How To Start An Affiliate Marketing Business With 0 To Little Capital

This article has been fact-checked for accuracy.

This article is the second part of the “How To Start An Online Business With 0 To Little Capital” series. To read the other parts, check out the links below.

– Part 1: How I Started A Million Dollar Online Business With $300
– Part 3: How To Start An eCommerce Business With 0 To Little Capital
– Part 4: How To Start An Online Course Business Teaching Your Passion



For those of you who have absolutely no experience in selling online, I strongly believe that you should always start with affiliate marketing. Affiliate marketing gave me my first ever online sale and it always had a special place in my heart. I firmly believe that affiliate marketing is perfect for aspiring online entrepreneurs getting their feet wet in selling online.


So what is affiliate marketing?

You may or may not know this, but affiliate marketing is essentially a referral program set up by a company that provides commissions to affiliates in return of promoting the company’s products.

Here’s an example:

Shopify has an affiliate program. I’ve been using Shopify for the past 3 years and I absolutely love what it does for online businesses. So I sign up for the affiliate program and promote it during my speaking gigs, in blog posts (like this one) and I also share it with my network of people who are into starting their own eCommerce businesses. In return, Shopify gives me $58 for each person that signs up as a result of my referral. The people that I promote Shopify to don’t have to pay a higher price. In fact, by virtue of me being an affiliate – I am actually empowered to give special promotions and discounts to people who sign up via my link.


How fucking awesome is that? So, let’s break it down.

1) I get to promote Shopify – a product that I use and love
2) People get to benefit from my experience with Shopify and get discounts.
3) I get paid for it.

Now that most of my cash cow businesses are already 95% automated, I actually plan to monetize the early stages of this blog with affiliate marketing – so don’t be surprised when you see some affiliate links spread out in our articles. Don’t worry – I will only promote products and services that I personally use and can vouch for. You won’t have to pay extra – at all!

So you see, affiliate marketing is one of the cheapest online business models that you can start with minimal effort and cost. I’ll be upfront, even though I made a couple of sales with affiliate marketing, I did not pursue affiliate marketing after a while because I was stuck in my day job for it to really produce results. For some reason, I ended up quitting my job a while later and started selling physical products instead because it just felt right at that time.

In this guide to affiliate marketing, I’m going to break down the exact steps I took to sell Venus Factor.


Step 1 – Find a profitable niche

You probably heard of this before. There’s a reason why this “find a profitable niche” term is all over the internet. It’s an extremely important step to take when you’re starting an online business from scratch. I cannot stress this enough – being in an unprofitable niche will doom your business to fail before it has even started.

You might make the mistake of thinking you would have to find a niche that has nobody competing in it. If you’re still looking for your first niche, you might assume that you have to find something that no one else knows about. That’s not true.

You want a niche with some level of competition because competition means that there’s money to be made. If you’re looking for a niche so obscure that competition is non-existent, chances are there are not many people looking for products and services in that niche.

In a nutshell, you want to find a profitable niche with people already competing in it.

The best niches that convert the best usually fulfill 1 or 2 of these criteria:-

1) Trending topics (eg. Pet Clothing / Vaping / eSports)
2) Evergreen topics (eg. Personal Finance / Dating / Business)
3) Irrational obsessions (eg. Cars / Golf / Weight Loss)

To make your life easier, I actually have a checklist prepared for you guys with 100 of my best niches. These are mostly multi-million dollar niches (some of them are billion-dollar industries).


Download the List of 100 Best Niches Cheatsheet


Quick Tip:
For a top-level overview, you can visit Google Trends and put in niche keywords to research the number of people are looking for information in that specific niche on Google in general. A healthy uptrend indicates it is a trending niche, whereas a steady looking flat chart over the past 5 years would indicate that the topic is evergreen. Do your homework!


Step 2 – Get specific with your niche

For those of you just starting out with affiliate marketing, drill down as specific as possible after shortlisting 4-5 of the niches that interest you. When deciding on your niche, instead of personal finance in general, you want to drill this down even further into sub-niches like Personal Finance for University Students In Debt, or Personal Finance Tips & Tricks for Expats Living In *Insert Country Here*.

Doing this will make your audience way more defined, and give your marketing strategy the clarity it needs to succeed without a huge marketing budget. To do this, I suggest you use these free tools, Google’s Autocomplete feature as well as Keyword Everywhere.

Using personal finance as a niche example, use these tools to find out what sort of keywords are people searching for when it comes to personal finance.

With Keywords Everywhere combined with Google’s Autocomplete feature, I’m able to see that personal finance for women has 140 searches a month. Personal finance for teens has 210 searches a month. While this may not sound like a lot, the people searching for these terms on Google are highly relevant people to your business.

The data in the image above is based on only US search data, and the US only takes up 4.2% of the entire world’s population. Let’s just assume the world only has 250 million people – the population in America. Your website will still be discovered by 140 people every single month! Now, let’s scale it up by 18x to the global population excluding China, and you’d have 2,520 searches per month.

To top it all off, these are people looking for products or services that they can subscribe or buy to help them solve their problems.

While it may be tempting to want to tackle all of these at once, my suggestion is to shortlist 2-3 sub-niches and proceed to the next step.


Step 3 – Find Products & Services To Sell

If you have a specific product in mind, go ahead and check if they have an affiliate program on their website. If they have one, the link to the affiliate program is usually in the footer. If not, you can go to any of the marketplaces and affiliate networks listed below.


1) Clickbank

One of the biggest marketplaces to find digital products (e-books, courses and software). Clickbank is where I found Venus Factor. A lot of the best affiliate marketers in the world promote products available on Clickbank. So they’re a legit start. They have multiple payout options, Payoneer (one of my favorite companies – I’ll write a post about them soon), direct bank transfer and even physical cheques. The usual payout threshold is USD10, which means that you’ll need at least USD10 in commissions before they make the payment.

