Starting an affiliate marketing business requires significant capital – that’s the general belief.
But what if I tell you the huge start-up cost is a myth, a roadblock many wannabe marketers and bloggers fail to overcome? How to start affiliate marketing with no money?
From my 5 years of experience as a blogger, I’ve built a successful affiliate marketing business from scratch. So can you get started with affiliate marketing with no money?
In this in-depth guide, I’m going to teach you how to get into affiliate marketing without breaking the bank. All you need is your time, commitment, and determination.
Start Affiliate Marketing With No Money
To make money online through affiliate marketing, you need to build an affiliate website. Therefore, you need to purchase a domain name, web hosting, and tracking software, and run paid advertising campaigns.
All these require a lot of upfront costs. At least that’s what beginner affiliate marketers believe.
However, with my proven strategies, learned from years of experience, I’ll show you how to start your affiliate marketing journey with little to no money.
Here’s how to start affiliate marketing without spending any money.
1. Find a Profitable Niche
If you sell to everyone, you’re going to sell to no one. One of the biggest mistakes you’ll make when it comes to the affiliate marketing industry is to try to promote products from different niches.
So the first step to starting affiliate marketing without money is to pick a niche and stick to it.
This is your specific area of interest or topic/subject of focus.
How to Find a Lucrative Niche
The success of your affiliate business will depend on your niche. Additionally, choosing a niche is a crucial step as it will help you create affiliate marketing content that resonates with a specific target audience.
This increases the chances of making money with your affiliate marketing efforts. The good news is that it doesn’t have to cost anything.
- Do market research
Here, you’ll use free tools like Google Trends, forums, and social media to identify trending topics and gauge audience interest in potential niches.
You can also explore existing affiliate networks and marketplaces like ClickBank, CJ Affiliate, and ShareASale to identify popular niches and profitable programs.
Ensure you assess the competition and choose a niche where there’s demand but potentially less saturation.
- Identify your interests
Passion matters a lot, so choose a niche you genuinely care about. You’ll be more motivated to create engaging affiliate content and research a relevant affiliate marketing program.
Leverage your existing knowledge or skills. For instance, if you’re a fitness enthusiast you can share your workout routines and recommend fitness equipment.
Analyze your hobbies, past work experience, or educational background. Can you apply these skills to a specific niche?
- Narrow Down Your Niche
To be a successful affiliate marketer, specificity is key. Avoid broad niches like “health” or “technology.” Narrow down to a specific sub-niche like “vegan cooking” or “cybersecurity tips for small businesses.”
Refine your niche to a specific target audience. Instead of broad categories, focus on a niche within a niche. This specificity helps tailor your marketing efforts and makes you stand out.
Research the competition in your narrowed niche. A niche with too many established players might be challenging for a beginner affiliate marketer.
Research the average commission rates for programs in your chosen niche. Ensure there’s enough opportunity for earning.
Here is a breakdown of the most profitable blog niches from the highest to the lowest, according to a recent Authority Hacker survey:
- Validate and test your niche
Using free keyword research tools like Google Keyword Planner or Ahrefs’ Keyword Explorer, estimate search volume and competition for relevant keywords in your niche.
Engage with online communities, forums, social media groups, and discussions related to your niche. Understand the audience’s pain points and interests.
Set up a free WordPress website or blog and start creating content targeting your audience. Analyze traffic and engagement to gauge audience interest and validate your niche choice.
2. Join an Affiliate Program
Once you’ve identified your niche, the next step to kickstart your affiliate marketing with little to no upfront investment is to find high-paying affiliate programs.
These programs enable you to promote affiliate products or services and earn commissions on sales generated through your unique affiliate link.
According to Datanyze, Amazon is the top affiliate network followed by Rakuten affiliate and CJ affiliate.
I have also compiled a list of the best affiliate networks for new bloggers, to offer you guidance.
Here’s how to find high-paying affiliate programs you can join without spending a cent:
- Consider the commission structure: Look for programs with competitive commission rates. Some may offer a percentage of the sale, while others provide a fixed amount per conversion. Look for programs that offer recurring commissions on subscription-based products. This passive income can be a game-changer, especially with a loyal audience.
