What Is Affiliate Marketing & How Does It Work? A Simple Guide For Beginners

Born & raised in England, Dale is the founder of Living More Working Less & he has been making a living from his laptop ever since leaving his job as an electrician back in 2012. Now he shares what he's learned to help others do the same... [read more]

What Is Affiliate Marketing & How Does It Work?You’ve heard about affiliate marketing, now you want to know what it is, how it works, how people make money with it & how you can actually get started with it.


Well, good news. In this article I’m going to explain everything there is to know about affiliate marketing, including how you can get started with it (for free) even if you’re just a beginner.

Plus I’ll also be providing you with real-life examples & a bonus that’ll help you fast-track your success.

What Is Affiliate Marketing?   |   How Does Affiliate Marketing Work?   |   How Do Affiliate Marketers Make Money?   |   How Much Money Can You Make?   |   How Do You Become An Affiliate Marketer?   |   Free Fast-Track Bonus   |   Affiliate Marketing FAQ

What Is Affiliate Marketing?

Affiliate marketing basically involves promoting products or services for companies online in return for commissions which are paid out on successful sales.

You see, most companies that have an online presence, including the big-name companies like Amazon & Best Buy, etc, all have things called affiliate programs through which you can promote their products for money.

As an example, you can see a screenshot of the Amazon affiliate program below which is named Amazon Associates:

Amazon Associates

From the image above you’ll be able to see that their program says “Profit from Amazon” and states that you can earn up to a whopping 12% in commissions by promoting their stuff.

You send somebody to the Amazon website, they purchase something, you get paid.

It’s a fantastic way to earn money because you literally only have to focus on one thing – promoting.

Everything else is done for you. You don’t need to deal with customer support, sales, refunds or anything like that. All you need to do is refer people to the products.

In fact, you literally don’t even need to talk to anybody at all.

You just send people to the websites & get paid whenever they make a purchase.

And the best part is that there’s literally no limit on the amount that you can earn with it… The harder you work, the more money you stand to make. The potential is unlimited.

Some affiliates earn as much as 5-figures per month.

Amazon Earnings Example

Some affiliates even earn as much as 6-figures per month with it.

It’s pretty crazy for sure, but what’s crazier is that those levels of income aren’t actually unrealistic to achieve providing you’re willing to put in the work to make it happen.

How Does Affiliate Marketing Work?

The process of affiliate marketing is pretty simple. You find a company that you’d like to promote, you join their affiliate program (which is free to do) & then you get a special link to promote their products or services.

The special link that you’re given is known as affiliate link & it basically contains an ID that is unique to your affiliate account.

As an example, if you were to join the Amazon affiliate program (Amazon Associates) then your link might look something like this:


This then means that if you shared that link & somebody clicked through it then made a purchase, Amazon would be able to determine it was you that sent them there & you’d get paid a commission.

Make sense?

But it gets even better too because most companies even save something called “affiliate cookies” on the devices of the users that click on your affiliate links.

These affiliate cookies are small basically small text files that contain an expiry date & your affiliate ID.

And the reason the companies save these is so that you’ll still be credited for the commission even if the person that clicked your link doesn’t happen to make their purchase right away.

As long as the cookie is still present on the device, you’ll still get paid the commissions for any purchases that user makes, even if it happens to be 5, 10 or 30 days later.

Which I think you’ll agree, is pretty neat, right?

But as I mentioned in the previous section of this article, the best bit is that you literally don’t have to focus on anything other than promoting, because everything else is done for you.

There’s no selling, handling refunds, dealing with support or anything like that.

You just send people to products & get paid whenever they purchase them – even if that doesn’t happen to be right away. The companies you’re promoting handle everything else on your behalf.

How Do Affiliate Marketers Make Money?

Whilst the process of affiliate marketing itself is pretty simple, whether or not you actually make money with it depends on how effectively you promote your affiliate links.

No clicks on your links means no sales, and no sales means no money.

So in order to actually make money with affiliate marketing, it’s obviously vitally important that you get as many clicks on your links as possible because more clicks = more money.

So how do affiliate marketers do it? How do affiliate marketers make money?

Well, there are a number of ways. Some affiliate marketers use paid advertising, some, known as influencers, use social media… But in my opinion, there’s a better way.

And that is through something called search engine optimisation.

Search engine optimisation provides a relatively easy & a free way to get unlimited amounts of visitors to your links from search engines like Google, Yahoo & Bing.

And it’s the exact same way that I personally make money with affiliate marketing.

