How to Start an Affiliate Program for Your Business

Being an entrepreneur is quite challenging especially if you just started a new online business with limited resources at your disposal. You won’t have enough customers in the beginning, and if you don’t find a sustainable revenue stream soon enough, your investments will simply deteriorate.

In the modern competition, you must run before you learn how to walk.

Should I Start an Affiliate Program or Join One?

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An article by Fundera shows that approximately 20% of start-ups fail in the first year of their launch while 30% only survive for 2 years before meeting their end. The numbers go even higher when it comes to online start-ups. The main reasons behind this are the lack of reach and sustainability.

The majority of new start-ups invest too much money in unproductive marketing methods and flashy stunts without first developing a small but consistent customer base.

This is why their businesses fail.

So, How Do I Get More Customers?

You have to first figure out your business model and conduct proper market research to formulate and implement marketing strategies that suit your business requirements. Only then you should carefully invest in them and expect a return. The most common marketing methods to increase your reach and sales are:

Email Marketing

Sending emails intended to inform users about your product or service. This generally involves collecting emails from users and then sending out bulk emails on a constant schedule (through something like MailOptin).

Online Advertisement

Paying different advertising platforms and social media companies to show your ads to the relevant audience. You will be charged if your ad is either shown to a potential customer or clicked upon. The model of billing and the rates depend on your advertisement platform.

Influencer Marketing

You can pay directly to related influencers to promote your product or service to their audience. It depends on you if you want to pay a fixed amount or provide them a commission per sale.

Referral Programs

Referral programs mean that you can incentivize your pre-existing customers by providing them with commissions if they refer your service or product to a friend or family member. The commission mostly depends on the referred user buying your product or service.

Affiliate Marketing

Affiliate marketing is somewhat similar to referral programs. The major difference is that in affiliate marketing, any person can get an affiliate link to your product and sell it to users they don’t know.

They will receive a commission for every purchase made from their affiliate links. This is a more scaled version of referral programs and you have to offer affiliate programs in order for people to promote and market your product or service.

Affiliate Programs

In an affiliate program, businesses who are looking to advertise their product to the relevant audience can list their services and products to be sold. Interested affiliates will then use an affiliate link to promote these products. Every purchase made from their links will provide them with a commission (can range from 1% to 100%) depending on the affiliate program and product value, etc.

If you run an online business, affiliate marketing might be your best shot at getting more customers (in the beginning). This is the most effective method which is used by over 80% of the brands to drive sales. Marketers approve of affiliate marketing as the most effective method to bring in customers.

The affiliate market is also calculated to be around $12 billion annually and is the most used method by marketers.

Here are a number of factors that make affiliate marketing a great method to obtain customers:

1. Better Sales Pitch!

In other marketing methods such as ads and referrals, the potential customer won’t be able to know in detail about your business product. The only way you’ll win a customer through advertisement is if they are interested enough to click on a thumbnail and then read through.

The majority of the clients are unable to get the full depth of your product or service to get convinced to make a purchase. Hence, affiliate marketing provides better sales pitches.

Since affiliates are trying to sell your product, they would most likely put your link on their social media by explaining your service in detail or writing blog posts about it in which, they are going to pitch readers to buy your product.

This way, your product or service will have a higher chance of being purchased. Most importantly, every expense of writing and publishing blogs and using other methods of pitching your affiliated product is covered by the seller which saves you a lot of money!

Furthermore, you can also choose to enter affiliate programs of your choice. If you find a relevant program, you can instantly get access to a relevant audience.

You can also control which affiliates should promote your product and hence, you focus your money and time very specifically. This will also help you boost your sales!

2. Only Pay Commission for Sales

Unlike ads and other social media marketing methods where you also pay for the impressions (if a user sees the ad and doesn’t click on it), most affiliate programs only pay when a sale is made through that link. Although some programs also pay for only clicks, it is still more effective to use affiliate marketing rather than ads.

The only disadvantage of affiliate marketing is that the commission per sale is higher than what you spend on ads but if you are trying to succeed in your online venture, you need sales more than you need impressions. Hence, providing commission to the affiliates shouldn’t be an issue.

3. Requires Less Time for Management

Email Marketing, ads, and other methods require time and involve a lot of technicalities in setting them up. You have to constantly monitor your performance, make changes, reply to emails, and much more to build a valuable customer community.

In affiliate marketing, you allow your product to be promoted using affiliate links and let others do all the efforts of promotion for a small percentage of commission. It saves you more time to focus on your business and improve it!

