Pros and cons of affiliate marketing

This article is part of the Internet Marking for Artists series that you can follow at

This article talks about the pros and cons of affiliate marketing from the perspective of a creative, e.g. artist, graphic designer, photographer, video creator.

If you're looking to earn some extra or side income, this article is for you.

I've been into affiliate marketing since late 2000s and all the information written here are from my personal experience.

In case you don't know, affiliate marketing is basically marketing a product/service for a company, and earning a commission when a sale happens through your referral. In other words, you're acting as a salesman. You're selling something for a company but you don't own any product. If there's no sale, you don't earn any money.

It's easy to get into affiliate marketing

The main advantage of affiliate marketing is it's easy to get into due to the low barrier of entry.

Many companies offer affiliate programs, either run by the companies themselves or through an affiliate network company, e.g. Shareasale, Awin, Webgains, CJ Affiliate, Clickbank and more.

Examples of companies that run affiliate programs themselves are Adobe, Amazon, Jackson's Art, Domestika, Skillshare, SquareSpace and more.

Examples of companies that offer affiliate programs through affiliate network companies are Dick Blick Art Materials, Huion, XP-Pen, Book Depository just to name a few.

It's easy to create an affiliate account with these companies. However, sometimes you may have to meet certain criteria (e.g. minimum web traffic) before you can be approved. With some companies, you may have to maintain certain criteria or you may be kicked out.

After you have an affiliate account, you can create affiliate links to refer people to company products/services. When a sale happens, you earn money.

Getting into affiliate marketing is easy, but earning substantial amount of money is challenging.

If you already have a consistent amount of web traffic, you may be able to convert a few clicks into sales each month. Your conversion rate will depend on how relevant your content is. For example, it doesn't make sense to market furniture on an art blog, or graphic design services on a fitness workout website.

Affiliate marketing is incredibly competitive since anyone and everyone can join.

To do well with affiliate marketing, you have to differentiate yourself from your competition. To do so you can build your brand, create really useful or compelling content to attract more web traffic. Doing well with affiliate marketing take months, but more likely, years.

So how competitive is affiliate marketing really is?

Say you want to market art supplies since you're an artist and you happen to use traditional media to create art.

Do a search on "best _____ for artists" on Google and fill in the blanks with whatever supplies you can think of, e.g. coloured pencils, markers, watercolour, etc.

The search results will be filled with listicles or reviews with affiliate links pointing back to retailers that sell those products. Many listicles are actually written by people who are just out to earn money and have no idea how the art supplies actually work. That's the reality. Some listicles are just compilation of reviews from actual artists re-written to avoid copyright infringement.

Once these listicles or reviews are written, they will stay online forever and attract people looking for information regarding those products. There's nothing wrong with writing listicles or reviews obviously. You just have to put in some effort to make your content useful and hopefully attract web traffic to wherever you want to place your affiliate links, blog, Facebook, Youtube page.

Competing with countless competitors is unavoidable in affiliate marketing. You can also expect all your hard work to be re-written by others and published under a different name, and you won't be able to do anything about it because there's no copyright infringement.

It is tough to make money from affiliate marketing for beginners because your content will rank way below the top search results.

To rank your website well on search pages, you have do search engine optimization (SEO). There's too much to talk about SEO so you've go to read up on your own. The best way to rank is to create content so good that people will link back to you. When you get backlinks, it tells Google that your content is useful and Google will in turn place you higher on the search results.

Building backlinks is not easy and is time consuming so there are people who pay websites to get backlinks. E.g. I've received many offers by people willing to pay me just to include links on my blog to their content. I don't sell backlinks though. If your content is good, I will link to you for free, but I don't sell backlinks.

Affiliate marketing is not true passive income

Passive income is income that requires little to no effort to earn and maintain.

Affiliate marketing can produce some passive income but it's not true passive income.

Sure you can create great content that attracts traffic, and in turn convert the traffic into affiliate sales. You do the hard work once and reap the rewards later. That's the theory anyway.

In reality, because affiliate marketing is so competitive, whatever content you create will get crowded out eventually.

If you write about specific products that have a shelf life, e.g. phones or tablets that get refreshed every year, whatever review you've written would be out of date when the new model appears. So you have to continue to write reviews for new products. Basically you have to continue to work to create content to attract web traffic. That's why affiliate marketing cannot be considered true passive income.

Affiliate marketing is just one of many ways to earn money online.

Unforeseen changes to affiliate marketing

I've created affiliate marketing content, e.g. reviews, for companies that have shut down. In which case, all the effort I've put in to creating those content is wasted, even though I did earn some money initially.

Terms and conditions of affiliate programs can change too. Companies may change the amount of commission you get. You can earn less or you can earn more. Some products you refer may be excluded from earning money.

Affiliate marketing content may not have good shelf life

I've written thousands of reviews for art books and supplies on my blog. Many reviews are only popular the moment they appear on the front page of my blog. After they are pushed back several pages, the only way people can find those reviews is through search, and people can only search for a product if they know the product exists or the name of the product.

What I've done with my blog is basically to turn it into a resource. So when people think of art books or art supplies, they will think of my blog, my brand. It's also easier for my readers to recommend my website to their friends.

The thing with reviews is you have to continue to create content or else you will be made irrelevant since new products are released all the time. If you're not consistent in covering new products, you're just another random website online that no one will remember after they get the information they want from your page, nor will be people interested to check out the other content available on your blog.


Affiliate marketing is an easy way to show people money can be made online. If you can make $1, you can make $10. How much you earn comes down to how you can scale your production.

Affiliate marketing is good for people who want to earn a few dollars here and there. But if you want to earn full-time income from affiliate marketing, be prepare to put in full-time work.

I will still recommend people to start out with affiliate marketing to prove to yourself that you can make money online. But just don't expect to make lots of money from the go or for the first few years. You will however earn more compared to placing Google ads on your blog. For example, if your blog can get 10,000 views each month, in theory you can make maybe $10 from Google Adsense that month. If you can convert 1 out of the 10,000 to sign up for an Adobe app subscription which cost US $50, you can earn 85% (current commission rate) or US$42.50 from the same 10,000 views!

With making any money online, you can work backwards to find out how many views you need to earn how much you want.

The bulk of what I earn used to come from affiliate marketing but over the years, earnings dropped substantially due to competition. And there's also a limit to how much you can earn from affiliate marketing if you're just a one-man show. Due to the drop in affiliate earnings, over the years I've explored other ways of generating income to diversify my income sources. It's never good to depend only one a single income source.

Give it a try

You won't know whether or not you enjoy affiliate marketing until you try. You don't have to spend any money to get into affiliate marketing.

And you won't know whether or not you can earn any money until you earn your first dollar. And if you do earn your first dollar, share your experience with me and others in the comments section below.

To learn more about internet marketing for artists, visit


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