We are reader-supported. If you buy something through a link on this page, I may earn a commission at no extra cost to you. Learn more.

What Is Affiliate Marketing and How Does It Work? (Beginner’s Guide)

Are you thinking about starting an affiliate marketing business but want to know more before diving in?Awesome! Allow me to help demystify affiliate marketing for you.

I first started doing affiliate marketing in 2015, and through time and effort, I learned how to earn a living this way. I’ve also had the privilege of showing countless others how to get started online with affiliate marketing by sharing what I’ve learned.

So, while I don’t claim to be some kind of “guru,” I do understand how affiliate marketing works, and I can help get you started on the right foot if this is something you want to do yourself.

So with that said, what is affiliate marketing?

Affiliate marketing is a business model where you earn commissions promoting other companies’ products online. You can see a more technical description of affiliate marketing on Wikipedia, but that’s the gist of it.

Your “job” as an affiliate is basically to connect potential customers with companies that are selling products and services online, and when people buy stuff through your unique links (called affiliate links), you earn a commission at no extra cost to the person who buys.

There are over 5 billion people online and 100s of millions of products you can promote as an affiliate, so the opportunity within affiliate marketing is massive (and growing).

Not only that, but done correctly, affiliate marketing can benefit all involved.

Here’s how:

  • First, affiliate marketing benefits the product vendor because, unlike paid advertising, they only pay affiliates for results (i.e., when you bring them new customers).
  • Second, affiliate marketing benefits the customer because, when you do affiliate marketing ethically, you are helping customers find products they are already interested in buying, and you are helping them make more informed decisions about those products.
  • And third, affiliate marketing is a simple and low-cost business model to get started with, and it can be very lucrative once you get it dialed in. Not only that, but it can give you time and location freedom since you can work on your business from anywhere in the world.

So, my point is – affiliate marketing is a great business model.

There is no such thing as a “push button” system that will do everything for you, and it will not make you lots of money overnight, but you can build a very successful business this way.

But you need to follow the right process, or you could end up failing. And since you’re reading this, I’m going to assume that you are wanting to build a successful affiliate marketing business.

So, what is the right way to do affiliate marketing?

When you boil it all down, the process of starting an affiliate marketing business can be broken down into four main steps, which each act as the foundation of a successful business:

  1. Choose a niche: Successful affiliate marketers do not try to promote everything – they choose a direction for their business, otherwise known as a “niche.” A niche is just a group of people searching for stuff online, and by choosing a niche, you can position your brand as the “go-to” in that space, which can lead to a lot more success over time.
  2. Build a website: Building a website is essential, as this acts as the foundation of your affiliate marketing business, and it’s where you will be recommending products to your audience. It’s not difficult or expensive to build a website when you know how, either (more on this shortly).
  3. Get traffic: Traffic is absolutely essential to building a successful affiliate marketing business. Without traffic, it is impossible to make sales. So this part of the process is all about attracting people to your site so that you have people you can recommend products to.
  4. Promote affiliate offers: Now for the fun part! Once you have a site up and running, you can sign up with special programs called affiliate programs, which are free to join, and this will give you access to products you can promote on your site to earn commissions. There are millions of products and services you can promote as an affiliate (from virtually every leading brand you can think of), so the possibilities are practically endless.

So, that’s an overview of the process involved.

In order to actually build your business, however, you need more than just training on how to do it. You also need a website, domain, marketing research tools, coaching, and support.

And if you tried to put all those pieces together on your own, it would likely be a costly, time-consuming, and frustrating process.

Which is why I recommend a platform called Wealthy Affiliate.

Wealthy Affiliate is the platform that showed me how to start an affiliate marketing business from scratch, and they are the leading platform in the industry.


Because, for one thing, they’ve been in business since 2005 and have earned a 4.8 out of 5 star rating on TrustPilot, which is practically unheard of in this space. And they have done so by being the best and most ethical platform in the space.

Second, they give you everything you need to build a successful affiliate marketing business (tools, websites, training, coaching, and more). Literally everything you need is under one roof, which makes the process of building your business a lot simpler and more streamlined.

And third, they are the most cost-efficient platform in the industry. It costs less than $50 a month to get everything you need to start, run, and grow a thriving affiliate marketing business. And they even give you a free Starter account to test drive the platform first – before you decide anything.

Anyways, the following page explains what Wealthy Affiliate is about and why I recommend it if you want to know more, but that’s the gist of it.

And the pages I’ve linked to below walk you through each of the above steps I mentioned earlier if you want to know more about building an affiliate marketing business.

