As of late, I’ve been thinking a lot about affiliate marketing and passive income. To some, these are foreign terms and to others they are dirty words. But as you’ll see, they don’t have to be either.

First, let me define these two concepts for us so that we have a clear understanding of what I’m talking about.

  • Affiliate marketing refers to the promotion of another person’s product so that when a sale is made you receive a percentage of the sale.
  • Passive income refers to income you make while not actually working such as from advertising, from affiliate links on your blog or from donations while you’re sleeping.

When I touched on this topic last week, I had a reader ask in the comments:

I’m curious to know, HOW much money are we talking here! It’s one thing to add a little pocket change to your paypal account every month… Advising everyone to invest their time (and therefor, their money) in all these steps, with the expectation of making serious cash in the end, could easily prove to be a waste of time for the majority of folks out there. ~ Greg

Greg may come across as gruff or pointed, but his question is right on target. The internet is plagued with websites and blogs that claim they can make you millions.

In fact, very recently I was browsing through ClickBank looking for affiliate products that I felt comfortable promoting, but I had a very difficult time because so many were nothing more than products offering to make their purchasers millions of dollars. It’s what I like to call premium spam.

The truth is that there’s really no way to make a killing online for the average person, but there are many different ways to build small bits of passive income and as you build these different sources they will add up. For example, I’m making a little over $1,000 each month from passive online income, but that income is spread over nearly 20 different products and sources.

As I’ve worked to develop both my online community and my online income, I’ve learned several things that have helped me along the way.

  • First, provide much more valuable content than affiliate promotions. Folks don’t mind if you tastefully recommend a product related to the topic of a post if the majority of the post is straight shooting good information.
  • Second, don’t be pushy. Don’t beat your readers over the head again and again with your affiliate products. Mention them casually and make it easy for the reader to walk away. I know this sounds counterintuitive to the salesperson inside of you, but by creating that level of comfort, you create a lifelong fan of your brand.
  • Third, be honest. If there’s something that you don’t like about a product or if there is a known drawback, let it be known. There’s nothing that will ruin your credibility faster than having someone purchase something that you recommend only to find out it’s a lemon. However, if you’re honest and they discover the feature that you dislike, they’ll fondly remember that you did mention that in your review of it.
  • Fourth, promote high quality, not high paying. The payout is worthless if you’re destroying your followers perception of you with each purchase they make. Although you’ll certainly be looking at the payout, don’t let that be the soul factor in deciding whether or not to promote it.

Passive income is beautiful. The mere idea of not having to work as income rolls into your bank account direct deposited from the pages of your blog is breathtaking. Yet, somehow, here I am. Sure it’s not enough just yet, but I’m getting very, very close and with these principles in mind, I’m getting closer and closer each day.

Care to join me?

Nicholas Cardot

About Nicholas Cardot

It's my personal quest to enable every person that I can to unlock that dormant potential concerning their online influence. Also, I'm a geek.

19 Comments

  • Hey Nick,
    I am a newbie blogger out there and i am out of ideas to make some money. I think the above post is good for bloggers who were playing with the blogs for some time. I haven’t posted enough to write a post about products with affiliate links to buy that product in my blog. I am gonna make some good posts and gonna get viewers and traffic by google, then surely i will look on this type things.

  • Brad says:

    Hey Nick, have you tried anything from Amazon? I’d like to give that a shot and promote books I read, software I use, and music I think people may enjoy but don’t really know anything about it. I really haven’t even Googled any info it yet, but I’m curious to hear your take on it.

    • I’m looking into the same thing!

      I know squidoo will automatically integrate Amazon products as an affilliate link on your squidoo page so you can earn comissions.

      I just haven’t gotten around to integrating it into my wordpress blog yet.

      I will keep you posted on my findings 🙂

    • Lauryn says:

      Amazon Associates is a really cool program. However, the key to making money is learning which products garner the biggest commissions for the percentages it offers. It’s up to the customer what they order but at the end of the day you might see couple of dollars here and there until you focus on the higher end products that are at least $100 or so.

      • Brad says:

        Hey Lauren,

        Thanks for the info. I like using Amazon myself so I thought maybe other might enjoy what I’m reading or watching.
        Do you know if there is any documentation on which products offer the highest returns?

        • Lauryn says:

          Hey Brad!

          Overall, you have to look at the products you’re attempting to promote. Amazon has a sliding scale on their commissions. In other words, your commission goes higher with each tier of sales you reach (items sold). It starts at 4%. I have 5 items sold in June do far.. but they’re books….my commission is only $2.49 overall.

          However, if I had a site where I promoted Stainless steel grills that were over $200 to $500 or so (ballpark estimate) then that $4 I would get if it were $100 is now … like $8 to $20 on that item and would rise to match the volume of commissions I brought in.

      • Tim says:

        By all accounts, Amazon converts much better than most Clickbank stuff. I’ve never really felt comfortable promoting anything from Clickbank, either, it’s mostly just rubbish. Plus, there’s far too much of a chance of refunds.