You see, when you create content online (such as a webpage) search engines like Google automatically discover it & list it within their results as an option for people to click on.

So as an example, if you were interested in cycling you could create a webpage listing what you believed to be the best cycling backpacks for commuting.

Then whenever somebody searched for something related to cycling backpacks, Google would show your webpage as an option for people to click on, like this:

Google Cycling Search Results Example

This means that you’d then begin getting visitors coming to your page (for free) which gives you the opportunity to promote something to them as an affiliate to earn money.

And guess what?

That’s exactly what the creator of that page shown above has done.

Take a look:

Cycling Backpacks Affiliate Links Example

As you can see from the screenshot above, next to each of the backpacks listed on that page the creator has added affiliate links that take the visitor to the product page on Amazon.

If the visitor clicks them & buys something, the person that created that page gets paid a commission.

Plus, the creator will still get paid a commission even if the person happens to purchase something different altogether, or they’ll get paid a commission of the total if they happen to buy multiple things.

So from a small one-time effort of initially creating the page, the person behind it could now find themselves earning a completely passive income for many years to come.

And the best part is that there’s literally no limit on the amount of these types of pages you can create.

The more you create, the more money you stand to earn.

Which is why search engine optimisation is my favourite & top-recommended way to earn money from affiliate marketing, even though there are different methods you can promote.

And the best place to learn how to get started with it (in my opinion) is Commission Academy.

How Much Money Can You Make As An Affiliate Marketer?

Honestly, there’s absolutely no limit on the amount you can earn. Some affiliates earn 5-figures per month, some even earn as much as 6-figures per month.

The amount you earn with it is simply dependant on how much effort you’re willing to put into it. The harder you work, the more you can earn.

And if you leverage methods like search engine optimisation which I talked about in the previous section then you’re income can literally build up like a snowball.

To highlight that here’s a chart which shows the actual income growth of a brand new affiliate marketer from month 0 to month 10 who leveraged that exact same method:

Affiliate Income Growth

As you can see, initially it doesn’t look like much is happening, but then from month 4 the income just begins to grow like a snowball until in month 10 he is earning over $6,000 per month.

And if you like, you can read the full article on that here.

The biggest problem though is that most people see the lack of results within their first few months & give up because they think that it isn’t working.

Those that persist, however, obviously reap the rewards.

So the sky is the limit when it comes to earning money with affiliate marketing & anybody can do it, but in order to find great success with it, you must be sure to persist with it.

How Do You Become An Affiliate Marketer?

When I first started out with affiliate marketing many years ago I had to figure out how to connect all of the dots myself, but nowadays, thankfully things are much easier.

You don’t have to go through all of that, instead, you can just leverage a program like Commission Academy.

Commission Academy will provide you with everything you need to get started with affiliate marketing, including step-by-step training, tools, access to community support & even 1-on-1 mentorship.

The best part?

You can get started with Commission Academy completely free of charge.

Alongside that, you could also check out Wealthy Affiliate, the world’s largest affiliate marketing platform. It’s another platform I highly recommend & you can also get started for free there too.

That’s right. Wealthy Affiliate offers 2 levels of membership, Starter (free) & Premium.

As a Starter member, you’ll be able to work your way through the first 10 lessons, begin building out your first website & interact with the community.

And you don’t need to enter any payment details to join, just an email address will get you in.

That means there’s absolutely no risk to check it out.

Then, if you decide you like what you see you can opt to upgrade to Premium which will give you access to literally everything there is to offer. After that, there are NO upsells.

Premium membership costs only $49 per month & you can even bring that cost all the way down to just $30 per month by paying for the full year in advance (for $359).

As a Premium member, you’ll get everything you need to leverage the methods that I’ve talked about in this article & build out a thriving affiliate marketing business of your own.

But you don’t just have to take my word for it, instead feel free to check out the lessons below:

Lesson 1   Lesson 2

Lesson 3   Lesson 4

Lesson 5   Lesson 6

Lesson 7   Lesson 8

Lesson 9   Lesson 10

Free Fast Fast-Track Bonus

No doubt you want to get things rolling as quickly as possible, and that’s where I can help.

You see I myself am also a member of Wealthy Affiliate (I only ever recommend things I truly believe in) and I’m also a participant in their affiliate program.

This means that if you join Wealthy Affiliate via my link & go Premium, then at absolutely no extra cost to you, I get paid a commission.

So here’s the deal. If you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours.

If you join Wealthy Affiliate via my link & go Premium, I’ll offer you my personal 1-on-1 mentorship to help you get your new business rolling as quickly as possible.

