out to Chad on LinkedIn and visit his website.