Is Affiliate Marketing Hard? 12 Reasons You’re Making It Harder

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Last Updated on 6th February 2024

If you want to start a business, or even a side hustle online, then, by now, you’ve probably heard of a business model called affiliate marketing.

It’s an attractive prospect to make money promoting other people’s products. But is affiliate marketing hard?

The concept is easy, and it’s not difficult to make money with affiliate marketing once you know what you’re doing.

However, affiliate marketing can be hard for beginners. If you’re just getting started, then you’ll need to learn a solid affiliate strategy, figure out which products to promote, and how to get people to click your affiliate links.

Having said that, affiliate marketing can be easier than other online business models out there.

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What Is Affiliate Marketing?

Affiliate marketing is a type of performance-based marketing where affiliates are rewarded for every visitor or customer they refer.

As an affiliate marketer, you earn a commission per sale each time someone clicks on your affiliate link and then purchases a product from the merchant’s website. In exchange for promoting a product, you get paid a commission each time someone buys through your referral link.

The main benefit of affiliate marketing to the merchant (product owner) is the ability to tap into the traffic that an affiliate is able to generate. Therefore, the main task of the affiliate is to send targeted traffic to the merchant’s website via an affiliate link.

The first step is to identify a niche for affiliate marketing that they’d like to work in.

It is critically important that the niche has a hungry, buying audience. Then, the affiliate needs to choose affiliate products they’d like to promote.

From here, the affiliate then needs to generate traffic. Often, affiliates will build a website to promote affiliate offers via links in blog posts.

However, many successful affiliates prefer to use social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, TikTok, or a YouTube channel, while others will use paid ads to generate their traffic.

Being able to generate targeted traffic is why most beginners find affiliate marketing difficult.

However, once you have chosen your niche for affiliate marketing, and identified solid products that your target audience will want to buy, then it really just becomes a game of putting out quality content and staying consistent.

A diagram showing how affiliate marketing works

Is Affiliate Marketing Worth It?

So, is affiliate marketing worth it?


While it can be hard at the beginning, there are loads of benefits to starting affiliate marketing.

Like any business, you will need to put in consistent effort and learn the tools and techniques of the trade. You will likely also go months without making a sale when you’re just starting out. This is normal because you need to learn what you are doing.

Once you gain traction though, you will start to make affiliate sales weekly, then daily. And if you’re doing things correctly, then you will start making money from affiliate marketing on autopilot, even if you decide to take a few weeks off.

For me, it’s one of the best feelings to wake up in the morning and log in to my affiliate dashboards with a cup of coffee and add up all the sales I made the previous day, especially if that was a day I didn’t even work!

To lay it out more clearly for you, below are some of the key benefits of affiliate marketing.

Pros of Affiliate Marketing

As I said earlier, there are lots of benefits to starting an affiliate marketing business.

Here are a few of the most attractive pros of affiliate marketing, and the reasons why I think it’s worth getting into:

  1. You don’t have to spend any money upfront to get started
  2. You can select the products you promote and ensure they’re high-quality
  3. There is virtually no limit to the income potential
  4. You can create passive income
  5. You can target specific niches and audiences
  6. You can build a loyal audience that trusts you
  7. You can scale your business quickly if you want to
  8. You can hire people to help you grow your business
  9. You can sell physical products or digital products
  10. You can easily track results
  11. You can set your own hours and work when you want
  12. You can work anywhere that has an internet connection
  13. You can work part-time or full-time
  14. You can fire your boss
  15. You can become financially free
  16. You can work around your family life

Cons of Affiliate Marketing

While affiliate marketing is a great business model (and one of the best if you’re looking to start your first online business), it does have a few disadvantages that you need to be aware of.

Here are the cons of affiliate marketing:

  1. It takes time to build an audience
  2. The competition can be fierce in some niches
  3. Some affiliate programs can close on you or change their terms
  4. You will need to invest a lot of time and energy in the beginning
  5. The learning curve can be frustrating
  6. You will need to constantly improve your skills
  7. You will need to be disciplined

Can Beginners Do Affiliate Marketing?

Yes, absolutely!

Every successful affiliate marketer was at one point a beginner, they just had to learn the core skills to be successful.

If you’ve never done anything like this before, then affiliate marketing might seem overwhelming at first. But once you understand how it works, you’ll find that it’s actually quite easy to get going.

Can You Do Affiliate Marketing Without Any Money?

Yes, it is totally possible to get started without any money to invest. However, you need to know that it will take longer for you to gain traction, and there will be a few limitations on what you can do.

If you have no money to start, then you can follow this guide here. Once you start making money, invest it back into your business so you can move faster.

12 Reasons Why Affiliate Marketing Is Hard For Beginners

Affiliate marketing is hard for beginners when they’re just getting started. Fortunately, there are some good affiliate marketing courses out there like the Affiliate Secrets 3.0 training that makes it much easier. 

Here are some of the most common reasons why beginners struggle and find affiliate marketing hard.

You Haven’t Produced Much Content

When it comes to this method of digital marketing, content is king! You have to put out quality content on a consistent basis to get any results.