Starting Your Own Affiliate Program

If you are going to affiliate your product or service, you have to create an affiliate program for people to join. You might have also heard of Amazon’s affiliate program but that only works for products on Amazon. If you create and offer different services that aren’t sold on Amazon, you can start your own program.

Now the major problem is searching for talented affiliates to bring in the sales that you are hoping for. How will people get to know about your brand if you are just starting out? You won’t be able to get enough affiliates by merely appearing in Google search results.

If you start going door to door to potential affiliates, it is going to cost a lot of your time and energy which can be spent in improving your product/service. Also, there are better marketing strategies available if you are going to spread the word yourself?

If you did want to give it a go yourself, there are several WordPress plugins such as Affiliates Manager and Affiliates, which allow to to create and manage an affiliate program to your store. Generally these take care of the whole process including recruitment, registrations and logins etc. The only downfall with this method is that the plugins are managed by external groups, and you have to rely on them to ensure the the plugin stays secure and compatible with your version of WordPress. This is not something to be taken lightly if you are serious about running a proper affiliate program.

So, if you don’t sell on Amazon, don’t have a reputed brand, and don’t want to use the plugins yourself how are you going to attract affiliates?

The solution to is simple. Join a platform that already offers an affiliate program with thousands of publishers.

These platforms contain several different niches and all the products from several brands are listed. Affiliates can pick a product or service of their choice and then market it using the links provided to them by the platform.

Affiliate Marketing Platforms

These platforms provide a way for small businesses to list their product or service in their relevant categories to be picked by affiliates hence acting as a bridge.

Both the advertiser and the publisher can sign up on these platforms/networks and quickly access a huge pool of promotional content.

The advantage of using affiliate networks is that everything from showing and managing affiliate links and products to payments and categorization is managed by the platform. It saves you time and the technical and tiresome process of learning everything yourself. Furthermore, guidelines are ensured by the platform to only allow genuine and approved publishers to promote products. 

Circlewise and ShareASale are some of the most prominent affiliate networks. Let’s have a look at them in more detail:


Circlewise is not any ordinary affiliate platform that shows all the listed products to the publishes. In fact, it provides a rich experience for both the advertiser and the publisher by allowing them to communicate and figure out the best interests for them. It helps publishes find brands relevant to their audience so that they can promote that brand and earn more money from what they do.

The advantage is that you can communicate with the publishers and discuss your company’s vision, commission, and other stuff. You will get every analytics at your disposal and can keep settings of your choice. Whatever you want to include or do with your affiliate program is up to you. The freedom of choice and variety of options is what makes Circlewise a wise choice.

Circlewise has helped many companies grow their sales in the pandemic. This has been possible due to the excellent publishers available on the platform.

Among countless success stories:

  • PeerBerry, a p2p platform offering a 13.7% return investment on consumer loans. By using Circlewise, there has been a 180% growth in traffic sources, 73% growth in transactions, and 80% growth in transaction amounts
  • DUKA saw an increase in the income from affiliate channels by 300% and obtained a 400% growth in active publishers


With over 16,550 merchants and 225,000+ publishers on the platform, ShareASale has generated 182 million sales in 2020 for those 16,550 merchants. This is a massive figure and ShareASale provides competition and an alternative to Circlewise. This software was launched in the 2000s and is hence one of the oldest affiliate marketing software. You will be able to find influencers and content creators looking to partner up with a relevant brand and make some extra cash.

Advertisers can use the ShareASale blog to pitch their business ideas and motives. These blogs are named “Advertiser Spotlight” which intend to convince publishers to bring in more customers. As a result, many companies also provide special discounts on their products if they are bought through an affiliate’s link. That is why ShareASale is a good way to start from and start building a customer base.

Making A Decision!

If you are still confused about which platform you should choose, you can consider some questions. For example, is your band known or unknown? If you have a known brand, it will be easier for you to find influencers and creators and collaborate in order to promote your product. For a newly established brand, you can use tools like Circlewise and ShareASale to reach out to a vast audience.

Which factors should you consider when selecting an appropriate affiliate network?

If you want to save your time then ShareASale would be a simpler and faster solution for you.

If you are looking to pitch influencers, both platforms can help you there. The best tactic would be to vastly explore these two networks and look for relevant programs and publishers that match your business niche. If you find more convincing and relevant publishers on either of the programs, choose that. These methods will help you find out which of these networks can offer you better sales through affiliate marketing!

So, start your affiliate program now!


This was just one of many other ideas about starting a side hustle, and or making money online without experience. If you want to discover more opportunities, check out our list of additional ways to earn money.



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