What comes to mind when you think of “affiliate marketing?” Perhaps it’s fitness influencers talking about a new protein powder. Or a YouTuber reviewing a new pair of sneakers. Maybe it’s a blog that tells you all about the “10 best blenders this year” or reviews a new software tool.

Well yes, it’s all of these. And more.

In this article, we’ll explain what affiliate marketing is, the different types of affiliate marketing, and how you can start your own business in the space today.

Curious to learn more about affiliate marketing? At Whop, we have courses, communities, and software that can teach you how to get started.

What is Affiliate Marketing?

affiliate marketing

Affiliate marketing is when someone (the “affiliate”) promotes another brand or person’s product (could be a physical or digital product like software) to the affiliate’s audience and receives a commission.

In short, affiliate marketing is just selling things by word of mouth.

It’s not a channel, per se, such as Facebook Ads or email marketing, but rather a strategy that enlists the help of people outside of a brand’s internal organization to market its products or services. It can take many shapes and sizes.

Types of Affiliate Marketing

“Affiliate marketing” is a broad term, there are many different forms and multiple entities could be considered affiliates. Here are the main types:

Content & Review Sites

Content affiliates are websites that produce long-form, written content about products. Common examples of this include reviews of standalone products or brands (“Nike Pegasus 40 Running Shoe Review”), comparisons between two products (“Nike Pegasus 39 vs. Nike Pegasus 40”), and roundups about multiple products (“Best Running Shoes for Men of 2024”).

Examples of content sites are big publishers like Travel + Leisure that write about the best travel products, smaller blogs like The Quality Edit or The Adult Man that review ecommerce brands, and even NerdWallet that compares different credit cards and financial products. This type of content is referred to as “commerce content” and you can read all about it here.

Influencers & Creators

creator economy

You don’t need to have a blog to get into affiliate marketing! Social media creators big and small are also affiliates, and it doesn’t matter how big or small of an audience you have. In fact, the most important thing is having quality engagement, not a big follower count.

Celebrities like the Kardashians or so-called micro influencers can be affiliates for just about any type of product—everything from workout supplements to water bottles. Influencers and creators primarily use social media like Instagram and TikTok to do reviews or short clips centered around a product.

Brands will typically offer free products for footage, a commission for any sales the influencer generates, or even sometimes a flat fee or sponsorship. Massive creators like the D’Amelio twins and the Nelk Boys even go as far as starting their own brands while still promoting other companies!

Paid media buyers are some of the original affiliates, they helped shape the industry as a whole close to the inception of the internet. Rather than posting organic content like a review or video about a product, they run ads on behalf of a brand.

But compared to a digital marketing agency that acts as a campaign manager for a brand using the company’s capital, paid media buyer affiliates risk their own capital in exchange for a certain payout.

Paid media buyers are extremely versatile and can market any type of product. They are often experts in certain traffic sources such as Google Ads, native ads, Facebook ads, etc. They typically specialize in a certain niche using their expertise, but since they don’t rely on a social media following, they can theoretically switch between any category and still be successful.

Coupon Sites

coupon site

Coupon sites are affiliates that offer customers discount codes at certain brands. Have you ever made a big purchase and then searched Google for a coupon from the brand? The results probably showed a site like Honey or RetailMeNot.

These affiliates work out smaller commissions with brands (because the customer is already close to buying, they just want a discount) compared to the other types of affiliates, but they still help generate revenue. Sometimes, big content and review sites will also have a section for coupons, so one affiliate can fall into multiple categories within affiliate marketing.

Why Should I Start Affiliate Marketing?

Now that you know what affiliate marketing is, the different types of affiliate marketing, you may be considering getting into the space to start making money online. Here are some of the advantages and disadvantages of affiliate marketing:

Pros of Affiliate Marketing

Here's what makes it great:

You Don’t Have to Invest Time and Money Into Building A Company

Because you’re marketing someone else's product, you don’t need to spend the energy and resources into sourcing a good product, hiring an expert team, and creating a recognizable brand. Each part of this is difficult, so not having to deal with it makes affiliate marketing a low-barrier-to-entry option to start making money online.

Rather than spending months (if not years) dialing in your sales funnel and go-to-market strategy, you’re working with a company that already has these things in place and figuring out how to find more customers for them, typically through creating content. This lets you focus on being creative rather than starting a whole new business.

