There is no shortage of different ideas and ways to make money online. Yet, when it comes down to it, most of the legitimate approaches simply revolve around the idea of selling stuff. This stuff might be physical or digital products and it might be things that you have created or that somebody else has.
But, despite the various types of products the underlying concept is simply selling different things. This begs the question; can you actually make money selling stuff online?
The simple answer is yes. But, with so many different types of things that you can sell, along with a range of techniques, the process can get confusing quickly. For example, you can sell items on your own website or take advantage of sites like Etsy and Amazon. Indeed, Amazon even has a specific program called Amazon FBA, which is designed to make it easier and more efficient to sell products on Amazon.
These are all legitimate ways of making money, although their effectiveness depends partly on your strategy and also on the specific products that you’re selling.
Nevertheless, I’m not focusing on any of those ideas with this particular post. Instead, I want to talk a look at selling stuff online… without actually selling anything yourself. I know that sounds a bit confusing but bear with me.
The Challenge Of Selling Physical Stuff Online
The process of selling products online is something that can get complicated fast. Take physical products as an example.
With these, you have to worry about managing stock, along with packing and shipping the items out. And, that doesn’t even count all the other processes, like customer service and dealing with returns. In most cases, you’ll also have to source or make the products that you’re selling. Doing this effectively requires considerable planning and in many cases, you need decent cashflow as well.
Selling digital products isn’t necessarily any better. Sure, there is much less work to do. But, the competition is often fierce. In fact, you’re often competing against people with established reputations and popular products. For that matter, you may even be competing against people selling exactly the same product for roughly the same price.
Now, as a field, selling products (digital or physical) is entirely legitimate. This method of making money works for many people and it can be powerful. Yet, for beginners, the field is also very tough.
In most cases, you would find yourself struggling to turn a profit. To make matters worse, you may find that you end up losing money by investing in the wrong products or making bad decisions.
So, what’s the alternative?
Well, the method I promote is something called affiliate marketing. As a field, affiliate marketing is incredibly powerful, even though it continues to be underestimated.
The basic concept is that you’re promoting products, rather than actually selling them. You do this by providing an affiliate link. If a person clicks on that link and buys something, then you make a commission.
This difference in approach is huge. In particular, it means that you don’t have to host different products on your website or create listings for them on a site like Amazon. Likewise, you don’t have to think about shipping, customer service or anything like that.
Affiliate marketing tends to be a much easier field to get involved in and the risk is much lower financial too. With that in mind, let’s take a look at some specifics.
Affiliate Marketing As An Alternative
The first thing to mention about affiliate marketing is that commissions vary – a lot. Basically, you might be getting anywhere from around 4% to 50% commission on a given sale. How much you get depends on the program you’re using and even on the product itself.
Those commissions may not seem like a lot, particularly when you compare them to what you make by actually selling products. But those numbers underestimate the power of affiliate marketing.
In particular, affiliate marketing is extremely easy to scale up. If you were selling physical products, then earning more money would typically involve more sales. Doing so tends to require more interaction with customers, along with shipping and managing an increased amount of physical stock.
That may be achievable but each extra sale adds onto your workload. This is even true for digital products, as each sale still involves some degree of customer service and the chance that you’ll have to deal with refunds.
Affiliate marketing doesn’t work like that. Instead, customers make their purchases through the company you’re promoting. So, that company is the one that has to worry about customer service, shipping and everything else. For the most part, this means that you have to do the same amount of work for 20 sales as for 100, and so forth.
This ability to scale is one of the most powerful things about affiliate marketing. Simply put, it lets you grow a business without having to worry about the actual processes of selling anything. So, you get the benefits of selling stuff, without the complications that normally go with doing so.
What You Can Expect Selling Things As An Affiliate
In most cases, affiliate marketing is done through your own website. The idea is to use a website as a way to reach out to potential customers and promote products to them.
