This is a post about how to make money off of your blog through affiliate links. There are affiliate links in this post.
The intention of this post is to equip the reader with a better understanding of what affiliate links are all about, and how to use them to your advantage (without being a scheming, lying asshole of a blogger).
This post is written with disability in mind: it’s by a deaf blogger and for other bloggers with disabilities.
In This Post You Will Find:
What is an affiliate?
An “affiliate” is, by definition, in this context, “to connect or associate oneself.”
An affiliate of any company/organization is a person who has connected with that company/organization, or is associating with them.
So, in terms of blogging and making money online, an “affiliate” is someone who has a relationship with a company that is connected with money somehow.
What is an Affiliate Link?
Every single item for sale online has a production price (the cost of what it was to produce the item) and a sale price. The profit margin is the difference between the production price and the sale price, minus any relevant costs.
So, for example, say I make a t-shirt.
I have the cost of everything it took to make the shirt (the press, ink, shirts, and so forth). I also have the cost of marketing the shirt, of shipping and handling, and then I have the price that it’s sold for. In between the two – the cost of producing the shirt and the price I’m selling it for – I have a profit margin.
Now let’s say that I have a friend who can help me sell the shirt. I say, “hey! If you help me sell the shirt by putting a link for it on your blog, I’ll give you 2% of my profit!”
My friend says, “sure!” and she sets up a link for my shirt on her blog. The backend tracks all the shirts that were sold on her blog, and I pay her a percentage of the sales accordingly.
Actually, everyone does.
The seller benefits, because they sell what they wanted to sell, and make a profit to boot.
The affiliate also benefits, because they make a percentage of the profit.
In the case of the shirt, the readers of my friend’s blog didn’t pay more by buying the t-shirt off of her blog.
I lost a little bit of profit by having to pay my friend, but it wasn’t losing anything when she helped me sell, right?
My friend also gained some income, which was great for her!
Affiliate relationships can be very positive
The only time anyone does not benefit is if the affiliate is just spamming readers to buy stuff because they will make a commission off of a purchase.
That’s just gross and I think we all agree that’s a slimy practice.
Most of the time though, affiliate practices are great, and they are a fantastic way for readers to indirectly support their favorite bloggers and help keep independent media floating.
Given the amount of work most bloggers do for no compensation at all, this is a big win.
I Make Money from Affiliate Links
I took a course called Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing . It was super helpful in opening my eyes to the absolutely endless possibilities of affiliate marketing and for creating a plan with it. It’s not a free course, and yes, that’s an affiliate link, and yes, it’s worth it. It’s connected to a Facebook group and I am often there, so if you take the course, you’ll most likely see me in the group (say hi!).
The course does a thorough job of explaining exactly how to sign up for a million types of affiliate links, and how to get the whole ball rolling.
Affiliate Links Should Integrate with What You Write About Naturally
I had a real quandary when I started using affiliate links. The thing was, I wanted to continue blogging but I NEEDED to make money.
I also didn’t want to be a sell-out and hawk stuff I didn’t personally like or use for the sake of a dime… I’d like to think I have more integrity than that.
It took me a while to really see affiliate linkage opportunities in virtually everything that I wrote about. I’m not kidding. For example, I’d be writing a post about Signing Time and I wondered if there was an affiliate program with them. I looked it up, found out they did, applied, was accepted, then voila! I made money from them.
Where and When to Use Affiliate Links?
I’m a niche blogger. I blog about disability first and foremost, then moving into career and website development from a disability standpoint.
Because I’m a niche blogger, I tend to go directly to the sites that I have in mind.
I went straight to Signing Time, for example, because they made sense for me (I am deaf, I have a child with Down syndrome and I love Signing Time). I went directly to Tea Collection – I really like their stuff and they are so inclusive.
I think about things that I want to write about – like continuing with this blogging/website development tutorial series – and find the relevant affiliate links (start a blog? I use Bluehost – here’s my affiliate link which will get you started on your hosting!).
I use affiliate links from anyone and everyone it makes sense to link to. The idea in utilizing affiliate links is that you develop a wide range of relationships with different companies and you draw income slowly but surely from all.
Where to Find Affiliate Programs?
- Directly on a company website – look around the bottom part of the site – it’s usually there in small lettering “Affiliate Program” or “Partner”. If you don’t see it, contact the company and ask them if they have an affiliate program you can apply to.
- Big programs: Commission Junction, Rakuten, Shareasale – I wandered into all of these programs because the companies I liked and wanted to affiliate with handled their affiliate relationships within these frameworks. There are even more (take Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing for the whole ball of wax).
Are affiliate links worth the work? Because make no mistake about it; it’s work. You need to find the companies, develop the relationships, get the links, create content that integrates with it in a way that feels natural to you and hope to get some financial return. It’s work.
I think affiliate links are a great option for some people but makes no sense at all for others. I know some people with niche audiences and low readerships who make good money on affiliate links and others (even despite large readerships) who don’t.
Making money with affiliate links is partly luck of the draw, partly timing, largely content, social media, and meeting someone online when you are giving them exactly what they are looking for in that particular moment.
Personally, I think it’s worth it, because once you have created your posts and set up the accompanying links, anything that you earn from that particular piece is passive income. For example, I make about $20 a month from Amazon just for links to books that I posted in book reviews 5 years ago! $20 is not a lot of money, but it’s something, and since it’s passive, it feels great.
For all of us with disabilities, making money through affiliate links can be great because of the time factor. Remember how it usually takes time for the affiliate links to catch on and start producing any money? But then, once they produce, they usually just keep ON producing as long as your site is up? Well, if you are on SSI/SSDI and have a cap to how much money you can make, affiliate links provide a little boost to your set income. Like a set dribble.
The other thing that is great about this type of income production is, again, the passivity. Once it’s set, it’s SET. So if you have flare up and can’t work or any type of a set back it does not matter: the money just keeps coming from that particular piece.
For us deaf, it’s great because it involves no hearing whatsoever.
The only piece that you need to be careful about is handling and tracking your earnings so that it comes under your SSI/SSDI cap amount. If you go over your cap amount, you could get cut off or face repercussions, so this is clearly something you want to be careful with.
There are unquestionable advantages to affiliate links for those of us with disabilities, so it’s a great thing to keep in mind as we decide how we want our blogs/websites to come together and how they will support us (if at all).
Meriah Nichols is a career counselor. Solo mom to 3 (one with Down syndrome, one gifted 2E). Deaf, with C-PTSD and TBI, she’s also a gardening nerd who loves cats, Star Trek, and takes her coffee hot and black.