How To Start An Affiliate Marketing Business

Jonatan Parski CEO

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There are many forms of passive income available online. These opportunities supplement your regular revenue, hardly needing your input once you’ve set them up correctly. Of course, the main issue is learning how to start an affiliate marketing business so that the system runs smoothly.

One form of passive income is affiliate marketing. Yes, you can go small and add a few affiliate links to your website. Yet, you’re missing out on a massive chance for a significant revenue stream. In this guide, we’ll show you how to start an affiliate marketing business and the pitfalls you should avoid.

How To Start An Affiliate Marketing Business | Captain Words

What Is Affiliate Marketing?

Affiliate marketing basically refers to the process of recommending specific products to readers and thereby earning a commission on clicks and sales. There are many ways to achieve this result, which we’ll get to later in this guide. The main objective is earning additional funds to supplement your business or steady day job.

Many people join an affiliate program as a passive income because you’ll earn revenue with little activity from your side. You’re sleeping in the United States while receiving a commission for sales from Australia. While this image creates the misconception that affiliate marketing is easy to set up, there’s a lot of work involved in reality. If you don’t do it right when you learn how to start an affiliate marketing business, you won’t maximize your profit potential.

How Affiliate Marketing Works

Online businesses offer affiliate programs that come in various forms. The most common one includes sharing product links, while you’ll receive a percentage commission based on clicks or sales. The second type of affiliate program generally rewards you a flat rate for each member that signs up.

The basis of how to start an affiliate marketing business consists of five main parts:

  1. Selecting products in an industry to promote;
  2. Finding programs associated with the products;
  3. Signing up for the programs;
  4. Sharing links, reviews, and product information;
  5. Receiving a commission.

Of course, the above points oversimplify how much work goes into figuring out how to start an affiliate marketing business. One of your goals is to create a system that automatically attracts traffic to these products, increasing your potential rewards. This task is often the most tedious work to perform, but we’ll provide helpful tips in our step-by-step guide below.

The Parties Involved

The first party involved in the affiliate marketing process is the merchant. Without the products, there would be nothing to promote. They’re involved with the creation and updates of product information and specifications. Other names for the merchant include the seller, retailer, vendor, or brand.

The second role-player is the affiliate. They can be as small as a single individual or a massive company with hundreds of content producers. No matter what the size, the task of appealing to customers for commissions remains the same.

Which leads us to the third party. The client is the most significant player in the affiliate marketing game. Without their clicks, purchases, or website registrations, there are no rewards. The products basically collect physical or virtual dust on the digital shelf.

Many affiliates believe there are only these three role-players in the chain. Yet, a fourth party does exist, known as the affiliate network. While they aren’t necessarily required to earn commissions, their online platforms go a long way in making the process easier. The Amazon Affiliate Program is the network for the Amazon site, which also provides all the tools for affiliates to promote products.

Types of Affiliate Products

Before we get to our guide on how to start an affiliate marketing business, we need to highlight the three product types that you can promote. Each of them has advantages and disadvantages, depending on your knowledge as well as marketing ability. 


Physical products are items that are shipped to customers, with parts that you can physically touch with your hands. Some merchants might send you free products in exchange for an affiliate review. If you pay for the items, you might be able to earn it back on your commissions.

In most instances, merely placing affiliate links to the products is enough for the vendor. It requires more marketing than actual product reviews, with highlights on product features. Some affiliates go as far as showcasing how they use brands on social media, taking advantage of their extensive amount of followers.


Sellers may send you digital products to promote. A few examples include ebooks and video games that users can download. These are easier to test if the merchant requests a review, as you’ll receive the product instantly. They also receive higher commissions, since more users rely on online technology these days for most of their purchases.

You’ll need a different marketing strategy for digital products. In most instances, you can’t showcase using the item in the same way as a physical product. There are no digital body creams that you can apply to your skin via your smartphone. It requires a more creative marketing method.


The third product type is services, and it calls for users to sign up or pay for one. Whether it’s a one-off payment or a subscription, you can receive commissions for how many new users register with the vendor. You’re also able to earn an income from using an affiliate link to increase website traffic.

This is probably one of the more difficult types of products to market. The user will be paying for services that don’t always produce results for a specific time period. Therefore, it’s harder to convince new clients to part with their money.

Can Affiliate Marketing Make You Rich?

Many of our readers ask us if you can earn millions from affiliate marketing. The short answer is yes. It’s been done before, with several affiliates making thousands while they eat their breakfast. The question you should ask is how long will it take before you start earning your millions per year.

