How To Start Affiliate Marketing With No Money Even If You’re Dead Broke

Affiliate Marketing - Last Updated on February 14, 2024 by Jussi Hyvarinen

How To Start Affiliate Marketing With No Money

Jussi Hyvärinen

I'm Jussi, with over 25 years of expertise, I help entrepreneurs navigate the online business world. My services include tailored recommendations, step-by-step tutorials, and insightful reviews to help steer your business aspirations. Please reach out if you need assistance with your online business plans or have any questions.

Want to start an affiliate marketing side hustle but don't have much money to invest? You're not alone. Many aspiring affiliate marketers face the challenge of getting started on a shoestring budget.

The good news is that with some creativity and hustle, you can launch a successful affiliate marketing business with little to no startup costs.

In this comprehensive guide, I'll walk you through everything you need to know to get your affiliate marketing efforts up and running, even if you don't have much money to spare.

What is Affiliate Marketing?

Before we dive in, let's start with a quick overview of what exactly affiliate marketing is and how it works.

Affiliate marketing is a performance-based type of marketing where you earn commissions by promoting other companies' products or services. As an affiliate marketer, you join affiliate programs run by merchants and receive a unique referral link. 

When someone clicks your link and completes the desired action, like making a purchase or signing up for a service, you earn a commission. The merchant handles all the backend processes like order fulfillment, customer service, returns, etc.

It's a win-win setup - merchants expand their reach and only pay when sales are made, while affiliates have the freedom to choose what they promote and earn passive income in the process.

Why Start Affiliate Marketing With No Money?

Launching an affiliate marketing business with little or no money has several advantages:

  • Low Barrier to Entry: You don't need a lot of startup capital or inventory.
  • Flexibility: You're not tied down to one niche or limited to certain products/services. You can try different things and pivot if needed.
  • Passive Income Potential: Affiliate marketing can earn you commissions while you sleep with the right strategy.
  • Be Your Own Boss: No need for a physical office or employees. You can operate your affiliate marketing efforts from anywhere with an internet connection.
  • Minimal Risks: Your main investment as an affiliate is your time and effort. So, there's minimal financial risk involved in getting started.

As you can see, affiliate marketing checks off a lot of boxes that make it an attractive business model for beginners on a budget. Let's look at how to tap into its potential.

How to Start Affiliate Marketing With No Money: Step-by-Step

Starting an affiliate marketing business with zero dollars may sound impossible. But with some smart strategizing and resourcefulness, you can get up and running in no time. Here are the key steps:

Choose a Niche 

The first step is identifying a niche that you want to focus on. Since you'll be promoting products as an affiliate, you need to select a specific industry or vertical that resonates with you. 

Aim for a niche in which you're genuinely passionate or have some background knowledge. This will make creating content and connecting with your audience much easier. Some evergreen niche examples include health/fitness, personal finance, beauty, parenting, home improvement, and software.

Conduct keyword research using free tools like Google's Keyword Planner to ensure there is a decent search volume for your chosen niche. You want to target keywords people are actively searching for so your content gets visibility.

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Niche Finder

Niche Finder GPT helps you find and identify profitable, low-competition niches aligned with your interests and skills. Niche Finder makes discovering your ideal business niche simple (requires ChatGPT Plus subscription).

Join Relevant Affiliate Programs

Once you've picked your niche, look for affiliate programs that align with it. Many popular affiliate networks like ShareASaleClickBank, and CJ Affiliate allow you to filter programs by category. 

Some things to evaluate when choosing a program:

  • Commission rates/structure - What % of the sale price do you get as commission? Is there a tiered structure where you earn more at higher sales volumes?
  • Cookie duration - How long do you get credit for referring a customer? 30 days? 90 days? Longer cookies give you more chance of earning commissions.
  • Payment terms - What's the payout threshold? How frequently are payments made? Monthly? Weekly? Faster payments allow you to reinvest commissions sooner.
  • Reputation - Choose reputable merchants with satisfied customers and a track record of paying affiliates on time. Check reviews.

Signing up for programs is free, so feel free to join a handful to test them out. Just be sure to read the terms to understand the guidelines around allowed promotional methods, branding usage, etc.

Set Up Your Website

To effectively promote affiliate products and maximize commissions, you need a website. The good news is you can set up a basic affiliate website completely free. Here are a few options:

  • WordPress.com - Offers free websites with WordPress hosting. You can upgrade for more features.
  • Wix - Build a free website with unlimited pages using Wix's drag-and-drop editor. Their upgraded plans are also affordable.
  • Blogger - Create a simple, free blog-style website with Google's Blogger platform.

You can find cheap .com domains starting around $9/year on sites like Namecheap for a professional domain name. 

Even with a free website, you retain full ownership. You can customize it, monetize it, and use your own domain name. This gives you the foundation to start building your affiliate marketing efforts.

Create Valuable Content 

Content is the lifeblood of any affiliate marketing strategy. You need high-quality content to attract visitors and convince them to purchase from your links.

What type of content works best? The sweet spot is informational content that solves people's problems or questions around your niche. This content indirectly promotes affiliate products vs overtly selling to readers.