Both quality and quantity are important when creating content. You need to put out enough of it to get traction, but if you want your content to convert into sales, then it also needs to be high quality.

People don’t want to see spammy messages. They want genuine solutions to real problems. Spamming won’t get you anywhere. You need to think about what your target audience wants to hear about.

It’s important to realize that ‘high quality doesn’t necessarily mean production value, although that can also help too. The most important thing is that the content is high quality in terms of the value that it can offer your target audience.

This is great news if you’re a beginner with no budget behind you to invest in your business.

If you haven’t got money to create a fancy website or pay a video editor to make your videos sparkle, then don’t worry. As long as you’re offering valuable content that is helpful to your audience, then you’ll build an engaged audience if you’re consistent.

You Don’t Have Enough Patience

The first mistake I see people make when they start affiliate marketing is they don’t have enough patience. It takes time to build a successful business and if you want to succeed at this, you must be willing to wait for it.

It’s easy to get discouraged when you’re starting because you don’t know how things are going to turn out. However, if you stick with it, follow a proven affiliate system, and stay consistent, then you will start to have success sooner or later.

Not Using Email Marketing

Email marketing is an essential part of any business. It allows you to reach your customers directly and continue to sell to them, again and again. It also helps you to build trust with them by offering them valuable information that is helpful.

If you are not building an email list, then not only are you leaving a lot of money on the table, but you’re also making it more difficult for yourself.

Here is my how to guide to build an email list for affiliate marketing.

Promoting The Wrong Products

If you’re spending a lot of time putting out good quality content, but you’re not making many sales, then you might be promoting the wrong products.

Unfortunately, not all products sell well, so it’s important to choose ones that are converting and that people actually want to buy.

When looking for products to promote, a good metric to pay attention to is the earnings per click (EPC). If the EPC is high, then it can mean that the product is converting well.

If you’re just getting started then I recommend using one of these affiliate networks for beginners. Each of them provides metrics to help you assess how well a product is selling.

Another good idea to find out which products people are buying in your niche is to join Facebook groups relevant to your market and see what products people are raving about.

I also recommend avoiding products that pay low affiliate commissions. You’ll need to make a ton of sales in order to make any real money.

For example, the Amazon Associates program only pays very small commissions. While some people make good money with Amazon, you can do much better with other networks like Commission Junction, ShareASale, or ClickBank.

Instead, I recommend choosing at least one high-ticket product to promote, and some affiliate products with recurring payments.

This way you will be able to earn good money more quickly and build up a passive income stream through the products that will pay you a recurring commission on a monthly basis.

Promoting Products You Don’t Believe In

You should promote the products you believe in. If you’re promoting something you don’t believe in, then you can’t expect others to buy into it. If you wouldn’t use the product yourself, then sooner or later it will come across to your audience, and they will lose faith in you.

However, when you promote products that you actually believe in, you automatically stand out as being more authentic and genuine.

So, you need to be sincere about what you’re selling. People won’t buy from you if they think you’re just trying to make money off them. If you’re doing this, then affiliate marketing will be hard for you in the long run.

You Are In The Wrong Niche

Unfortunately, not all niches are profitable. While ideally, you want to choose an affiliate niche that you have a strong interest in, choosing a niche purely based on your passion can be a big mistake.

You need to make sure that there is money to be made in the niche. However, selecting a highly lucrative niche purely because it is highly profitable, but you have zero interest in is also unlikely to lead you to success with affiliate marketing.

If you’re passionate about a topic, and there’s money to be made there, then bingo. If not, then choose a niche that you are at least interested in, to the point where you can see yourself enjoying learning more about it.

If you need help picking the right niche, see my article on evergreen niches, and also my list of 267 micro niche ideas.

Not Being Consistent

One of the most important things to do in the beginning is to put out a lot of content and build an audience.

The first mistake most newbie affiliates make is they don’t stick to their content creation plan consistently. They will start off by doing well but then fall off the wagon because they aren’t sticking to their plan. This means they lose all of their hard work and progress.

Don’t let that be you.

Instead, create a realistic content schedule ahead of time, and plan out your content at least a month in advance.

Planning which days you will publish which content will also help you deliver your message more effectively because it will enable you to warm up your audience for your next piece of content.

You Don’t Have The Marketing Education You Need

Many people who try affiliate marketing fail because they lack the education needed to market themselves successfully.

It’s not enough to know how to write a blog post or shoot and upload videos to YouTube and TikTok. You also need to know how to market to your audience and turn your visitors into paying customers.

One of the most effective ways for beginners to get started is by following this 15-day blueprint laid out by Legendary marketer, David Sharpe.

David is an online marketing millionaire, and one of the most respected guys in the industry today. More interestingly, he uses a simple system that is easily duplicatable, which many beginners have used to get results online.

you can watch this video here to listen to David explain his system.

If David’s video resonates with you, and you feel that he is a guy you’d like to learn from, then you can I highly recommend you sign up for David’s 15-Day Business Builder Challenge. You’ll get a headstart and be ready to begin making your first sales online in a little over 2 weeks from now.

