Is Affiliate Marketing For Beginners?

In my constant research efforts to find legit online business opportunities, it occurred to me that most of the training programs and platforms I’ve come across have been geared towards those new to the online business model in question. Training in the affiliate marketing niche is no different. This brings up the question. Is affiliate marketing for beginners? You be the judge, as I outline what is involved.

Change Your Mindset

As I briefly mention in my Wealth Affiliate Review, the basics of affiliate marketing are, well… pretty basic. The steps are simple enough for someone new to take, with a bit of guidance. This is not to say it is fast, easy, or guaranteed income.

This is not a two hour a week endeavor, at least if you really want to do well. It takes time and dedication. In fact, if you go the SEO route (more on that later), you will likely work hard for 2-3 months, maybe more, before you get your first sale. That’s just the reality.

What this means is that expectations and thought processes need to be altered accordingly. In other words, you need to think about things a bit differently than you are used to.

Most people think in terms of “do work, get paid for work” – whether that’s per contract, salary, or per hour. It is trading work (time) for money. It is guaranteed money, as there is an arrangement (employer/contractor) surrounding the payment for your work. This is not true for affiliate marketing.

A passive income allows you to stop trading your time for money. In fact, the entire premise of this website is geared around helping you to create a passive income stream, which is the best way to “reclaim your time”.

Once you wrap your brain around of working hard without immediate monetary reciprocation, and begin to understand that you are building something towards a higher goal, you will be ready to start building your business with the right mindset. Think of it as delayed gratification… with no guarantee of gratification, but with a higher potential payback than you can get with most jobs.


Reward comes to the diligent, and those who believe they can succeed. And honestly, if you don’t believe you can succeed from the start, you probably won’t, as you’ll likely give up before you see results.

To set the bar appropriately, you need to know that the failure rate for budding online entrepreneurs is quite high – perhaps 90%. If you’re already thinking you can’t overcome the statistics, you probably won’t. The reason I say this is that in order to continue pushing forward, you need to believe enough to see the possibilities and to continue to work towards your goals, even when things look bleak. If you think you’ll be a statistic before you even start, you will be.

What the statistics don’t tell you is the ones that fail initially, but pick themselves up and start again, account for quite a few of those making incomes most people only dream of. In fact, many very successful business owners – from all types of businesses – have failed once, twice, or even a dozen times or more before making it big. They kept their eye on the prize. They think differently than the other 90%.

What Is Affiliate Marketing?

Affiliate marketing is a marketing arrangement by which an online retailer pays commission to an external website for traffic or sales generated from its referrals.

The above definition is taken from the online dictionary. I use it because it’s short and completely accurate. What it doesn’t tell you are the money-making details.

In order to make money, you need to understand the basic steps (which I’ll go over in more detail later):

  1. Choose an interest (niche)
  2. Build a Website
  3. Attract Visitors
  4. Generate Revenue

Yes, this is simplistic, but it is the foundation of affiliate marketing. And yes, there are other ways to market products (to be addressed in upcoming articles), but I’ll be focusing on the above steps here.

The benefit of affiliate marketing over, say, starting up an Amazon business, is that your start-up costs are significantly less, while not having to deal with product sourcing and management.

For the costs involved in starting an Amazon business, as well as other details to consider, please see my Amazon FBA review.

Is Affiliate Marketing Legit?

The first thing that comes to mind for many is whether this is just another online scam business “opportunity”. Let me put your mind to rest up front. Affiliate marketing a totally legitimate and ethical form of business. This is not to say there aren’t any unethical affiliate marketers.

The unethical marketers are out there, and they are the reason why there is this big question mark in the heads of those who have not been exposed to what this form of business really looks like… or should look like.

If you are among those who have questions, that’s what this article is all about. I’m going to do my best in outlining what it is, and what is involved, so you understand that it really is a great business model. It’s a way to make passive income, while helping good businesses grow.

I’ll get the first question that I usually see out of the way first. This relates to affiliate links and how they work.

An affiliate link is one that connects the marketer to the business the marketer is helping. This is how referrals are tracked.  If you click on one of them and buy a product or service through it, the marketer owning the site will make a small commission (or referral fee).

It doesn’t cost any more to buy through one of these links, than buying directly from the company.  In fact, in some cases, can save you money, as there can be special offers given through the affiliate system that affiliate marketers can pass along to the consumer.

The take away is not to worry about going through these links. You won’t end up in the dark web, nor will it cost you any more to buy a product or service.

Companies are willing to pay affiliate marketers to send business their way, just as they are willing to pay for advertisements to gain new customers.  This is how you make money in affiliate marketing.

Core Fundamental of a Successful Affiliate Marketing Site

In essence, the affiliate marketer should provide value to the consumer, while helping companies that sell great products.  It’s a win-win.

