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Is Affiliate Marketing Legit? The Honest Truth (2024 Guide)

Don't Work Another Day is reader-supported. We may receive compensation from the products and services mentioned in this story, but the opinions are the author's own.
  By Forrest McCall | Last Updated:  December 22, 2022

Is affiliate marketing legit?

If you're here, you might be wondering if affiliate marketing is a scam.

Chances are you've heard about it somewhere online and it simply sounds too good to be true.

So, what's the answer? Is affiliate marketing just some big scam, pyramid scheme, or MLM?

The honest answer: affiliate marketing is 100% legit and it's not any of those things. Let me explain…

In this article, I'm covering:

  • What affiliate marketing is and, more importantly, what it isn't.
  • How it works.
  • How to get started as a beginner (if you want to).
  • The best affiliate marketing books, and
  • The best affiliate marketing training I've ever seen.

Okay, let's get into it.

What is Affiliate Marketing? 

The most simple way to understand affiliate marketing is to look at it like a partnership. An affiliate (you) partners with a brand to get paid to promote their products.

Affiliate marketing is a marketing arrangement where a business pays a commission to an affiliate for traffic or sales generated through referrals. 

In simpler terms, you can become an affiliate of your favorite brand and get paid to recommend their products and/or services.

When someone buys the product via an affiliate recommendation, the affiliate (you) will earn a commission. 

It doesn't cost the buyer anything extra and they never know it's happening behind the scenes. 

Affiliate marketers are everyday people who sign up for different affiliate programs, get special links, and promote products to their audience. 

In fact, I am an affiliate marketer and I generate commissions through products I recommend on this website, on Tik Tok, and to my email subscribers. 

It's natural, non-salesy, and I get paid for recommending products and services I know and love with my readers.

What Qualifies Me To Tell You About Affiliate Marketing?

I'm Forrest, the creator of this website and digital marketing extraordinaire. I've made over 6-figures from affiliate marketing and love helping others learn how they can do the same thing!

I'm here to drop all my digital marketing knowledge on you as fast as you can catch it.

I've been working online full-time since 2017, and my primary source of website income is from affiliate marketing.

So, I take joy in the fact that I know a thing or two… or three… or ten, about affiliate marketing.

In fact, affiliate marketing is the business model that got me interested in entrepreneurship in the first place. And I've tried many different business models, but affiliate marketing has been the most consistent.

I've earned thousands of dollars with affiliate marketing and my revenue and income still increase every single month.

I've also fallen victim to a scam or two in my early days, so I know what to look for and what to avoid.

As a result, all of this makes me uniquely qualified to answer the following question with confidence and certainty.

Is Affiliate Marketing Legit? 

Yes, affiliate marketing is 100% legit. It's not a scam or a scheme, it's a legitimate business model that has been used for decades (or longer) to help businesses increase their customer base. 

In fact, the biggest brands in the world use affiliate marketing to increase their sales. 

Brands like Walmart, Amazon, and more all have affiliate programs. 

In fact, one of the top affiliate programs I promote on this website is through Amazon. 

When I write gear reviews and recommend products that are sold on Amazon, I have the chance to make a commission if someone buys it. 

“Is affiliate marketing legit?” is one of the top questions I hear. Many people wonder if affiliate marketing is a scam because there are some scammy affiliate marketers and programs out there. 

While those people or those particular programs might be scammy, affiliate marketing is a business model and it is totally legit. 

How Affiliate Marketing Works

Affiliate marketing is everywhere. I'm 100% sure that you have purchased a product that paid someone an affiliate commission at least one time in your life. 

Have you ever considered buying a product but decided to read reviews about it ahead of time? 

If you've ever gone to Google and read a product review before purchasing a product, there's a really good chance someone earned a commission when you finally purchased it. 

Affiliate marketers apply or sign up to affiliate programs and are given a special tracking link called an affiliate link. When someone buys after clicking the link, the affiliate is paid a percentage of the sale, called a commission.

Affiliate links are trackable, like I mentioned above. So depending on the program, it might track for up to a month, but some only track for one day.

So what does that mean? 

In simple terms, if you have a 30-day tracking affiliate link, then anyone who purchases the product within 30 days of clicking your link will earn you a commission. 

Affiliates promote links in many ways, like in blog posts, YouTube videos, social media, and more. 

The whole point of affiliate marketing is to help companies get more customers without paying for ineffective advertising. 

With this method, they only have to pay the affiliate if they make a sale. It's a win-win for everyone involved. 

Is Affiliate Marketing a Pyramid Scheme?

No, affiliate marketing is not a pyramid scheme. It's a business model. 

However, I totally understand why some people think it's a pyramid scheme. 

There are a lot of affiliate marketing “courses” out there that claim to teach you how to make money with affiliate marketing, but only if you promote their course. 

That sounds a LOT like a pyramid scheme to me! 

