You’ve probably heard it said – it takes money to make money. So, an article about starting an affiliate marketing business with zero upfront costs sounds too good to be true. But we promise, this isn’t a scheme; there isn’t a catch. You really can start with no money.
Many people believe there are startup costs associated with affiliate marketing, for instance, web hosting services, paid advertising, and tracking software. These tools help optimize your campaigns. However, all you need to start is an internet-enabled device and an internet connection, which you already have; otherwise, you wouldn’t be reading this.
Don’t believe me? Read on to learn how to start affiliate marketing with no money.
💡 Did you know? With GetResponse you can build a website, collect up to 500 subscribers, and run email campaigns for free. Not only that but by joining our affiliate program, you can earn $100 or 33% lifetime recurring commissions for every referred customer. Join the program today!
Table Of Contents
How does affiliate marketing work?
Affiliate marketing is an advertising strategy that pays third-party individuals (affiliate marketers) a commission to promote a brand, product, or service.
The parties involved are the business, the affiliate, and the customer. The company creates the affiliate program. The affiliate signs up for the program to promote that business. The customer makes a purchase.
The affiliate usually receives a unique affiliate link or code from the business, which they share with their audience on social media, email, or a blog post. The affiliate marketer earns a commission after the customer completes a purchase using the link.
As you can see, affiliate marketing has a low entry barrier. Many affiliate marketing programs don’t have sign-up costs. Some even offer sign-up bonuses.
Another benefit of affiliate marketing is it is a lucrative business model with high rewards and low risks.
This Statista chart shows steady growth in the industry from 2010 to 2022.
Furthermore, 16% of all internet orders in the U.S. happen through affiliate channels. So, the earning potential is considerable, and since startup costs can be non-existent and operational expenses minimal, you stand to lose very little.
You might be wondering about the difference between affiliate marketing and influencer marketing. Both use third parties to promote businesses and have a profit-sharing structure. The main difference lies in the business goals.
Affiliate marketing drives sales, while influencer marketing focuses more on brand awareness and lead generation. Consequently, affiliates get paid after a sale, while influencers receive a flat fee to create content.
Is it possible to start affiliate marketing with no money?
What about websites? Those cost money.
You don’t need a website when starting affiliate marketing unless you’re creating blog content. Social media platforms are effective marketing channels, with 67.32% of affiliate marketers using them.
If you’re a blogger or just want an affiliate site, web hosting platforms like WordPress offer free plans to create and host websites. Better yet, you can build an affiliate website using a free website builder.
What about advertising costs?
PPC (pay-per-click) and social ads are great ways to drive traffic, but you can also boost traffic organically through content marketing and search engine optimization (SEO). While generating organic traffic takes time, it is a more sustainable solution. You can strengthen brand recognition and build authority.
As you can see, you don’t need money to share valuable content and promote affiliate links. Once the commissions start rolling in, you can use that money to scale your affiliate marketing efforts.
💡 Want to dive a bit deeper? Here’s our comprehensive affiliate marketing for beginners guide that explains this topic in more detail.
Steps to start affiliate marketing with no money
Anyone can become a successful affiliate marketer. While you don’t need money to start, you will need other resources, like time, creativity, and patience, to make affiliate marketing work.
1. Choose your marketing channels
Since you’ll be starting with zero, your traffic channels are limited to popular social media platforms. However, don’t be discouraged. There are 4.48 billion social media users, making it a great place to attract potential customers and earn an affiliate income.
You can use every platform to share your affiliate marketing content. However, we don’t advise this. In theory, you can maximize your reach, but it’s not very practical.
Each platform has its unique format, and it’s a full-time job creating content for each audience. Furthermore, popular content on TikTok may not perform on Facebook. So, rather than creating content for each platform, choose one to house your affiliate content and use the others to support it.
Now let’s see what affiliate marketing looks like on each social networking platform. We’ll look at the most popular ones.
YouTube is one of the best platforms to run affiliate marketing campaigns. That’s because video content drives 82% of internet traffic. Furthermore, you can optimize YouTube videos to show up on search engine results pages (SERPs).
Another advantage of using YouTube is the platform pays content creators through ads. You can invest some of this money in your affiliate business to speed up your growth.