What all affiliate markers should be doing, is vetting/researching the product before marketing them, and offering an honest review to their readers. This means that even if you are marketing a product, you must include “the bad” when you discover it. The entire goal of growing an ethical affiliate marketing business is to HELP PEOPLE. If you can do that, you can succeed.  Taking short-cuts via dishonesty or misleading information may get you money faster initially, it will sink your business in the end… perhaps a lot faster than you think.

If you want to make a quick buck, and don’t care what you are trying to sell to people, PLEASE do not become an affiliate marketer.  Most of us are trying to provide good information and honest reviews/opinions to our readers. There is enough misinformation out there, please don’t add to it.

Affiliate Marketing Step By Step

First things first. You need a computer. Since you’re reading this, we can probably check that one off. Second, you need to choose a niche. You’ll want to pick something you are interested in that you have a good bit of knowledge about. If you are an avid reader, you may want to blog about books – giving reviews on great books you’ve read. If you love sports, there are many directions you can go there.

Third, you’ll need a place to write about it. Most affiliate marketers use a website/blog. This will be the foundation of your business. This is where you will spend a lot of time creating helpful content for your readers.

You need three things in order to set up your blog/website. You will need a domain name, web hosting, and tools to build your website. A domain name is generally $13-19. Finding one that fits your niche can be a challenge, though. There are a LOT of websites out there, and they use an amazing variety of domain names. With perseverance, you will find one that suits you.  Tools like Jaaxy can also help you find something good, while helping you to target keywords that will attract visitors once your site is set up.

Once you have your domain name, you will need a platform to create and host your website. The prices on this vary, but you can go to and choose your domain name and have them host it and your website. The hosting fees were $29/month last time I looked. It includes website building tools.

I don’t claim to know the quality of the tools GoDaddy uses today, but about a decade ago they were (how do I put this kindly)… not great.  I think they use WordPress today, so I imagine the tools are vastly improved.  It’s a quality company, and they are starting to do some training on blogging and such, from what I gather.

Another option is my top pick for affiliate marketing platforms, Wealthy Affiliate (reviewed HERE).  The free account provides the following:

  1. FREE website hosting
  2. FREE “(site name)” domain
  3. FREE WordPress website template
  4. FREE website building tools
  5. FREE version of Jaaxy within (a necessary tool for the affiliate marketer, reviewed HERE)
  6. FREE training (you get access to more than enough training videos to get you rolling)

Basically, everything you need to get started at no cost.

—> Create your free Wealthy Affiliate account here! <—


Time To Build Your Website

Next, you need to build a website. This will be the core of your business.

I created a “how to” article that goes over the steps to build a WordPress website HERE. It’s especially useful if you open a free Wealthy Affiliate account and follow along. Most of it should be applicable to building a WordPress website.

I’m not going to repeat all the steps in this article, since all the work is already done.

Find Products To Market

Once you have your website up, you’ll want to find products/companies to market for. Find the best of breed products that you know are top-notch, and look for affiliate programs for the company that makes them. You can also be an Amazon affiliate, which I talk about HERE, with an update HERE. Amazon covers most niches you can think of, so there are always products within that you can market through this program.

Once you have your product(s) selected and have set up your related affiliate account(s), it’s time to start writing articles (blogs) about it. Be detailed and honest. Tell about what you love, as well as what you think falls short of greatness. The key is to help others make an informed decision on a purchase.

If there are products in your niche you know aren’t good, review those, too. Warn people away from shoddy products or scams. By providing a valuable service to others, based on your knowledge, you can make an income. It’s a great business model! A win-win.

While you are writing about your niche, always keep in mind that when people are searching the web for information, they are looking for helpful, honest information. If you guide them to a bad purchase, you will lose cred.

Your primary goal is to build trust with your readers. They should come to understand that you are going to be honest with them, and will always try to steer them in the right direction. Integrity matters.

Attract Visitors

There are different ways to attract visitors, but not all of them are free. There are PPC (pay-per-click), ads (run on Facebook, etc.) that cost you money, as well as free ways through social media.  One of the best free ways is the use of low competition keywords within your articles that have a reasonable amount of traffic. This is the SEO method (search engine optimization).

To find these keywords, you’ll want to use a tool like Jaaxy (reviewed HERE). You’ll want to use the keywords you have chosen for the title of the article, and within the article you are writing. They key is to use it a couple of times within the article, but not to spam it. You’ll also want to use (a few times, again, not spamming) similar keywords, or different permutations of the one you decided on.

Keywords should be specific to the article you are writing. You’ll want to use different ones for different articles, that way you can have multiple articles ranking for different keywords.  The better you rank in the search engines, the more traffic your site will get.

