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January 25, 2022

139 | The Truth About Affiliate Marketing On The Side

the truth about affiliate marketing on the side with Annie Miller

Today is for businesses who don’t do affiliate marketing full time. You own a business as your primary source of income. You do not depend on income from working with other brands. And/or that is not your goal.

Remember three things as we head into this episode:

  • Do what you want 
  • Think long term
  • You can change at any time

This topic has come up in my own personal life as well as with a few of my business clients recently. So I figured it was about time I gave it a permanent place via the podcast. This is not the first time I’ve talked about affiliate marketing. So please feel free to go back and creep past episodes where I talk about considerations to make when choosing brands to work with, and different approaches to working with brands.

As with all of my content, I encourage you to take what makes sense for you, or what sits right with you in the season, and leave the rest. Or possibly come back to the rest later.

And ultimately remember that it’s 100% your choice whether you want to work with brands for compensation or not. Today’s episode is simply here to pull back the curtain a bit on affiliate marketing when your business is NOT IN affiliate marketing. Meaning you are NOT a full-time blogger, contact creator, or influencer.

Maybe I mentioned this before, maybe I haven’t, but there was a trend at the end of 2021 where full-time influencers and content creators were posting each month of the year how many brand deals they had, and how much they made per brand deal, or per month. Now I actually thought this was a really cool trend, because they were educating on how to land brand deals, how to pitch yourself, and how to negotiate for getting paid to post about a certain brand or product.

For me, this is very much so new age blogging. Full-time bloggers get paid for exposure and getting a brand in front of the bloggers audience and subscribers.

I joked that I wanted to make a post sharing how much I make per month from affiliate marketing because I feel like there is a misconception especially in the world of online health and fitness about coaches being influencers. And I’m not saying we can’t be both, but the percentage of which my business comes from my “influencing” is less than 2% of my business.

Also let’s be clear that the definition of influencer is very subjective person to person. So it’s difficult to speak definitively on the topic. Because what I’m referring to may be different than what someone else is referring to – so it’s all just semantics at that point.

So what is affiliate marketing?

In most cases, if you are not a full-blown influencer, or content creator, a brand will give you a link or a code that gives your audience some kind of discount plus gives you a small kick back, or it just gives you a kick back and your audience gets nothing. But ideally you are getting paid or compensated for sharing your link and sharing their product.

Now I know that you might think that this is an easy way to make money. And it can be. But I want people to think long term about their business. I only say this now because hindsight is 2020.

If you already love a brand, and you are a person who really enjoys sharing links or sharing things that you get, AND you do that organically with your audience already – then affiliate marketing can be a simple way to just get a kickback for doing some thing that you’re already doing.

In full transparency, when I started partnering with brands, I was in that boat. Or I was at least willing to try a product for free and then decide if I wanted to work with a brand.

So my question for you is five years down the road when your business is sustainable on its own, do you want to spend time mentioning other brands, keeping up with their promos, or worrying about what that brand is doing and if it still aligns with your brand.

I am not at all saying that affiliate marketing is bad or that it is an inevitable headache because that’s not true. I just want people to think long term and realistically about what affiliate marketing is going to do for their business.

What can you make being an affiliate? What work will that take? And would it be wiser to just spend that time in your own business? I don’t know. That’s why I pose the question.

It’s also possible that you try out affiliate marketing for a while and then decide that you’d rather just not. It’s a great way to support companies that you really believe in and align with your brand. It can be great for networking. But again, what’s the long-term plan? It’s worth looking at in my opinion.

If you were my business client, this is what I would tell you:

Unless you are going to be a full-time content creator, or create a branding package where are you are charging per Instagram post, per story, per reel, I would sit affiliate marketing out and optimize your own business.

If you’re thinking to yourself, “Annie don’t you do affiliate marketing for several brands?” The answer is yes. And I truly love those brands. While loving those brands, I’ve also learned a lot in the last five years since I started affiliate marketing.

That’s where this episode of thoughts comes from.

Let us discuss some things to keep in mind when deciding to hop into affiliate marketing or not. Because there is no right or wrong answer. There is only informed decisions, hopefully.

You don’t control the brands that you partner with, but you are responsible for partnering with them.

It’s just something to consider. Take that for what it’s worth. Is that something that you want to potentially deal with, or not?

For me, it’s something that I personally would rather not deal with. Being responsible for your own brand is enough of a task. Or it certainly is for me at this stage in business.

Again, I have some personal bias here. But when I was doing my end-of-the-year reflection, I really envied people who didn’t hold the title influencer. People who simply post about their expertise, and their own business – they rarely share brand, links or even other creators.. while I do enjoy mostly sharing these things, there is a sense of freedom in not being tied to anything else beyond your own brand.

For me, when I look 5 years down that road, that feels like a breath of fresh air to me.

And yes, I totally realize that that’s much more of a “me thing” than maybe an outward perception. But I try not to make decisions for outward appearance.

So before you look at the possible easy money from affiliate marketing let’s also discuss the fact that you actually need to sell these products in order to make money from sharing them.

This completely depends on your style of business. Sharing other brands might not feel like it’s taking up space from selling your own products or educating your audience with free content. At my current stage of business, five or six years in, it has started to feel that way. And again, I only work with brands that I absolutely love. But even then it can feel like a chore. And it’s not a necessary chore from a monetary standpoint if that makes sense.

Now if you have the time, and the space, and you want to support a given brand while getting a kickback, freaking go for it. It’s not like you are married or under a lifelong contract when you do affiliate marketing.

But do maybe look 3 to 5 years down the road and consider this episode.

If you’re dream life doesn’t actually include posting links for products, or sharing about other brands, maybe reconsider.

And remember that I am talking to people who are not full-time contact creators or affiliate marketers. This would be for people who are going to have a small cash injection into their business for posting about a product that they genuinely support and like.

So I will leave you with a lesson from essentialism. If it’s not a hell yes it’s a no. That is the easiest way I can ask you to look at affiliate marketing when attempting to build your business in the online space.

And that can also be answered brand to brand. Being paid a certain amount might be a hell yes. One brand might be a hell yes while another brand is a no. So this is not all or nothing. Just things to consider if affiliate marketing has been on your radar. Also – if you look at brands that you love and they do affiliate marketing I highly suggest you reach out to them and maybe even inquire how much they make or if they feel it’s worth it.

I have personally done this with people I know. And I also did it with two colleagues before I launched an apparel line. Asked them about their income and what I might expect – why they did it etc.

Which kind of takes us back to the expectation that I think young entrepreneurs have around affiliate marketing. As if it’s this fast money, or easy money. You still have to have an audience that trusts you, and you have to be able to sell the product. If you’ve already honed those skills, is it not better to just work on your own business and optimize your own sales?

Maybe you can do both! Who knows. 

If you are going to dive into affiliate marketing, be sure that the company is going to make it easy for you, that they give you guidance on what you should be posting month-to-month, or what promos they are going to be having, make sure that you get more than a 10 or 15% kickback, and you better make sure that it’s some thing you were audience wants or needs. 

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I'm an adventurous introvert from Vancouver, Washington who lives on sleep + "me time." I'm a lover of lifting weights, dinosaurs, real talk and traveling with my husband. I am here to help you move better, lift more, bust the myths of the fitness industry, and inspire you to love the process.

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