Sooner or later, every aspiring affiliate marketer asks this question…
“How long does it take to make money with affiliate marketing?”
Maybe you’re trying to determine whether you should get started with affiliate marketing or not.
Or maybe you’ve already launched your first affiliate business and you just can’t help but wonder how much longer you’ll have to stick with it until you finally start reaping the fruit of your labor.
If so, please allow me to enlighten you…
Most affiliate marketing businesses generate their first money 3 to 6 months following their initial launch. After that, money trickles in sporadically until the business hits its 1-year mark. It usually takes 12-18 months for an affiliate business to start yielding $1000 per month and 18-24 months to reach a full-time income.
Nonetheless, please note that the aforementioned timelines aren’t definitive but rather based upon projections that reflect the growth of an average affiliate business.
Having said that, your own timeline could be shorter or longer than expected…
For example, over the years, I’ve seen affiliate marketers striking a gold vein just a few months after launching their first website as well as others struggling to break the $1000/month barrier for over 4 years.
Ultimately, the factors that contribute to how fast an affiliate marketer pockets commissions are so many that it would be nearly impossible to pinpoint an accurate timeframe…
Nevertheless, the speed with which affiliate businesses generate money boils down to mainly just one factor…
However, before I delve into that subject, you must first get a clear picture of how the process of making money with affiliate marketing works.
Affiliate Marketing: The Process...
The process of making money with affiliate marketing is comprised of 4 steps…
Step 1: Pick a Niche
A niche is basically the market in which you’ll be promoting affiliate products and it can be anything from weight loss and electronics to furniture and clothes.
Step 2: Build an Online Presence
An online presence is going to be acting as the place where you’ll be conducting all your affiliate promotions… You can think of it as the “storefront” of your affiliate marketing business.
This can be a website, blog, Youtube channel, Instagram page, Facebook group, email list, etc.
Step 3: Gather Web Traffic
Web traffic is the bread and butter of any given online business and it can be described as the total audience that interacts with your online presence (e.g. Instagram followers, web visitors, email subscribers, Youtube viewers, etc).
Simply put, no web traffic = no money.
Step 4: Promote Affiliate Offers
Once you’ve gathered web traffic, no matter how small, you can start monetizing it by promoting relevant affiliate offers to it.
For instance, if your web traffic revolves around losing weight, you could start promoting weight loss programs, workout routines, exercise equipment, diet cookbooks, etc.
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The Key Factor to Earning Money With Affiliate Marketing
As previously mentioned, despite the fact that the factors contributing to how fast an affiliate business generates commissions are numerous, the most determining is just one…
This factor is Web Traffic.
Practically, the speed with which affiliate businesses make money depends on how fast they’re able to get their affiliate offers in front of the eyes of web traffic that might be interested in purchasing them.
That being said, the question “How Long Does it Take to Make Money With Affiliate Marketing?” could be just as easily rephrased to “How Long Does it Take to Cultivate Web Traffic?”.
The answer to this question is “It depends on the kind of web traffic you decide to utilize.”
Web traffic can be split into 2 main categories:
- Free Traffic
- & Paid Traffic
1. Free Traffic
Free traffic refers to traffic generated without spending money on running paid ads.
The two methods of cultivating free traffic that are the most utilized among affiliate marketers (probably because they have a track record of being the most effective for promoting affiliate offers) are:
- Content Marketing
- and Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
Content marketing is the process of consistently creating and publishing content that’s highly relevant to your target audience, such as:
- YouTube videos
- Blog posts
- Case studies
- Social media posts
For example, if your target audience is comprised of beginners to yoga, your content marketing strategy could revolve around recording YouTube videos sharing beginner-friendly information about yoga, such as:
- nutrition plans
- breathing techniques
Ultimately, the more content you publish, the higher your chances of being found by people who might be interested in purchasing the affiliate offers you promote.
Not only that but publishing high-quality, helpful content boosts your credibility and trustworthiness, something that could, in turn, increase your audience’s conversion rates (the rates at which your audience purchases what you’re promoting).