- Research and compare: Don’t just jump at the first program you see. Explore platforms like CJ Affiliate, ShareASale, and ClickBank, filtering by your niche and comparing commission rates, cookie durations, and payment terms.
- Product quality and relevance: Opt for products or services that are high-quality and relevant to your niche. Authenticity in your promotions builds trust with your audience and increases the likelihood of conversions.
- Payment frequency: Choose programs with a reliable and frequent payment schedule. Some affiliates offer monthly payouts, while others may have longer intervals. Select a program that aligns with your financial needs.
- Support and resources: Assess the level of support and resources provided by the affiliate program. Quality promotional materials, tracking tools, and responsive support contribute to your success as an affiliate marketer.
- Pay attention to cookie duration: The longer the cookie duration, the more time you have for your affiliate link to convert, even after a visitor clicks away. Aim for programs offering at least 30-day cookies.
3. Choose Your Traffic Channels
Getting traffic to your affiliate marketing business is one of the biggest challenges for 45.3% of affiliate marketers according to Authority Hacker’s recent survey:
While the primary traffic sources for affiliate marketing require an initial investment. There are free marketing channels you can use when learning how to start affiliate marketing with no money. They include:
Create and optimize a YouTube channel to produce valuable content.
Create engaging videos showcasing your products through tutorials, reviews, and comparisons. Optimize titles and descriptions with relevant keywords.
Partner with other creators in your niche for cross-promotion and audience expansion.
Ensure you respond to comments, answer questions, and participate in discussions to build trust and loyalty.
Leverage free email marketing services like Mailchimp, Omnisend, and others and build an email list organically by offering free resources like eBooks or guides in exchange for email addresses.
Tailor your email content to different interests and preferences within your niche and send targeted emails with affiliate links, promoting products or services that resonate with your subscribers.
Provide helpful information and insights, not just sales pitches. Focus on building trust and encourage organic clicks to your affiliate links.
Use captivating photos and videos to showcase the benefits of the products you promote. Use free hashtag tracking tools to research and utilize relevant hashtags to reach your target audience.
Tell compelling stories, ask questions, and encourage interaction to increase engagement.
Create a Facebook page or join groups and communities related to your niche. Share informative content and affiliate links strategically, ensuring they align with group guidelines.
Engage with potential customers in your niche to spark conversation and gather valuable data about your audience’s preferences.
Utilize Twitter to share concise and engaging content. Leverage trending hashtags and engage with your followers, directing them to products or services you promote.
Run Twitter polls and threads to spark discussions and gather feedback from your audience about your niche and potential products.
Create visually appealing pins related to your niche. Utilize keyword-rich descriptions and link them to the products you promote.
Join group boards to collaborate with other creators in your niche to reach a wider audience.
TikTok is currently the hottest traffic source for affiliates, bloggers, and ecommerce business owners.
Identify trending topics and challenges in your niche and create content incorporating your products. Use relevant hashtags and participate in duets and collaborations for maximum reach.
Tell engaging stories showcasing the benefits of your products within the 60-second limit. Use humor, emotion, and relatable scenarios to grab attention.
Host live sessions to answer audience questions, demonstrate product features, and offer exclusive deals to build trust and encourage real-time engagement.
Offer a sneak peek into your connection with your affiliate products through behind-the-scenes glimpses. This humanizes your brand and creates a stronger connection with your audience.
Share insightful LinkedIn posts and articles, carousels, or infographics related to your niche and subtly integrate your affiliate products as solutions to common problems.
Actively participate in industry-specific groups, offering helpful advice and sharing valuable resources. Include your affiliate links in your signature for organic reach.
Utilize LinkedIn’s publishing platform to share longer-form content showcasing your expertise and incorporating your affiliate products as relevant recommendations.
Network with other creators, influencers, and industry professionals in your niche.
Remember, consistency and value are key to the success of your affiliate marketing campaigns. By providing valuable content and actively engaging with your audience on these platforms, you can build trust, generate organic traffic, and ultimately convert them into paying customers for your affiliate partners.
