Your first affiliate sale – whether it’s $1.50 or $50, is a big deal.
It’s validation that you can make money through affiliate marketing. Everyone has to start somewhere so the actual amount you earn isn’t that important. What’s significant is that you convinced someone to purchase a product through your affiliate link. Now you just have to convince another person. Then another person, and keep the momentum going.
Once you’ve made a sale, you’re now in the game. The rush of making your first sale can give you the push you need to go all in with affiliate marketing. In this post, you’ll get a step by step guide to make your first affiliate sale and kick off your affiliate marketing career.
Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links as explained in my disclosure policy.
What is affiliate marketing?
In a nutshell, affiliate marketing is promoting the products or services of other companies in exchange for a commission on every sale. First, you can join affiliate programs or networks to get a unique link for the brands/products you want to promote. Then you share your link through blog posts, emails, social media, and other promotional channels. Whenever someone makes a purchase through your link, you earn a percentage of the sale. Commission rates vary greatly depending on the niche but tend to fall within the range of 3-40%.
My first affiliate sale
I earned my first affiliate sale in January 2018. It was a recurring payment of $38.80 for my favorite travel blogging course. In total, I made $194 from that sale. It wasn’t a lot of money, but it made me realize that affiliate marketing is a legitimate income stream with high earning potential.
After that sale, I became a student of affiliate marketing, taking courses, attending conferences, and experimenting with different strategies. Then I started making even more sales and building momentum. But it all started with that first sale. I fostered a belief that if I kept going, I could be successful at affiliate marketing.
Now, let’s get into the nitty-gritty of how to make that first affiliate sale.
How to make your first affiliate sale: a step-by-step guide
Choose a profitable niche
To make affiliate sales, you need to help a specific group of people solve a problem they have. That means that you should choose a niche, a central topic or product category that you will focus on. Some popular niches include beauty, fashion, gardening, personal finance, travel, and home decor.
People often think of choosing a niche as something you only need to do when you start a blog. However, it matters even if you plan to promote affiliate products through other channels like a Youtube channel or an Instagram account. For instance, Youtube beauty gurus build a fanbase of people who are looking to invest in makeup and skincare. That’s why these gurus are successful when they promote products like eyeshadow palettes, lipsticks, and moisturizer. It wouldn’t make sense if they suddenly started promoting cars.
When choosing a niche, you also need to consider consumer behavior. Is your target audience willing to spend money to solve the problem they have? If that group of people is looking for free information, you won’t be successful. For instance, this blog is about helping 20 somethings and 30 somethings with an appetite for risk start an online business. People who visit this blog typically have questions about how to make money online. They are also looking to invest in courses and tools to get started. To help my audience, I recommend web hosting, courses, email service providers, and other resources to run an online business.
Before you start with affiliate marketing, you need to answer three questions:
- What group of people do you serve?
- What problem can you solve for them?
- What products can solve that problem?
Let’s take a look at an example. Many of my visitors, like you, are wondering how to get started with affiliate marketing. That’s a problem I can solve by teaching my visitors about how affiliate marketing works. Then, I recommend specific courses and tools to help them get started. Whenever a reader makes a sale through my link, I earn a commission for that sale.
Identify 1-3 products to promote
When you first start affiliate marketing, it’s best to focus on promoting a few products. Choose 1-3 products you truly love and understand inside and out. I recommend you start with products you’ve already used. For instance, I recommended The Business of Travel Blogging because it was the very first blogging course I ever took. It helped me lay the foundation to start my first blog and make money with it.
At the time, I was also promoting Pin To Profits – Affiliate Marketing and Pinterest Ninja, two other courses I took early in my blogging career. I focused on promoting courses because I could talk about them extensively. I knew the content almost by heart, the pros and cons, and the type of reader who would benefit most from them. I wasn’t as concerned with the commission that came with each sale. I just knew I found those courses useful and wanted to spread the word about them. My belief in the products made it easy for me to recommend them.
Right now, make a list of 15-20 products that you’re intimately familiar with and also love. If you can’t come up with that many products, it’s okay. Just list as many products as you can. Depending on your niche, these products could be anything from books and courses to equipment and credit cards. Let’s say you run a fitness blog, you can recommend exercise equipment. If you run a food blog, you could promote cooking utensils. For a travel blog, you could promote backpacks and tours. The options are endless.
After you make a list of products, you want to narrow the list down to 1-3 products to focus all your energy on promoting. Join their affiliate programs so that you can get a unique link to use for promotion. Again, don’t concern yourself too much with the commissions. Pick the product(s) you believe in the most. You have to love this product so much that you would promote it for free. Maybe not that extreme, but you get the point.
Choose your promotional channels
Now that you’ve identified the products you’re going to promote, you need to choose the ways through which you’ll let people know about them. There are several ways to promote affiliate products. At the beginning of your journey, it helps to focus on a few channels so you don’t stretch yourself too thin.
It’s important to play to your strengths. You may be great on camera, so maybe you should make videos. On the other hand, you could be a great writer who is camera shy. In that case, maybe a blog would work better. Or maybe you’re good at writing and video so you can do both. Here’s a breakdown of key promotional channels to consider. If you’re interested, you can learn more about how to promote affiliate products.