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a combination of practices that can be leveraged towards optimizing your website so that search engines (Google, Yahoo, Yandex, etc) start displaying it at higher positions of their search results when specific keywords are queried.
Most of the time, the higher a website appears on a search engine’s search results for a given keyword, the more free traffic it receives.
For instance, as you can see in the image below, the website runnersworld.com appears in the 1st position of Google’s search results for the keyword “best running shoes”.
This basically means two things…
Firstly, runnersworld.com has apparently performed better SEO for the keyword “best running shoes” than runningshoesguru.com which appears in the 2nd position, and fleetfeet.com which appears in the 3rd.
Secondly, runnersworld.com is most likely attracting much more free traffic for the keyword “best running shoes” than runningshoesguru.com and fleetfeet.com.
However, every upside has its downside…
While content marketing and SEO are perfect for attracting traffic to your affiliate offers without spending a single dime on paid advertising, they both require the investment of immense amounts of upfront work, trial & error, time, and patience until they start bearing any fruit.
Ultimately, you can think about it this way…
By utilizing free traffic generation methods, what you won’t have to invest in money, you’ll invest in time and effort.
If you require high-quality guidance on generating free traffic via content marketing and SEO I strongly suggest that you check out two of my favorite affiliate marketing courses, Wealthy Affiliate, and The Affiliate Lab.
2. Paid Traffic
Paid traffic refers to traffic generated via advertising promotions you’ve paid actual money to run.
Paid adverts come in a variety of shapes and forms, such as:
- Display ads: Banners, texts, or images placed on third-party websites
- Paid search: Ads displayed on the results pages of search engines like Google, Yahoo, Bing, etc
- Social media ads: Ads served to users on social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, etc
- Sponsored: Promotional content that a sponsor pays an influencer to create and distribute
- Native ads: Adverts that are consistent with the form and function of the platform upon which they appear
Contrary to free traffic that requires the investment of tons of time and effort to start kicking in, paid traffic is generated virtually instantaneously the same moment you get your paid ad campaigns up and running.
Having said that, paid traffic could enable your affiliate business to start bringing in affiliate commissions light-years faster than free traffic.
Furthermore, unlike free traffic that needs to be maintained regularly, paid traffic is much less hands-on in the sense that it’ll keep coming in for as long as it’s being funded.
Also, while growing free traffic requires even more time and effort, growing paid traffic can take place on-demand with merely a slight increase in your ad budget.
Lastly, paid ad campaigns usually involve much less technical work, less manpower, and less long-term planning than free traffic campaigns.
The main downside of leveraging paid ads is that you always run a certain amount of risk of completely wasting your money for nothing as there’s no guarantee whatsoever that the paid traffic you generate will result in any actual sales.
And truth is that most beginners to paid ads lose money until they start getting the hang of the whole process.
If you’d like to start leveraging paid advertising methods towards driving instant targeted traffic to your affiliate offers on-demand, I strongly suggest that you take a look at Commission Hero and Super Affiliate System Pro.
Affiliate marketing FAQs
Affiliate marketing is an online business model that involves promoting products or services created and distributed by third-party online merchants in exchange for getting paid a commission for each sale you refer.
In layman’s terms, affiliate marketing is the process of being compensated for helping businesses sell to more customers.
Here’s a bird’s eye view of how affiliate marketing works.
- You join a merchant’s affiliate program
- The merchant gives you a unique affiliate link that points to their e-shop
- You promote your unique affiliate link online (blog, forums, social media, paid ads, etc.)
- Every time someone clicks on your unique affiliate link and makes a purchase on the merchant’s e-shop, the merchant pays you a commission
There are thousands of successful affiliate marketers all around the world. Some of the most well-known ones are:
- Pat Flynn
- Matt Diggity
- Matthew Woodward
- Doug Cunnington
- & more
You can check out a roundup of my 17 favorite examples of affiliate success and their backstories right here.