This is free traffic, but it takes time. Search engines do not value new websites. You need to add content frequently, with reasonably sized articles, to begin being noticed. This can take weeks to months, depending on the various factors involved.

This is the very reason why you need to be patient and not give up. You may go along for months before you see any commissions head your way.

You can speed up the traffic by purchasing ads or creating a social media presence and connecting with the right groups. It’s all a process. With that said, I’d not recommend that a beginner tackle Facebook ads. You can waste a lot of money with little results, if you don’t know the best way to go about creating and targeting ads.

When Will I Start Make Money?

Now we come to the crux of the matter. When can you start making money with your affiliate marketing business? The simple answer is that no one knows. It’s a process, and the answer depends on how well you build your business.

This is why following a proven program (like the one I keep mentioning, which I won’t here 😉 ) is so important. If you start from the ground up the right way, you may make money fairly soon. I’d certainly give it at least 2-3 months, depending. And there is no guarantee that you’ll make money then.

I’m not going to sugar coat this. While I certainly would like to sell a great platform to you (Wealthy Affiliate), I’m not going to do so by telling you that you’re going to make six-figures your first year, or $1000 your first month. I simply don’t know, as the variables between individuals make it impossible to know.

Success depends on your work ethic, tenacity, ability to learn, the ability to write reasonably well, time you’re willing to spend building your business, your target niche, and how well you drive traffic to your website.

I can only tell you that the average to first sale is around the 3-month time-frame.  This assumes you closely follow a solid plan.  But it can happen sooner, later, or not at all.  The only certainty is that it will never happen if you don’t start.

Please take this to heart when you see advertising on YouTube or elsewhere claiming they have a special secret or a special plan that you’ll make (or “should make”) a specific amount of money is a specific amount of time. Baloney. Don’t fall for this kind of marketing.

Is it possible to make six-figures your first year? Sure. Is it likely? No. Go in with proper expectations, so you don’t give up before your hard work starts paying off.  Is a six-figure side hustle worth building if it takes a few years?  I think so.


Coming full circle, it’s time to answer the question. Is affiliate marketing for beginners? Yes, because no one is really a beginner when it comes to what they know.  We all have knowledge of great products and services that can help others.  We all bring something unique to the table.

While you may be new to the concept of affiliate marketing, you already have what it takes to succeed, if you follow the right steps. Affiliate marketing is not difficult to learn, but you’ll want to learn it from a reputable program that has a solid track record.

You don’t need to be a computer expert, nor do you need to know the technical aspects of building a website. The only knowledge you need (once you have learned how to build your business) is already there. Putting it to text takes work, time, and persistence. Finding good keywords to target takes the right tool. You need to set aside time regularly, and you have to believe you can succeed.

So yes, it is for beginners… with the right training and tools. My recommended platform has everything you need to get started for free.  Yes, I’m pushing this hard, because I don’t want you to spend money you don’t have to.  If you love it like I do, then consider the premium account – it does give you a lot more than the free account (i.e., it is well worth the price, in my opinion).

If you have any questions, I’m here to help. Feel free to ask, below, in the comments section.

Happy marketing!


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  1. Hi Steve,
    Thanks for this post!

    I like your realistic description of the affiliate marketing realm and find this would be a great resource for those interested in getting started.

    I agree that there is already too much misinformation out there and that only those whom want to give balanced, honest feedback should get involved.

    Bookmarking your site for future reference. 🙂

  2. Affiliate marketing I agree is the best way to start a business online, you can start with no investment or just a very small investment.

    The only thing that bothers me is how can we ever be sure we are getting credit for all our sales, I guess you have to have faith and join with companies you trust.


    • Hi Jeff,

      I agree with your conclusion. As far as being worried about getting credit, there are tracking mechanisms built into all the affiliate programs. One of the gotchas is cookie life. If someone finds out about a product they like, and end up going through your link, but bail on the purchase, whether you get credit or not will depend on how long they wait before purchasing. If they wait beyond the cookie life from your affiliate link (which varies by program), you won’t get credit – even if it was your referral that led them there in the first place. The longer the cookie life for a given program, the better.

      Outside of that potential issue, the affiliate system has been around a long time. They have tracking down to a science, and it’s generally pretty dependable.

      Thanks for the question.

  3. Hi Steve, your post has a lot of great information and was a really balanced view of affiliate marketing, a whole new concept to me. Sure I’ve always known about commission sales but didn’t realise they were one and the same until reading your post.
    Sounds like the best place to learn all about creating and running my own website is with Wealthy Affiliate, I’m going to check it out.

    • Hi Lily,

      Thanks for stopping by. I always like to hear that my articles are helpful and/or informative for my readers.

      All the best,

      PS – Good luck with Wealthy Affiliate – if you need any help, let me know.

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