Making money online is an extremely appealing idea. It's a multi-million dollar industry…maybe even a billion or more. It gives you much more flexibility than a traditional job, including the chance to travel as you work and the ability to be your own boss. The growth of the internet is exponential, and more opportunities to earn money online are created every year. What's more, the methods of becoming self employed online become easier and easier to implement as the internet 3.0 becomes the standard of interaction.
No longer do you have to code a website with HTML. It's all drag and drop. No longer do you have to blindly create an app you hope will work. There are templates out there. Proven business models have been done over and over again, meaning you don't have to reinvent the wheel.
Affiliate marketing is one of those business models that's been proven over and over again. I've made my living this way for over eight years now. The approach doesn’t have the same risks as many other techniques and it doesn’t require a large initial investment, which makes it great for newbies. You don't have to buy inventory. You don't have to ship or deal with returns. You can make your website in less than a day, be profitable within a month, and be earning $1000's in net profit within the year. It took me just two years to quit my job and go full time.
Even with all the advantages, the transition from a salaried job to affiliate marketing can be confusing. There is no single best way to make this move, as everyone’s situations and needs will differ. Here's my advice based on my own experience.
1. Start Affiliate Marketing While Working
Earning money through affiliate marketing takes patience. The early days can be particularly frustrating, as most people don’t get much traffic to their sites and certainly aren’t making any money. At this point, it’s best if your site is a side project, not the main way that you hope to earn your living.
Some folks are keen to be “successful”, so they quit their job and go all in. While they might use that risk to fuel their work ethic, my advice is to start much slower.
Thankfully, you can start affiliate marketing slowly, as long as you’re consistent. Even putting in an hour or two a day after work can often be enough. You can always increase the amount you put into it over time, especially when weekends and holidays roll around.
You would grow your business faster if you could work on it 40 hours a week or more. The problem is that some things will take time no matter what. There’s no point in risking your ability to pay your bills until you’re consistently earning through affiliate marketing.
Unless you're a very skills writer and business owner from the beginning, you may spend days or weeks trying to figure stuff out. As a newbie, simple things will trip you up. I've always had luck walking away from problems for a day then coming back to them later. If your rent is due and you have to make sales, this strategy of “walking away” might not work.
I found that doing 1 hour of learning and 1 hour of taking action every day was good enough for me to start. I'd get off work at 6, then do online work from 7-9 at night and call it a day.
As I grew my site and started seeing results, I'd work from 7-11, getting four hours of solid work in per day, sometimes waking up 30 minutes earlier to get in some learning, and even doing 20-30 minutes of study at lunch, so I could do all four hours of solid work on my site every evening. On the weekends, I'd just work all day, and save longer webinars/videos for that time to watch when my brain would get tired.
I was in a position where I could cut back hours, so eventually I started to do that. Once I was earning $10,000/month I was confident enough to quit. It was a risk, for sure. Earnings could have dropped after that point, leaving me with a failed website and no job. If what you want is to quit your job, eventually you will have to make the jump at some point.
2. Develop A Long Term Business Plan
If you're new to the business world, as well as affiliate marketing world, then the idea of creating a business plan might be intimidating. In its simplest form though, a business plan is just a roadmap for the future. At the very least, sit down and write some goals or plans for the next 3, 6, and 12 months. Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
Research and planning are key components of affiliate marketing. Simply writing good content and getting it online is all well and good, but it won’t normally be enough to ensure your success. Trends come and go, rank is lost to competitors, and any business can run into unforeseen circumstances.
Take the time to research the competition and figure out what your audience is looking for. What can you improve on? Who is your audience? Where are trends heading? What are your competitors doing right that you can copy, what are they doing wrong that you should avoid? These are all things you can write down in your business plan.
Think about where you want your brand to go in the future. What will you be proud to work in? Long term success can be much harder if your site is almost identical to other sites in the same field. Sure, you can earn money, but we are looking to create a business we can rely on. We aren't just looking for a quick buck, we are looking to create something much more stable.
