How to Start Affiliate Marketing with No Money in 5 Steps

Did you know the average affiliate marketer earns about $20,000 annually? According to a recent study done by Affiliate WP, 81% of affiliate marketers earn around that much just by dedicating some side hustle hours to their business.

However, there’s a big misconception around affiliate marketing. Aside from the investment of time, most people think they need a lot of money to be able to get started. But that’s not the case at all! In fact, about 65% of affiliates use some sort of organic traffic to earn money. That means you can start affiliate marketing with no money and still find success – read on to find out how!

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Hi there, I’m Keely, the social media manager here at ClickBank!

I’m also a VERY nano-influencer on social media. I’ve been creating organic content since 2016, when I started my own travel blog. From there, as social media took off, I did the same, creating organic social media content.

I spent years writing on my blog about travel, lifestyle, and adventure. I also spent years curating an audience on my social media for the same things – travel, lifestyle, and adventure. As my life changed, I had to take a look in the mirror and discover who I really wanted to be and what I wanted to be about. I had to consider the kind of content I created and the message I told the world.

So, I curated my social media and blog to be exactly the kind of place where I can freely talk about adventure, lifestyle, and health and wellness. It took a long time, but I’ve finally been able to find the perfect niche for myself to fit into!

About a year ago, I wanted to be able to start monetizing my audience, and I looked into the best ways to do it. I found affiliate marketing and slowly began learning how to become an affiliate marketer.

I’ve gotten my start with affiliate marketing with absolutely no money, some hard work, and a few extra hours each day. Working with organic social media, posting on Instagram, TikTok, and YouTube mainly, I’ve been able to promote products as an affiliate without having to spend a dime, and I’m here to help you learn how to do the same!

I want to mention, affiliate marketing is not for the faint of heart. It takes a LOT of hard work, dedication, research, and time. If you don’t have those things to offer, organic affiliate marketing may not be for you. There is definitely a lot of grit involved and it doesn’t happen overnight. If you’re okay with putting a little elbow grease into your affiliate marketing journey, keep reading! 

What is Affiliate Marketing? 

Before we get into the thick of things, let me break down WHAT affiliate marketing is and how it works.

At its core, affiliate marketing is all about earning money online. As an affiliate, your job is to find products to promote online and well… promote them. With affiliate marketing, there are three key players in the game.

You’ve got the product owner or brand – a business looking for more people to promote their products online.

You’ve got the consumer or buyer — the person who will purchase those products.

Then, you’ve got the affiliate (YOU, if you so choose). The affiliate promotes the brand’s products to consumers.

As the affiliate, you get a percentage of each sale on the product, which is how you earn money, and the business whose products you promote gets to acquire more customers and make more sales!

The money you earn as an affiliate all comes from the commissions earned by promoting products. Brands choose their commission rates based on a bunch of calculations and factors that we won’t worry about right now, because our whole goal here is just to start promoting products as an affiliate!

Paid vs. Organic Affiliate Marketing 

It’s worth mentioning that paid affiliate marketing can bring great success as well, but there’s a vast difference between paid and organic affiliate marketing. Namely, for paid affiliate marketing, you do have to have money to get started!

To be honest, paid media is usually a faster way to begin earning money as an affiliate, but your audience is a very short-term audience, while organic and free affiliate marketing usually allow you to grow more of a long-term audience and can keep high-quality consumers returning for much longer. 

How to Start Affiliate Marketing with No Money Step-by-Step

Now that we’ve got the “what,” let’s look at the “how.” Namely, how do you earn money as an affiliate with NO money?

Here’s how it works step-by-step!

Step 1: Pick a Niche

The very first thing we’re going to do is choose a niche. If you’re new to the world of affiliate marketing, content creation, or even influencer marketing, you might have heard the term “finding a niche” a lot and thought, “What the heck does that even mean?” 

I know when I first started in the world of affiliate marketing, I was so confused on what it meant to pick a niche! But it’s actually really simple and it’s probably one of the overall best guidelines to use when it comes to being successful as an online marketer. 

Picking a niche simply means deciding on who you want to talk to as an affiliate, and what types of products you want to promote. 

So, how do you do this?

For me, the best and easiest way to pick a niche was to sit down and look at the kind of marketing I wanted to do, what kind of audience I wanted to target, and what kind of products I wanted to promote.

