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What is an Affiliate Program? [A complete guide]

A complete guide for people who want to become affiliates.

Do you know what an affiliate program is? This strategy has become very popular in recent years because it helps people earn extra income working online.

It works as follows: someone with experience or ability in sales called an affiliate, helps promote third-party digital products. 

They can market these products using social media, blogs, YouTube, or email marketing, for example. And, whenever the affiliate makes a sale, they receive a commission.

It’s a way to make money online without having to create a product, and you can work from home. That’s why so many people are joining affiliate programs.

If you’re not familiar with the term “affiliate program”, today’s post will tell you all you need to know about this segment that permeates the universe of digital entrepreneurship.

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What is an affiliate program? Why are affiliate programs so successful? How does an affiliate program work? Does the affiliate program really work? 10 advantages in participating in an affiliate program Who can become an affiliate? What skills set should an affiliate have? Practical tips on how to be a successful affiliate How does the relationship between creators and affiliates work?
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What is an affiliate program?

An affiliate program is a marketing strategy that combines the two actors in the sales process: producer/creator and seller/affiliate.

The main idea is quite simple:

  • A person skilled in sales, known as an affiliate, can affiliate with a product or service from another person, called a creator. By doing so, they obtain a unique affiliate link.
  • The affiliate can then promote this link through various channels, such as their own blog or website, YouTube channel, social media posts, and email messages.
  • Whenever a sale is made through this unique link, the affiliate is paid a commission set by the creator.
  • This process takes place on an online platform, which hosts the products, creates promotion links, and pays the commissions safely. In addition to other features that help both the creator and the affiliate to boost their sales.
  • Everything is done in a free, simple, and rewarding way.
  • This type of service can be seen as a chance to become an entrepreneur, achieve the dream of financial independence, and make money without leaving home.

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But, why are affiliate programs so successful anyway?

You might be asking yourself, “What is the key to success behind the affiliate program?”

The secret is that this system gathers people with common interests and helps them profit. After all, both parties involved in the system are paid after the sale.

Basically, it consists of two main characters, which are:

#1 – The affiliate

An affiliate is a person with an innovative mindset, and willing to use the Internet in her favor. affiliates make money by promoting links of digital products made available on a Distance Learning Platform, or physical goods, depending on the niche they act in. And then they earn commissions for every sale made through the links they shared.

affiliates are also known as webmasters, since they constantly research the market and try to find new ways of improving their performance to sell more.

#2 – The creator

The creator is a person who creates a digital product with the intention to sell it. They create materials in a variety of formats, such as ebooks, e-magazines, virtual guides, video-lessons, lectures, podcasts or software.

Creators understand the profile of today’s consumers, who want to buy digital products because of low cost, quick delivery and sustainability.

But creators want more than just creating products, they want to sell. That’s why they make digital products available on the platform, counting on the help from the affiliates to increase their revenues. In exchange, they offer a commission for every sale made.

The affiliate program is a two-way street that brings creators and affiliates together in a great digital business.

A good affiliate program should be sustained by a company that offers the highest quality in management services. And for that, there are platforms such as Hotmart (to better understand how it works and the benefits Hotmart brings, read our post about Hotmart Club).

How does an affiliate program work?

If you’ve gotten this far, you’ve probably already understood that the main thing in the affiliate program is to unite people who create digital products with those who want to sell this content.

This requires an affiliate link, which is how the system can understand who was responsible for each sale made.

Let’s explain in more detail:

Once you become an affiliate, the tool of the affiliate program you have joined provides you with exclusive links to promote the products.

These links are coded so that every time you make a new sale, it will be possible to identify that the conversion was completed through your content, and thus, you are paid the proper commission.

But that’s not all!

