Making Starter Cash as an Affiliate

A problem I see a lot of new affiliates run into is cash flow. They read some blog posts or hear their friends talk about affiliate marketing and how great it is, get all psyched up, and then realize that it’s not free. They may even have saved up $100 to spend on a campaign only to lose it in a day or two and be back at square one. So how much money should you save up to run your first affiliate campaigns, and how do you get that money in the first place?

How much do I need?

As I’ve said many times before, campaigns will usually have a much higher failure rate than success rate. It’s just the way it goes, your friend may be making $500/day promoting dating offers while you lose $500/day trying to do the same. From the get go, you need to prepare to run more than one campaign.

I would say a range of 3-5 offers is a good starting point. Pick one campaign that you think will perform well with search traffic. Pick another that might work with social. Test out PPV on another. Pick one that you just think you’ll do a good job selling.

As far as cash goes, I would spend no less than $200 on each campaign (traffic alone, not factoring in any design/coding costs…do that yourself!). This will give you a decent sampling enough to see if there’s at least potential in the offer. Remember that if you lose money on the $200 you spent, that does not mean the campaign is a bust. For instance if you spend $200 and make $100, that shows decent potential in the offer. Work on getting your ad CTR up and optimizing your landing page, and that offer can easily be flipped around and profiting.

Now we know that we need $600-$1,000 minimum to run a solid test, it’s time to find a money tree to pluck the bills from.

Note: most of these things will require you to learn a new skill. Making money online isn’t always easy and can take a ton of work (especially in the beginning), so I don’t want to see any tears about having to learn Photoshop.

Method #1: Web Design

Web design is a great way to make money, but also probably takes the most skill out of any of these “free” methods. You have to be somewhat creative to make unique custom pages for people.

One type of way to make money designing is by designing landing pages for other affiliates. I’ve seen some pretty crappy looking pages selling for $40-50, or in $100 packages with a bunch of other crappy pages. Learn how to make pages that blow these types out of the water, sell them for the same price, and you’ll have your $1k in a month.

If you get good enough, you can branch out from simple landing pages and design full custom websites for people. It’s possible to make 5x the amount of starter cash you need from designing 1 site for a business. I pay one of the design firms I use $80/hr for their work, and it’s worth every penny.

Another way is by making skins for Wordpess and selling them on sites like

My favorite way: find local businesses around you that have crappy websites. In 30 minutes I guarantee you that you’ll find at least 10-15 really, REALLY bad pages. Like 1995 AOL flashing text all over again bad, it’s crazy how outdated some businesses are when it comes to the web. Approach these companies and say you’ll design them a much more modern site, explain to them you’ll set up a “content management system” for them to easily change things, and that you’ll set up free SEO to boost their sites ranking. What you really do: grab one of the really nice WordPress themes from ThemeForest, customize it to add in the businesses logo/content, and then add a couple SEO plugins. They’ll most likely be blown away at how nice the site looks and should be willing to shell out at least $300-500 to you, sometimes more.

Method #2: Coding

Coding may take you a bit longer to learn, but takes less skill than design. If you plan on being an affiliate in the first place though, coding and design are two things I would strongly recommend learning.

Companies and individuals need coders all the time to fix problems and code sites up for them, whore yourself out on oDesk and make that money.

Method #3: SEO

Search Engine Optimization is a way to run affiliate campaigns for free. Instead of paying for fast, guaranteed traffic, you rank organically and get clicks for free.

SEO generally takes a little bit to learn and then traffic to your site grows slowly, but it’s free and beggars can’t be choosers. You can create regular affiliate landing pages to rank, or go the autoblog route and make hundreds of worthless blogs that make you $1/day from Adsense. I’m not an SEO expert though so unfortunately I can’t really give any pointers.

Kris Jones’ SEO Blueprint would be a decent place to start, or there’s unlimited amounts of free information on the mighty Google just waiting to be found.

Method #4: Fiverr Whoring

If you’re really desperate and want to make that $1,000 five bucks at a time, create an account on Fiverr and start posting things you’ll do for $5. I actually use this site quite a bit for mediocre work at slave-labor prices. Some of the users there will have 50 jobs in their queue, so you know they’re making money.

Check out the site, look at what people are doing for $5 and then check out how many orders are in they’re queue. If it’s hot, you should be able to make $1k slowly but surely.

Method #5: Blogging

Blogging is a great free way to make money. As with most of the other methods it takes some time to see the bucks roll in but, if you’re looking for fast money that’s going to be affiliate marketing…and you can’t afford that yet.

Blog about whatever you’re passionate about (as long as it’s not 18th century rocking chairs…but hey maybe there’s a market for that). Whatever topic you choose, become really involved in every social media outlet there is in that community. Join forums and post on them. Join twitter and tweet/reply to other people with similar interests.

After you have a few hundred readers, it’ll be time to sell some ad space and start pushing affiliate links in your posts/reviews.

Method #6: Write Articles

There’s always people looking to have somebody write articles for their SEO sites. I see article writing services published all the time in the Buy/Sell/Trade section of forums. Thanks to Google, it’s pretty easy to learn enough about any topic someone wants you to write about. Most of the time they’re just using them to boost their sites ranking and don’t even really care about your level of expertise on the subject.

Method #7: Craigslist/Ebay Flipping

Simple tactic: Find a [Red Bike] on Amazon or Overstock for $75. List the [Red Bike] on eBay or Craigslist for $100. “Sell” the [bike] and then just buy it on Amazon and enter the Ebay persons address into the “Shipping Address” section.

I think I remember someone who used to do this all the time with watches. Not sure how well it works any more, but might be something to play around with.

Method #8: Create “Turnkey” Websites

Go to Flippa and search “turnkey”. You’ll see a bunch of crappy looking sites that people are selling for $100-1,000. Believe it or not, people buy these sites.

People will take a WordPress theme and just plug in an RSS feed along with the Amazon affiliate program and it will autopost different things on sale. The sites are pretty useless, but people out there think “It’s automatic and I’ll make money, automatically!” so they don’t really think twice before swiping their card.

Other people write an eBook, create a sales page for it, and then sell that as a “turnkey” Clickbank product.

Method #9: Make a Website

Remember that sites like Facebook started in a dorm room and virtually for free. Come up with a good idea of your own, fork over $10 for a domain, bust your ass getting a basic design up and coded yourself, and then promote the idea wherever you can.

Method #10: Credit Card?

Credit cards are probably the easiest way to solve cash flow issues, but can easily be the deadliest. Make sure that you’re going to be able to find some way to make back $1,000 if you lose it all and charge it to your Amex. Find a street corner and get to work.

I didn’t really go too in depth about any of the methods here (maybe another post for that), but I just wanted to get some ideas out there on ways to make money without having to spend money. There are other ways out there to really scrape for some cash, but the list above should give you a pretty good start.