I started by taking a look at my personal life. I know a lot about the outdoors, being active, womens fitness, and health and wellness. My hobbies and my lifestyle matched this knowledge as well. 

With that in mind, I wanted to talk to an audience that had similar interests, so I determined the broad niche I would look into was the health and fitness niche.

From there, I wanted to narrow it down a bit more into a sub-niche. I decided since I have the most knowledge as a woman in fitness, I can talk to other women in the health and fitness niche. I picked a few products that fit within this niche, and I was off to the races promoting products and earning money online!

Picking a niche is really that simple, determine how you want your content to go out, like whether you’re doing paid or organic promotion, decide on the audience you want to talk to, and the types of products that that audience will connect with. 

NOTE: Get more help choosing a niche with our guide to the top affiliate marketing niches on ClickBank! 

Step 2: Choose Your Marketing Channels

Once you’ve narrowed down your niche, you’re going to want to choose your marketing channels. There are two different avenues people usually choose when it comes to deciding on marketing channels. The first avenue is paid media. You can pay for reach using paid ads on ad platforms like Facebook or Google. There are a lot of benefits to paid media. It is often a lot faster to gain traffic and get conversions on paid media. However, it does obviously cost money, so the second avenue and the one we’ll be discussing today is organic channels, where the only requirement is putting in effort to create good and consistent content.

When it comes to organic media, there are a few different channels we can engage in. It is up to you to choose the organic channel that works best for you, whether that be blogging, creating video content on YouTube, having an online community like Discord or Facebook, using social media, or having an email list you’ve accumulated organically. There are a few options, and you get to decide what will work best for you, your niche, and the audience you’re trying to reach. 

When I was choosing which channels I wanted to utilize, I took a look at the type of content I wanted to create. I mostly wanted to share pictures, videos, and stories of my adventures and fitness journey. With that in mind, I decided that social media, namely Instagram and TikTok, would be the best organic channels for me. 

For you, you may have a knack for writing and want to run your own organic blog, or you may really love creating long-form videos, so having a YouTube channel would be your best bet. There’s no one-size-fits-all here, it’s simply about being able to decide what works best for YOU! 

Step 3: Find an Affiliate Network

Once you’ve decided on your niche and your channel or channels of choice, it’s time to choose an affiliate network that is perfect for you to find products to promote! There are a lot of different affiliate networks out there, so it’s important to do your research to find programs that work for you and your goals. For me, I look at what products the network’s marketplace offers, what their typical commission rates are, and what the conversion rates are on the products I might like to promote. Make sure you do your due diligence as you find the right affiliate network for you! 

Speaking of research, once we’ve decided on our niche, our channels of promotion, and the affiliate network we’ll be focusing on, it’s time to do our research. I always suggest to people just starting out with affiliate marketing, that the more research you can do, the better. 

It is free and easy to conduct keyword research on hot topics within your niche, and do lots of research across the internet to discover how other experts within your niche are talking to their audience. Find keywords, topics, points of conversation, and other inspiration as you do your research. The more information you can have on your niche, the better. 

At the end of the day, affiliate marketing comes down to selling the problem you solve, not the product you have, so when you can provide valuable knowledge in your niche, you can find a great deal of consumers willing to spend money on the products that you’re promoting.

A great place to start is the ClickBank Marketplace. ClickBank has a slew of amazing affiliate products to promote, no matter your niche. With both digital and physical products across 23 different product categories, you can find something that’s perfect for you. Not to mention, the Marketplace will always provide helpful stats on each product, including average payout, conversion rate, gravity score, and so much more! 

Step 4: Create Your Content! 

We’re now at the point in our journey where we have to actually start creating content on the platform of your choice.

If you’re blogging, writing a backlog of blogs to get you started is great! You’ll also obviously need to create your blog and come up with plenty of different topics to discuss! If you’re vlogging, take some time to create videos that you can start sprinkling out every couple of days. For email, writing up a newsletter or two to have ready to send out every week or so is perfect!

If you’re creating content on social media, you can start by recording yourself doing generic things. Even just taking a walk, making lunch, or getting ready for the day, you can start creating content that applies to your niche. Take long videos, short videos, or videos you can replay on a loop. Creating a back-log of content to use when you’re running low is also SUPER helpful! 

