If you are thinking of starting affiliate marketing you surely are wondering how much it costs to become an affiliate marketer. Can you actually start affiliate marketing for free? And once you started, does it cost money to do affiliate marketing?
These are all valid questions and I am going to answer these (and more) in this post.
The Real Cost of Becoming an Affiliate Marketer
The good news is that you don’t need a massive investment to start affiliate marketing. What makes affiliate marketing ideal for beginners – and makes it probably the easiest for anyone start an online business – is that you can keep the costs minimal. Not just compared to any ‘offline’, traditional business; but in comparison to other ways of making money online.
Believe me, I spent hundreds of pounds (£££) investing in products that I wanted to sell on eBay…did not work.
With affiliate marketing you can literally start building from the bottom up. Start little, and as your business grows and start earning an income, you can reinvest it to ensure a steady growth.
There are stories of making tons of money overnight, but that’s not the norm.
Not if you rely on free sources of traffic, and trying to keep the overhead cost as low as possible.
Another reason why affiliate marketing is the best way to make money online is that you can create a system that reliably makes profit. The more you invest, the more money you make.
The investment you make here is creating content and / or generating traffic through advertising.
The more you spend on ads, the more visitors you get, therefore the more sales you make.
However, there is a risk. There’s always a risk. If your ads are not converting, you’ll lose money. As simple as that.
That’s why it is recommended for beginners to start with free traffic, and then you can scale your business by spending money on ads.
At the beginning it is a balancing act in investing in training courses, tools etc.
What Do You Need To Start Affiliate Marketing? – Budget
So what is the bare minimum that you need to start affiliate marketing?
- A laptop / PC with internet connection (given)
- Email Address (given)
- A basic understanding of what is affiliate marketing and how it works (training – $$)
- A website (free, or $)
- A niche (no money required, but training is somewhat necessary)
- Products to promote (again, no money involved, but you must know how to find products that will sell)
- A platform to promote products (organic aka free or paid ads – $$$)
- Content to draw visitors to your product page (do it yourself, or outsourcing $$$)
It is wise to have a budget though before you start, so I have priced up everything you need for launching your affiliate marketing business.
Which is actually not a lot.
A laptop or a PC with internet connection
I know it is quite obvious, however some people I heard of, use their smartphone. It is doable, but if you’d like to create something that lasts, ie a wordpress based website then you do need a workstation. For the sake of this calculation let’s presume that you have access to a PC or a laptop and it does not cost you anything.
An email address
Again, quite obvious. The only thing I’d like to add is that you probably better off creating a new email address for business purposes. Any free email provider will do, GMail, yahoomail, whatever.
Understanding of What Affiliate Marketing Is an How It Works
Strictly speaking, you don’t NEED training, you can always go and figure out everything yourself. But a decent training course can drastically shorten the time till you see some results (ie money), and if they are FREE, well, you have nothing to lose.
There are many ways in which you can do affiliate marketing, depending in the platform you choose, the content strategy you choose or the source of visitors (free v. paid) you prefer. And they all need different strategies.
And it’s quite overwhelming if you don’t understand how affiliate marketing works and you don’t know what is the most effective and most sustainable (that lasts for a long time) way of starting affiliate marketing.
So it’s worth investing in a good affiliate marketing training course, because it can save you time and money even short term.
Be careful with free affiliate marketing courses. There are only a few training courses that are free and are not a complete waste of time. While a lot of information can be found on Youtube for example, when you start, you need a structured training that leads you step by step, and filters out any unnecessary noise.
Related post: Learn Affiliate Marketing For Free in 2020
As for free affiliate marketing courses, you can’t go wrong with Wealthy Affiliate’s free 10-lesson training. It is well written, takes you through the process of understanding affiliate marketing step-by-step. It teaches you how to create content for affiliate marketing, how to find your niche etc..
You can access another 9 modules of structured training and a plethora of other training material created by other affiliate marketers if you become a member (link under Resources)
But for the basics that you need RIGHT NOW to start your business, it does not cost a dime, and you can sort out the next point as well: it comes with two websites on a free domain, without ads.
As you scale your business up, you can upgrade your membership to access Keyword tools, more hosting and premium tools.
Website Hosting & Domain
You must budget for hosting. Although there are many options to build a free website either on WordPress or on other platforms such as Wix or Weebly, or Squarespace. But they don’t come with a training on how to set up and optimize for SEO, yet alone a bespoke affiliate marketing training. And as your business grows and you need more options to customise, they won’t be the cheapest either.
