If you’ve ever bought something an influencer recommended online, you’ve likely come across an affiliate marketing business. Online creators often build partnerships with brands to promote its products and services. In return, they earn a commission for each sale.

Affiliate marketing is a growing industry. According to one study, affiliate marketing spend is expected to reach $15.7 billion globally in 2024.

However, the problem for many beginner affiliate marketers is the upfront cost, including buying a domain name, hosting a website, building an audience, and learning expert tactics. So, the question is: Can you start an affiliate marketing business for free? 

Short answer: Yes.

This guide will help you understand how to make money online with affiliate marketing (without upfront out-of-pocket expenses) and give you a step-by-step tutorial on how to get started. The only thing you’ll need to invest is your time.

How does affiliate marketing work?

Affiliate marketing is the process of earning commission by recommending a product or service offered by another business. As a business model, it can be highly profitable because the business pays you for every referred sale.

Not all affiliate marketing programs are the same, though. Some pay different commission rates, others will offer a fixed bonus, and some will offer free products or services in return. Examples of affiliate marketing programs include the Shopify Affiliate Program and Amazon Affiliates.

With time and hard work, successful affiliate marketing can turn your side hustle into a profitable business venture.

Why is affiliate marketing a good business model?

At this point, you might be thinking, “A business built on recommendations? Sounds too good to be true.” While it’s good to have a healthy dose of skepticism, according to PayScale, the average affiliate marketer in the US makes around $56,141 a year.


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