What are the nuts and bolts of affiliate marketing?

A regular day job where you punch in at 9 in the morning and punch out at 5 in the evening might work for some people, but for others, it offers little more than dreary drudgery. This dynamic can be even more unbearable when you take some time off and have to return to the routine after your break.

I am going to tell you a similar story, one that I went through myself, about how this exact situation wore me down until I could not take it anymore. Then I will tell you how I got out of it and provide you some insight for how you can get out of the rat race if you feel the same way I and thousands of other people did.

Getting Away From It All

Our story begins on a Friday evening in the heart of a medium-sized city. I just got off of work from my job at a construction company firm where I spent the day managing my projects and our employees when I felt the first bit of excitement I had all week: I was going on vacation. Because my firm had just taken on several new projects a few months prior, I was burned out and ready for a break. And let me tell you, if you have never been to Yucatan, Mexico and have the chance to go, I cannot recommend it enough.


Whether you want to spend your time lounging on the beach sipping tropical drinks or your nights in a high-end nightclub, the “Island Life” has got you covered. Unfortunately, while I certainly enjoyed my time on vacation, I was not able to truly let go and feel free - I could not completely enjoy myself.

Every time I lost myself in snorkeling or zip lines or any other activity, there remained a nagging feeling in the back of my mind, gnawing at me, preventing me from just being in the moment. That feeling, I realized, was the acknowledgment that soon enough my vacation would be over and I would have to go back to work.

Back to the Grind

Then the day came when my vacation ended and I had to fly back home to my job, a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach reminding me that not only was I not looking forward to getting back to work but I had not even enjoyed my vacation to the fullest because of it.

Still, ever the stalwart soldier, I shouldered on and got back to work, this time with even the smallest pleasures I had taken before gone, now fully aware of what I was missing. Then by chance, I saw an ad on YouTube one night after getting done with an especially grueling and unfruitful day at work. I had not seen this guy before but quickly learned he had done quite well for himself online and assumed he was part of one startup or another. The first thing I noticed, though, was how happy and relaxed he seemed. He was exuberant and excited - a far cry from my weathered and brow-beaten self who just wanted to lose himself in YouTube clips to put my mind on anything else than work.

After watching more of his video, he shared what his secret was, what was it exactly that allowed him to be successful without the requisite slog dragging him down. This is where I first heard about affiliate marketing and it would eventually set me on a path to freedom - but I still was not convinced.

What to Do?

To someone stuck in this cycle and unable to see a way out, the future can seem like a pretty bleak place-- and I completely understand. I sympathize with all of you who currently experience that same sinking feeling and can identify with what I went through, hoping there is a way out.

If it makes you feel better, you are not alone in this feeling as upwards of 85% of people polled by Gallup reported disliking or outright hating their job for a multitude of reasons (source). Everything from a terrible boss to equally terrible coworkers to simply a job that no longer interests you and more account for this feeling.

Thankfully, the internet brought with it far more than convenient ways to stay in touch with old friends who live out of state or endless videos of funny animals. While the wheel of time may seem to move slowly, the instant interconnection of the internet accelerates current trends we see today.

Source: https://www.statista.com/statistics/379112/e-commerce-share-of-retail-sales-in-us/
Source: https://www.statista.com/statistics/379112/e-commerce-share-of-retail-sales-in-us/

In 2017, e-commerce or retail shopping online counted for just under 10% of all sales while that number is expected to jump well over 16% this year, and its speed is increasing. Keep reading as I tell you how you can not only get in on this action but do so without having to worry about all of the details that even e-commerce retailers have to deal with.

Brave New World

So you might look at those numbers and think to yourself, well 9% to 16% in 3 years is a good jump but it is still a paltry amount compared to the other 84%. Sure, if you choose to look at it as a static number it might seem small, but it is important to remember that the 16% represents $601.75 billion (source).

I do not know what field you currently work in at the moment, but there is a good chance that it does not dwarf over $600 billion outside of a few outliers. That said, what is the quickest, easiest way to get into this market without having to pour in huge investments from your own pocket? Affiliate marketing.

If you do not know anything about affiliate marketing already, the most you have probably heard about it involves one celebrity or an “influencer” being paid thousands of dollars to endorse some company’s product through social media. However, you do not need to be a celebrity or influencer or a known commodity of any kind.