The sad truth is that there’s no fast way to get there. While it’s a passive income system, you’ll still need to put in some active work initially. Sharing a few links here and there on Twitter won’t help you reach your big dreams of owning a castle on an island.

Fortunately, we’re about to guide you on how you can start an affiliate marketing business. The success of that business depends on how much work you put in and the product types you choose to promote.  

Steps In How To Start An Affiliate Marketing Business

We’ve established ten steps that will help you with how to start an affiliate marketing business. As your business grows, you can evolve these actions with crucial indexes to measure your performance. For now, you should focus on following each of these steps slowly in the beginning.

For your ease, here’s a list of the steps in how to start an affiliate marketing business:

  1. Select A Niche
  2. Select The Best Networks
  3. Sign Up To Affiliate Programs
  4. Find The Correct Affiliate Products
  5. Test Products Where Possible
  6. Building Site Structure
  7. Create Your Content
  8. Establish Your Audience
  9. Promote Your Affiliate’s Promotions
  10. The affiliate marketing cycle

1. Select A Niche

Many new affiliate marketing businesses skip this step, which causes issues later when the website is up and running. To get rich quick, they establish a site that covers as many products as possible that bear no relevance to each other. A better option would be to create individual sections per niche that you want to promote.

How do you know which niche to start with? It all depends on where your passion lies. Imagine trying to sell cosmetic products that you don’t know anything about, while your trade is engineering.

Here are a few valuable considerations when selecting an industry for your affiliate marketing business:

  • Topics you would enjoy promoting and writing about;
  • The profitability of the sector;
  • The amount of content you can create for the subject matters;
  • The number of affiliate competitors;
  • The availability of affiliate programs.

Passion for a niche is essential for motivation, but you’ll want to make money, too. You might love hiking, but how many affiliate programs offer trekking equipment commissions? Additionally, do you enjoy the topic enough to write hundreds of articles or reviews on it? 

You also don’t want to enter a saturated industry with thousands of affiliate businesses already, unless you’re ready to face the challenge. It means performing research on your competitors and working out how you can take customers away from their content. This step is essential when working out how to start an affiliate marketing business.

2. Select The Best Networks

With your specific niche in mind, it’s time to find the best affiliate network. There are many available online, but you may be limited in the industry you’ve chosen. You could decide to go with a program that generally covers numerous items, like Amazon, or find one that specifically caters to your niche.

How do you know which is the best network? You’ll need to do extensive research online to see user experiences and how much your competitors are marketing similar products. It will take a lot of time and energy, but in the end, it will be worth ensuring you receive maximum commissions.

Of course, you don’t need to partner with a network. Some specific businesses and websites offer affiliate rewards in your industry without having an established program. In these situations, you can reach out to the company to broker a private marketing deal.

Here are some questions to ask when choosing marketing networks:

  • How many competing merchants use the same network?
  • How well can you sell the products?
  • Is there enough commission involved to be profitable?
  • How much knowledge do you have about the products?
  • Are you comfortable associating yourself with the services?
  • Is there adequate customer support to assist you in setting up your affiliate program?
  • Do they offer physical or digital products or services?

3. Sign Up to Affiliate Programs

Once you’ve chosen a few affiliate networks, it’s time to sign up with them. Some programs offer training material for setting up your website and starting your marketing journey. You may even come across some commission deals where specific products provide higher returns.

Another feature to look out for is marketing metrics. Your affiliate partner should provide you with information about how well your links are working. This way, you can change your marketing strategy if necessary. It also helps if you can build these metrics into your website at a later stage.

Remember to evaluate payment methods and turnaround times. While many online businesses can pay to many international locations, particular gateways take longer to transfer the funds. Read through the company’s payment terms to select the best method for you.

You’re not one step further in your journey in how to start an affiliate marketing business.

4. Find the Correct Affiliate Products

We’ve already indicated the three main product types you’ll find online. Each of them comes with different commission structures. Physical products have packaging and shipping costs involved, which means there’s a lower commission rate for them. Digital products can have up to 50% commission, while services offer different rates depending on the company.

You need to develop a product strategy for your niche even before you create your website. In the beginning, start with between three to five products to gauge the results. You don’t want to invest time in hundreds of affiliate products to discover that it isn’t producing the results you expected.

Your strategy should also determine if you’re generalizing or specializing. Do you promote the entire fishing industry, or do you only focus on the equipment? Will your website advertise the entire facilities management package, or will you only market cleaning services?

Finally, consider how often the developer updates the product. You’ll need to monitor the internet often to ensure that you have the latest news and versions. This form of information and education can be vital in your product marketing strategy.