The description section of the platform allows content creators to share clickable affiliate links.
Here, Marques Brownlee shares the links to the products mentioned in his product review.
Instagram has evolved from a photo-sharing app to include three video formats. However, the platform has one glaring drawback. You can’t share an affiliate link on your posts. There is only one clickable link in the bio section, making Instagram affiliate marketing tricky.
You can get around this in two ways. The first is Instagram Stories, which allows users to add external links using the link sticker feature. But Stories disappear after 24 hours, so it’s not that viable an option.
The second option involves free linking tools such as Linktree or Unfold. These allow affiliate marketers to create landing pages and share multiple links.
This affiliate’s link in the bio takes potential customers to a social media landing page with linkable versions of their Instagram posts.
Facebook is the largest social media platform, with almost 3 billion monthly active users. The social site allows marketers to post an affiliate link in posts and comments.
The example below shows the affiliate link placement in a post.
Don’t use your personal profile and bombard your friends and family with marketing messages. Instead, create a separate Facebook page or group and build your audience there. Alternatively, you can convert your personal account into a business page.
LinkedIn’s audience is professionals, making it ideal for B2B marketing. The platform offers several ways to incorporate affiliate links – its blog (hurray for SEO), personal posts, company posts, and direct messages.
The latest placements for links are on photos and video content.
Twitter is not the place for loquacious content creators. Regular users are limited to 280 characters. That’s roughly 40 to 70 words. So, you have to be concise and create eye-catching posts.
Content creator Wario64 doesn’t beat around the bush. His tweet describes the product, including the price and link.
The channel you choose will determine your content strategy, but your customers decide where you post. You’ll waste your affiliate marketing efforts if you share content on Tumblr if your customer base congregates on Reddit.
Be sure to include appropriate disclosures, informing your followers about affiliate links in your posts.
2. Choose a niche
A common mistake beginner affiliate marketers make is selling different products at once. Would you buy dog food from a craft shop? Not likely. Likewise, customers don’t trust online security tips from someone who blogs about skincare.
Therefore, choose a niche and stick to it. It will help you build credibility, authority, and trust among niche audiences.
Below are some factors to consider when choosing a niche.
- Your interests
The simplest way to find a niche is to identify your interests. It’s easier to promote affiliate products you’re knowledgeable or passionate about. Plus, you’re already familiar with the target audience.
As an involved affiliate, you can give recommendations based on personal experience. That gives you an edge in an age where social proof is the biggest motivator for buying decisions.
If you’d rather go where the money is, research the most profitable markets. The best industries for affiliate marketing include technology, travel, and finance. Learn what these audiences like, where they consume content, the top influencers in these niches, etc.
There also has to be demand for the affiliate product you’re selling. A high-paying commission structure is pointless if there’s no demand for the product.
Popular industries like fashion are saturated with affiliates and influencers. They require creative effort and money to remain competitive. Ideally, you should choose niches with low competition but whose audience has a high interest in the products.
3. Join an affiliate program
Once you’ve settled on a niche, identify the best affiliate programs in that industry. You can do this two ways: search for affiliate programs on your preferred search engine or join an affiliate network.
Both options are free. ShareASale is one of many top affiliate networks that don’t charge to join. However, they have transaction fees.
Whichever program you choose, consider the brand’s reputation, commission structure, and product demand.
There are two main models of commission payout: pay-per-click and pay-per-sale. With pay-per-click, the affiliate marketer earns a commission for driving traffic to the brand’s website. The pay-per-sale model pays the affiliate after a sale.
In addition to commission rates, you should clarify the payment terms: Will payment be made monthly or after hitting a threshold?
4. Use the right keywords
The best way to get your content in front of your target audience is to incorporate their search terms. For instance, prospects searching for keto recipes may use words like ‘keto,’ ‘keto meal plan,’ or ‘what to eat on keto’ to find that content.
Keywords are a vital SEO tool for bloggers. After all, the right keywords make your content visible on search engines. Keywords also increase content visibility on social media websites. On these platforms, they can take the form of hashtags.
But how do you find which keywords customers use? The answer is keyword research software. Since this is an article on how to start affiliate marketing with no money, we’ll show you how to do this for free.
The simplest way is with a Google search.