Here are some effective types of affiliate content to get started with:

  • Product reviews - Provide an in-depth, unbiased review showcasing pros/cons. Include affiliate links to purchase.
  • Comparison articles - Compare the features of several related products side-by-side. Great for buyer research. 
  • Tutorials - Teach people how to use a certain product or service. Builds know, like and trust.
  • List posts - Useful, focused posts like "5 Best [X] for [Y]" with brief reviews.
  • Interviews - Q&As with industry experts allow you to tap into their knowledge.

No money? No problem. You can easily create content using free tools:

  • Write blog posts directly on your WordPress or Blogger site.
  • Create articles on Google Docs, then copy/paste them over.
  • Use your smartphone to take high-quality product photos and videos.
  • Design graphics and images with Canva's free tier. 
  • Record interview podcasts using Skype's free call recording or other free software.

The goal is to provide your readers with the most helpful, detailed content. The better your content, the more clicks your affiliate links will receive.

Promote Your Content

Creating amazing content is only step one. You also need to effectively promote that content to drive traffic to your affiliate links.

Leveraging free social media platforms is the best way to get more eyeballs on your affiliate content when starting out:

  • Facebook Pages - Create a brand page for your niche to share your content. Join and post in relevant Facebook Groups with your affiliate links.
  • Pinterest - Build niche boards of product pins with descriptions and affiliate links back to your content.
  • Twitter - Tweet your blog posts, helpful resources, and affiliate offers. Engage with your audience.
  • YouTube Channel - Repurpose your written content into videos or create product reviews. 
  • Instagram - Post teasers and relevant images linking back to your newest content.

For example, when you publish a new post like "10 Best Yoga Mats Under $100", you would share that on all your social profiles. Then, interested followers can click through to read the full detailed reviews on your site and purchase via your affiliate links.

This multiplier effect is incredibly powerful, allowing you to scale an audience for free. Consistency and engagement are key - provide regular value, and social media algorithms will reward you with greater reach.

Another free option is reaching out to relevant online communities like forums and Facebook groups where your target audience hangs out. Join the discussion, provide helpful advice, and subtly share your affiliate content when relevant.

Monitor and Optimize Performance

Once your affiliate content and links are out there, it's time to monitor performance and identify opportunities to optimize. 

With a free affiliate marketing blog, you have access to basic analytics like page views, referrers, and popular posts. Use these to see what content resonates with your readers. Find ways to create more of that high-performing content.

Check which of your promoted posts are generating clicks versus which flopped. Analyze the higher click-through rate posts and replicate their common elements as much as possible. 

For example, if your comparison posts with pros/cons lists performed best, create more similar posts using that winning formula.

You can also use free email marketing through Systeme.io to build an audience interested in your niche. Send them your best content, offers, and affiliate links to buy from their inbox. Use click-through rates to see what your subscribers respond to.

Essentially, constantly track which marketing efforts and content drive the most clicks to your affiliate links. Then, double down on those specific successful strategies.

How to Scale Up Your Affiliate Marketing Business?

While starting your affiliate marketing efforts with zero cash is entirely doable, you will eventually reach the point where scaling requires some monetary investment. 

When you have some commissions rolling in, here are some proven ways to scale up:

  • Outsource content creation - Hire freelance writers or utilize AI tools to create more content faster. This allows you to focus on promotion and optimization.
  • Purchase premium tools - Invest in tools like Semrush for more data insights, Convertbox for lead gen, etc. to boost marketing efforts.
  • Paid ads - Allocate some budget into paid Facebook/Instagram ads, Google Ads, native ads, etc. to rapidly expand your reach.
  • Develop multiple assets - Build additional niche sites/channels in complementary niches to increase your earning potential.

Essentially, take the strategies and content that you've validated converts with free methods and invest to multiply them. The beauty of affiliate marketing is that you can start with no money and then scale up from the revenue generated.

Top Tips for Affiliate Marketing Success With No Money

To wrap things up, here are some high-level tips and strategies to maximize your chances of affiliate marketing success, even without spending much initially:

  • Find a niche you genuinely enjoy and care about. Your passion will show through.
  • Offer unbiased, honest reviews - don't just hype whatever pays you most. Build trust.
  • Produce long-form, in-depth content. Quick tips posts won't convert well. 
  • Promote affiliate links subtly. Don't spam readers. Recommend products naturally.
  • Be patient. It takes time to gain traction. Stick with what's working and cut what's not.
  • Use pictures, videos, graphs, etc. to create visually engaging content that holds attention.
  • Leverage communities like Reddit and Quora to connect with your target audience and share your content.
  • Learn from top affiliate marketers. Follow their strategies but offer your own unique take.
  • Provide consistent value on social media. Don't make it just about the sale.
  • Monitor your metrics and continuously test new approaches. Affiliate marketing requires agility. 

The affiliate marketing learning curve is steep, but you can build a thriving business with hard work and persistence, even on a microscopic budget.

Now It's Your Turn

Starting an affiliate marketing business with little or no money is doable with the right strategy and mindset. Use this comprehensive guide to make your affiliate marketing dreams a reality, even if you're starting from zero.

What niche will you choose? What affiliate programs excite you most? Brainstorm how you can create remarkable content that people genuinely want to consume in your industry.

The tools and knowledge are there for the taking. Now, go unleash your creativity and hustle to build an affiliate marketing business that takes you wherever you want!

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