You've heard of affiliate marketing - and you're probably an affiliate for products yourself - but you've paused on the idea of using it to sell your own products.
Starting an affiliate program can help increase your passive income, build authority in your niche, and more. So, what are you waiting for?
You see all the experts working together to rock each other's launches and it can make you feel like you’re not ready to start your own affiliate program. You feel like you need to have the same powerful connections and sales targets before you start.
The truth is: you really don't.
If you're hesitating on starting an affiliate program of your own, you're in the right place. In this blog post, you’re going to learn:
why you shouldn’t wait to build your list before starting an affiliate program
how to tell if you’re NOT ready to start a program
how to tell when you ARE ready for to grow your affiliate team
how you could be leaving money on the table by waiting!
When I surveyed my audience a couple of months ago, I discovered that a whole bunch of y'all are waiting to start an affiliate program.
Don't get me wrong - in some cases, it makes sense to wait until the time is right. On the other hand, you could be procrastinating, making excuses, and leaving money on the table.
don’t wait to build your list or hit your big hairy income goals
Like I said, you don’t need a big audience, big profits, or big influencer connections to start your own affiliate program and I’m living proof of that.
Flashback to January 2017, when I was focused on helping bloggers + business owners with their Instagram strategy. After validating a new digital product (this is after the tumbleweed that was my first course), I simply posted in a Facebook group for bloggers inviting people to become affiliates. I was greeted with enthusiastic replies from a range of newbies to well-seasoned bloggers - all of whom wanted to join my affiliate team.
At this point in my business, I wasn’t super clued up on what it took to run an affiliate program. I’d taken a course on affiliate marketing as a blogger so knew the best way to promote affiliate links myself (it’s a course that I recommend all affiliate program owners/managers take) but I’d never hosted affiliates of my own before.
During the launch of my product, I thanked affiliates for 53% of my sales. To reiterate, this was at a point in my business where I had a small email list (about 700 subscribers), I didn’t have many connections (heck, I’d only just started doing coffee chats in my business), and I wasn’t making a consistent income from my products yet.
At time of writing, I can thank affiliates for 27% of my product income in the last 10 months. When I have flash sales or promotional periods, affiliate conversions account for up to 40% to 50% of my overall sales. Honestly, I don’t spend a lot of time on my affiliate program, despite this being my zone of genius.
I’m too busy working with clients and their affiliates so I let my own program fall behind - but it’s comforting to know that it’s already set up and running in the background. My affiliates have their links to share if the opportunity arises - and, on the whole, it takes minimal effort for my affiliates to market my own products for me.
Here's how you know if you're ready or not...
you're not ready to start an affiliate program if...
You don't have a product to sell yet.
You might have landed on this blog post in your prepping and planning stages of creating your first online course or infoproduct. In that case, woohoo! 🎉 This is such an exciting time for you and your business!
Adding digital products into your income stream is such a good idea - and something that a lot of online experts rave about - but not many people will tell you how hard it really is to create and then sell them.
I can tell you first hand that creating your first digital product is hard 👏 work 👏. You need to do so much research, planning, content creation, testing, selling, and launching - you won't have time to be worrying about affiliates.
Don't bite off more than you can chew. If this is your first product, take your time. Be intentional, do your research, and stay focused. Trying to add affiliates to the chaos of creating your first product will only result in a lot of half-finished jobs on your to-do list. It's best to wait until your product is created so you can give your affiliates the time and attention they need to best sell your shiny new product!
You haven't validated your product.
I have first hand experience in how important it is to validate your product. When I launched my first e-course in 2016, I skimped past the validation phase and didn't noticed any of the signs.
No one was pre-ordering my course. No one was responding to my emails about it. No one was interested. I had switched from one niche to another in a snap and expected my audience to dish out $497 to learn more about it - what did I expect?! 🙈
If you've created your first product, you may be at this stage. You've already done the hardest part - creating it! - now you just have to sell the damned thing!
Affiliates will be wary about promoting a product that hasn’t sold yet. They want proof that the product is going to be of value to their audience and that it’s worth recommending.