Treating Affiliate Marketing As a Hobby

If you’re not taking your affiliate business seriously, you’ll likely make little to no money.

It takes effort and dedication to succeed as an affiliate marketer, especially in the early days. So, if you’re treating your business like a hobby then you probably won’t get very far.

Don’t get me wrong, you can absolutely do affiliate marketing in your spare time, and if you’re a beginner, then that’s the best way to get started. But take it seriously.

It doesn’t matter if you can only spare 1 hour per day, or even just 5 hours per week. But make those hours count and be serious about what you’re doing.

Once you start earning money, then you can invest it back into your business to grow more quickly. Seeing results in your business will also give you the motivation to put in more hours once you are able to do so.

If you take it seriously, then in time, you can expect serious results.

Spreading Yourself Too Thin

The best way to start affiliate marketing is by focusing on just one niche. This will allow you to build an audience, nurture relationships with them, build connections with influencers in your space, and also establish solid partnerships with good affiliate program managers.

Once you’re having success in one niche, you’ve built a solid audience, you’re making consistent sales, and you’ve automated a large part of your business, then you can think about expanding into a new niche if you want to.

However, if you try to work 2 or more niches from the beginning then you won’t be able to make much headway in any direction.

You Have Shiny Object Syndrome

Shiny object syndrome is when you easily get distracted by other opportunities.

This can include changing tac to promote a product that you perceive will sell well just because there’s a lot of hype around it, or even changing your approach to affiliate marketing entirely, because you hear people talking about the “new best way to do affiliate marketing”.

This is a trap that will only have you chasing your tail, and wasting a lot of time and money chasing something new while not making headway in any direction.

Instead, choose a niche, a few products, and a method of generating traffic and stick to it until you are generating regular sales. If at this point you are not entirely enjoying some part of your affiliate marketing business (ie the way you are generating sales, or the products you are promoting), then look to change something, but do it consciously and with careful consideration.

Basically, don’t allow yourself to be distracted by the hype out there, as there is a lot of it in this industry.

You’re Not Differentiating Yourself From The Competition

It’s important to try to define yourself from the competition. If you’re just doing what everyone else does, then you’ll have a hard time standing out.

Try to niche down where possible, further defining your target market. Then, make a list of all your competitors in your space, and write down what their unique hook or angle is if they have one. Use this list and brainstorm your own unique angle.

Best Ways To Make Money With Affiliate Marketing

Here are some of the best ways to build an affiliate marketing business and promote other people’s products online.

Build a Niche Affiliate Website

Tons of people turn to search engines like Google and Bing every day to search for help, advice, and even products related to almost any topic they can think of.

By building a niche site around a particular, then in time, you can rank on page 1 for keywords related to your chosen niche and scoop up lots of free traffic.

Niche website pros

  • Free traffic
  • Passive income – you can make consistent sales through your website even while you’re away on vacation, or while you sleep
  • Build long-term traffic source
  • You build an asset that you own completely (your website)
  • You can sell your website later for a large payout if you decide to exit the niche

Niche website cons

  • Takes time
  • Some keywords are very competitive, so you’ll need to do some deep-dive keyword research to find the low-hanging fruit

If you like the idea of building a niche website that makes passive income, with the option and flexibility to sell your business later for 6-figures, then this is the best course to show you how.

Promote on YouTube

YouTube is an excellent way to build credibility and a trusted brand online. More and more people are turning to YouTube every day for help and advice on almost any topic you can think of.

This is a great platform to build an audience in almost any niche you can think of.

YouTube pros

  • Free traffic
  • Passive income – you can make consistent sales through your website even while you’re away on vacation, or while you sleep
  • Build long-term traffic source

YouTube cons

  • You have to be on camera if you want to build a brand (How to build a highly profitable YouTube channel without showing your face on camera – more info here)

If you like the idea of building a profitable YouTube channel for affiliate marketing, then this is one of the best (very) low-cost courses to show you how to do it.

Promote on Social Media

Social media is another great place to build an audience. While there are tons of platforms out there, the best ones for affiliate marketing tend to be TikTok, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter.

While there are various strategies you can take here from paid advertising to starting a Facebook group, the most popular way affiliates leverage social platforms to make money is through regular social media posting and building relationships with their audience, and then networking with them over the platform’s private messenger app.

Social media pros

  • Can make money quickly

Social media cons

  • Is not passive
  • You need to publish several social posts every day
  • You need to actively network and connect with other users, build relationships, and then sell directly to them

If you like the idea of leveraging social media to sell affiliate products, then this free training is a great place for you to start.

Final Thoughts: Is Affiliate Marketing Hard?

The answer is yes if you don’t know what you’re doing. You will also find affiliate marketing hard if you are making one or more of the mistakes listed above.

The good news is though, it’s actually easy to earn an income from affiliate marketing once you know what you are doing.

The most important thing for beginners is to follow an affiliate blueprint that is proven to work for beginners.

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