Although it is not absolutely necessary at this stage, shortly after you start filling up your website with content you will need a Domain. Having your own domain has several benefits, one is that proper domains rank better on Google. Nonetheless, real people, when can’t decide if they should click on a link or not, prefer proper domains to free domains.
You can select any of ‘household names’ like NameCheap.com or GoDaddy.com or Bluehost.com, or you can even use Wealthy Affiliate’s own domain registration service. The price you pay for the domain will be around $10-$15.
The hosting part can be tricky, cause the very appealing $3.25 a month at certain hosting providers must be paid years in advance, so what looks cheap at first may be your biggest expense.
Affiliate Marketing Costs Peanuts To Start
So you can start affiliate marketing for FREE, but if you take it seriously, you’d better have $450-$500 available in the next 3-6 months to invest in your training, domain and hosting.
Now depending on your niche and the amount of work you commit to do, you may be able to start monetising your website within 3-6 months of starting your website. Without training it may take longer (or never) so it’s a bit of a gamble. But we are talking about a cost of a meal roughly, so in my opinion the emphasis is on how quickly you can have a return on your investment.
If you expect results, you must commit to learn the know-how and publish high quality content consistently, so that Google indexes your site and webpages, and shows them on the search result page. It takes time for Google to love your website and to send organic traffic your way but creating quality and quantity (in terms of content) will bring in the results. To this day, this is the only proven method that has made many people financially independent.
Don’t expect to become rich overnight, this is a long-term process. But around the 6th month (average) you may be able to at least earn back the cost of hosting and training.
So overall, in your first 6 months, you have invested around $450 so far. Keep on working, and within a year it is not unexpected to earn $2-300 a month just with your first website.
What about a 2nd website, and a 3rd?
The beautiful thing about online marketing is that it is like gardening. You plant a seed and you let it grow. And that you can plant many seeds…
So while you are waiting for Google to send traffic towards your 1st website, and you keep adding content consistently, there is nothing stopping you from creating more websites.
How much would it cost you? Well, you have paid for training already, you have paid for website hosting already (if you listened to me and become Premium with Wealthy Affiliate), so it literally is $15 per year for a new domain name. And 6-8-12 months later, the income from this site will add on to the earnings made by the 1st site.
If you go with other webhosting providers, that’s fine too. The cost will be slightly higher, but in the grand scheme of things that little difference won’t be a big deal.
Gradually, these ‘weak’ sources of income will stack up nicely. If you have planted 4-5 seeds, and you are patient enough to nurture them and let them grow, by the end of your second year as an affiliate marketer you have every chance to earn a full-time income.
There is no other form of business that I know of – online or offline – that requires so little investment (in terms of money) yet it has the potential to earn you an uncapped income passively or semi-passively.
If you are smart though, and think long-term, you keep re-investing the income to further develop yourself. A copywriting course, advanced SEO etc. the options are endless to improve yourself, to improve your website,to increase conversion and your income.
Finding a Niche & Keywords to Target
This part needs a bit of a common sense, as you need to compare the questions people ask with the keywords you have found with Jaaxy (that I use, but it can be any other keyword tool).
If you have been following a training, whether it is a course you paid for, or a free one; you know how to find a niche that has the potential to become a money-maker.
You should know how to find long-tail, ‘low hanging fruit’ keywords that are easy to rank for, and target visitors that are at the last step in the buying process. If you target the right people, your conversions (sales) will increase.
You can also check out my killer 2-hour method to find lucrative niches, identify what people are interested in and generate hundreds – literally hundreds – of long-tail keywords and blog post ideas. You can download a done-for-you research on a random niche, so if you really have no idea what your first website should be about, then you can have it for free:
- Hundreds of long-tail keywords
- Huge traffic potential
- 150+ blog post ideas
- + the method you can find even more
Targeting ‘low hanging fruit’ keywords and questions with the first 30-40 posts will achieve the following things;
- You are targeting the right audience
- You are targeting topics that people are interested in, have questions about and you are answering those questions
- You are targeting the most frequently searched questions / problems
- You are targeting keywords that are mid-tail or even long-tail variants of the main keyword of your website. These are less competitive. By building up your niche site using these variants, as you progress you will be able to target AND RANK FOR more competitive keywords too.
That is: recipe for success.
Products That Will Sell
Again, there is no cost involved in this part other than the time you may waste if you pick the wrong product.
Finding a good affiliate program / finding the right products is crucial in monetizing your website. With a good affiliate program your can effortlessly double / triple / multiply your revenue. On the other hand, if you choose to promote a less than decent affiliate product then all your efforts could be made in vain and nobody will purchase it at the end of the day…
There are a lot of affiliate programs – basically almost every product that you can buy online probably have an affiliate program that you can join. But if you are just starting to build up your website, as part of researching the niche you must make sure that there are affiliate products out there that fit into your niche.
