10 Common Beliefs About Affiliate Marketing, That are Totally Wrong

I remember the first time I saw an ad for making money online.

Picture this: A Tan Man in his 30s stands in the center of the photo. He is cocky and in good shape. He’s not ripped but looks more like he’s just naturally muscular.

He is smoking a cigar and wearing sunglasses. A gold chain hangs around his neck and a black robe drapes over his tiny, red speedo. He is standing in the driveway of his beachfront mansion, it looks like a small castle. Behind him are two Ferraris, one canary yellow and the other candy apple red.

He is the f#cking man.

Standing with him are 6 attractive women. Three on each side. They are sexy, wearing small brightly colored bikinis and high heels. They are all models and are thrilled to be standing with the Tan Man. Each one of them holds a silver platter with a pile of money on it. If they are hundred dollar bill stacks, each platter has about $500,000 on it. That’s $3 Million in cash.

The Tan Man has a smirk on his face that says he has it all. The mansion, the cars and the money. And immediately after taking this photo he is going to bang all six girls at the same time. Because he can.

The ad speaks: “I have it all… and you can too. For just 3 monthly payments of $197.”

We All Saw It

Millions of people saw the same ad. And when I tell people I’m an affiliate marketer or that I make money online – this is the picture they see in their minds.

Not so much.

Today, I want to clear up 10 other common beliefs that people have about affiliate marketing and tell you why they are all totally wrong.

10 beliefs.

  1. “It’s Easy.” A lot of people have been led to believe (by ads like the one I just described) that making money online is easy. All you need is the silver bullet or secret trick. The truth is, that while affiliate marketing may look easy from the outside, any experienced super affiliate will tell you they work their asses off to make it happen. It may ‘appear’ that affiliates never work – because they don’t have to go to a 9–5 job. But you can be pretty damn sure that affiliates are putting in major hours (way more than 40 hours a week) while working from home.
  2. “It runs on auto pilot.” The Tan Man products of the world pitch auto-pilot systems for making money online. Not so much. In fact, if you see the words “autopilot” and “set and forget” on a product page, you can be pretty sure it’s complete garbage. Now – I do have campaigns that run fine without me having to work on it every day. But getting a campaign to that point can take weeks, even months of serious hard work.
  3. “I’m Not Smart Enough.” Some people are intimidated by affiliate marketing because they think they’re not smart enough. The truth is that I know some pretty dumb guys that have made a killing online. I also know some very smart guys that tried it, failed and never made a dollar. I think a lot of smart guys talk themselves out of doing affiliate marketing because it doesn’t make money in the beginning. Their analytical mind says “We spent $5,000 this month and only made $3,000 back. This is a bad idea”, and they quit. I think the most common traits of successful affiliates are more like stubbornness, risk-taking and determination.
  4. “I’m Too Old.” The internet is still scary to some people. If you’re over the age of 35, you grew up before the internet (in it’s current form) existed. But that doesn’t mean you can’t do it, you just have to get interested. The truth is, most of the gigantic affiliates I know are around the ages of 30–45. Sure, there are a huge number of affiliates in their teens and early 20s that are making a killing, but the real monsters that I know are a bit older.
  5. “I’m too young.” Some younger people think they can’t make tons of money online. They’ve been brainwashed to believe that success can only come after years of school and slowly moving up the ladder as an employee at a company. I know a guy that made his first million at the age of 16. There are kids in their teens all over the world making money online. In this day and age you do not have to graduate high school, go to college or bother with climbing the ladder at some job. All you need is a little bit of startup cash, some industry information and some determination. Any teenager can build an online advertising empire by saving their birthday money and investing into campaigns. Instead of buying that pair of shoes that you’ll throw out in 6 months… you buy traffic.
  6. “It’s too late.” When I started doing paid traffic on Google Adwords in late 2008, all I could think about was how much easier it would have been if I had started sooner. Back in 1998, there was no such thing as a Quality Score and online marketers made millions by simply buying ads and direct linking to other people’s products. The funny thing is that now in 2014 – everyone wishes they’d started in 2008 because “it was so easy back then.” If you look at that trend – you’ll see that there will never be an easier time for you to start than right now. In 5 years, you’ll wish you’d started today.
  7. “It’s a scam.” You hear this all the time. “Affiliate marketing is a scam”. That’s ridiculous. Sure there are people doing some shady stuff out there, but the same could be said for car dealerships, grocery stores and public schools. Just because some grocery store owners are pieces of shit, doesn’t mean that selling groceries is a scam. At it’s root level, affiliate marketing is just one person getting paid to help sell another person’s products. The way you choose to do it is up to you – and you don’t have to be shady to make a ton of money doing it.
  8. “It’s too risky (I could lose money).” Totally false. In fact, the opposite is true. Affiliate marketing is much less-risky than starting a business in the real world. I can set up a new campaign with Crazy Egg and test it on a few hundred clicks and know if it’s worth pursuing or not. Starting an offline business is MUCH more risky. You have to develop a product or start a service, rent an office, hire employees, get business licenses, etc. before you even know if your idea will work. It could take years and tens of thousands of dollars to realize your idea was bad. And shutting down a real-world business is almost as hard as setting it up. There are employees to fire, paperwork to do, contracts and leases to get out of and more. And being an employee at a 9–5 is also risky. Who’s to say that the sweet job you have right now won’t end next month? What if the company goes out of business? Nothing in life is risk-free – but I’d much rather be in control of my own destiny than trust that some CEO is going to make the best decisions for my financial future.
  9. “It’s not a long term business.” Some people never start affiliate marketing because they see it as a short-term, hit and run situation with no long-term potential. All I can say is I’ve been doing this for 5 years now, which is as long as my longest 9–5 job. So it is long term. And in that time I have made more money than I would have made at my last 9–5 if I had stayed there through retirement. So even if I quit today – I’d still have more financial security than if I’d chosen a “long-term” and “safer” strategy like working for a corporation until I turn 65.
  10. “It’s too expensive.” Total B.S. The way the affiliate system works, you really don’t need much money at all to get started. Many huge affiliates started with as little as $100 in their bank account. Here’s how it works. You have $100 to your name. You spend that on a campaign and make back $120 in a week’s time. The affiliate network pays you $120 on Thursday and you reinvest it into the campaign. This cyclical payment process makes it possible to turn a very small initial investment into a substantial amount of money over time. The funny thing is that the people that are scared to invest/lose $1000 of their own money testing campaigns – have no problem going into debt for $100s of thousands to go to college or taking out a $50,000 business loan to start a business offline. In affiliate marketing, you can test an idea online for $5, officially making it one of the most inexpensive way to start a business on planet Earth.