Besides links, the affiliate program also offers essential tools to make life easier for those who work on the Internet, for example:

  • Exclusive payment system: it’s essential to have an exclusive payment system for digital product sales. This way, the affiliates can be sure that they will be paid their commissions, even if they sell all around the world.
  • Various payment methods: not every customer has a credit card to make a purchase. So, a good affiliate program should offer different payment methods with local options to suit international buyers. 
  • Possibility of offering bonuses: for affiliates who are also content creators, being able to offer a bonus with interesting content for those who buy a certain product, can be key to making more sales.
  • Discount coupons: everyone likes a discount, right? Being able to offer a coupon to your customers is one more way of winning them over. So, make sure that the program you choose allows this type of action.
  • Access to the creator: it’s very important to establish clear communication with the product creator. Thus, whenever you have any questions, you can ask them directly with the person responsible for that product.
  • Data protection: Although people are more confident about providing their personal info on websites, it’s still very important to ensure that this data is secure. So, affiliate yourself with a secure and reliable platform.

It’s important to remember that certain practices are prohibited in affiliate marketing, such as spamming, making false promises.

These practices can lead to the Hotmart account being blocked. If you’d like to know more about it, download for free our material with affiliate success stories.

Does the affiliate program really work?

This question could be replaced by Is it possible to make money by taking part in an affiliate program?

Yes. Many people around the world make a living out of affiliate programs, turning the affiliation of products into a profession. 

There are also those who work as affiliates to make some extra money, which can be as useful as building a career as a digital entrepreneur. It all depends on your goal.

However, there are some advantages for those who are affiliates, and we have made a list for you

10 advantages in participating in an affiliate program

There are many reasons for signing up for an affiliate program. The main one is the real opportunity to make money in a simple and independent way. 

By publishing one single ad, affiliates can reach thousands of consumers and have many chances of making sales. And whenever that happens, the affiliate gets a percentage of the sale value.

In other words, success depends only on their effort: the more the person works, the more are the chances of making a profit.

But there are more advantages to an affiliate program. Actually, the system provides a variety of attractive ways in which an affiliate can make a profit online.

Take a look:

1. There is no risk of losing money

Many people invest their savings in the creation of e-commerce to fulfill their dreams of making money on the Internet.

The problem, however, is that most virtual shops fail due to a lack of planning and experience. But the affiliate program is an alternative that is financially safe. Registration is free, and there is no need for any kind of investment.

2. Work without having your own product

You don’t need to create a product to start making money online. Through the affiliate program, you promote links with the referrals of products that were created by other people, and you get commissions whenever a sale is made through the links you promoted. 

3. Be your own boss

When you sign up for an affiliate program, you are starting a new business. If you can get good results working as an affiliate, you will be able to enjoy many benefits: you will be your own boss, and you will work from home and make all the decisions about your work. 

4. There are many possibilities for promoting products

As an affiliate, you will have many different products to promote. There are thousands of virtual products, in different formats, divided into dozens of niches. 

It will be easy to choose the ones that relate well to your audience, and, consequently, have a greater potential for sales and profits. 

5. No dealing directly with buyers

The creator is responsible for all communication with the consumers – such as customer service and after-sale assistance. 

What’s more, the processing of sales and payments is made by the platform. The only thing the affiliate has to do is promote the link, and doesn’t need to worry about anything else.

6. No need a professional website or technical skills

You don’t need your own website to start promoting digital products. You can use other tools, such as social media and email marketing. 

7. Choose the profit margin that works for you 

Each creator sets a profit margin for the materials they make available on the platform. They can vary, reaching up to 80% of the total value of the digital product. And affiliates are the ones who choose the profit margin you want to work with. 

8. Have full control over your strategies 

How do you know if your work is generating good results? After you join the affiliate program, you will have access to the platform and will be able to control the performance of your strategies. 

The system will show you how many sales were made through the links you promoted; this leads to good financial planning and knowledge about when you will receive your commissions.

9. Commission payment is guaranteed

One of the main advantages of the affiliate program is that the payments are managed by the platform. This means the commissions are computed automatically after the sale, which eliminates the risk of default by the creator. 

10. Expand your business in the future

Another essential advantage of the affiliate program is the possibility of growth. Most people start promoting at a slow pace, using social media and blogs with a free domain.

But as the payments start coming in, you can set aside part of the resources to become more professional and expand your business.

Who can become an affiliate?

Just like in the case of digital creators, any person can become a successful affiliate. 

The creator economy is booming, it is possible to find an infinity of products, and you can choose from the ones that best suit your audience’s needs.

Besides, it is possible to find a lot of material on affiliation and marketing techniques to use when promoting.

What skills set should an affiliate have?