All you need to do is learn how to engage in effective digital marketing to drive traffic to brands and companies which will then pay you a commission of those sales. While it might be a somewhat new landscape, ask yourself, is it really that different than selling whatever product or service you currently do?

I Want to Break Free

Now I know what a lot of you are thinking right now, “I have no idea how to make money in e-commerce and still have bills to pay. There is no way I can afford to quit my job to do this.” Well, let me lighten your load a little bit and tell you that there is absolutely no reason you need to quit your job to start.

I certainly did not quit my job just to start making money doing something that provided far more freedom of choice across multiple areas of my life. Instead, I spent a few hours a week, more on the weekends, translating some basic skills I already learned in my other profession to a new format.

If you currently work 50+ hours as I did, that might seem like a big-time investment, but how much time are you currently wasting driving to and from work or stuck in meetings listening to a boss who has no idea what you do but still feels entitled to tell you how to do it? That is the great thing about affiliate marketing and the reason to take the plunge: the freedom.

Consider this: with affiliate marketing, you do not have a boss to answer to - no one to tell you what to work on, how long to work, or judging your performance. Even better, you can do affiliate marketing from anywhere in the world so long as you have access to an internet connection, meaning no commute and no geographical ties.

Exit Through Affiliation

Now, I am not going to lie as I have never been a sales guy, and getting involved in affiliate marketing was somewhat overwhelming in the beginning. On top of that, I also had no relationship with the payment model - it took me a bit to get over the idea that I would exclusively rely on commission where I once had a salary.

However, I now realize that the salary was more of an anchor, an albatross around my neck, keeping me in place, and less willing to take risks than it was a saving grace. A big part of why comes down to how much possibility there is for affiliate marketing with your imagination being the only real limitation.

Unless you have already done the research, there is a good chance that you are not aware of exactly how many brands and companies offer affiliate programs. Think of any retail product, no matter how expensive or specialized, or even a retail service, and there is a great chance they offer affiliate marketing prospects.

One of the best things about this model is how easy it is to get started with the first step is signing up for a brand or company’s affiliate marketing program. After signing up, the brand or company in question will provide you a unique link that tracks all traffic driven by you and pays you a commission for all sales made through that traffic.

All Skill Sets Welcome

One of the best things about affiliate marketing is that most of the job requires little or no input on your end outside being able to drive traffic. You are not the merchant and do not have to worry about fulfilling orders or shipping products to the people who purchase through your affiliate link.

Likewise, there is no expectation that you house the products anywhere nor interact with the customers in any way either before purchase or afterward. Though I would be lying if I said you did not need to do anything or possess any skills, but the main part of your job involves digital marketing.

That is the one part of this whole process that you cannot do without, and that might be the one thing that you genuinely have to learn if you do not already know how it works. Thankfully, most of the same principles used for traditional marketing apply to digital marketing with only the format being different.

Even better, once you get a foothold with your affiliate marketing platforms, there exists a wealth of tools and tech to automate the process, so it becomes little more than turn-key thereafter. As long as you have a laptop or computer and reliable internet access, you can be well on your way to supplementing your current job with a passive income if not outearning your current job altogether.

One Hit Wonders

The first form of commission you can earn through affiliate marketing is what I like to refer to as one-hit wonders since you only earn commission through these purchases once. Keep in mind, there is no actual limit to how much money or how many times you can earn commission through this method.

However, when a person purchases a product through your affiliate link, you will only be paid for that order a single time (unlike some of the other methods). While this may seem less viable, it is important to remember that people buy things online all the time, and there is no reason you cannot be the one earning commission through those purchases.

On top of that, large online retailers like Amazon and others often bundle commissions in a way that can earn you far more than just the single product your affiliate link may target. For example, if you become an Amazon affiliate, you earn commission on every purchase made at once after clicking your link.

Granted, the consumer may just click your link, buy the single item, and close out the webpage, but people often purchase multiple items per visit-- sometimes thousands of dollars worth. If someone clicks your link to purchase, say, a microphone, and add more electronic equipment to their cart, you earn commission on everything in their cart.

Milking the Cow

Now while one-hit wonders often make up a majority of commissioned sales, they are far from the easiest or most reliable form of passive income you can generate from affiliate marketing. One of my favorite affiliate marketing revenue streams comes from subscription models which I like to think of as milking a cow.

