Want to get into affiliate marketing but have no startup budget? No worries! I’m going to walk you through exactly how to launch and grow a successful affiliate site from scratch with $0 upfront.
With the right strategic approach, you can start earning commission checks within your first few months even without any initial monetary investment. Affiliate marketing success truly requires hustle, consistency, and patience more than a big wallet.
In this comprehensive guide, I’ll explain proven methods for starting affiliate marketing without spending a dime on tools, services or advertising. Let’s do this!
Affiliate Marketing Fundamentals
First, let’s quickly cover the basics of affiliate marketing and how it works for anyone unfamiliar with the concept:
- You promote products from various online merchants through links and earn a commission on referred sales or leads.
- Merchants handle product fulfillment, support, returns, etc. You simply drive the traffic and sales.
- Affiliates typically earn 5-25% for retail product sales or up to 50-75% for digital products, leads, app installs, etc.
- Your custom affiliate link with unique ID tracks all traffic and conversions driven to give you credit.
- Top affiliate networks like ShareASale and CJ Affiliate provide access to thousands of affiliate programs.
- You can promote offers through your own content, email marketing, paid ads, social media, and other channels.
That covers the basic role and components of an affiliate marketer. Now let’s look at starting with no money…
Starting an Affiliate Site from Scratch
The great news about affiliate marketing is the startup costs are extremely low compared to other businesses. Here are the steps to launch completely from scratch:
Step 1: Register a Domain Name
Your domain name is the www.yourwebsitename.com that forms your site’s address and identity.
Some tips for choosing and buying a domain:
- Brainstorm keywords related to your niche – e.g. “gardeningequipment”
- Check domain name availability to see if .com version is taken
- Choose a short, brandable domain name if available
- Buy from registrars like Namecheap, GoDaddy, Bluehost for under $15
Step 2: Get Web Hosting
Web hosting provides the storage and servers that your website physically resides on.
The good news is many web hosts offer cheap starter plans around $3-$10 per month including a free domain name registration. Popular picks are Bluehost and HostGator.
A basic shared hosting plan has all the power you need as a beginner affiliate site.
Step 3: Build Your Website
Now it’s time to actually build your affiliate website. The easiest way is using WordPress since it powers over 40% of all sites.
The core WordPress software is 100% free to download from WordPress.org.
Then you can choose a simple free theme like Astra to control the look and feel. No coding or design skills needed.
Alternatively, sites like Wix and Squarespace have drag and drop website builders. But they charge monthly fees.
WordPress is recommended for flexibility plus owning all your site files.
Step 4: Add Affiliate Links
Once your website foundation is set up, it’s time to add affiliate offers by joining networks like ShareASale, CJ Affiliate, Impact Radius, etc.
Browse their advertiser listings and apply to join the affiliate programs you want to promote.
Then grab your custom affiliate links and start adding them to relevant pages and posts on your site. Make sure to disclose affiliate links.
Now you have an operational affiliate site ready to start earning commissions!
Promoting an Affiliate Site for Free
Driving traffic is where most beginners struggle. Paid advertising has obvious costs, and many give up before achieving organic rankings.
But there ARE ways to start getting affiliate traffic without any ad spend. Here are effective no-cost promotion tactics:
Leverage Social Media
Promoting your affiliate content and site through your personal social media accounts is completely free.
Share your posts in relevant Facebook Groups, subreddits, LinkedIn communities, Twitter chats, and anywhere your niche audience hangs out. Engage rather than spam.
Tap into Forums
Industry forums usually allow promoting your website in signatures and some product threads. Get involved in the community and add a link.
Comment on Blogs
Commenting on other blogs and articles in your niche helps build awareness and often links back to your site. Leave meaningful, on-topic comments.
Reaching out to bloggers and influencers in your niche to request they review or featured your affiliate products often scores links back.
Local Business Directories
List your site on local business directories like Yelp that get search traffic and include a link. Great for local services.
Guest Post Outreach
Pitch industry blogs relevant to your products and offer to provide a guest post with 1-2 affiliate links in the author bio.