I’ve already done a tutorial on how to find affiliate programs and products to promote, (also: The Best Affiliate Programs and Networks (These Worked for Me)).
If you are still not sure, you can always go for inspiration to the community. Honestly, I started 3 websites that I abandoned later, until I found the one that I really fancied working on. 3 months later it was earning me money.
So getting your niche / keyword / product selection right is really important.
Free Traffic vs. PPC
If you’d like to generate traffic to your website via PPC advertising, it is crucial to set a budget. Also, it is crucial to understand what you are after, who you target with your ads, what drives them to your website.
With PPC advertising it is even more important to understand the Customer Purchase Cycle, so that you don’t waste money on cold leads.
There are a lot of tutorials and training courses on how to advertise on Google, Bing, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest etc.
What’s common in them is that they all say one thing: you need to take into account the ‘trial’ period. Until you test different ads, different designs, different age groups etc. to see what works and what does not work.
This will all cost you money.
So you need to set a budget – daily and monthly – to make sure that you don’t burn your money on advertising that does not convert.
Even if you set a daily budget of $20, it will stack up to $600 by the end of the first month, and there is no guarantee that you will have ANY sales by the end of the first month.
That’s why I don’t recommend PPC advertising for beginners (and that’s why I don’t understand the online gurus who drive beginner affiliate marketers onto ClickBank to pick a product and promote it via advertising. That’s a recipe for losing a lot of money and feel shit about yourself. Don’t know what’s the point…)
And that’s why I believe in free, organic traffic from Search engines.
In some niches it is easy to rank in Google. In some niches it is difficult.
In some niches that it is difficult to rank in Google, it is still relatively easy to rank on Pinterest for example.
But it’s down to you to make that judgement call.
The benefit of organic traffic versus PPC is that with PPC as soon as you stop paying for ads, the traffic to your website stops.
With organic, once your posts start ranking in Google, there’s endless amount of visitors who can come. Thousands a month. With PPC you would spend a fortune to get the same amount of clicks on your website as you can get by having only one post on the 1st page of Google.
So as a beginner I would focus on SEO, rather than anything else. If you learn keyword research and understand how to optimize your content so that people can find it easier (and find it useful), you can hit two birds with one stone:
- Pave the way for tonnes of organic traffic.
- Prepare yourself for a more effective PPC campaign, should you want to run one later.
But the platform of your choice may not be Google, it can be Youtube or Pinterest, or Facebook.
It does not really matter, but all need different strategies.
Related post: How To Get On Google Page One: Create Content That Ranks
You can speed the process up by outsourcing. It sounds easy but as a beginner it would probably be just as time-consuming as if you were writing / creating content yourself. And it would cost you money, on top of that.
You can find writers on Fiverr.com for a really low price, and you can find good writers for a bit more.
If you are looking to outsource content creation, for a 1200 word post we are looking at $10 – $100 (or more) depending on the niche.
You must count in the cost of testing and trying out different writers too. You may also want longer posts (recommended post length from a SEO point of view is around 1800 words). Let’s be optimistic and say $50 on average is what we budget for. We need 50-60 articles on our websites as a starter.
With trial and error of different writers, say we have ordered (and paid for) 70 articles altogether. That’s $3500 spent on content.
This may be money well spent, with 60 high quality articles it is more than possible to earn around $6-700 through affiliate links a month after a year, so after that you can keep an 8 posts / month ratio – they would pay for themselves.
With time, you may be able to place advertising on your website, which could mean further income, so after a year your investment may return with a profit.
Alternatively, you can write those 60-odd articles yourself, and get the same results (but it may be slower). You can get a writer on Fiverr.com at any point during the process. So again, it is a balancing act…
So as you can see, the cost of affiliate marketing can vary from $400-500 spread throughout the first year to investing around $5000 into your business just in the first few months.
And funnily, there’s no guarantee that one is going to be more effective than the other.
And that’s the beauty of it.
You can literally write posts that will earn you thousands of dollars throughout the years.
Or you can build up a system where you pay $50 for an article that will return $5000 over a year.
The baseline I think is is that you must understand the basics and take action so that you can see what is working and what isn’t. I’ve written ‘trial and error’ at least 5 times in this post. And its not a coincidence. Most of this stuff depends on you personally, the niche, people in your niche, the products you pick, the platforms on which you are present etc. etc.
So take action!
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