The prospect of making money online inspires content creators to get started with affiliate marketing. However, beginner affiliates may not have the budget required to set up a system conducive to selling products.
Does that mean they can’t succeed with affiliate marketing without an investment? Of course not. It is possible. And in this blog post, we will show you how.
We will first discuss the costs associated with a generic affiliate marketing business. Next, we will show you how to cut those expenses to zero.
But remember, by cutting costs, you are trading time for money. You will have to do the initial groundwork yourself for months before you see the dollars roll in. Then, you may consider delegating some key activities to professionals and buying tools that improve your content quality to drive more sales.
Let’s dive in.
Costs Associated with Affiliate Marketing
Here are a few aspects of affiliate marketing that require a budget.
1. Setup Costs:
The most popular and effective way to manage and grow an affiliate business is through a blog. It lets you attract organic traffic that converts at a better rate, build an email list, and develop trust and authority.
But there are a few setup costs associated with running a blog. The list includes purchasing:
- A web host like Hostinger, BlueHost, etc.
- Domain name.
- A theme.
- Website Design
However, many beginner affiliates opt for free themes to save on costs.
2. Content Creation:
Irrespective of the affiliate platform, content creation requires a budget.
- Affiliates who own a website recruit content writers and editors to craft high-quality blog posts that attract traffic and drive sales. They may also hire photoshop experts to design their banner and in-text images, gifs, and other visual media.
- YouTubers and Tik Tokers may hire video editors and Adobe Premiere Pro and After Effect experts. Some richer affiliates hire VAs to manage their account.
- Affiliates on Instagram and Pinterest hire photoshop experts, social media managers, and VAs.
3. Content Distribution:
Creating quality content is only half the work done. It is equally important to get the content to the relevant audience. Affiliates may spend on:
- Paid advertising on Google and Social Media is the fastest way to drive traffic to affiliate pages.
- Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the best way to drive organic traffic to a website. Affiliates usually spend on tools like Ahrefs, SEMRush, etc.
- Affiliates may outsource SEO, Paid advertising, and social media management to marketing agencies that usually cost a bomb.
4. Affiliate Networks:
Most affiliate networks cost nothing, but some premium portals charge a fee.
Now that we know where affiliates spend to sustain their business, we can discuss how you can avoid that.
How to start affiliate marketing with no money?
Follow these 9 simple steps:
- Pick a micro-niche
- Select a free platform to grow your audience
- Produce and Edit content using free tools
- Distribute content using free tools
- Avoid Outsourcing
- Sign up with free affiliate networks
- Select products with a reasonable ticket value
- Create free assets to direct your traffic to
- Connect your accounts
1. Pick a Micro Niche.
Succeeding in niches with the high competition requires a big budget. Your competitors have already set up a base and built on it, so to beat them, you need to produce a lot more quality content at a fast pace. As a solo affiliate, it’s humanly not possible to do that.
The only way to succeed is to find a micro niche with lesser competition. For example, cooking is a highly saturated niche with many seasoned players. If you start a hobby blog on cooking, you won’t get any traffic until you focus on a specific brand of cooking.
Even if you pick a sub-nice like Indian cooking, you still have high competition. So the solution is to choose a micro-niche like cooking Mexican dishes using an air fryer or outdoor cooking for vegan dishes. This niche attracts a sliver of online audience base tuned in to cooking.
It has much less competition and more potential to generate revenue. Once you develop authority in the micro-niche, you can “niche up” and cover content on broader topics within the niche.
Here’s where you can find the exact steps you need to follow to pick the right niche.
2. Select a Free Platform to Grow Your Audience.
We have already established that starting a blog requires an initial investment. But does that mean you can’t earn money through blogging without investment? Nope. You can leverage platforms like Medium and Blogger to promote your affiliate products for free.
Remember, you can’t drive a lot of organic traffic through these domains because they cover a very wide audience base. For example, Medium has blog posts on cooking, sports, relationships, marketing, etc. The list doesn’t end there. Google and other search engines do not provide topical authority to the platform. But you can sell products to visitors local to that platform.
If videos are your choice of content type, YouTube and Tik Tok are your best choices. While Instagram and Pinterest are the best affiliate marketing platforms for an image-based business that let you start without investment.