Respond to journalist queries on Help a Reporter Out with useful comments including a link to related affiliate content you’ve created.
Creative Link Insertion
Get creative finding ways to naturally insert affiliate links into forums, docs, spreadsheets, and anywhere there’s opportunity.
Optimize Existing Content
Freshen up old blogs posts or website copy with relevant affiliate links inserted where appropriate.
If you have an email list or any audience, send out occasional affiliate offers you genuinely believe they would appreciate and benefit from.
Run contests requiring sharing or tagging for entry. Great way to gain more eyeballs.
Provide helpful answers to questions related to your niche and include a link to your site where relevant.
Comments on your site that link back help build domain authority.
The key is persistence and creativity. Try these tactics repeatedly over time to gain incremental exposure. It compounds.
While paid ads can accelerate growth, organic promotion definitely gets you started down the right path.
Important Mindsets for Success
More so than anything technical, mastering the proper mindsets is the real key to thriving with $0 affiliate marketing budgets. Cultivate these:
Play the long game – Have patience knowing profits come through consistent, long-term effort over months and years. Avoid chasing quick wins.
Provide massive value – Obsess over delivering truly helpful, engaging content and recommendations rather than pure sales pitches. This earns trust and conversions.
Fail forward – Not everything you try will work. Learn from failures and let them inform future decisions rather than giving up. Continual improvement is key.
Embrace “boring” – Never get bored doing the fundamental things like content creation, link building, and relationship development day in and day out. Avoiding shiny objects is success.
Stay laser focused – Don’t get distracted trying to promote too many different affiliate offers at once. Pick one vertical and dominate it over time.
Think creatively – With $0 budget, you’ll need to get creative with promotional tactics. Brainstorm ways to build organic reach through smart heuristic maneuvers.
Track everything – Keep diligent notes on which affiliate strategies earn clicks, leads and commissions. Do more of what converts.
With the right mindset, you maximize results from any promotional activities and iterate your way to affiliate revenue.
Transitioning to a Paid Strategy
Once you have momentum from organic promotion, the next step is transitioning into paid traffic to accelerate growth. Here are some smart ways to start spending on affiliates with a small budget:
Social Media Ads
For about $5 per day, you can run clicks or conversion-based Facebook and Instagram ads driving relevant traffic to your affiliate content. Stay small testing what converts.
Setup free retargeting pixels on site and then create $1-2 per day ad campaigns following up with visitors who left without a conversion.
Contest Entry Ads
Run ads promoting a giveaway or contest offering your affiliate product as a prize. The entry form captures emails you can remarket to.
Quality Sponsored Posts
Pay reputable sources $50-$200 to create sponsored posts or native ads promoting your affiliate products to their existing audience.
Discount Content Promotion
Find affiliate offers providing coupons and promo codes. Then spend a small budget promoting those discounted landing pages through pins, social posts, native ads, etc.
Some niche hobby and industry forums will advertise your affiliate offers through ads or dedicated email blasts for reasonable rates due to segmented targeting.
Research affordable low-cost tripwire offers like short books and courses in your niche. Break even giving them away through ads, then send buyers to affiliate offers.
Loyalty Side Project
Launch simple niche loyalty sites, apps, or Chrome extensions. Drive traffic through ads and social media. Monetize users with relevant affiliate offers over time.
Think lean and creative. A small paid advertising budget combined with organic efforts allows getting the flywheel spinning.
Top Affiliate Programs for Beginners
Another key factor starting out is choosing the right affiliate programs and merchants to work with. Here are some great options for beginners:
The Amazon Associates program gives access to millions of products with average commissions around 4-10%. Great for broad retail affiliate sites.
ShareASale provides thousands of affiliate programs across many niches. Provides recurring revenue opportunities.
A huge affiliate network with tiered commissions rewarding high volumes. Look for high-paying niche verticals.
Clickbank focuses heavily on digital products allowing 50-75% commissions. Great for niche info products.
An alternative to Amazon Associates paying competitive rates for consumer retail affiliate promotions.
Focused on high-paying performance marketing affiliate offers like subscriptions, app installs, and lead gen.