Next up: How to Choose a Niche for Affiliate Marketing

Related Affiliate Marketing Pages:

10 thoughts on “What Is Affiliate Marketing and How Does It Work? (Beginner’s Guide)”

  1. I’m still skeptical that I have the computer skills to do this. Also, I can’t afford to be out ANY amount of money right now. I’d like to know more on what exactly my participation (what to do) would entail.

    • Hi Cindy,

      The best way to learn more would be to join Wealthy Affiliate for free because, as a free Starter member, you get 5 step-by-step lessons that show you how everything works and walks you through the platform. So by the end of that, you’ll know exactly what you need to do.

      That said, there is a cost involved in building an online business, which is unavoidable. But the cool thing is that Wealthy Affiliate has a Premium membership ($49/month) that gives you literally everything you need to build your business (tools, domain, hosting, website, training, mentoring… everything). So they give you the most comprehensive and cost-efficient path to building your business.

      Also, you don’t need any special computer skills to do this. Everything you need to know is in the training, and anyone can do this (I know because I’ve done it myself and helped many others get started). So the most important thing is that you are willing to learn and take action.

      Hope this helps!

  2. Hello Tim,My name is Sam García from Pueblo, Colorado, I’m glad I came across this article after I checked on your Review of Click Build Collect. Anyways,I have been trying to make an income online For quite sometime now,And believe me,Ive signed up For just about every one I came across,This past Febuary thru June I got hacked,and I’m talking to the point of being spyed on through My TVs,My security cameras,My car stereos,My Paypal account(which i still can’t access) They were Even opening Bank Accounts in My name,Come to find out that I supposedly lived in Missouri,Michigan,New York and some other places,But to tell You honestly,Ive never been out of Colorado except to Cerro,Questa ,New México twice back when My mom was alive,Anyways,I’m in some need to make money online because Ive been on S.S.I.for some time now due to Generative disc desease where My disc’s are pretty much bone to bone,S.S.I. only gives me $940.00 a month,and low and behold,the economy helped my rent to ride to $1100.00 a month from $850.00 a month,My wife of 34 years works at Home since the COVID started,She’s been at her job 23 years,but we are still barely making it through every month,But we thanks God everyday that at least we aren’t homeless YET,But i want to thanks You in avance For giving me the inspiration to not give up on this online marketing and For referring me to Wealthy Affiliate,I’m going to give it My all,Sorry about writing a book,but i wanted You and everyone whos in the same boat as me,that there is still hope and by the Grace of Our Almighty Father above,We Will survive,and we can make it work,With that said,I want to say God Bless You and your family each and every day Tim,God brought me across your article For a reason,have a blessed night,stay safe and God Bless everyone out there as well,(Don’t forget your prayers)…… Sincerely, Sam García fr.Pueblo, Colorado

    • Hi Sam, thank you for sharing your story here and I’m sorry to hear about your situation. The great thing about affiliate marketing is that the opportunity really is massive and it’s something anyone with a desire to succeed (and a willingness to take action) can do. It does take time and effort to earn money this way, but Wealthy Affiliate is run by people who care about the success of their members. I know because I’ve personally met Kyle and Carson (the co-founders). And that’s why they give you the most comprehensive, cost-efficient path to building a successful affiliate marketing business. So I know you can do this, and I will do everything I can to help you out along the way.

  3. my name is Juan Gutierrez and i have been skeptical about starting an online business but after reading and listening to you i feel a little bit more positive and I’M going to take full advantage of your teachings and also trust that wealthy affiliate will help me thank you

    Juan Gutierrez

  4. Hello Ive been ive been in the forest indistry and mining my whole life,ive been injured to where its not a good idea to return,im not great on computers,but am a good learner,and really would like to give this a real go,i understand it takes work to get things rolling,so what is your success rate for guys like myself?

    • Hi Rich,

      Like any business model, not everyone who attempts to do affiliate marketing succeeds. But I would say that 100% of people who never quit inevitably succeed, as persistence really is the most important thing when it comes to building a successful online business, affiliate marketing or otherwise.

  5. I am on the verge of going bankrupt because of monthly extra costs for Bucks program what was promised out of the book in 7 days is only half finished and I’m 2 months in. $2200 later and a monthly subscription of $270.00 coming out of my account. How can I save myself from drowning. I am 68 year old survivor of pancreatic cancer. I want to build a successful online business. But not go bankrupt by doing so. Can you help advise me what I should do. I am now 2 months behind in my mortgage payments. Sincerely Timothy

    • Hi Timothy,

      I would recommend going through this Beginner’s Guide I’ve created here on this site, and if you like the sound of the process I explain, create your free Wealthy Affiliate Starter account to get your online business rolling. Wealthy Affiliate is the same platform I used to build my own profitable online business, so I know you can do it too.

      Also, be sure to give me a shout when you do join, and I will personally help you get started!


Leave a Comment