But the list doesn’t end there. Here is a complete collection of free affiliate marketing platforms.
- Tik Tok
- Downloadable Content
- Blogger/ Medium
- Quora/ Reddit
- Direct Messaging – WhatsApp, Telegram
- Free Landing Pages
Check out our blog post on free affiliate marketing platforms, where we have covered the above list in detail.
3. Produce and Edit Content Using Free Tools.
Many content creators feel that they need to invest a lot of money to create quality content. Though that’s partially true – you do need top-quality content to succeed in Affiliate marketing – but in the beginning, you can go slightly easy on content quality.
Create Images, Gifs, and Videos Using Free Tools.
Suppose your niche is dishwashing – an iPhone image of you using the dishwashers is sufficient. You do not need a DSLR image carefully edited by a photoshop expert. And if you want to enhance quality for free, many free online tools help you edit the image. Even Instagram filters work.
Also, websites like Unsplash, canva, pexels, etc., host thousands of license-free, professional images that you can pick and use.
If you intend to create images instead of using the free ones, Canva is the best tool for that. In fact, you can create videos, powerpoints, infographics, and gifs using this tool.
Write Quality Content Using Free Tools.
Using free tools applies to content writing as well. You do not need a paid Grammarly account right away – a free account will do. It lets you quickly edit obviously grammatical errors. Also, though it may take a while, you can address advanced suggestions in the Grammarly editor with a bit of intuition.
In addition, you can use the Coschedule Headline analyzer to write catchy titles. This tool is free for 25 use cases, but it cuts down on features after that for free accounts.
4. Distribute content using free tools.
As an Affiliate Marketer, aim to attract relevant traffic to your content. Accomplished businesses hire SEO agencies and Social Media Marketing managers to drive quality traffic. However, since you function in a micro-niche, you do not need a huge team to take care of that. You can do it yourself.
- Free SEO Tools
SEO matters not just for a blog but also for your social media posts. Getting your keywords right is essential for both platforms. But if you own a blog, generating quality backlinks is equally important.
A ton of free tools can help you with that. Ahrefs, Moz, SEMRush are efficient tools that have some free options. For example, Ahref Backlinks Checker is an efficient tool to check the backlinks of any website – you or your competitor. SEMRush is a gem for keyword research.
You can use Google Pagespeed Insights to check your page load time and optimize it. GTMetrix is yet another free tool that you can use for technical analysis.
Google Analytics can help you with data analysis for your campaigns.
There are many other tools like Ubersuggest, Keywords Everywhere, Answer the Public that this website uses regularly.
These tools will help you optimize your content for search intent, driving organic traffic to your platform.
- Free Social Media Tools
Social media tools can help you write better posts with greater reach and traction, schedule your content, and analyze performance. They can also help you with social listening that tells you what your target audience is talking about. You can also do a competitor analysis and comparison with them.
- Email Newsletter Tools
This method is useful only after you get some success from SEO and Social Media. Essentially, you get visitors from different channels to your content and ask them to subscribe to your newsletter.
If your content is helpful, your audience might want to get more of it, and that’s when they will subscribe. Over a few months, you will build a substantial email list.
Next, you can send weekly/monthly email notifications to attract returning visitors. The more frequently people interact with your business, the better the chances they purchase your affiliate products.
Many service providers let you use their template and database for free. For example, Mailchimp allows a basic template and automation for a small email list at no cost. You can set up your email campaign using this tool.
The problem with using free tools is that you do not get everything in one place. You need to juggle across tabs, and you will find it tough to identify a single source of truth. In addition, free tools come with a limited time functionality, after which their features are highly limited.
But if you want to start your affiliate business with no money, that’s the way to go.
5. Avoid Outsourcing in the Beginning.
When you start affiliate marketing for no money, you will find yourself doing everything. It’s equivalent to a full-time job. It takes consistency, discipline, and months of hard work before you earn your first dollar.
You may find putting your savings into the business – is a sensible way to cut down on the workload. Investing in your business is good if you can afford it. But since this blog post talks about affiliate marketing without investment, I will ask you to hold your horses.