From there, you can start posting your videos using trending sounds and text to find your audience and deliver the right message! Play around with the captions, hashtags, and tagging locations until you find the messaging that sticks. Another helpful tool is to find and save trending sounds and videos.

The more you use sounds or create videos that are similar to those that are trending, the more you’re able to reach a larger audience! You can also use duets and stitches to reach more people and even connect with like-minded creators! Don’t be afraid to experiment here. Social media is sort of like the wild-west for creation and the more you’re willing to try new trends, the more you’re likely to reach your people. 

Once you begin posting on your platform of choice, make sure to engage with your community! Comment on other people’s videos, have conversations and reply to comments on your content as well! 

Step 5: Share Your Links to Products

Finally, it’s time to make sure people are able to purchase the products you’re promoting in your content! Share your links across your content – whether that’s in the description of a YouTube video, within the content of your blog post, or in the bio of your social media channels, get your links out to the world! 

You can track your link clicks too with really amazing tracking tools, so that you know what content is working and what isn’t. Take the time weekly to check on your content and refine your process as you continue. What good is it to have your links if no one is clicking on them? 

Affiliate Marketing Organic Traffic

Another thing to note here is how important it is to be present across multiple channels. For instance, if you’re posting long-form videos on YouTube, it’s a good idea to also post shorter videos and maintain a presence on social media too. 

It helps you to be able to have multiple touchpoints for consumers to engage with your brand and ensure that your products are top of mind for them. 


What Kind of Content Should I Create? 

The type of content you create depends entirely on what you are interested in and what skills you possess! If you are passionate about being on social media, being a social media “nano-influencer” could be the path for you! If you love making videos, YouTube may be your channel of choice.

Maybe you really love writing long-form content? Then a blog will be your best friend. You can also cross-post on multiple channels, which is great for added reach. The more channels, the better, as long as the content you’re creating is providing value! 

What Niche Should I Choose? 

The ideal niche for you is totally dependent on you and your goals and preferences! One great idea is to take a look and assess what kind of message you want in your content! Maybe you’re really into cooking, so a home and lifestyle niche might be a good place to start. Or you’re a BIG fitness person, so health and fitness might be your go-to! Take a look at YOU and your life and go from there! You can also read our list on the top niches of 2024 here! 

How Long Does It Take to Make Money as an Affiliate?

No matter your approach, it will take time to build your audience, create content, and find the people who want to purchase products from you. However, don’t let this discourage you from getting started! It will take time, but it will pay off in the long run when you have a dedicated audience that wants to purchase what you’re selling, time and time again! 

Affiliate Marketing for Beginners

There’s a HUGE future in affiliate marketing and it’s totally possible to earn money online without having to spend money in the first place. It takes a lot of time and effort, but the rewards are so worth it! In fact, according to Affiliate WP, the average affiliate marketer the average affiliate marketer earns about $20,000 annually. That may be high for some of us in the organic space, but it’s absolutely doable with hard work!

Like I said before, affiliate marketing for beginners is TOTALLY possible, but it does take a lot of effort and dedication. Affiliate marketing isn’t a ‘get rich quick’ situation where you’re going to start making money overnight. Especially in the world of organic affiliate marketing, when you’re starting with no money, it’s going to take quite a bit of time and effort before you start seeing the benefits.

But in the end, once you do start seeing results, you’ll be so grateful you started – and it’ll open up all kinds of doors for you to keep growing your business online!

Wrap Up

It took me YEARS to be able to really start seeing results as an affiliate with no money. However, once I really dove deeper into my niche and my audience, I started to see greater success. Don’t give up! Keep grinding toward making money online. 

Now that you’re ready to get started as an affiliate marketer with zero dollars, you might want to check out some great products to start promoting. You can find the top ClickBank offers here!

And if you want even more help getting started affiliate marketing with $0, I hope you’ll check out Spark by ClickBank, the official affiliate marketing education platform from ClickBank. While it’s technically not $0 to join Spark, you’ll speed up the time it takes to find affiliate success with organic traffic for just the cost of a dinner out! 

Inside of Spark, we have the Profitable Affiliate Blogging System for building your own blog from scratch, featuring our own Senior Content Manager, Daniel Thrasher – and we have an in-depth TikTok course from Rachel Pedersen, the Queen of Social Media, to help you get started growing an organic following on TikTok.

We hope you find the success you’re looking for online. Best of luck!

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