Affiliate Marketing for Beginners: The Best Affiliate Programs to Join for Extra Income

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best affiliate marketing for beginners

I know a lot of you are looking for new money-making opportunities in this bizarre economic climate, so this post is going to cover one of the simplest ways you can make money online, even if you have nothing of your own to sell. With this method, you don’t even need a website, which is why I love introducing people to the world of affiliate marketing.

With affiliate marketing, you can make anywhere from extra gas money to a six-figure income just by sharing custom links on your blog, email list, or social media pages. If you’ve ever sent a friend a link to something you bought online, congrats! You know how to share an affiliate link.

(Disclaimer: you’re probably not surprised, but this post contains some affiliate links. A girl’s gotta eat)

What is Affiliate Marketing?

Affiliate marketing is a marketing arrangement where companies provide affiliates like you and me with unique links to their products, and when products are sold through those links, the affiliate earns a commission. It doesn’t cost the customer any extra money, it doesn’t cost anything to sign up as an affiliate, and it’s a low-risk form of advertising for businesses because they don’t have to pay affiliates unless a sale is made.

You can find affiliate programs for almost any type of product or service you can imagine, which is great but can also be overwhelming in the beginning. On the list below, you’ll find opportunities to join thousands of different affiliate programs in hundreds of different categories, including:

Business
Art/Music/Photography
Clothing & Fashion
Health & Beauty
Sports & Fitness
Online Dating Services
Automotive Supplies
Home & Garden
Green/Eco-Friendly
Cooking & Dieting
Cannabis
Travel
Parenting

I’m currently an affiliate for 40-50 different brands between this blog and my cannabis blog. You might find success with one or two programs, or you might end up joining a few dozen as you gain experience. It’s not unusual for bloggers and YouTubers to have 100+ affiliate partnerships – I keep track of every program I’ve joined and how much I’ve made on some spreadsheets that came with the affiliate course I took in 2017, Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing.

The Best Affiliate Marketing Programs for BEGINNERS AND NEW BLOGGERS

The first few brands on this list are affiliate networks that manage multiple affiliate programs for different companies, so rather than sign up for each individual program, you make one account and everything is managed through there. Commission and terms will still vary from program to program, but the benefit of having them all under one roof is that you’ll hit payment thresholds faster than you would if everything was separate. Here are my top recommendations for affiliate networks to join:

Impact

Impact is an affiliate marketing network that manages programs for more than 1,300 different companies, including well-known brands such as Target and Banana Republic. They are my personal favorite of the networks on this list because their interface is the most user-friendly and their reporting is easy to access and understand. There is also a plugin for Google Chrome so you can quickly access links while creating your content.

I use Impact for the following affiliate programs:

Canva – design software I use for everything

PlaceIt – lifestyle mockups for e-commerce brands

Leadpages – landing pages and websites for online businesses

Skillshare – online classes for anything you want to learn

Daily High Club – subscription box for people who love weed

Joy Organics – all-natural CBD for consumers as well as private-label brands

Highline Wellness – my personal favorite CBD (use code JANEDOPE10 for 10% off if you’re interested in trying it out)

Payments: direct deposit, $50 minimum, payments clear after 30 days

Share A Sale

Share A Sale is an affiliate network that manages more than 7,000 different brands and companies in dozens of niches. Etsy, Spanx, and Minted are some of the more popular brands I came across while browsing their marketplace.

Here are some of the affiliate programs I’m enrolled in through SAS:

PicMonkey – easy photo editing software

Grammarly – Grammar robot that lives in my computer and saves my business

Restored 316 Designs – Creator of WordPress themes such as *waves around* this one

Not Pot CBD Gummies – Delicious CBD gummies

Payments: direct deposit, $50 minimum balance

Awin

Awin recently acquired Share A Sale so they’re essentially the same company, but I prefer Share A Sale’s website better than Awin’s – it’s far more tolerable to use. I only use Awin for Fiverr’s affiliate program right now, but they manage affiliate programs for more than 300 brands so you’ll definitely want to check it out when looking for new programs to join.

Payments: direct deposit, $20 minimum balance

Commission Junction

CJ is one of the longest-running online affiliate networks. They manage affiliate programs for well-known brands such as Lowe’s, J. Crew, Barnes & Noble, and Overstock. I don’t currently use them for any programs, but they’re one of the first I signed up for more than a decade ago and definitely worth checking out.

Payments: direct deposit, $50 minimum balance

Rakuten

Rakuten was the very first affiliate network I ever signed up for, back in like 2008 when it was still called LinkShare. I had a beauty blog and they managed Sephora’s affiliate account (and still do!) so it was essential for me (even though I had no idea what I was doing and probably made $11 total from promoting Sephora products).