Outsourcing is an expensive proposition. Quality content writers, VAs, social media managers, and designers do not come for cheap. Hiring them will increase expenses while making no money for you for a long time.
So as hard as it may sound, you have to do everything yourself, at least till the point your business is making enough money to sustain itself. You can then put every dime your business earns back into it and watch it take off.
Affiliate marketing is a test of patience; that is why choosing the right niche is so important. You will run out of patience and passion if you are not enjoying the process. Creating content for a long time while seeing no profits is the name of the game – the only thing that can sustain you is your love for the topic.
6. Sign up with Free Affiliate Networks.
Now you know how to create and distribute content without a financial investment. It’s time to start looking at the revenue options.
Affiliate networks are platforms where merchants advertise their products to affiliates who can then apply for the merchant’s affiliate program. If the merchant likes the affiliates’ credentials and follower-base, they accept them into the program and both parties get into an agreement.
These portals help merchants set up their program while providing affiliates all the assets they need to succeed with affiliate marketing for the sellers’ products. They help affiliates get unique links and access metrics.
Even though most affiliate platforms are free, a few of them charge a small refundable amount to keep the platform spam-free.
You can sign up with any network and apply for any merchant affiliate program that you like and start selling at no cost.
7. Select products with a reasonable ticket value.
As a beginner affiliate with no money, you must optimize your limited resources. You invest hours in creating content and distributing it, so you must create the right assets that can potentially generate some income.
If you target high-ticket products like refrigerators, TVs, dishwashers, etc; you are limiting your sales. This is because people do a lot of research before making a purchase decision. A single Pinterest image or medium blog post may not be enough. So, once they consume your content, they will read other opinions and reviews and not use your affiliate link to buy anything.
Alternatively, you will barely make any money if you target low-ticket products like books, cups, etc. That’s because a low-cost product, even with high commissions, will generate a low income for you.
For example, a high-ticket product worth $2000 will generate $200 income for you at a 10% commission. But a product worth $50 will generate only $5 at the same commission rate.
Do not go too high or too low in terms of the ticket price; pick something in the middle. For example, a product worth $150 will generate $15 at a 10% commission rate. $15 may not be a big amount, but this product can surely make more sales than a $2000 product. So what you lose on the ticket value, you gain on the volume of sales.
And once you build enough authority in your niche, you can sell items worth more because of your newfound brand value.
8. Create free assets to direct your traffic to.
You may not have an owned platform (like a blog) to create and host pages, but you still need landing pages to direct your visitors to. Landing pages can host your subscription form, product information, or anything else that can either add trust to your business or generate sales.
You can create landing pages with your email service provider but Wix lets you create them for free, and so does Canva.
Another destination where you can divert your traffic to is informational assets like eBooks, PPTs, PDFs, etc. These assets can be used to pack more information that your visitors may need to make a purchase.
But make sure these assets are well designed. Even when you are in a no investment business, you can’t afford low-quality pages. A well-designed asset can generate more sales than a template.
As discussed earlier, you can make your content design stand out with Canva.
9. Connect your accounts and assets.
By now, you have a set of social media platforms, free accounts, landing pages, and other assets that you use to promote your affiliate products. Each of them generates traction through different channels like SEO, Social Media traffic, Email traffic, etc.
What if you could combine the powers?
Sure, Captain Planet won’t show up, but your business might boom.
The more connected your business is, the more aligned your efforts are. Your visitors will consume more of your content, leading to better conversion rates.
So if you have a Tik Tok account and Pinterest account, make sure you ask your followers on each platform to follow you on the other. Similarly, include links to your social handles on your landing pages. The intent is to keep visitors hooked to your content for as long as possible.
In this blog post, we covered 9 simple steps to start affiliate marketing with no money. We showed you how you can start and grow your affiliate business with zero investment.
But is it really free? Probably not, you are trading time for money, and that’s okay. Most beginners do not have any resources to start with. So to start and sustain a business is not just about making money but also about building certain personality traits like patience and persistence.
And once you set the ball rolling, things become easy. You make more money that can be invested back into the business and watch it grow by leaps and bounds.
We have covered a lot of ground in this article, but we understand that every affiliate has unique hurdles. If we missed anything of value to you, please ask your questions in the comments below.