        If I was going to promote amazon, I think the slightly specialist stuff would be the way forward. Less competition, and often higher prices.

        • Lauryn says:

          Tim

          I agree with you. Clickbank supposedly makes a lot of money, but much of what is produced and sold via Clickbank is questionable at best. The material, when you skim through it, is poorly reviewed and put together in such a disgusting manner. I can’t deal with it.

          I’m in the process of creating a lengthy ebook… and I’ve sold a smaller version of it on Kindle…. and I’m somewhere trying to decide between selling it on eJunkie or just going the Clickbank route. However, with Clickbank, I would probably have to price it higher than I’d think is necessary, and the company is just really liberal with its policy.

          • Tim says:

            Well! I never thought of selling ebooks on Kindle, but that’s an excellent idea. How straightforward is the process?

  • There really is no better feeling. Every passive payment I get, just spurs me on to do better and better; even if they are weeks or months apart..

  • Susan says:

    “Passive aggressive income”? I think that’s what my husband makes. (Just kidding Pete!)

  • doug_eike says:

    In the end, it always comes down to high-quality content. You can get away with all sorts of marketing tricks, if you deliver valuable information presented in a readable format. Thanks for the tips!

  • Passive income and time freedom are the holy grail of online marketers, I think. That’s quite impressive that you’ve managed four figures with your products, but I imagine that the time invested across 20 or so items has to be a bit of the trade off?

    Not to be facetious, I’m just curious about the time vs money investment with so many affiliate products.

    Delena

  • I love this topic!
    Passive Income = Freedom, that’s why it’s so interesting, who doesn’t want freedom?

    “Rich Dad, Poor Dad” by R. Kiyasaki opened my mind and hooked me on the idea.

    Later that year I stumbled upon “The 4 Hour Work Week” by T. Ferriss which emphasized an efficient Muse as a means to achieve enough passive income to reach your ideal lifestyle quotient with minimal effort (drop shipping/e-commerce platforms-which is supposedly less time consuming and can be outsourced easily).

    Finally I came across “Crush It!” by Gary V. which emphasizes on passion + content-which has resulted in me leaning towards the blogging platform (not really efficient, but lots of fun!) as a means to generating passive income and freedom.

    I’m not going to lie, I’m a lazy guy. I just couldn’t find the energy or motivation to try out other business models (they or on my list of methods to test). Blogging with a focused affiliate marketing combination is like the best of both worlds for me personally (and with my limited knowledge of the other methods).

    My question to you is…
    If you weren’t using the blogging platform to generate passive income, what other methods would you try?

    e.g. E-commerce/e-bay, affiliate marketing (with static pages & SEO), domain flipping, social media (twitter/micro blogging), Craigslist, or something totally new?

    I would love to hear what real people that are making it work have to say!

    -I apologize in advance for how long winded this comment is, but it got me excited!

  • ah hong says:

    When it comes to affiliate products, ClickBank is always the best choice. I did participate in the affiliate program years back and saw there’s spike in the bounce rate in Google Analytics right after that.

    In the end, I choose to retreat because it didn’t gave much profit compare to Google Adsense. My advice to other reader, the affiliate program might work for you so just give it a shot cos’ no harm trying 🙂

    • Tim says:

      I think that pretty much proves that Clickbank is not worth the effort for most people.

      There are lots of independent affiliate offers out there, some of which may not offer the reporting that a major affiliate network does, but do have stronger offers that convert better.

      I would expect an affiliate product to net around 25x what adsense does for me, and if it is not then that would be a sign that it’s time to find an alternative.

  • Dakota says:

    Hi Nicholas,
    Thanks for writing this great article. Congratulations on making so much each month. That is wonderful.
    I just discovered your site and will be back to read more. I think I will learn a lot from you.
    I am a newbie with an online music store but I haven’t made any money yet. I still need to keep plugging away and driving traffic. My Dad says “build it and they will come…as long as you work hard, stay focused and don’t get discouraged.” 🙂
    I’ll have to find the article you mentioned in this post and read it.
    So, I’ll come back and visit. Thanks again.

  • Brad Harmon says:

    My guess, Nick, is that all of the time you spend via social networking has played a huge role in your early on success with your passive income.

    I was listening to a snippet from Gary Vaynerchuk from last week’s BWENY, and he joked that he’d talk to so many people via social media and returned so many emails that people probably felt obligated to buy his first book.

    Like Gary, your engagement level on social media has built up a reputation and level of trust that helps lead people to purchase items based on your recommendations. Of course, everything else you mentioned here has to be in place to support it.

    What do you think? How much of your success would you attribute to your social media efforts?

  • Lauryn says:

    Great post!

    I agree. There’s products I’ve made sales on as a result of being open and honest on a product I’ve reviewed honestly, and others that haven’t sold a thing. I find being open and honest as an affiliate marketer online is one of the keys to making sales… in addition to knowing your niche and working it appropriately.

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