Rakuten manages affiliate programs for thousands of well-known brands including Sephora, Lilly Pulitzer, Peter Thomas Roth, and Jet Blue airlines. You may also know them for their cashback program (formerly known as Ebates) that pays you when you shop online. You can install the Chrome plugin to automatically pop up and let you know if you’re shopping on a store where they offer cashback. I’ve made $44.83 in cashback just by using this Chrome app when I shop online, and they pay quarterly via Paypal.

Amazon Affiliates

Amazon also has an affiliate program, so if a company doesn’t have its own, there’s a chance you can link to the product’s Amazon page and still make a commission. As convenient as this is, Amazon’s program is notorious for low commission rates that vary from one department to the next, and some don’t offer commission at all. You can check out what they pay per department and sign up here.  

Payments: direct deposit, $10 minimum

Ultimate Bundles

Ultimate Bundles is not an affiliate network, but it’s a great resource for bloggers who don’t sell their own products but still want to make money. They work with eBook writers, course creators, and other digital entrepreneurs to offer their educational programs in “bundles” with other similar products. Each bundle is offered at a limited-time discount, so as an affiliate you can find a bundle in your niche and market it to your readers during its sale period. Here’s a few examples of the bundle themes they offer:

Ultimate Healthy Meal Planning Bundle
Stay at Home Survival Bundle
Self-Care Bundle
Photography Super Bundle
Genius Blogger’s Toolkit
Work-From-Home Bundle

…and dozens of other bundles in the business, lifestyle, family, and health niches. This is perfect if you have a blog, you want to monetize it, but you have no idea what you should make or sell. Find a bundle (or three) related to your niche and share those instead. You can track the metrics as research for the types of content, products, and services your customers would like from you. Sign up and browse bundles here.

Payments: Monthly via Paypal

Commission: 40% per sale

How to Find Affiliate Programs to join

Not all affiliate programs are available through a third-party website such as Impact or Share a Sale. Many companies choose to host and manage their own affiliate program. If you want to find out whether a company has one, Google the company or product name + affiliate program and see what comes up. You can also scroll to the bottom of a website to see if they have an affiliate page listed in the footer.

If a brand you want to promote doesn’t have an affiliate program, remember that it can’t hurt to email them and ask if they plan on offering one in the future. I did this once, and the company had been meaning to do it but just kept putting it off. My email convinced them to finally do it, and once they added me to the program they bumped my commission from 20% to 40% – a pleasant (and generous) surprise! So don’t feel bad about asking – you are offering to promote their product for free. It’s what all the influencers who email companies should be doing instead of asking for freebies.

For reference, here are some of the individually managed affiliate programs I’m in:

Seedsman – Cannabis seeds that I link to when I mention a specific strain on Jane Dope

Creative Fabrica –  Clip art and graphics that readers of this blog use to make printables and POD products

Quickbooks – The accounting software that keeps me out of prison

Ultimate Bundles – I occasionally share the Work From Home Bundles and Productivity Bundles on this blog

Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing – this is a course I took in 2017 that’s taught me everything I know about how to make money with affiliate marketing. I highly recommend it if you want to take your blog seriously and develop an affiliate strategy that will grow your income consistently. It costs less than the startup fee for lots of MLMs (which you should avoid, no matter how tempting) and you’ll learn a new skill that will make you money for years to come.

“Do I Need a Website to Make Money With Affiliate Marketing?”

No! Of course, it helps to have a blog or website where you can publish content that contains affiliate links, but it’s not required to make money this way. If you’d like to start your own blog and monetize it with affiliates, here’s my tutorial for setting up a WordPress blog in 20 minutes. Once your blog is set up and ready to go, be sure to check out my post about monetizing your content with affiliate links.

If you don’t have your own website or you’re not ready to start one just yet, here are some alternative ways to make money with affiliates:

One great way to promote affiliate links is through Instagram and Linktree. You can link to products you’re already sharing in your photos and make money whenever someone asks “where did you get that?”

Linktree is a free website that allows you to add multiple links to your Instagram bio, so you don’t have to pick and choose which link to feature on which day. I have a Linktree in my bio for this blog’s Instagram page, and it usually contains a combination of my latest blog posts and some affiliate links for products I’m promoting at the time. I know a lot of people also use liketoknow.it, so it’s worth checking out and exploring your options for sharing multiple links on Instagram.

If you have a Pinterest account, you should definitely be sharing affiliate links on there as well. You can create an image in Canva for any product you want to promote, then publish it on Pinterest and add your affiliate link to the URL. You can schedule pins to publish at optimal times with Tailwind, which I absolutely love and have been using for years to grow my Pinterest presence.

You can read my full guide to using Pinterest for your business here.

I hope this helps you better understand the wonders of affiliate marketing as a side hustle! Ready to take your efforts to the next level? Be sure to check out Michelle’s course, Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing.

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