Sound fair?

All you need to do to take advantage of my offer is to create an account via my link here.

You can still feel free to check it out as a free Starter member first & I won’t put any pressure on you to upgrade, but just know that once you do, I’ll be ready to help.

So here are your next steps to take:

I hope to see you on the inside & I’ll be really looking forward to helping you launch your very own thriving affiliate business.

P.S. here’s the direct link to my profile in case you have any questions.

Wealthy Affiliate Profile

Affiliate Marketing FAQ

Hopefully, the article above has answered the majority of the questions you had about affiliate marketing but to cover all bases I’ve put together a little affiliate marketing FAQ below:

Is Affiliate Marketing Legal?

Absolutely, affiliate marketing is 100% legal. As an affiliate marketer you’re just promoting products or services on behalf of companies, there’s nothing illegal about that.

How Can I Start Affiliate Marketing With No Money?

The best places to start affiliate marketing with no money are Commission Academy & Wealthy Affiliate. They offer a free Starter membership & you’ll be able to use their tools & training to get the ball rolling without having to make any upfront payments.

Is Affiliate Marketing Still Profitable In 2020?

Yes, of course. There are more businesses online & more people shopping online than ever before so there’s actually never been a better time to make money with it. The rumours that it is “saturated” or “dead” are complete nonsense.

Can I Do Affiliate Marketing Without a Website?

You can, but it’s not recommended & by trying to do affiliate marketing without a website you’d just be making life unnecessarily harder for yourself than it needs to be.

Is Affiliate Marketing Worth The Effort?

Absolutely. With affiliate marketing, you can set your own hours, you can work from wherever you want & you can scale your income up to any level you desire. It’s 100% worth it.

Which Affiliate Network Is Best?

There are many great affiliate networks but in my opinion, the best affiliate network for newbies is Amazon Associates. Amazon is trusted by so many people & has such a wide range of products which makes it very easy to see conversions even with smaller amounts of traffic.

Is Affiliate Marketing Passive Income?

Yes & no, it depends on how you promote your affiliate links. If you promote using methods that require direct input of your time then, of course, it won’t be passive income, but if you leverage methods like content creation then it can become 100% passive income over time (though it’ll require hard work initially to build it up).

How Long Does It Take To Be a Successful Affiliate Marketer?

Technically you could earn money as an affiliate immediately, but being realistic if you’re brand new you should set yourself a timeframe of at least 3 to 6 months before expecting to see your first commissions.

Is Affiliate Marketing a Pyramid Scheme?

No. A pyramid scheme involves people earning money from investments over multiple levels (hence the name) & it typically only stands to benefit those towards the top. Affiliate marketing involves promoting products or services for direct commissions & does not involve multiple levels. Some pyramid schemes, however, do try to disguise themselves as affiliate programs to trick people into investing so I would always advise being wary of things with multiple levels.

Got More Questions?

If you still happen to have more questions about affiliate marketing simply leave them in the comments below & I’ll get around to answering them as soon as I can.

Or if you’re ready to get started, you can join me over at Commission Academy here.

About the Author:
Born & raised in England, Dale is the founder of Living More Working Less & he has been making a living from his laptop ever since leaving his job as an electrician back in 2012. Now he shares what he's learned to help others do the same... [read more]
Blue Arrow

Free Training:

Turn Your Passions Into Profits 💸

Training Video Preview

Through my step-by-step training series, you'll discover how to turn your passions into profits & launch a thriving affiliate business, even if you're a beginner with no previous experience.

27 thoughts on “What Is Affiliate Marketing & How Does It Work? A Simple Guide For Beginners”

  1. Hi Dale, thanks for the great insight. I have been looking for a start since last week and all courses were too expensive. Glad you shared this. Am going to join via your link. Thanks

  2. Dale,

    I absolutely LOVED this article! Thank you so much for laying it all out.

    So what you’re saying is…

    With affiliate marketing I simply create a website about, let’s say bicycles, then I write content, sign up to the Amazon Associates program and enter my affiliate links, whenever someone clicks through and buys, I make a commission?

    However…clear this up for me…

    What if I have an affiliate link on my website for bicycle A, but someone clicks it and ends up buying bicycle B, would I still make a commission or only if they bought bicycle A?

    I’m sorry if this is a dumb question, I’m just new to all of this and hope you can shed some light.


    • Hi Simon, thanks for the comment. You’ll be glad to know that you will still make a commission, even if they purchase bicycle B and not bicycle A. Heck, you could even still make a commission if they purchased bicycle C, or bicycle D!