Even if you decide to work as an affiliate in your free time only, it is important to have some skills to make a sale. Let’s take a look at some of them, so you can put them into practice:

Be disciplined

Being an affiliate is a job, too, and to achieve good results, it is necessary to have the discipline to maintain consistency in your strategies. Set a calendar with actions you can execute to leverage your business little by little and stick to your plan.

Enjoy studying

The more you know about your market, the more professional you will become. That’s why you should be attentive to novelties and study promotion techniques that you still don’t know.

Be a good communicator

To attract a bigger audience, you need to communicate well, and that means writing clearly, whether it is for ads, social media, or blogs. If you intend to record videos, you will also have to train your abilities for public speaking. Besides good communication skills, good affiliates always build relationships with other professionals in the market. This way, they can exchange experiences, improve their techniques and scale their profits.

Be persistent

This tip works especially for those who wish to have great results and not just make one or other sales.

Short-termism is one of the factors that make people give up their goals and dreams so easily. Make a business plan and stick to it even when there hasn’t been any profit yet.

Practical tips on how to be a successful affiliate

There is no rule for those who wish to become affiliates. After all, every sales strategy will depend a lot on the techniques you master, the audience you already have, and the audience you still want to reach.

However, you can follow certain good practices to make your life as an affiliate easier.

Focus on one area of expertise

In an affiliate program, you’ll realize that you can advertise products from the most varied areas possible.

This strategy certainly works for many people. But it’s certainly much easier to talk about something you already know, or to delve deeper into only one subject.

So, if you’re just starting out, try to pick one area, for example carpentry, and create content to appeal to the audience in this niche.

With this strategy, you can cover as many topics as possible related to the market you wish to reach, and thus, become a benchmark in your market.

Choose products with sales potential

There’s no point in promoting a product if it isn’t in high demand.

So, when it comes to choosing the product you’re going to sell, do some research to understand if it has a good acceptance in the market.

Also, always try to choose products that already have a well-designed and attractive sales page, and make sure that the product has relevant content for those who will buy it.

Analyze the commissions

A product with a high commission won’t always be ideal for you to promote. After all, this product’s acceptance might not be so good in the market, which will also cause you not to make any profit.

When it comes to analyzing the commissions you will be paid, simulate sales with realistic numbers to see how much each sale should earn you each month.

Always stay up to date

There’s practically something new on the internet every day. For this reason, it’s necessary that you also stay up to date.

A strategy you used yesterday might no longer be as effective today, just as you might discover something innovative that you aren’t doing yet.

To stand out as an affiliate, you can’t afford to miss anything. So, stay tuned to what’s new and constantly study to improve.

Invest time in your business

At first, the affiliate program might be the way for you to make extra income.

However, once you start dedicating more time to keeping your strategies updated, and having a higher frequency of product promotion, you will realize the need to dedicate more time to your business.

To help you understand how much time you need to devote to product affiliation, set a goal to understand where you want to go and set specific times to take care of your business on a daily basis.

How does the relationship between creators and affiliates work?

The creator is responsible for the creation of the digital product, as well as setting the price and the commission to be paid to the affiliate.

Some affiliate programs give the creator the option to leave the affiliation open or closed. When it is open, any person can affiliate to the product. When it is closed, the creator has to approve the affiliates who apply to it before they can start promoting.

Besides, the creator is responsible for all relationships with the client, from the delivery of the material (in this case, some platforms have this process automated to the creator) to the customer support in case of questions.

Are you ready to join the creator economy and make your first online sale?

After reading about affiliate programs, you’re probably ready to join the creator economy and start making money online.

Of course, here, we can’t dive into every topic. But, as you may have seen, there’s plenty of content on the Hotmart blog that can help you succeed in the digital market.

In short, to work as an affiliate, you need to:

  1. Participate in an affiliate program
  2. Choose a niche 
  3. Select a product to promote
  4. Plan your marketing strategies
  5. Promote your affiliate link
  6. Analyze the results
  7. Work on your strategies to keep growing

Ready to get started?

Join Hotmart, the all-in-one solution for creators to become entrepreneurs.


This post was originally published on August 10, 2016, and has been updated to contain more precise and complete information.