5. Test Products Where Possible

Owning and using products aids in providing reviews that build your credibility. Of course, this largely depends on your willingness to spend and whether you’ll make a return on your investment. Most readers can tell if you’ve actually used the product or merely copied other online reviews.

Creating credible reviews will establish your reputation, which means you’re more likely to convert readers into buyers for a steady income. You can also showcase the products on social media, presenting the best features. In particular cases, a detailed case study goes a long way towards improved results.

Some companies are willing to send free samples in exchange for reviews. The industries where this is popular are books, music, and gaming, to name a few. You may even receive access to a subscription website for free.

Well done. You are now half way through in establishing how to start an affiliate marketing business.

6. Building Site Structure

Up until this point, you’ve done the following to start your affiliate marketing business:

  • Researched and chosen an industry;
  • Found the best networks for that niche;
  • Signed up to affiliate programs;
  • Studied the available products;
  • Determined your product marketing strategy.

With all this available information and your planning in place, you’ve determined your website structure. Sure, you can get away with inserting links on your side menus or advertising on social media. Yet, a proper site structure built around your affiliate network is a better way to receive a decent revenue stream.

You can go with free websites that provide domain URLs, but it often brings down your site’s value and affiliate marketing business. It’s better to invest in a domain which you can then use to host your website.

Finding a host for your online business is only one part of this step. The next portion is the Content Management System (CMS). Some website hosts, like WordPress, offer the entire package. It largely depends on how much you’re willing to pay. 

The most arduous task is deciding on the structure of your site. Do yourself a favor and research what your industry competitors are doing. You can also perform research on website reviews, taking advantage of the pros and cons to determine what will work best.

7. Create Your Content

You’ve now reached the most significant step in working out how to start an affiliate marketing business: creating content. Everything has led you to this point. The quality of your content will determine how successful you are. 

Very few affiliate marketers use links alone towards achieving a large commission stream. They produce top-end content, drawing in potential clients and readers from all over the world. Some even go as far as introducing SEO in their content to ensure that they rank highly on search engine results.

Your objective should be to obtain domain authority for your industry. Readers will flock to your site for the latest product details and reviews when your reputation rises. If you don’t deliver decent content, your affiliate business is bound to fail.

Here are the different types of content that aid in affiliate marketing:

  • Product and services reviews;
  • Blogs with the top FAQ and details sought on the internet;
  • Never-changing / evergreen information;
  • Technical product details or standard operating procedures;
  • Informational guides or ebooks in exchange for email details.

8. Establish Your Audience

The website is live, and the content is loaded. You wait a week, but nothing happens. Well, no one will know about your site until you establish your audience. Without one, you’ll receive no commission.

You need to start marketing your content. Most affiliate promoters opt for social media as it provides the easiest means to attract the right readers. Yet, you’ll need to engage with the industry communities to establish your presence among them. Otherwise, you’ll look like every other marketer that’s followed the exact same process as you.

Creating guest blogs on other sites with high traffic goes a long way towards promoting your content. Ensure that it’s relevant to your niche, though. The last thing you want to do is link back to your video gaming site on a blog that writes about fashion.

There are also several SEO techniques that you can use to draw in your readers from search engines. The internet is full of millions of people looking for answers daily. If you can snag a small percentage of that readership, the chances are high that you’ll receive a good revenue stream.

9. Promote Your Affiliate’s Promotions

Now that you have everything set up, you need to start focusing on your affiliate’s promotions. There are usually higher commissions for special offers or registrations where companies attempt to increase their client database. The more users you real in, the more income you’ll receive.

Your content already paves the way for establishing further marketing techniques. Here are a few more options you can try:

  • Header, footer, or side banners;
  • In-text links or adverts;
  • Email or social media promotions;
  • Discounts and freebies.

10. The affiliate marketing cycle

Your job here is done, or is it? You may have completed all the tasks in your journey in uncovering how to start an affiliate marketing business, but it’s far from over. Now you need to measure your success and make adjustments to improve sales turnover. You’ll need to repeat steps six to nine continuously until you find the perfect marriage.

If you’re still not where you want to be after a few months, it doesn’t mean you should give up. Go right back to the first step and see if a different niche won’t have better results. You can also add additional industries for new sites if you feel you can handle the workload.

Final Words

It’s undeniable that working out how to start an affiliate marketing business is a lot of work. Yet, your returns will match all your effort. If you’re relying on simply promoting links, your income stream will be small. If you follow all the steps indicated above, you’ll have greater success with the potential for more extensive revenue.

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