Have you ever heard of affiliate marketing?
If you have a blog or a website, you probably have – at least if you’re trying to make money online.
If you’re just starting your blog, listen closely because this is something you want to get right from the beginning. Deciding how to make money may be the most important online decision you’ll ever make.
It’s a lesson I learned the hard way. I started all wrong: I put up ads all over my site (ugly!) and I added a bunch of affiliate links here and there. Then I sat back, waiting for the money to roll in. And waited.
And then I got a bit smarter and started being more strategic about earning money.
Along the way I took a course and learned to do it right.
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
I was desperate for a way to earn money with my website. I’m not good at selling or marketing so I didn’t want to be hard-selling anything – that was a guarantee of failure. I didn’t want to make my own products because I live in Europe, my readers are scattered all over the world, and shipping would be a nightmare.
What I wanted was ‘passive income’ – something I could set up and forget about (or almost forget). Something that would keep making me money while I was busy haggling in the markets of Morocco or eating tapas in Spain. Something technically easy, lucrative and long-term.
I already had a few affiliate links with Amazon – you’ve seen those ads scattered around websites, mine included: if you buy something from Amazon through one of those links, I earn a small commission. It’s easy for you – you don’t pay a cent more, so it’s win-win.
I was earning a few cents here and there. (Those early days were painful and demoralizing). I read everything I could, and slowly I started getting better at it.
I’ll never forget my first $100 payment.
But $100 won’t pay the rent and I needed to do far far BETTER.
I found out there’s an actual science and art to affiliate marketing, and some people actually know what they’re doing (and make oodles of money as a result).
One of those experts is Michelle Schroeder-Gardner, who makes no secret about her earnings: somewhere around US$ 55,000 a month from affiliate marketing alone (she makes twice that much if you count all her other sources of income). Yes, you read it right! $55,000. A. Month. From being an affiliate.
I’d like some of that, please!
So of course I took Michelle’s course – and ended up interviewing her for Women on the Road.
One more thing: she’s not a product of years of effort (and no, I don’t hate her for that). She’s a bit of a wunderkind, having graduated from university in 2010. She must be doing something right.
So let’s find out how she makes those $55,000 a month.
Women on the Road: Michelle, can you tell us a bit about yourself?
Michelle: Hello! My name is Michelle and I run the personal finance blog Making Sense of Cents.
In August of 2011, I created my personal finance and lifestyle blog with the hopes of teaching people how to save money as well as journaling my personal finance journey. It was all just a hobby and an outlet. I then realized how much I loved blogging so I went full-time in October of 2013 and I haven't looked back once. Blogging has completely changed my life for the better.
WOTR: How exactly do you earn your income?
Michelle: I've been interested in affiliate marketing for several years, but I always thought that you had to have a huge following and a ton of page views in order to be successful. Because of that, I didn't put any effort into it for quite some time. I just didn't think it would work.
One day I decided to give myself a goal of earning affiliate income, and I worked towards achieving that goal. I started by making a little bit each month, and then it just continued to grow month after month. I now know that you don't need a ton of page views or a huge following in order to make a great income this way.
I love affiliate marketing because it can feel quite passive. You can create just one blog post or social media post, and potentially earn money from it years down the line, as long as you maintain it and keep sending traffic to it. By doing this, I can enjoy life more and know that I am still able to earn a great living promoting products that I use and love. If you enjoy using a certain product, why not get paid to promote it? That's what affiliate marketing is all about!
WOTR: What kind of special knowledge or experience do you need to get started
Michelle: The average blogger is not good at affiliate marketing, and my course can help anyone who is struggling with it. It’s all about promoting affiliate products in the correct way.
Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing is a great learning tool, even if you are a brand new blogger. By taking this course, you will start off blogging the correct way. You can learn from my affiliate marketing mistakes and grow a profitable blog quicker than the average blogger. Even if you only have one blog post, you are ready to get started with this course!
If you're an advanced blogger, Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing is also for you. Most bloggers aren't making anywhere near the income they should and are leaving money on the table. I share numerous tips and strategies that can really help you earn a lot more.
WOTR: Of course you need a blog to get started - do you need anything else?
Michelle: No, you actually don't need a blog. Affiliate marketing is for pretty much anyone and everyone. If you even just have a social media account such as Pinterest, Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram, you can find a way to effectively promote it - without being "salesy" and without scaring followers away. There is a correct way to promote affiliate offers, which is what I teach.
WOTR: You make a LOT - and realistically that's not what we'll all make. Is there an 'average' figure one can expect to make with an 'average' background and 'average' experience?
Michelle: That is a difficult question to answer, as everyone is different, so there is no "average" for anything when it comes to affiliate marketing. Here are some real-life examples from my course:
WOTR: Who should NOT get involved in affiliate marketing?
Michelle: If you're not going to spend the time to correctly learn how to do it, then you probably shouldn't get involved in it.
You cannot, I repeat CANNOT, just slap affiliate links on your blog and hope to earn an income. You have to have some sort of strategy, which is what I teach in Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing. So many bloggers make this huge mistake and usually lose followers or waste their time because they don't realize that there is a correct way and a wrong way to approach affiliate marketing!
WOTR: Many of my readers are solo women travelers. If they wanted to make extra money to travel, how could affiliate sales help them?
Michelle: I travel full-time and earning affiliate income makes traveling much more enjoyable. It is quite passive once you get your promotion out there (and a little bit of maintenance), which can make traveling much more enjoyable because you won't have to worry about finding ways to make money while you travel.
And that was Michelle. I had taken the exact road she described, so I knew she had answers for me.
I’m now applying her lessons to my own site, and it's working.
I did learn a few things on my own along the way - and these things have made a huge difference in the way I do business. Here's what I've learned:
I’m not going to make $55,000 a month overnight. Not even close. But at this rate, affiliate sales will soon be paying the rent on my old French farmhouse (and maybe a few repairs).
Having a blog or a website is usually a labor of love: you write about your passion. But you don’t necessarily expect to make a living out of it.
In my case, that passion is travel, and more specifically, solo travel for women, with emphasis on women over 40 because they are so underserved.
But the bills won’t wait, especially when you don’t have a full-time job (or you’re recently retired, like I am).
Affiliate marketing is already my biggest earner and now, with Michelle’s course, I’m actually learning to do it right.