I’ve worked with clients in the past who haven’t validated their product ideas (beyond surveys and focus groups) and it’s always a huge struggle to convince affiliates to get involved.
Why should they put their time and energy into promoting something that hasn’t sold yet? Unless you’re Marie frickin’ Forleo, I don’t recommend inviting affiliates to promote your product until you’ve hit some kind of internal sales goal.
Related Post → How To Validate & Pre-Sell Your First Digital Product
You're booked up with client work
You could be a service based business owner who has a digital product gathering dust. You worked SO hard to get that product created but you're not seeing consistent sales. To be frank, you're probably pissed that it didn't sell as well as all the experts said it would.
If you've turned back to accepting clients and you don't have the time to focus on anything else, then don't plan on starting an affiliate program just yet. You need to be able to invest the time in starting a program so take a look at starting when you're less booked up and you're able to squeeze it into your workload.
Running a successful affiliate program is more than giving someone a link and turning back to your client work. You need to be able to be present and offer your affiliates time and energy in order to help them sell more of your product.
If you set aside time to set everything up and manage your program (it could just be a couple of hours a week), then you could be making even more money alongside your current client contracts 😍
you *are* ready to start an affiliate program if...
You have a validated product.
‘Validated’ being the key word here.
If you know your product will sell - i.e. customers will part ways with their hard earned money to invest in your product - then you know that it is worth getting affiliates involved.
Once you've made a certain amount of sales, you'll know that your product is getting traction and interest from your audience. You'll be able to get feedback from your new customers and, hopefully, some testimonials too! 🙌
This could mean you launched a course a few months ago to applause - but haven’t made a sale since. Or maybe you’ve been ticking along nicely at one or two sales a month but you know you could increase those numbers with some affiliate recommendations.
It’s always so much easier to invite affiliates to promote a product when you have proof it will sell well. If you can show them that your product is worth promoting, you’re much more likely to get that all-important “yes” email.
If you haven’t validated your product, you might want to read this guide and bookmark this post for later!
You want to increase your passive income.
I’m not a huge fan of the phrase ‘passive income’ - because, let’s be real, it takes a whole lot of work to create digital products and start your own affiliate program - but it does have a nice ring to it, doesn’t it? 😍
You could be at a point in your business where you want to increase your passive income to:
help scale your business
grow a consistent + reliable income stream
keep it sustainable as you focus on growth in other areas
move from a done-for-you business model to a one-to-many model
enable you to outsource more and grow a team
spend more time with your family, travelling, or doing whatever the heck you want
If you’re thinking about ways to increase your passive income, then you could be ready to start an affiliate program of your own!
Of course, it’s far from passive to begin with! However, once you’ve got it all set up, it can tick away nicely in the background whilst you’re working with clients, creating a new product, or chilling in Hawaii. Whatever floats your boat 😉
You have the time to start your own program or the resources to outsource.
Sometimes you have to pick between time or money - starting an affiliate program will require at least one to begin with.
If you can allocate time in your schedule to start an affiliate program of your own, amazing! You can probably get everything created in a few hours a week or you can set aside a few days to set it all up if you’re in a rush. That said, affiliate outreach is something you can’t rush so you’ll need to set aside at least an hour a week for that.
Have no idea exactly how to start your own program? No worries! I have a free checklist that will guide you through what to do and in what order. Click here to learn more about it!
Maybe you don’t have the time, but you have the resources to outsource everything to an affiliate manager (*ahem*) or a VA. That’s also amazing! Make sure you find someone who has experience in managing an affiliate program and is super tech-savvy - there’s plenty of room for error in setting up affiliate platforms!
don't leave money on the table
If you think you could be ready to start an affiliate program, don't wait! Waiting to start an affiliate program means you're leaving money on the table. You're missing out on affiliates sharing your link whenever your product could be of service in a Facebook group, or mentioning your course in their Instagram Story, or sending a three day promotional campaign to their email list.
There are SO many chances to make extra sales - without actually doing any of the selling yourself! So, don't wait for the perfect time. Done is better than perfect ✊