Certain programs might be a pyramid scheme, and it's best to avoid those. But affiliate marketing is a legit business method that has been around forever and will continue to be around – because it works. 

Is Affiliate Marketing an MLM? 

Affiliate marketing is not an MLM. It is a business model where affiliates earn money for promoting products and services. 

However, like I mentioned in the previous section, there are programs and courses that claim to teach affiliate marketing that function a lot like an MLM.

These programs might tell you that the best way to make money with affiliate marketing is to sign up for their course and then promote their product to other people. 

However, you don't have to join these programs to make money. You can make money with any affiliate marketing program on the internet today. 

So, if you're asking: is affiliate marketing legit? YES. Is it a pyramid scheme or MLM? NO.

Is Affiliate Marketing Profitable? 

Heck yes, affiliate marketing is profitable! This business model requires no money to get started, no inventory, and no shipping costs. All you have to do is sign up for a program, promote the products, and get paid when you help make a sale. 

As far as profitability goes, affiliate marketing is probably the most profitable business model out there. 

Other business models like Amazon FBA or dropshipping require you to invest several hundred to thousands of dollars to get started. 

You also have to deal with customer service, advertising fees, and more. 

You don't have to worry about any of that with affiliate marketing. 

With this online business method, you get to leverage other people's expertise and hot-selling products. 

There is no other business model in the world where you can leverage the success of another business to make money like you can with affiliate marketing. 

Can You Really Make Money With It? 

Yes, anyone who can use a computer and navigate the internet can make money with affiliate marketing.

However, it's not as simple as just signing up, posting your link everywhere, and sitting back while the money rolls in. 

Affiliate marketing is a business. And like all businesses it requires you to sit down and learning how to be successful with it. 

The good news is that you don't need to go to college or take any courses or get any certifications to make money with affiliate marketing. 

There are thousands of free articles and YouTube videos on the internet that will teach you to do affiliate marketing… you just have to know where to look! 

How To Start Affiliate Marketing for Beginners

This section will be an overview about how to start affiliate marketing for beginners. 

Choose a Niche

Before you even start thinking about affiliate marketing, you need to choose a niche. 

“Niche” is a marketing term that describes a topic or a category. Choosing your niche will help you narrow down what affiliate product you promote. 

As a beginner, you should choose one affiliate product or program and go all-in on it. Once you get more experience and have some success, you can branch out to other programs. 

It's best to choose a niche that you are passionate about or have a lot of experience with. This is because it's much easier to recommend and sell a product in a niche that you love and are excited about! 

Plus, if you love the topic, you'll never get bored. It will never feel like “work”. 

Here are a few ideas for profitable niches: 

  • Woodworking
  • Online dating
  • Organic gardening
  • DIY crafts like sewing, rug-making, pottery, etc
  • Parenting
  • Wealth: making money online, cryptocurrency, investing, Forex, etc.

Sign Up For Affiliate Programs In Your Niche

Once you have a niche chosen, you need to find an affiliate product to promote. 

To find one, search “niche name affiliate program”. For example: “pottery affiliate program”.

Here are some of the best affiliate programs for beginners:

  • Amazon associates program
  • Walmart affiliate program
  • Ebay partner network
  • REI affiliate network
  • And more.

Alternatively, you can apply for an affiliate network. Affiliate networks manage affiliate programs for many different companies. Signing up for a network will give you access to hundreds of different affiliate programs. 

Popular affiliate networks include: 

  • CJ Affiliate
  • Clickbank Marketplace
  • JVZoo
  • Rakuten
  • ShareASale

These are just a few to get you started. If you want to join a network, first find out if they have affiliate programs in your chosen niche. 

Choose Your Promotion Method

The best way to get started promoting affiliate links as a beginner is by using free traffic strategies. 

This means making YouTube videos, TikTok videos, Instagram and Facebook posts and Reels, or writing blog articles. 

You don't even need a website to write blog articles: you can publish them on platforms like Medium and LinkedIn. 

Once you decide on an affiliate product, you need to decide what platforms you will use to promote it. 

Create a Basic Affiliate Funnel

“Funnel” is a word that describes the process someone goes through online that takes them from discovering a product to purchasing it. 

Setting up an affiliate funnel will help you collect email addresses so you can make more sales by emailing your subscribers and recommending more products. 

Remember when I said making money with affiliate marketing will require some learning? This is one of those things you'll need to learn more about. 

Create Content

The final step to start affiliate marketing is to start making content to promote your affiliate products. 

The key to making content that actually generates sales is to think like a customer. 

You want to create content focused on “buyer intent” – or what a potential customer might need to see or hear to make a purchase decision. 

Here are some types of content that do well for making affiliate sales: 

  • Product review. 
  • Product tutorial. 
  • Case studies or testimonial – showcase how the product has changed someone's life or helped them (or you) achieve a desired result.
  • Product alternatives. 
  • Product comparisons, like “Coleman vs Ozark Trail tents”. 