Commission Junction provides access to many large international brands and a diversity of commission structures.
The key is thoroughly researching different programs related to your niche and trying different ones to see what converts best. Avoid spending time promoting low-paying offers.
Long Term Success Habits
While getting started with no money is very possible, long term affiliate marketing success ultimately requires scaling up budget and efforts over time.
Here are habits to ingrain as your affiliate business grows:
- Reinvest profits – Reinvest each commission check back into site development, tool upgrades, and traffic. Avoid withdrawing everything.
- Gather reviewer feedback – Keep improving content quality and offerings by proactively soliciting reviews and critiques from colleagues and visitors.
- Learn new platforms – Diversify traffic by steadily expanding to new platforms like email, video, podcasts, Pinterest etc.
- Cultivate partnerships – Develop win-win partnerships with non-competitive peers and influencers in your space to share promotion.
- Automate tasks – Offload repeatable tasks to tools and VAs so you can focus on high-value activities with your time.
- Monitor conversions – Use analytics to find your best converting affiliate offers, keywords, creatives, placements, etc – and double down on those.
- Expand geo targeting – Once you have a proven conversion strategy, test expanding your targeting to other countries and languages.
Setting yourself up for long term expansion and diversification is key, even if you start with $0. Affiliate marketing rewards patience and persistence.
Avoiding Burnout Starting Out
It’s easy to experience burnout as a new affiliate marketer investing lots of effort before seeing results. Here are some ways to avoid it:
Set a consistent schedule – Block time for affiliate tasks daily but don’t let it consume you. Set work hours and take breaks.
Outsource what you can – Don’t try to do everything yourself early on. Hire freelancers to help with content creation, link building, design, etc.
Limit tool overload – Stick to a few essential free tools early on. Too many shiny tools leads to decision fatigue.
Celebrate small wins – Recognize and celebrate mini milestones achieved like publishing your first post or making your first sale. Progress compounds.
Connect with other affiliates – Having a community helps deal with the ups and downs of getting started. Don’t go it completely alone.
Remember “why” – Revisit your motivation and goals regularly. Achieving freedom through affiliate income keeps you going even without immediate paydays.
The early days of affiliate marketing involve lots of foundational building. But if you stay focused on continual progress, you will eventually gain momentum.
FAQs About Starting Affiliate Marketing from Scratch
Here are answers to some common questions people have around getting started in affiliate marketing without any money:
Can I really start affiliate marketing with $0 budget?
Absolutely. Thousands of students have built successful affiliate sites starting from scratch with no upfront investment through determination and hustle. It takes longer but is very feasible.
What’s the fastest way to get my first affiliate sale?
Your best bet is to identify one main keyword and focus all your initial content creation and link building efforts specifically around ranking for that term. Drive laser targeted traffic.
How much traffic do I need for affiliate commissions?
Just a few highly targeted visitors who convert can earn your first commissions. Think quality over quantity. 50 motivated buyers often monetizes better than 500 random people.
When should I start spending on ads?
Get your organic affiliate traction and conversion tracking implemented first. Once you have initial momentum, begin small paid ad campaigns to scale traffic. Let organic income fund ad budgets.
What if I pick the wrong affiliate program niche?
The beauty is you can always change niche focus if needed once you identify opportunities that convert better elsehwere. Write transition content to retain some overlap traffic.
Can I do affiliate marketing without a website?
Making a basic website is recommended but you can drive links and social traffic to affiliate links without one. However, you miss out on valuable repeat traffic and email capture.
How do I disclose affiliate links?
Be upfront that your links earn you commission and the relationship you have. Place disclaimers visibly on posts and site pages. Don’t try to hide your affiliate status.
When will I start seeing commissions?
Give it 2-3 months of steady posting and optimization before expecting your first conversions. But once you gain traction, affiliate income compounds rapidly in year 2+. Be patient.
Hopefully this guide has shown you getting started in affiliate marketing with zero money is very doable with the right hustle and persistence.
Now it’s your turn – take action on the tactics covered and let the affiliate commissions roll in!