The keyword ‘Keto’ yields ten related search terms. These are phrases actual people use to search for keto content. You can also find keywords at the bottom of the results page.
This method also works for social media.
Above are the related hashtags for #keto on Instagram. You can also see how many posts use those hashtags, telling which search terms are popular.
Compile a shortlist of relevant keywords and analyze how your competitors use them. Do they incorporate them in headings, descriptions, or tags?
There are also free keyword research tools, such as Moz Keyword Explorer and Ubersuggest. They show search volumes, SEO difficulty, and suggested alternatives of specific keywords.
5. Create relevant and engaging content
Now that you have the right keywords, you must ensure that the content prospects find is of the highest quality. Content marketing is about providing value to potential customers. Moreover, search engines and social platforms reward high-quality content with higher rankings and more visibility, respectively.
What constitutes quality content? Relevance, engagement, and attractiveness.
- Relevance – make your content relevant to your audience by addressing their pain points.
- Engaging – your content should be easy and fun to consume. Don’t overuse technical jargon.
- Attractive – display content in a visually appealing way. Use catchy titles, harmonious color schemes, and simple layouts.
Your content marketing strategy depends on the platform you use. So, if customers prefer YouTube, repurpose blog posts into video content. You should also pay attention to search intent.
When customers type certain keywords, they’re looking for a specific type of content. Say you’re doing affiliate marketing for software products. The search phrase ‘GetResponse vs Mailchimp’ tells you the user is looking for product comparison content. On the other hand, ‘GetResponse review’ implies the user is looking for an in-depth guide on GetResponse.
Analyze the type of content that is ranking for your target search terms to determine the user intent. Then, create quality content that aligns with the intent.
6. Keep up with audience engagement
Customer engagement is a crucial element of every affiliate marketing strategy. Customers expect meaningful online interactions. According to Gallup insights, engaged customers are loyal and generate more revenue than the average customer.
So, to build a thriving affiliate business, you need to build relationships with audiences. It starts with responding to comments and questions in a timely fashion. Fast responses show followers you care about what they have to say.
Your engagement should be consistent. It doesn’t just help with relationship-building. It tells search engines and social network algorithms which web pages or social media accounts are active. The more active you are, the more visibility you get.
Future of affiliate marketing
The affiliate marketing industry is poised for rapid growth. It is expected to reach $36 billion by 2030. This will create more opportunities, but the industry will also get more competitive.
Here are some trends you should be aware of.
- Pivot toward influencers. Affiliates who adopt an influencer-style marketing approach will likely generate more revenue due to the trust and credibility they’ll build with their audiences.
- Community-based affiliate marketing may grow. Besides joining existing communities, affiliates are building their own online communities from scratch.
- Adoption of virtual reality technologies to boost affiliate campaigns.
- Increased use of artificial intelligence, e.g., through personalized content creation to scale affiliate marketing.
- Mainstreaming of cryptocurrency payment for affiliate sales.
The industry’s growth also means that affiliate marketing has grown from a side hustle to a full-time income-generating stream. Take GetResponse’s Affiliate Recurring Program, for example.
With the GetResponse affiliate program, you’ll get 33% of your referrals’ monthly payments as long as they are customers. It is one of a few high-paying affiliate programs that offer a long-term passive income option.
How to start affiliate marketing with no money FAQ
Can you become an affiliate marketer with no money?
Yes, you can become an affiliate marketer with no money. Social media channels like YouTube and Facebook can help you promote affiliate links without spending any money. You just need time and creativity to create captivating content.
Can a beginner make money from affiliate marketing?
Yes, beginners can make money from affiliate marketing. Just make sure to choose the right niche where you understand the product and audiences. Then, create insightful content that helps you educate the audience and promote your affiliate products.
There you have it! How to start affiliate marketing with no money in five steps – no gimmicks, no fine print.
We looked at free platforms, tools, and tactics you can take advantage of. Some solutions, like keyword research software and affiliate networks, do the heavy lifting for you.
Zero-cost startup isn’t the same as zero-cost operations. As your affiliate business scales, you will spend money to meet your growing business’s needs. You can take this from incoming commissions.
Now that money is no object, what are you waiting for? With time, creativity, and patience, you can start a successful affiliate marketing business today.