Best Affiliate Marketing Books

If you want to learn more about the basics of affiliate marketing or the particular parts that will make you a successful affiliate marketer, here are 4 of my favorites. 

Insider's Guide to Affiliate Marketing by Dave Sharpe

Dave Sharpe is an online entrepreneur who has created multiple million dollar businesses, and he's a genius digital marketer. 

He is the founder of Legendary Marketer, an online affiliate marketing and online business education platform. 

I recently read this book: Insider's Guide to Affiliate Marketing, and I think it's one of the best affiliate marketing books I've ever read. 

In the book, Dave lays out exactly how to be a successful affiliate marketer. 

He talks about where to get high-quality traffic for your offers, how to find the best products to promote, and how to find a hot niche with proven buyers. 

To top it all off, he sells this book for only $1.99. When you buy it, you get a free audiobook version of it too, so you can listen while you're driving or doing chores. A no-brainer at that low price! 

As a bonus, when you buy the Insider's Guide to Affiliate Marketing, you get free access to the 15 Day Business Builder Challenge for free – which usually sells for $7 on it's own. 

Dotcom Secrets by Russel Brunson

Dotcom Secrets is a book by the founder of Clickfunnels, Russell Brunson. While this book isn't labeled as an “affiliate marketing book”, it's one of the best affiliate marketing books I've ever read. 

This book teaches you everything you need to know about creating an affiliate marketing funnel, how to get people to give you their email addresses, and how to do email marketing to encourage people to buy affiliate products. 

I have read this book 4 times and every time I re-read it, I learn something new or connect the dots to another piece of info that I didn't realize before. 

You can get this book for free, just pay $9.95 for shipping. 

Learn more about Dotcom Secrets here. 

Expert Secrets by Russell Brunson

Expert Secrets is another banger by Russell Brunson of Clickfunnels fame. 

This book is not specifically about affiliate marketing, but it is about one of the most important aspects of being a successful online marketer: how to communicate with potential customers in a way that makes them want to buy from you. 

Expert Secrets teaches you how to position yourself as an expert in your niche. The more expertise people think you have, the more likely they will be to buy from you. 

Learning the art of talking to people in a way that makes them want to buy something is an art and a science, and Expert Secrets teaches you exactly how to do it. 

This has been one of the most influential books for me in my digital marketing career. 

You can get it for free, just pay $9.95 for shipping, like Dotcom Secrets. 

Traffic Secrets

Lastly, another Russell Brunson book – Traffic Secrets teaches you exactly what it sounds like: how to get traffic. 

While this book isn't aimed specifically at affiliate marketers, it is aimed at online business in general. 

You will never make affiliate sales if you don't know how to get traffic to your affiliate links. 

And that's why Traffic Secrets will be on every “affiliate marketing books” list I'll ever make! 

Just like with the other two, you can get Traffic Secrets for free, just pay $9.95 in shipping.  

Best Affiliate Marketing Courses and Trainings

If you want to do an affiliate marketing training, I highly recommend the 15 Day Business Builder Challenge from Legendary Marketer. 

I have done the training myself and I can say from experience that I have never seen a more thorough training for such a low price – it's only $7. 

In this training you get 15 days of training, quizzes, and worksheets. Each day of training has a video that ranges from 20 minutes to 45 minutes long, and you even get a personal business coach. 

Your personal business coach will want to have a chat with you to help you create a personalized online business plan – this training is unlike anything I've ever seen offered. Especially not for so cheap! 

Is Affiliate Marketing Hard? 

The mechanism of affiliate marketing is not hard. It's a formula used by marketers everywhere – not just affiliates. But learning it takes time and effort, and it can be confusing at first. 

Here's the method in a nutshell: 

  • Attract potential customers (leads) and get their email address.
  • Send them email that teach them about you and the product.
  • Take them through an “email marketing funnel” to encourage them to purchase. 

That is the method of digital marketing in a nutshell. So while it is not hard, there are a lot of parts and a lot of things to learn. 

However, once you learn the formula, you can replicate it with every product on the internet!

Is Affiliate Marketing Worth It? 

In my opinion based off of my success with affiliate marketing, I'm going to say heck yes, affiliate marketing is definitely worth it. It's a business model that you can start with no up-front investment! 

Plus, it teaches you high-income skills that you can use for anything online, or even to use to get a high-paying job. 

If you are looking for a way to start making money online without investing money, there's nothing better than affiliate marketing. 

Forrest is a personal finance, entrepreneurship, and investing expert dedicated to helping others obtain life long wealth. He has a Bachelor's degree in business and has been featured in many popular publications including Forbes, Business Insider, Bankrate, CNET Money, and many others. To learn more about Forrest, visit the About Us Page for more info.
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