Note that, you don’t necessarily need to choose all the above traffic channels when starting in affiliate marketing. Focus on one or two that are relevant to your niche, where your target audience is most active. You can always adopt new traffic channels as your business grows.
4. Start Scaling It Up
Once you have understood how to start affiliate marketing with no money, picked free traffic channels to drive traffic and your affiliate marketing efforts have started to generate some revenue, the next step is to invest in paid advertising and other paid traffic channels.
Here are practical tactics that can significantly amplify your reach and conversions, but remember, strategic implementation is crucial. You may consider designing a stunning website to take your affiliate marketing game to a higher level.
Search Advertising (PPC)
Use affordable DIY SEO tools like KeySearch, NeuronWriter, Jasper, and others to research keywords potential customers search for in your niche and use them in your ad copy. Platforms like Google Ads and Microsoft Advertising offer precision targeting options.
Craft compelling ad copy highlighting the benefits of your affiliate product and include a clear call to action (CTA). A/B tests different ad variations to optimize your affiliate marketing strategies.
Start small and gradually increase your budget based on data and ROI (Return on Investment).
Strategically display your banner ads on your website. Use clear visuals, concise messaging, and a strong CTA to grab attention and encourage clicks.
Monitor click-through rates (CTRs) and conversions to identify effective placements and adjust your affiliate marketing strategy accordingly.
Install a retargeting pixel on your website to track visitors who haven’t yet converted. Use this data to serve them personalized ads on other websites or social media platforms.
Consider offering exclusive discounts or deals to retargeted audiences to entice them to convert.
Tailor your retargeting campaigns to different visitor segments based on their browsing behavior and interests for improved effectiveness.
Design mobile-friendly landing pages for a seamless user experience.
Utilize mobile advertising platforms’ location-targeting capabilities to reach potential customers in specific areas relevant to your offers.
Explore placing ads within mobile apps related to your niche to reach a highly engaged audience.
Paid Social Media Advertising
Utilize social media platforms’ powerful targeting options to reach users most likely to be interested in the products you promote.
Experiment with different ad formats like video, image, and carousel ads to capture attention and drive engagement.
Monitor your ad performance metrics and continually refine your targeting, ad copy, and creative elements for better results.
While paid advertising offers a powerful boost, organic content, especially your blog, remains the best way to start and grow your affiliate marketing venture.
Businesses that engage in blogging drive 55% more traffic than those that don’t:
Here’s how to leverage blogging to start an affiliate business successfully:
- Create in-depth blog posts and guides that offer valuable insights, solve problems, and educate your audience about your niche. This positions you as an authority and builds trust with potential customers.
- Target specific, less competitive keywords relevant to your niche and affiliate products. This attracts highly qualified traffic and increases conversion potential.
- Create content that stays relevant over time, like “ultimate guides” or “best practices” articles. This drives consistent traffic and boosts affiliate sales in the long run.
- Use relevant keywords naturally throughout your content, optimize title tags and meta descriptions, and ensure mobile-friendliness.
- Reach out to other websites and publications in your niche for guest blogging opportunities or link-sharing collaborations. This improves your website’s authority in the eyes of search engines and increases organic traffic.
- Link strategically between your blog posts and product pages, ensuring users can easily navigate your content and discover your affiliate offers.
- Encourage comments, discussions, and questions on your blog posts. Respond promptly and engage with your audience to build relationships and loyalty.
Remember, blogging is a long-term game, and you must avoid the common mistakes bloggers make often.
Be consistent, create high-quality content, and focus on building a loyal audience. Over time, your blog will become a powerful asset for attracting organic traffic, establishing authority, and ultimately, scaling your affiliate business without relying solely on paid advertising.
What is Affiliate Marketing?
Affiliate marketing is a revenue-sharing business model where a third-party affiliate like a blogger, influencer, or YouTuber earns affiliate commissions by promoting other companies’ products or services using a dedicated affiliate link.
According to Demandsage, affiliate marketing is one of the top customer acquisition channels:
This explains why it’s one of the monetization methods for bloggers according to the recent GrowthBadger survey:
How Does Affiliate Marketing Work?