3. Be Careful Of Fast Tricks & Flimsy Trends
Many sites and programs teach ‘fast and easy’ ways to be successful with affiliate marketing. These often rely on manipulative techniques, such as buying backlinks, fake product scarcity, misleading promises, and other sketchy tricks. Such approaches often work in the short-term but can be damaging to your brand and income in the long-term. One such technique is launch jacking.
For example, backlinks from PBNs were a strong focus at one point, so many sites paid for large numbers of low-quality links to their site. Google’s current search algorithm recognizes such backlink profiles as being unnatural and will penalize sites that rely on them. In a similar way, keyword stuffing was once a way to get pages ranked, but it isn’t effective anymore.
It’s always best to focus on providing quality content and useful information for your readers. Search engine algorithms are centered on the idea of user experience and quality content, so as technology improves, they'll be able to sniff out low-quality content and search engine manipulation much more effectively.
4. Look At Your Income
To quit your job, you want your affiliate marketing business to be making at least as much profit per month as your current salary. Ideally, the difference should be substantial. One good goal is to wait until you’re earning roughly twice as much as your current income. You’ll also want to wait at least a few months to be sure that income level is consistent.
This will depend on your level of risk vs comfort. A young, single person living in an apartment with cheap rent can take a bigger risk. Maybe you can survive off of $1,000 per mont, and you really want to spend more time building your business. In that situation, quitting your job could be the right move.
On the other hand, a person with a mortgage and two hungry kids probably wants to wait until they have some income stability and a stronger understanding of how affiliate marketing works. Sometimes income just hits a downtrend, and you need to know what to do in that situation without panicking.
If you hit a slow month, then send an email blast promoting trashy products to your list, trying to make up for lost money, you could damage the business relationship with your customers! Stressing about losing rankin the moment might make you want to buy backlinks to boost your rank back, and this might have long-term consequences for you business.
One great, albeit obvious tactic I use is to diversify my affiliate earnings. Just this year I signed up for four new affiliate networks (Shareasale, CJ, Impact, Flexoffers) and started promoting some products from them. $300-$500/month from each network means I have a broader range of companies paying me, and if something happens to one, I can rely on the others.
Email marketing is another powerful way to retain some control over your visitor traffic, giving you instant access to a potential tens of thousands of visitors across the glob, with just the click of a mouse.
5. Consider Seasonal Trends
Sales can seasonal. People buy different things depending on the weather and the time of year. This includes a sales spike around Christmas for consumer goods, along with a focus on health and weight loss products in the New Year. If you’re aware of the trends, you can plan for income spikes and dips, then compliment with promotions in other times of the year.
You should also consider seasonal trends when you’re thinking about full-time affiliate marketing. Your income may be substantial during the high months, but what about the low ones? Will you make enough money to cover your expenses then? It’s often worth basing any financial estimates off the lower months, rather than the higher ones.
It’s also worth considering any other seasonal trends at the same time. Are there any periods where you have more commitments and less free time? What about ones where you may have additional expenses?
One way to beat seasonal trends is to find recurring affiliate programs and two-tier affiliate programs related to your niche. Having a recurring income stream means you don't have to rely on daily sales to earn income. Some leads may stay with the service for multiple years, turning a $5 lead into a $100+ sale.
6. Look At Your Website As A Business, Not Just An “Income Source”
You want to rely on your website enough that you can quit your job, right? So stop looking at making money online as a “risky venture”. It's not just a way to earn side cash. This is a legitimate business!
Are you a content marketer? A digital strategist? A full-time publisher? Social media marketing expert? Freelance writer and advertiser?
Change your mindset. Your daily routines, goals, and priorities will follow.
Plus, if you’re making consistent income now, you need to be certain that it will continue to do so in the future.
One key consideration is where your success comes from. Is it all associated with a single campaign or a single site? How much of that income came from luck versus skill?
For example, let’s say you had a decent enough website with one or two extremely popular articles. Those articles convert well and are the main source of your income. Even if you’re earning a substantial amount, quitting your current job would be risky. It wouldn’t take much for those few articles to decrease in popularity, especially if Google made a significant algorithm change.