Some Things That Are True

While a lot of people have the wrong idea about affiliate marketing, some things are true. Here are a few that are actually true.

  • You can make a lot of money. I don’t know a lot of people who have started a business (like a restaurant, delivery service or furniture store) that have gone on to make millions. But I know a lot of people who have made huge amounts of money online. Then there are the countless people that aren’t making millions but they’re making a great living online and will never work again. I think just about anyone with extra time can do content marketing (SEO) around any niche and make more than the average American salary.
  • You can work in your underwear. Some people think of affiliate marketers as gross guys sitting around in their underwear with Mountain Dew bottles, candy bar wrappers and pizza boxes all over their desk. In some cases that is exactly what happens. Working from home means you have no boss to impress. So if you want to be an introvert slob, work in your underwear and shower once a week – that is totally an option.
  • You can work from anywhere. Affiliate marketing ads normally show people sitting on the beach working on laptops. This is real. You don’t have an office to go to (unless you want one) so you’re free to work from anywhere. On the beach, in a hotel room, in another country, at the dinner table. You’re totally free to travel and work anywhere you want.
  • Anyone can do it. (to some degree) Anyone can do affiliate marketing and supplement their income to some degree. How? Sign up for cheap hosting, install WordPress with 1 click. Write about your life and your interests 1-2 times a week for the next several months. Sign up at a place like Shareasale.com  and find a product to that matches your interests. Add a few links here and there to your posts. In time you’ll get picked up by search engines, people will find you and you’ll make some sales. That’s exactly how I got started. I was making a few grand a month doing exactly that until I moved to paid traffic. It doesn’t happen over night, but if you stay consistent with it you can make it work.

If you’re interested in affiliate marketing, don’t let the bad advertisements and crappy products that are out there turn you off. This thing is real, it’s not that hard to do and anyone with an internet connection, patience and determination can make it happen.

No speedo required.

  • http://wikimediamarketing.com Luis Barrios

    I like more
    “Things That Are True”
    brings to mind the habit of perseverance

    • http://malandarras.com/ Malan Darras

      Cool Luis, thanks for reading.

  • Peet

    Thank you for the great Article.
    Have you ever been in situation that you talked about affiliate marketing and people have labeled that as a rip-off?
    They argue that if that would be easy everyone would be doing affiliate marketing…i know its bullshit because its not easy.
    I am still at the beginning of my journey and your blog has taught me a lot 🙂 – thank you!

