Today, I want to talk about affiliate marketing. If you don't know what's affiliate marketing, it's a referral program where you earn a commission whenever you sell something. This is similar to how a car salesman or insurance agent earns their money.
Two things happened recently that prompted me to write this article.
The first incident...
If you don't know, I'm part of the Amazon Associates (AA) program, which is an affiliate marketing program. I earn a commission whenever someones buys something through an Amazon link from my blog. I get nothing if a reader just clicks and buys nothing.
This morning, I received an email from AA notifying me of changes to the commission rates. The rates are different for different categories. The rate cut that affected me is for the books category which has dropped from 8.25% to 4.5%. Before the drop, whenever someone buys a $20 book, I would earn $1.65. After the drop, I would earn $0.90. It's already difficult to earn money from selling books, and now the commission rates are cut to make it even more difficult to make money. Can you imagine how many books you have to promote to earn a sizable pocket money, or to earn a living?
The second incident is from the Craftsy affiliate program that I'm in. Craftsy if you don't know is a website the sells digital courses relating to art, craft and cooking. When Craftsy was new, they provided me with free access to courses so that I can review them and feature on my blog. Recently, they told me that they no longer provide free access to affiliate marketers. What I found silly is it does not cost them money to provide free access to affiliate marketers who will then drive customers their way to help them earn more money. Basically, they have grown big enough that they no longer require the help of affiliate marketers anymore.
The moral of the two stories is businesses can change their terms and conditions anytime. It's nothing personal, it's just business. However, if you depend on those businesses for livelihood, then you're putting yourself in a dangerous position to get screwed whenever businesses change their policies in such a way that it goes against your favor.
The danger of being in an affiliate program is you're always at the whims and fancies of the company that pays you.
The only way to counter this is not to put all your eggs in the same basket. If you want to make money online, explore different avenues.
That was why two years ago, I started diversifying the ways I earn money online. I started my Patreon page, made art courses online to sell on my Gumroad page, and also produce videos for my Youtube channel. So now I earn a bit here and there. Everything adds up. If you place your bet on one company and that company decides to kick you out, you'll be left with nothing. It's a possible risk so you should minimise the impact from that risk.
I'm disappointed by AA and Craftsy but I understand where they come from. Companies exist only to make money. But it's distasteful to disregard those who helped build the company in the first place. They care about their own interests. You should care about your own interests too.
Anyway, thankfully, affiliate marketing is not the only way to make online. This incident has motivated me work even harder to build up other revenue channels. I hope you have learned something from my awful experience.
Ultimately, to be successful comes down to building your own brand, having a product or service that you can sell (you set your own commission), and good old fashion hard work.
If you want to learn more about marketing and making money online, follow the articles from my Internet Marketing for Artists series.