Make plans to diversify income sources, traffic sources, and affiliate networks. Even if you're promoting just one product and making all your money with that, can you diversify into paid ads through Facebook and Adwords? Can you build up a social media follow you can rely on for engagement, clicks, and sales? How about your email list?
You also need to consider your niche carefully. Some fields are subject to more scrutiny than others, which can affect your income potential.
This has been an important topic recently, with Google’s August 2018 algorithm update. Some sites in the health and medical fields saw significant changes to their ranking and traffic following the update. In some cases, traffic dropped off dramatically, while others saw the reverse pattern. Authority and qualifications seem to have played a role in which sites did well and which didn’t.
Which sites will get hit next? Are you creating a quality business that will benefit from updates, or are you afraid of the next update? I look forward to them because I generally benefit from trashy websites losing rank 🙂
7. Look Beyond Income Stats
Your income isn’t the only financial consideration for affiliate marketing. It’s also important to consider your debts, savings and your cost of living. You want to get your debts as low as you can while increasing your savings. This might mean taking some planned steps like downgrading your car or even downsizing your house. Otherwise, just use the money to pay off your card, car, house, and whatever. Get to zero debt, then quit.
People can earn $100k per year or more while maintaining a regular job. I've seen it. Why not wait a year, pay everything off, then quit. What do you have to worry about then? Nothing!
I also advise people save 3-6 months worth of income before they transition. Savings is particularly important, as you don’t have a guaranteed income with affiliate marketing. There is no way to be certain how much you’ll get each month. There may also be unexpected bumps in the road, which may change your income suddenly.
That way, if you quit and things immediately take a downturn, you have six months of time to fix it. 14-hour days for six months is 2500 hours of work you can put in to save your business. That's plenty considering it's possible to start from scratch and build a profitable business in six months.
Cost of living is another consideration. Even if your affiliate income is high, be realistic with your expenses. Once again, affiliate marketing is unpredictable. Having decent savings and a low cost of living can help you to ride out any changes that come along. If you have a $2500 mortgage and an $800/month car payment, plus you live in LA or SF, then you really need to have your ducks in a row.
If you live in Thailand and rent is $200/month then you have less to worry about.
You’ll also want to have money for any business expenses, including any services that you rely on (autoresponder, hosting, writers) and paid ads (if you plan to use these). In an ideal world, the money for these should be distinct from your living costs.
8. Make Plans And Schedules, Test A Week Or Two
Working from home is entirely different than a regular job. One of the biggest challenges is time management. You don’t have set hours that you need to work and there is no boss breathing down your neck. Some people find that they get distracted easily as a result, or that they don’t put enough time into your business.
Making plans and schedules can help you to keep on track. Affiliate marketing can become tedious, much like any other job. You need to put time into researching and planning, not to mention actually creating the content. This will sometimes mean working when you’d rather do other things.
Try taking a “working vacation”. Take a week off of work and then work on your website at home. How do you feel? Do you actually want to quit your job and work at home? Is it everything you dreamed of?
This test period can give you insight into what your work-at-home habits are, and help you prepare for the transition from a salaried job to a full time affiliate marketer.
For example, I get super tired after lunch, and there's nothing stopping me from taking a 3-hour nap in the afternoon. This kills my productivity. To combat this habit, I started going to the gym right after lunch. I finish lunch at 12:30-1:00, then drink my pre-workout, and head to the gym. That energy boost means I skip nap time, and then I work from 3PM to 6PM.
You may find that you are very productive at night, so you can sleep in, then work from 10-8. you might like waking up at 5, then quitting at 12 and having the afternoon off. Wow. That sounds nice actually. Maybe I'll start doing that!
Officially making the move from a traditional salaried job to affiliate marketing online was one of the proudest moments of my life. I wouldn't change it for the world. That doesn't mean the transition was easy, or that I haven't met challenges along the way. I hope you learned a lot from this article and it can help you make the transition as well!
Wanna do what I do? Take the same steps I took here.