I love working hard to earn my money. I hustle like nobody’s business whether I’m finding new clients, completing projects or networking at home and abroad. The numbers back me up on this – no developer on Codeable completes more projects on a weekly basis than I do. It’s how I’ve made a six figure income without collecting a single “normal” paycheck.
But I also love doing almost nothing and still earning money, anyway. Okay, that might be a bit of a stretch when describing passive income, but the truth is that you can build a network and make money on the strength of services you believe in and the quality of the work you already produce. You just have to know the smart and tactful way to participate in affiliate programs.
For those who don’t know, an affiliate program is essentially a paid recommendation for a product or service. A client will ask me, for example, which service I use to help boost the performance optimization of their site. I recommend WP Engine, the client creates a new account with them, and I get paid for this bit of word-of-mouth marketing. Simple. Effective. But you can totally screw yourself out of easy side income and come across as a shill if you don’t do it right.
Here are my rules for being an upstanding member of an affiliate program:
1. Only join a program for a product you truly believe in and actively use yourself.
There was a clever commercial that ran during the NBA Playoffs featuring LeBron James calling out people on social media who couldn’t believe he actually drives a Kia, a car company he endorses. If you’re going to heap praise on a service to get someone else to sign up for it, the message is simple: you better use it and love it yourself.
That’s why I’ve only joined two affiliate programs to date (Codeable and the aforementioned WP Engine). In fact, I believe in both services so much, I would endorse them even if they didn’t have an affiliate program. That’s the level you need to be on before you can try to start earning money recommending something.
If you’re only in it for the money, you’re a shill (and a bit of a fraud), and others can tell. You’ll have a hard time convincing people to sign up because you won’t have true passion fueling your recommendation.
2. Be honest, open and transparent about your affiliations
It’s perfectly okay to let your clients know that you get a little kick back because they signed up for an account with an affiliate. Clients are excited to learn that a portion of my service agreement with a certain company is being taken care of just because they signed up. Plus, in the case of WP Engine, there’s a $200 commission incentive for new sign-ups anyway. Client scratches my back, I scratch theirs.
Important note on this, though: don’t get into the open/honest (read: money) portion of the conversation until after you’ve already communicated the benefits of the service and got your clients interested. If they clearly don’t want to sign up, don’t play used car salesman and desperately try to sweeten the pot with numbers. Bad form.
3. Don’t join an affiliate program just because it’s there.
Similar to the earlier point about not being money motivated, don’t sign up for an affiliate program based on availability or convenience. Clients can sniff out your true reasons, and not only will they pass on the service offer they may drop you as their developer all together.
4. Don’t be a spammer.
Make sure you’re giving your clients relevant reasons for signing up for a service. Such as, they’ve asked about a specific aspect of the work you did for them and the conversation naturally leads to a product you’re affiliated with. Try not to come out with unsolicited sales pitches.
Have an ear trained on when to chime in with a recommendation, but don’t sweat it if a client comes and goes without you finding the right opportunity. Keep everything conversational – don’t put pressure on yourself to make an unnatural pitch and you won’t be putting pressure on your clients to buy in.
5. Produce quality content with affiliate links.
This is the real money-making heart of affiliate program membership. Over the last three months, I’ve generated over $7200 by producing quality content with my own affiliate links baked right in.
At a certain point, your passive income is tied to your traffic. Scale your visitors, scale your income. There are people who make way more than I do and generate passive income as their full-time job. I’m not to that level yet, but I do like the way the system is structured.
The most important strategy for starting with affiliate programs is to hone your trade as an expert in your field first. The better you build up your own brand and your own skills, the more reputable you’ll be in the eyes of your clients and the better you’ll be able to discern which products and services are truly worth your recommendation. Don’t be an affiliate above all else – be the best at what you do and let the conversations with your clients flow naturally. Then watch the money roll in.
I believe in the products I represent as an affiliate for a good reason – they’ve helped me earn over 500 five-star reviews with my clients. I’m a freelance website developer who uses my expertise to create high-performing, high-ranking websites that get real results for my clients. To get started on your next project, contact me using the form below.