How affiliate marketing works is simple:
- Sign up for an affiliate program: Find and sign up for an affiliate program relevant to your niche. They’ll provide you with a unique tracking link or code.
- Promote your affiliate products: Add your link creatively on blog content, social media posts, or even offline recommendations. Showcase the product’s benefits and entice potential customers to click.
- Get clicks and conversions: When someone clicks your link and makes a purchase or completes a specific action like signing up, it’s tracked by the program. This is a conversion, a key step towards earning your reward.
- Earn commission from each conversion: The company pays you a pre-determined commission for each conversion generated through your unique link. This commission fuels your income and rewards your effort in promoting their product.
Here is a detailed diagram depicting how the business model works:
What are the Most Commonly Used Payment Models for Affiliate Marketing?
Here are the commonly used payment models for affiliates:
- CPA/PPA (Cost-per-action/pay-per-action): You earn a commission when someone takes a specific action like signing up or downloading, not just clicking your link.
- CPM (Cost-per-thousand-impressions): You get paid for every thousand impressions your affiliate link receives, regardless of clicks or sales. This model works best for brand awareness and large audiences.
- CPS/PPS (Cost-per-sale/pay-per-sale): You earn a commission for each completed sale generated through your link. This is the most popular model for directly driving revenue for the merchant.
- CPL/PPL (Cost-per-lead/pay-per-lead): You get rewarded for each qualified lead you generate, like a completed survey or newsletter signup.
- CPC (Cost-per-click): You earn a small commission for every click on your affiliate link. This model is best for driving traffic and brand awareness but often has lower payouts.
- RevShare: You receive a percentage of the total revenue generated by users you refer, fostering a long-term partnership with the merchant. Great for building loyalty and recurring income.
CPA/PPA (Cost-per-action/ pay-per-action is the most popular payment model for affiliate marketers according to the IAB UK Affiliates & Partnerships Group Buyside Survey:
Affiliate Marketing FAQs
Can I start affiliate marketing for free?
Yes. You can become an affiliate without investing money upfront. Many affiliate marketing programs are free to join, and you can leverage the free channels I outlined above to promote your links. By following the steps I outlined above, you can start this venture with little to no initial capital and when you start earning income, you can advance to paid traffic.
How do I become a successful affiliate marketer with zero skills?
While some skills like SEO or content writing can be helpful to succeed in affiliate marketing, you can learn as you go! Of importance is to focus on understanding your niche, choosing relevant products, and providing valuable content to your audience. Start with basic free resources and tutorials to build your knowledge.
Why is affiliate marketing a good business model?
Affiliate marketing is a good business model for various reasons.
First, it requires minimal upfront costs, which makes it accessible to everyone. With this business model, you can earn from anywhere, with the potential for significant affiliate income growth as your audience grows.
It also enables you to generate passive income and you can choose from countless products and programs in diverse industries.
What are the top 5 best affiliate marketing networks?
The top five affiliate programs that offer varied products to choose from are ShareASale, Impact, Amazon Associates, CJ Affiliates, and ClickBank.
How long does it take to learn affiliate marketing business today?
How long it takes to become an affiliate marketer depends on your prior knowledge, learning style, and desired level of proficiency.
For instance, it can take anywhere between 1 to 6 months to learn the basics and up to 2+ years to become a successful affiliate marketer.
How much can a beginner make in affiliate marketing?
The amount you can make as a beginner is dependent on several factors. For instance, an average affiliate marketer can make anywhere from $100 to $500 per month.
Everyone can learn how to start affiliate marketing with no money. While investing money can help to boost your income potential, all that is required is your time and effort.
It’s worth noting that there is a big learning curve involved in starting affiliate marketing with little to no initial investment. Plus, when starting with no money, you have to think outside of the box.
However, with sufficient determination, you can start this business model and earn passive income.
All you need, if you want to start affiliate marketing, is to invest your time in finding a profitable niche, join an affiliate network, choose products to promote, decide your traffic channels, and start promoting products to earn commission.
When your business starts generating commission, scale it up by investing in paid advertising and paid traffic channels.
Welcome to the world of affiliate marketing!