    • http://malandarras.com/ Malan Darras

      Peet – yes. Almost everyone I told I was going to try to make money online told me it wasn’t possible. Thankfully, I didn’t listen. I knew a few guys that had made it happen – so what other people thought didn’t matter.

  • http://www.ochoamedia.com Edgar Ochoa

    I’m finally beginning to see the results from my 100+ hours of reading and learning about Internet Marketing, copywriting, SEO etc…

    I’m far from being a super affiliate, but working to getting there soon. Right now I’m just doing local affiliate marketing — trying to “master” Adwords — and so far I can see the potential as it’s going well for me — no huge numbers to impress, but I’m learning a lot.

    In the next few months I will like to transition into online affiliate marketing…

    Thanks for the inspiration Malan, all the best to you!!!

    • http://malandarras.com/ Malan Darras

      Good to hear Edgar. And don’t worry about having impressive numbers. If you’re doing something with local Adwords – stick with that. Adwords is one of the biggest traffic sources in the world. If you can slowly grow there – you’ll never need anything else.

      • http://www.ochoamedia.com Edgar Ochoa

        True Malan, thank you.

        So right now I’m not promoting any affiliate offers on Adwords, just doing local affiliate marketing so I can improve my online marketing and optimization skills.

        And soon, I will start promoting affiliate offers (will have to get creative if I want to do this in Adwords). This way I can scale much faster.

        All the best to you Malan!

        • http://malandarras.com/ Malan Darras

          When you move to affiliate offers don’t take the shortcut of jumping on diet/bizop/dating garbage or they will kick you to the curb.

          Adwords loves affiliates, as long as they don’t do the normal affiliate crap.

          Build a real site, create some killer content. and then use Adwords to promote it to your heart’s content. The guys I know that did just this have been on Adwords for 10 years, promoting offers and selling their own products with zero problems.

          • http://www.ochoamedia.com Edgar Ochoa

            Nice! — yes, I’m trying to do this for the long haul, to be able to build a long-term business.

            So thanks again for the advice Malan! — now it’s back to work! 🙂

  • Pete

    “You can make a lot of money. I don’t know a lot of people who have started a business (like a restaurant, delivery service or furniture store) that have gone on to make millions.” Yes, agreed. I’ve ‘read’ about retail businesses that have grown to 6-7+ figure valuations, but it takes 10+ years to build and/or lots of financing/people management, logistics, etc. The beauty of affiliate marketing is you don’t need a lot of startup capital or the the headache of managing people (when you’re starting out), and the results are instantaneous.

    Out of interest, do you know anyone new to affiliate marketing (apart from Charles Ngo!) who has (recently) made 6+ or 7+ figures profit in their first year? Thanks.

    • http://malandarras.com/ Malan Darras

      Pete, yes. A lot of affiliates are currently (as in right now) are making 6/7 figures in their first year. $100k/year breaks down to $273/day. There are literally thousands of affiliates that started this year that are now doing that and much more.

      • Pete

        Thanks Man, that’s just the kinda’ motivation I needed. Not so much the money, but what it can do, e.g. getting my family out the cr@p area we’re living right now. I’m getting to work!

  • Clara

    “In affiliate marketing, you can test an idea online for $5” …Curious how do you do that?

    • http://malandarras.com/ Malan Darras

      hey Clara. what i’m saying is you can test an idea very cheaply. If I have an offer with a $1 payout. I can run $5 of traffic at it. If it makes $0, might not be something to pursue. If it makes $3 it has a chance. If it makes $15 I have a winner.

      If I want to check interest for a product. I can create a twitter account, pay $5 to someone on fiverr to add 1000 followers (for social proof). Next, I can promote the twitter account with the business name and what we do and see if anyone follows it. If I get a lot of followers, I know I have an idea people will be interested in and I build the site. If I get zero reaction, I might now want to do it.

      Tons of ways to test ideas for cheap. That’s why online business rule.

  • http://tidyurl.com/handbook Rafael D Jesus

    Beautiful, if had read this article back years ago, my mind had been transformed, as it is now, Affiliate Marketing is a real biz, you just have to know how to work on it and be patient and not let go of everything appears. God Bless!

  • http://www.gefundenwerden.at/ gefundenwerden

    good idea

  • astr0

    “Affiliate marketing is much less-risky than starting a business in the real world.” the main reason of my motivations. It’s much cheaper and faster to try something out since you don’t have to spend months and thousands creating your own product.