Nothing is more satisfying than waking up in the morning to see I’ve made a hundred bucks while I was sleeping.
It’s not a dream! I make thousands a year from affiliate income and the best part is that once I’ve set it up it is mostly passive.
Reading this is probably a kick in the teeth to the thousands of adjunct faculty out there and this is exactly the reason why I started this blog to help PhDs build careers and lifestyles that are rewarding while also providing financial security.
Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, at no extra cost to you I will receive an affiliate commission.
What is affiliate income?
Affiliate income, also known as affiliate marketing, is the process of earning a commission by promoting other people’s (or company’s) products. You find a product you like, promote it to others and earn a piece of the profit for each sale that you make. The commission range from 1% of the purchase price to thousands of dollars. Some companies offer reoccurring commissions as well which means you can earn passively for years to come.
Sounds good and you are going to quit your job right now and get on board the affiliate train.
Not so fast. Affiliate marketing isn’t a good fit for everyone. If it’s not for you stay tuned as I will have a blog post out soon on other ways to make money with your PhD. In the meantime let’s dig into what is necessary for success as an affiliate marketer.
What’s needed to make affiliate income?
If you are trying to talk to everyone, you are talking to nobody.
A niche is like your PhD topic. Other people are doing something similar but you have a slightly different take on it. You can talk about your niche for hours and spend just as long creating content to explain to others what it is all about.
The best niche is one you are knowledgeable and passionate about. If you can brainstorm 20 blog posts ideas in as many minutes then you have a sustainable niche.
The goal with a niche is to build yourself as the authority in that field. You want people to think of you when they think of the niche and you need people to respect your advice (as you will be recommending they buy something)
I have three niches (and three websites with very different audiences). I have eco-conscious entrepreneurs, PhDs who hate their career prospects, and people who want to give meaningful gifts.
You can’t make an commision if nobody is reading your posts.
You can build an audience with social media, SEO and email marketing. I recommend focusing on all three for long term success but SEO and email marketing are going to have the largest ROI in the long term.
Passive income doesn’t mean there is no work to do. It means you do the majority of the work up front e.g. writing the blog posts or creating the video. You optimize for SEO upfront and you create evergreen email sequences up front.
It takes 3-6 months for a quality blog post to rank on Google so bare in mind that affiliate marketing is not a quick fix to your income needs.
There are some limited ways to do affiliate marketing with no upfront cost but if you want it to be more passive and less time consuming a few small costs will transform your income.
The two main costs are your website and your email marketing automation.
In my option, a website is non-negotiable. I recommend you invest in a website as it will expand your ability to make passive income from your hard work. I recommend (and use) SiteGround for speed but I actually started out with BlueHost as they are a little cheaper and the speed difference is okay for a small website. If you use my affiliate link you can get BlueHost for just $3.95 a month.
Email is also a non-negotiable however the good thing with email is that there is actually free email software that has enough features to successfully build affiliate income. I personally use ActiveCampaign for my emails however the $15 a month starting price can be a stretch for someone just starting out in their online business. If that is you, check out MailerLite – their free version is feature-rich and free for up to 1000 subscribers by which time you are making money so can upgrade or switch.
Writing 1-2 blogs posts won’t make you thousands. It wasn’t until I had written 40 blog posts that my affiliate income consistently made me more than $500/month. Showing up every week with a new blog post for your audience is one of the most important success factors.
Promote your content
Build it and they will come, right? Nope, you need to share your content.
To put the passive in affiliate income I use SmarterQueue to automatically re-share my content on social media. You can certainly do this manually when just starting out.
I recommend starting with 2 social media platforms so that you don’t spread yourself too thin.
Email is the promotional channel with the higher return on investment (ROI). Building your list and sending out regular emails is one of the best ways to build yourself as an authority and make money from affiliate income.
Only include relevant links
Ugh, nothing is worse than a sell-out. Don’t randomly link to every and any affiliate product possible. There needs to be a logical fit for your readers.
One of my websites targets eco-conscious entrepreneurs. You are never going to find links to kayaks on that website. You will however find links to eco-packaging and green web hosting.
What do you think? Will you attempt to replace your adjunct income with affiliate income?