- Billion-dollar industry
- Very low startup & operational expenses
- Huge income potential
- Flexible & versatile
- Passive income
- Simple to implement
- No technical background
- No customer support
- No physical setup
Affiliate marketers can be divided into five main income groups:
- Total beginners: $0 – $20,000 per year
- Low-level affiliates: $20,000 – $50,000 per year
- Intermediate affiliates: $50,000 – $100,000 per year
- High-level affiliates: $100,000 – $500,000 per year
- Super affiliates: $500,000+ per year
According to PayScale, the average annual income for affiliate marketers in the US is over $54,000 per year. Statistics reveal that 13% of affiliates earn more than $75,000 per year.
Some of the factors that influence how much you earn as an affiliate marketer include:
- target niche
- available resources
- previous experience
- marketing efforts
- & overall mindset
Here’s a rough income growth timeline of a typical affiliate marketing business:
- months (0-3): no earnings
- months (3-6): first affiliate sale
- months (6-12): $100-$500 monthly
- months (12-18): $1000 monthly
- months (18-24): $3000+ monthly
This timeline isn’t a guarantee of future performance but rather a mere approximation of the income growth of an average affiliate business. Your own timeline could be shorter or longer than projected.
Over the years, I’ve seen aspiring affiliates striking a gold vein just a few months into the industry. On the other hand, I personally know people who’ve been struggling to grow their affiliate revenue to $1000 per month for several years.
Affiliate marketing is one of the most affordable money-making models out there.
Here’s a breakdown of everything you need to get started as an affiliate marketer along with their associated costs:
- web hosting & domain name: $2.95/month (Bluehost)
- keyword research tool: $49/month (Jaaxy)
- expert guidance: $49/month (Wealthy Affiliate)
- email autoresponder: Free for up to 1000 subs (MailerLite)
Please note that on top of expert guidance, Wealthy Affiliate also provides free access to hosting and a keyword research tool so you don’t have to purchase them separately.
Yes, you can do affiliate marketing without a website by promoting your affiliate links on other marketing channels, such as:
- Social Media
- Paid Ads
The process of getting started with affiliate marketing can be broken down into the following four simple steps:
- Pick a niche
- Launch a blog
- Build an audience
- Promote affiliate products
No, you don’t.
Affiliate marketing is very simple to get started with by virtually anyone regardless of age, education, background, available capital, tech-savviness, professional network, etc.
In fact, most 6-figure affiliate marketers were no more experienced than you currently are when they first ventured into the affiliate marketing industry.
Nonetheless, being knowledgeable in fields like marketing, sales, content production, business management, etc., could help you reach your financial goals somewhat faster.
Summing up, the time it takes to make money with affiliate marketing depends mostly on how quickly you send targeted web traffic to the affiliate offers you’re promoting…
Web traffic can be divided into the 2 following categories:
- Free Traffic
- Paid Traffic
Cultivating free traffic could take months or maybe even years of consistent effort but requires no monetary investment.
Paid traffic can be generated almost effortlessly as soon as you launch a paid ad campaign but maintaining it requires a steady stream of funding.
Ultimately, you have the option to experiment with both types of traffic and determine for yourself which one generates the best returns on your investments.
However, please note that the process of successfully utilizing either paid or free traffic involves a huge learning curve, a lot of trial and error, and potentially immense amounts of frustration.
Having said that, if you’d like to short-circuit your learning curve and minimize trial and error, I strongly suggest that you check out my roundup of The Best Affiliate Marketing Courses.
Do you have any additional questions?
Leave a comment right below or contact me right here.
I’ll be more than happy to help you out!
All the best,
Harry, Founder & Editor at dearboss-iquit.com
That’s one of the most balanced posts I’ve ever read on Affiliate Marketing.
Fast Money is a Myth! No Money is a Myth!
It truly lies in “getting the hang of the whole process.”
Harry, your transparency is incredible and honesty commendable!
Keep up the great work!
Hey Affan, thanks a lot for your kind words – they’re really motivating 🙂
I’m so glad you liked the post!
All the best and stay safe,