One thing to note though is that the quality of product vendors on this marketplace has seen a steady decline, meaning that there are some really shitty products being sold there. Do your research, find a product that can really solve your audience’s needs – so that you can sell them more stuff in the future.


2) CJ.com – Commission Junction

Commission Junction is another popular affiliate network that’s been around for about 21 years. Lots of professional affiliate marketers rely on their product needs. They have some of the world’s biggest brands on board, so that’s good news. On the flip side, their commissions are generally lower than the other affiliate networks out there. I guess big brands drive a harder bargain.

As an affiliate marketer, by promoting bigger brands and better products, you will gain more trust with your audience.

Remember, in the online space, trust = money. More Trust = More Money.


3) ShareASale.com

Another fantastic affiliate marketplace that is extremely popular – especially in the US. They’ve been in the business for 19 years and they have tons of merchants across every single niche. All you have to do is sign up for an account and start browsing for products to sell.

And to be candid, I foresee that I will be using them quite a bit in The Money Hustler’s blog.

Why, you ask?

Some of my favorite tools are listed on ShareASale.com. For example, I use Grammarly a lot, since you know – I write quite a bit. My personal blog is built on StudioPress, which is also on ShareASale. These are world-class tools with world-class support that I have no problem promoting because I truly believe that these products can really help people build successful online businesses.


4) Rakuten Linkshare

One of the oldest affiliate networks in the business, Rakuten Linkshare started in 1996 but did not grow into a behemoth like it’s counterparts. Don’t get me wrong, they have at least 1,000 merchants on board and have multiple huge brands working with them. So don’t just brush them off, they are still one of the top affiliate networks in the world and have exceptionally good governance and payment schedules.


5) Notable Mention: Amazon Associates

Even though they’re a behemoth – which might be an understatement, I’m only classifying Amazon Associates as a notable mention. They’re not really my favorite because I’m a bit cautious about Amazon’s business practices. I see them as a ruthless company that will do whatever it takes to cut costs, and I foresee that they will progressively reduce their affiliate commissions as they grow larger. Hence, I wouldn’t build my affiliate strategy and offerings around what Amazon has to offer.

I can’t deny that Amazon’s website converts like crazy and you can make some serious money becoming an Amazon Associate. I would suggest leveraging on their affiliate program to drive some short term results and use them as sparingly as your profits allow you to.

There you have it, these are some of my favorite affiliate networks so far. Ideally, you’d want to mix and match from all different platforms to promote a mix of products and services. This is to diversify risk in a sense that when one merchant decides to shut down their affiliate programs, you’d still have other revenue streams.


Step 4 – Create A Blog or Website

This is the part where most people would fall off and not take any action. I know I said that you don’t need a blog or a website to start running an affiliate marketing business but it would be best if you have one. Perhaps you could get your feet wet manually marketing on social media groups or forums with your affiliate links – but it won’t be a sustainable business practice.

The reason being, if you’re building your business on Facebook groups, forums and other community networks, you lose control over your future income.

Why?

You don’t own these networks and you’ll be at the mercy of someone else.
To truly take control of your online business success, you have to own it. The best way to do this is by starting a blog or a website, with your own domain. I am a control freak and I will never feel comfortable to be at the mercy of giants like Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, huge forums and Amazon. Take Amazon, for example, their goal is to become the everything store and be the supplier for the world.

For these giants to maintain profitability, they’d have to limit affiliate marketing. Doing business on these business platforms puts you at the risk that they’ll remove all of your affiliate related posts and comments – leaving you with absolutely nothing. While you may not appreciate it now, you’ll thank me when you have a huge affiliate blog or eCommerce website that you own bringing you revenue while you sleep.

With this in mind, the ideal situation for affiliate marketing would only be a supportive income stream rather than your main source of revenue. To minimize this risk, don’t focus all of your efforts onto just one affiliate network – diversify your risk across affiliate networks so that if one of them suddenly decides to be an asshole, you could just leave and not worry about your income stream so much.

One of the easiest ways to create a blog or website is via WordPress (this blog is built on WordPress). You can literally get a website up and running in under 30 minutes. Almost all of my websites are built with a combination of WordPress and Shopify. There are other web platforms like Wix and Squarespace but I find them extremely limiting and nothing beats the SEO power of WordPress sites. I can’t remember the exact numbers but there’s a reason why WordPress takes up 30-40% of the entire internet’s websites.

Even though I’d like to talk more about blogging in this post, I’d like to focus more on affiliate marketing so I’ll leave it at that. If you want to learn how to do this, read this post on How To Start A WordPress Blog In Under 30 Minutes.

I hope that this post can inspire you to start an affiliate marketing business if you’re on the fence. If you’re unsure or not confident if you can build an online business from the ground up, I’m proof that you can.

Once again, leave a comment. I want to hear from you!



This article is the second part of the “How To Start An Online Business With 0 To Little Capital” series. To read the other parts, check out the links below.

– Part 1: How I Started A Million Dollar Online Business With $300
– Part 3: How To Start An eCommerce Business With 0 To Little Capital
– Part 4: How To Start A Online Course Business Teaching Your Passion


You too can start an affiliate marketing business with zero to little capital. Read more to find out how you can start one yourself.

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3 thoughts on “How To Start An Affiliate Marketing Business With 0 To Little Capital”

  1. Hi there! Do you know if they make any plugins to assist with Search Engine Optimization? I’m trying
    to get my blog to rank for some targeted keywords but I’m not seeing very good success. If you know of any please share.
    Many thanks!

  2. Excellent goods from you, man. Your content is just fantastic.
    You make it entertaining and you still care to keep it actionable.

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