A blog is a website that regularly publishes content, such as informational guides, opinions, observations, and insights. It is an effective way to promote affiliate products because you can create evergreen content that helps people make buying decisions. Once you hit publish, that content is out there on the web and can continue to earn you money for years to come. Content like reviews, product comparisons, and how-to posts target people who are actively looking to buy something. That’s why they are particularly effective at generating affiliate sales.
Interested in starting a blog? Learn how to choose a blog niche and choose a blog name. Then follow the steps to start a WordPress blog in 10 minutes. You can also check out a list of tools and resources to grow your blog, such as free plugins and online courses.
Pinterest is a visual search engine that is popular with bloggers. It is mostly known as a great source of traffic, but you don’t need a blog to use Pinterest. You can promote affiliate links directly on Pinterest. First, you’d have to create a Pinterest account. Then you can create images to advertise your affiliate products using a graphic design tool like Canva. The key is to create bold, attractive images, also known as pins, that communicate the transformation people can get by using the product. You can learn more about how to make money with affiliate links on Pinterest if this method appeals to you.
An email list is one of the most valuable assets you can have as an online business owner. Unlike your social media accounts, you actually own your email list. But what exactly is an email list? It is a database of email contacts that you have permission to contact. When you get someone’s email, they’re giving you permission to their inbox, which is a sacred space. It means that person trusts you and wants to hear from you. That’s why email lists are particularly powerful.
To build an email list, you have to identify who you want on your list and the action you ultimately want them to take. In this case, you want them to buy your affiliate products. Then you need to create an incentive, known as a lead magnet or opt-in, to get people to join your list. This can be a free email course, a download, a quiz, a free consultation, or something else that your audience would find valuable. Once they join your list, you want to have a welcome sequence to help your subscribers get to know you. You should tell them who you are, what you do, and what you have to offer. This is known as nurturing your list.
Once you’ve nurtured your list, you can lead them into another sequence of emails that teaches them about a topic and then offers them a chance to buy your affiliate products. The great thing is that all of this can be automated with an email service provider like Convertkit, which I use. The downside is that building an email list of loyal subscribers takes time. I think it should be more of a long-term strategy for making affiliate sales.
Youtube is the second largest search engine after Google so it’s a great place to promote your affiliate products. I talked a bit about beauty gurus earlier because they are a prime example of people who effectively use Youtube to make affiliate sales. It’s common for beauty gurus, for example, to make to promote the products they use in their makeup tutorials. They include the affiliate link below the video oftentimes with a special discount for their subscribers. Youtube can be a lucrative platform if you have a magnetic personality and can build an engaged audience.
Some digital marketers create a Facebook group to attract their target audience. Then they use the group to promote their own products as well as their affiliate products. Building a successful Facebook group can be an alternative to building a blog, if blogging isn’t your cup of tea. The downside is that you don’t own your Facebook group. It also takes time to build up an engaged group.
Another way to promote affiliate products on Facebook is through Facebook ads. You can either learn how to create Facebook ads by yourself or hire a freelancer on a site like Fiverr. Facebook ads allow you to target the exact audience that would be interested in your offer. Depending on your ad budget, you can reach thousands or even millions of people.
As you can see, there are a variety of ways to promote affiliate products. However, I issue a word of caution: focus on one strategy at a time. Don’t try to build a successful blog and a popular Facebook group at the same time, unless you can hire help. You’ll get overwhelmed and become frustrated. Instead, focus on writing the pillar content for your blog for 6-9 months, then create a Facebook group. After creating your Facebook group, then you can start learning how to do Facebook ads. Develop one skill before you learn a new one.
Focus on lead indicators
When it comes to making your first affiliate sale, it’s important to focus on the lead indicators. That refers to the actions you take to promote your products. For instance, you might set a goal to write two reviews for affiliate products every week. As long as you hit that goal, you’re making progress and getting closer to your goal.
Don’t obsess over the outcome, making the sale. Focus on the process. Do something every day to promote your affiliate product(s) and keep track of your actions. Don’t be afraid to experiment with different strategies to promote your affiliate products. Keep going and before you know it, you’ll receive a notification letting you know that you’ve made that sale!
More helpful affiliate marketing resources
These are additional resources I would recommend to help you master affiliate marketing and make your first sale.
Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing
Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing is the best affiliate marketing course I’ve taken by far. It is taught by Michelle Schroeder Gardner, a personal finance blogger who makes over $50,000 per month as an affiliate marketer. Michelle explains the ins and outs of affiliate marketing, from the legal aspects to the best strategies to drive conversions. This is a text-based course that comes with workbooks and actionable steps to implement what you’ve learned.
Pin To Profits – Affiliate Marketing
Pin to Profits – Affiliate Marketing is a step-by-step guide to making money with affiliate marketing on Pinterest. It is taught by mom blogger and Pinterest expert McKinzie Bean. This video-based course walks you through the process of creating and posting affiliate pins on Pinterest to generate commissions. It covers topics such as how to create click-worthy affiliate pins, what boards to post your pins to, and what types of products do well on Pinterest.