  3. I I’m very interested in this project I don’t know very much about marketing but I’m willing to learn where do I go to sign up?

    • Sign up to what? Did you actually even read the content above? There was literally an entire section entitled “How Do You Become An Affiliate Marketer?”.

  4. About the MLM concept. I agree that most of them will only FINANCIALLY benefit the people at the top. If the MLM is selling good quality helpful product, I see it as being a decent business. I appreciate that affiliate marketing is an equal playing field. The more effort you put in, the more results you’ll get out of it. There are so many businesses, services, and products to promote through affiliate marketing, so the sky’s the limit, right?! ♥ It makes sense that whoever signed you up to the MLM would have a vested interest in your success, because if you don’t make money, they don’t make money. So please be frank when you help me to understand why YOU would have a vested interest in OUR success in affiliate marketing? You don’t make money when we make money, so what do you FINANCIALLY get out of it?

    Thank you so much for all of the quality content and help that you provide. God Bless you brother. ♥

    • Hi, I don’t get anything out of it. I’m just passionate about both affiliate marketing & helping others. I believe in life you get what you give 🙂

      With regards to MLM, I’ve never seen any MLM selling a product that was either better than that provided by existing market leaders, or that couldn’t be purchased elsewhere for less without the attached opportunity. In my opinion, MLMs are just cons built around social-hype.

  5. Hi Dale,

    When someone buys a product on amazon through your page, do you still get 12% commission if they returned the item and they got full price refund?

    • Hi Tom, no – because that would open up the program to fraud. Affiliate commissions are paid out on sales generated, so if the customer funds, the amount will be deducted from your commissions. If the commissions have already been paid out then it’ll be deducted from future commissions payable, but affiliate programs have things in place to protect this from happening such as payment hold periods that cover the refund period, etc.

  6. Hi Dale,

    Thank you for sharing valuable information.

    Knowing what you know now, if you had to start over from scratch today, and had a goal to generate at least 3k-5K a month the quickest from affiliate marketing:

    1) Would the Amazon affiliate program be your 1st choice, or is there any another you would recommend?

    2) Is there a specific niche, and/or product you would promote or target initially?

    3) What free, and paid traffic source(s) would you use?

    4) What additional software tools/technology would you use now (…would you share specific tool(s), their cost(s) to getting QUALITY/CONVERTING traffic, AND ranking in Google/Bing, etc…?)

    5) How much would you expect to spend on marketing/traffic, including the tools mentioned above?


    1) Is there a particular niche/product(s) you would recommend today (August 2022 and onward… ) for someone starting out with to see success/profits quickest?

    2) Currently, where are the majority of your affiliate profits/commissions coming from?

    For example, roughly – 30% Amazon Affiliate, 20% Wal-Mart Affiliate, 10% Best Buy Affiliate, 5% Click Bank, 15% Wealthy Affiliate products, 20% J/V partnerships, etc…?

    3) What is your most profitable marketing/traffic strategy, including any software you might use? … Google Ads, FB ads, solo ads, blogging/content creation, media buys, YT video ads, Instagram, Tik-tok, etc….

    Thank you for taking the time.

  7. Wow, great post! I found it to be a comprehensive guide for beginners looking to learn about affiliate marketing. You’ve explained the concept and its inner workings in a way that is easy to understand, and I appreciate how you’ve included practical examples and tips. I particularly liked how you’ve highlighted the importance of choosing the right affiliate program and the role of tracking and analytics in the process. Your post covers all the important aspects of affiliate marketing and I think it will be incredibly helpful for anyone looking to start with this type of digital marketing. Keep up the good work. I’m excited to learn more from you and your expertise in the field of affiliate marketing. Let’s connect and share more insights on digital marketing. I would love to explore the possibility of working together in the future, whether it be through collaborations or partnerships.

  8. Has anyone actually made money without becoming a premium member following these directions? I would like to do this but I don’t have the money to pay out without making money to compensate for it. I’d like to see an example or hear from someone who actually made money before they upgraded to the premium program.

    • I doubt it – but not because you “can’t”, it’s more of a case of determination. The folks who have the determination to make it work tend to find a way to come up with the funds (e.g. doing other small tasks to cover the membership, or cutting back spend, etc).


Leave a Comment

Ready To Launch Your Very Own Ultra-Successful Online Business?

...and begin transforming your ideas into income? 🤑

This website is reader-supported. If you buy through links on our site, we may earn a commission. Learn More