The way this affiliate revenue stream works is similar to the one-hit-wonder except instead of earning commission just once, you can potentially earn commission on a single sale for years. Much in the same way that you can milk a cow every day for nutritious milk, a consumer’s purchase of a subscription keeps paying you a commission as long as they maintain the subscription.

One thing to keep in mind when targeting subscription models as part of affiliate marketing is that someone can purchase a service and stay with that service for years. Not only does this provide a passive income stream for the entirety of their subscription, but you earn a commission on whatever the payment plan is - whether monthly, quarterly, or yearly.

This is by far one of my personal favorite forms of affiliate marketing as people tend to stick with a service that they like - though this means you might want to do a bit more research when choosing which services to endorse. Not only do you want to make sure the subscription services have a good retention rate but also offer a good commission.

Whale Hunting

The final form of affiliate marketing commissions I want to discuss with you is more similar to one-hit wonders than milking the cow but is different enough in the approach that it deserves its own section: whale hunting. Many markets and industries rely on making a few sales to select individuals who are willing to pay far more than the average consumer.

Those industries often refer to their consumers as whales, a term that can trace its origins back to competitive gambling - specifically poker players. For our purposes, whale hunting refers to looking for items that have extremely high costs but provide a similarly high pay-out in commission for driving sales. An example of this might be an automobile that likely costs thousands of dollars for the consumer but may provide a commission of 30%, 40%, or more. While you are not likely to draw nearly as many people in to purchase these big-ticket items as you are less expensive options or even subscription services, when you do, the commission is likely also in the hundreds or thousands of dollars.

Something to consider for whale hunting is that it requires a slightly different approach than the previous two types of affiliate marketing. Though whale hunting might ostensibly be similar to one-hit wonders, the potential consumer base is significantly smaller, so your marketing needs to be even more focused and refined when targeting them.

Putting It All Together

Now that we covered the basics of different affiliate marketing products, it is important to understand that being successful in this industry rarely works through specialization. That is not to say you cannot be successful specializing, but you have a far better chance of meeting or exceeding your current income with as many pots on the stove as possible.

Of course, the principle of sticking to what you know and love still holds, otherwise what is the point in going from one unsatisfying job to another. But you should make it a point to find products and services in all three of these branches to provide commission for your affiliate marketing to be as successful as possible.

This is what I like to call the “Affiliate Triangle” and it can be seen as a similar principle to diversifying your investments to ensure that you always earn from one even if another underperforms at one time or another. For instance, you may not land any whales one month but do not have to worry because you would still earn commissions from milking subscriptions and your one-hit wonders.

This principle holds true across the triangle and by identifying different products in each field, you can ensure that you always have a steady stream of passive income.

Staying in Touch

Now the final question you probably have is exactly how do you get started in this field - what are the nuts and bolts of affiliate marketing. Well, affiliate marketing is not terribly different from marketing in general, though the format and platforms definitely differ - but this is a great thing.

Rather than spending your days on a phone cold-calling potential clients (or worse showing up in person unannounced) and being rejected more often than not, you create content that does all of the work for you. I am still keeping to my promise earlier that you do not need any special technical skills to accomplish this.

That said, if you do not create and manage the content yourself, you will have to pay someone to do it for you. Thankfully, there is a thriving gig economy of people online who will pretty much take care of everything for you, and the best part is that they are not expensive to hire either - certainly not as expensive as hiring an employee.

Not only can you hire someone to write a blog post or review, but people also make videos or engage in social media marketing campaigns for pennies on the dollar compared to traditional media. Of course, you can always save your hard-earned money and perform one or more of these tasks yourself - you probably already have the skills to do so, even if you do not know it.


While I may have laid out a seemingly straightforward scenario that virtually anyone can follow, do not let me lie to you and say that it is effortless. I stand by the statement I made earlier that virtually anyone can create a better life for themself through affiliate marketing, but it still takes the will and effort and to do the work.

However, by reading my story and considering the information presented to you therein, you have taken the first step on a journey to freeing yourself from the wage slavery that 85% of people loathe. Now the question is that since you have the basics down on how to take charge of your life, what are you going to do with it?

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