You have a creative business, which means, most days, you feel like you’re on top of the world. You can work when you want to, with whom you choose, and take vacations on a whim because hey, you are boss like that, right?
Unless, of course, you’re not feeling confident with your income. That changes things a bit.
As glamorous as being a solopreneur seems, we all know that working with clients can often times be unpredictable and stressful.
The feast-or-famine mindset is real, and can leave you convinced that searching job boards may be a better choice than trying to keep at this ‘“own-my-own-business” thing. We get these feelings in months where we have way less clients, our course sales dip or our Creative Market income has been dryer than Schweppes ginger ale.
Yet many service-based businesses are leaving a ton of money on the table, solely focusing on services, courses and product creation that they ignore affiliate marketing and how it can complement their small biz income.
But wait, affiliate marketing is dead...right?
You probably already know what affiliate marketing is (if you’re shaking your head no, start here), and may have even explored it a bit and earned a couple of bucks.
But, I’m seeing two things:
1 - Some solopreneurs I’ve spoke with tell me the earnings don’t amount to enough to spend their time on it.
2 - Other say that affiliate marketing is dead.
Neither of these could be further from the truth. Think about all of the products and services you use every single day while running your business. Now, consider all of the frequent purchases and investments (the online courses, ebooks, business tools). And how about that one “thing” you always recommend for every single one of your clients to help them get from ABC to XYZ?
If you do the math, you’ll probably feel a bit queasy at how much money you could have been making, just by simply adding an affiliate link to the products and services you love and trust to people who already love and trust you.
Where to start with affiliate marketing
The next greatest hesitation I hear is that people simply don’t know where to start without feeling like a car salesman. Fret not; there are so many great ways to not be cheesy OR greasy.
Without further ado, here are five authentic ways to add a bit of padding to your service-based business by using on-brand affiliate marketing...minus the ick factor.
1. Create a resources page
A resources, or tools, page is an effective way to help your visitors help themselves to the tools, courses and services you rely on to run your business. Get creative by adding images and banners, or simply use shortcodes and columns to create categories and embed your affiliate link into each resource.
Link to your resources page from your blog posts, include it in your email footers, and write social posts highlighting each resource on the page.
2. Make recommendations to your clients
You may be a web designer, virtual assistant or accountant who’s always getting asked what you recommend for solving your clients’ problems. You may also have certain things your client must purchase before you can start working with them (such as a theme or hosting, if you are a web designer).
When you onboard your clients, include a list of your favorite tools with your affiliate links in your welcome packet. Alternatively, if you send your clients a goodbye package, include a list of resources that will be helpful on an ongoing basis.
More than anything, they will appreciate that they can trust your recommendations and that they aren’t stuck having to Google for answers.
3. Build affiliate mentions into your editorial calendar
If you have a blog that complements your business, I imagine you are already sharing high-quality posts that position you as an expert in your niche, so why not turn these posts into money-generating machines?
Some of my best performing blog posts that have affiliate links are resource roundups and tutorials on how to do something that others often struggle with. Review posts of products you have tried and compared are also a good way to introduce your audience to amazing assets while helping you earn more money.
Pro tip: Content is key, but don’t ignore your images. Include high quality, pinnable images for people to share. Add keyword-rich descriptions in your images’ alt text if you want to tap into Pinterest for referral traffic.
4. Complement your newsletters
Dedicated emails about products you love can make you feel like you’re always trying to sell your audience something.
To avoid that, try sharing your experience with them. For example, if you took a totally ah-mazing course that skyrocketed your website traffic and you’re now an affiliate of, share the story of how your stats increased.
You can also write your newsletter content as usual and include links to some of your most recent affiliate-rich posts. Likewise, if you know your affiliates are having a sale and you genuinely don’t want your peeps to miss out, use a PS note at the bottom of the newsletter or within the content itself if it’s relevant.
An example: If you’re writing to your audience about how they can choose the best theme for their business and you happen to know that Bluchic* is having a sale, share it. Don’t be random. Weave it naturally into what your readers know you for.
5. Enhance your infoproducts
You may already have some great infoproducts (ebooks; worksheets; email courses) in place that help you grow your list or populate your shop. What if I told you that there is a way to monetize your free goodies and help you earn more with your paid offerings? Hold the phone, sista!
With on-brand affiliate marketing, it’s totally possible. When crafting your offering, you’re likely linking to tools and resources that are helpful for those who are downloading or signing up for your product.
By using affiliate links, you can make more money while continuing to deliver your high-quality content for free or increase your earnings with your paid products. For example, I have an email course that helps new bloggers or businesses set up their very first blog on WordPress. Even though it took a ton of hours and energy, I was able to justify giving it away for free because there were so many opportunities to earn money from the free course by mentioning amazing affiliates for WordPress hosting, themes, styled-stock memberships, and more.
But FIRST, here’s what else you need to know about doing affiliate marketing right
When adding a slew of affiliate links to your site, you can consider adding “no follow” links in place so that you aren’t oops-ed by Google (though there is a debate on whether it’s necessary or not). You also want to make your links cleaner with a plugin like Pretty Link Lite, or bit.ly.
Most importantly, and I can’t stress this enough: DO IT LEGALLY. (Caps + bold, necessary.)
You have to have disclaimers on your site that let your visitors know that they may be clicking on affiliate links. You have to share in your newsletter that links are indeed, affiliate links. You have to give a heads up about affiliate links even if you are just recommending a product to someone in a Facebook Group. Recommending something to a client? Gently let them know that they are clicking on an affiliate link.
When in doubt, remember this: Any time you drop a link, drop a hint!
Evaluate your current affiliate strategy and choose one of these methods to start or improve upon today. Need more of a nudge? Sign up for Affiliate Crush, my free, 5-day email course that helps you get started in choosing the right affiliates and helps you create a strategy, track your earnings and lots more.
*Some of the links contained in this post are affiliate links. (See what we did there?) As always, we only promote products and services we trust and believe in.