If you are looking for a business opportunity that does not require an initial investment and does not require you to stock any merchandise, online affiliate programs can be a great venture. As an affiliate, you essentially become part of the company’s sale force, but you work on commission.
Affiliate programs are generally run by e-commerce sites looking for ways to increase their sales. Affiliates place button or banner ads on their sites, or text ads in email messages, that promote the e-commerce site's products. Affiliates are paid a percentage of each sale they generate.
How does it work?
You have probably seen affiliate programs in action, even if you did not realize it. Many Web sites have links to Amazon.com to purchase books or CDs related to the content published on the site; if you click on and purchase an item through one of these links, the Web site owner earns a small percentage of the sale.
While many webmasters are content to make just a few dollars a month as a "casual" affiliate, there is a lot more money to be made. If you are willing to put in the work, participating in affiliate programs can be a viable business.
Do you have what it takes?
As an affiliate, the first thing you will need is a Web site where you can display the promotional information for the company you work for. You may be able to generate leads for your sponsor company using just email newsletters, but a Web site is essential if you hope to make serious income.
If you don't have a business Web site yet, get started by reading Building a Web Site for Your Home-Based Business, then read the AllBusiness.com guide to Business Web Site Hosting Services to learn about easy-to-use site-building services offered by the likes of Yahoo and Microsoft.
Second, you will need to find a way to drive traffic to your site, to build a large subscriber list for your email newsletter, or both. This will probably entail purchasing email lists of interested subscribers or purchasing advertising to increase your site traffic. Again, a combination of both email newsletters and Web site traffic is best. However, before you begin marketing any affiliate products by email, you will need to make sure that you are adhering to the company’s rules on email marketing.
Ready to get started?
If you're ready to get started as an affiliate, there are literally thousands of companies that offer affiliate programs. But just haphazardly signing up for affiliate programs isn't enough; you will need to target your efforts. For example, if you run an extreme-sports Web site or e-newsletter, it wouldn't make much sense to participate in an antiques affiliate program. Your goal should be to deliver targeted leads in order to get the best return on your efforts.
After you register as an affiliate, you will receive promotional materials from the sponsor company. This may be in the form of plain text ads that can be inserted on your Web site or used in email marketing campaigns, or in the form of graphical ads displayed on your site. You then use these materials to advertise the sponsor company's offerings.
Most companies pay their affiliates monthly, either through an affiliate management program or directly by the company. This income may be in the form of a PayPal payment or as a regular check mailed to you each month. Some affiliate programs are now offering direct-deposit options, which means you can get your money even quicker.
Many first-time affiliates prefer to work through an affiliate management program like the two mentioned above. They offer the benefits of regular payments and access to many different types of products in one location. For more, read Which Companies Provide Affiliate Program Management Services?