One cool thing about this is that you have complete control. So, you get to build your site the way that you see fit. That includes choosing the appearance and what modifications you do, along with the focus of the site and what you specifically write about.
Because of this, affiliate marketing websites tend to be very different to one another. Personally, I’ve seen thousands of different affiliate marketing sites, many of which are very unique. For example, some people choose to focus on a specific hobby for their site, while others may talk about one type of product or even a type of person.
One popular example of this is ‘mom blogs’. These come in all shapes and sizes but they typically involve mothers of young children giving advice and journaling their experiences.
The site owner can talk about personal experiences and products they use, or issues moms may have specific products that can solve them. Visitors to the site then follow that links on their site and they get paid a commission each time someone buys.
It’s easy to see how well this process can work. After all, the people who are visiting these sites are often looking for advice and guidance. That alone would make them likely to buy products from time to time.
Another approach is product review sites. Here the site owner focuses on reviewing various products, offering advice about which options are worth pursuing and which ones simply aren’t. In fact, I do this on the site you’re reading, where I focus on programs that offer ways to make money online. There are many other examples out there too, like a site that reviews car seats for toddlers or one that reviews the best remote control drones.
With affiliate marketing, your options are pretty much endless. Basically, you can promote any product that has an affiliate program – and there are thousands of different affiliate programs out there. There are also programs like Amazon Associates, which lets you promote just about any product that is sold on Amazon.
This basically means that you could make money with a site on any topic that you could imagine. Some affiliate marketers choose to focus on things that they’re passionate about, while others try to figure out which areas are likely to be the most profitable.
Why Get Involved In Affiliate Marketing?
I’ll be honest, affiliate marketing makes me excited. It is an amazing field and one that I’ve seen significant success in myself.
At the same time, it’s actually getting easier to make money with affiliate marketing. I know that seems illogical but it is true. When this field first got started building a website was difficult and figuring out how to get it ranked in search engines was more challenging still.
That’s not really the case now. Instead, there are a lot of tools for building great websites and website building itself has become much easier. At the same time, we know much more about the way search engines work and the best methods for getting ahead with a website.
Despite popular belief, affiliate marketing isn’t a saturated field either. Sure, there are lots of websites out there covering every field imaginable. But, at the same time, the online audience continues to grow and interests change over time.
Now, you may find that there truly is immense competition in some areas (niches). But, at the same time, other niches tend to have almost no competition at all and can be a great way to make money.
Key Advantages Of Starting An Affiliate Site
I’ve already mentioned multiple reasons why affiliate marketing is powerful as a technique but there are a few other advantages that you may want to consider as well.
One of these is flexibility. Affiliate marketing gives you the ability to change what you’re promoting as you please. Likewise, you can promote products from multiple affiliate programs at the same time. For that matter, you could even promote products from competing companies if you wanted to.
This aspect is particularly relevant for sites where you are promoting multiple products at once, like review sites or the mom blogs that I mentioned earlier. The flexibility also means that you can change what you promote based on what is currently popular or what companies offer good programs.
Another advantage of affiliate marketing is the way that you can target people already interested in your topic or your product. For example, you can use SEO to focus on potential readers who are interested in the specific products that you’re promoting. This can make it easier to get a sale, as some of your visitors will already be interested in buying.
All of these areas make affiliate marketing a powerful technique. You still get to promote stuff online but you don’t have to physically sell it. The end result is less work overall, lower risk and a greater income potential.
Getting Started In Affiliate Marketing
I started my first website at an affiliate training center called Wealthy Affiliate. You can build your first websites for free, and even get the first 10 lessons of more than 500 for free too. There's live chat support, and weekly webinars to keep up on affiliate trends. It's a great place to meet other online entrepreneurs, exchange ideas, and get help with your business, without being sold expensive mentorships.
The simplest way to describe Wealthy Affiliate is as a training site but it is also so much more. In particular, the site is community focused and it offers a large amount of guidance and support. That makes it perfect for beginners!