You Don’t Have to Manage Operations

Similarly, because you don’t own the business that you’re advertising for, you don’t need to worry about the fulfillment of a product. For an ecommerce brand, this looks like receiving the order and managing the warehouse along with customer service, and for a software product, this looks like handling support and training.

In affiliate marketing, you’re simply bringing the customer to the company, then the company handles the rest of the relationship—even if it lasts for years.

You Can Move Quickly and Make Changes

If you’re someone who likes to focus on what’s working versus trying to fix something that’s broken, then affiliate marketing could be perfect for you. As an affiliate, you get to pick what products you promote and aren’t tied down to one brand.

This means that if you’re promoting something that’s not generating sales, you can easily stop working on that and try something else out. It also helps you be more creative. You don’t need to spend years trying to figure out how to make a business work.

Also, you can keep things exciting by testing out completely different industries and traffic sources.

Cons of Affiliate Marketing

Here’s why it can be difficult:

No Equity Value

Because you’re not the one actually building the business and the brand, you don’t own anything at the end of the day. Making money with affiliate marketing will not result in a large exit or a truly sellable business.

The risk is lower, the investment is lower, and the time is lower, but so is the final result.

High Competition

Affiliate marketing requires far fewer resources than many other forms of online business, so because it’s easier, more people are trying to do it. This means the competition is high.

There are tens of thousands (if not hundreds of thousands) of affiliate blogs and millions of influencers all trying to market products for different companies, this causes a supply and demand problem both in driving traffic and in working with brands.

More affiliates are trying to create a larger audience and there can only be so many fitness influencers or home goods blogs. Similarly, brands have a lot of options when finding affiliates to work with so they may not be as willing to give high commissions when they have an abundance of affiliates to work with.

Making It Work Takes Time

While affiliate marketing can be simple, it’s not easy. Being successful in affiliate marketing requires a few key skills: knowledge of good products, knowledge in a particular traffic source, and knowledge about content creation.

In reality, all three things need to be aligned in order for you to generate revenue. You have to be able to pick a good product to promote, know the platform you’re going to market on (whether it’s native ads or Instagram Reels), and understand how to make content that drives sales.

Unfortunately, it takes time to learn these skills and once you have them down, you will still need to test many different things when promoting a new product. It can be a long grind, but once you crack the code for a product, the upside can be tremendous.

7 Ways That You Can Get Started With Affiliate Marketing

make money affiliate marketing

Here are some of the ways you can get started with affiliate marketing.

TikTok Shop

TikTok Shop is one of the latest trends in affiliate marketing. It can help anyone (really, just about anyone) with an iPhone start making massive profits online.

This ecommerce feature was launched by the social media app in September 2023 and has helped brands and creators make large amounts of revenue almost overnight. Compared to simply posting organic videos on the app, Shop has built-in functionality like live video and checkout that make it easier for users to buy things.

TikTok Shop helps you find products to promote, get in touch with the brands to try samples for content, and earn commissions. It’s essentially an affiliate platform built directly into TikTok, making it seamless for both parties.

Learn more about TikTok Shop with bestselling Whop courses like Print Money W TikTok and TikTok Mastery.


If you’ve already been active on Instagram for a while and have a dedicated fanbase, signing up for affiliate programs there may be easiest. Instagram Affiliate helps you place product links in your posts and earn commissions on revenue.

To be eligible, you need to have a professional account. Commissions are paid out after the return period has passed, just in case a customer that you refer ends up returning the product, the brand isn’t paying a commission and losing out on the revenue.

Please note: Instagram Affiliate may not be available for everyone yet as it’s a newer feature.


Perhaps you’ve been posting vlogs on YouTube for years and have a few thousand subscribers. Why not start getting paid for your hard work? Making money with affiliate marketing on YouTube is one of the most mature options, as YouTube has been around for almost 20 years!

If you’ve ever searched YouTube for advice on ecommerce or dropshipping, then you’ve likely seen the host promote a tool like Shopify, with a custom discount code. Because YouTube is used for so many different types of content, from educational guides to entertainment, it’s a great platform to promote everything from software to physical products.

Affiliate Niche Blogs

A step above simply posting on existing social media sites is actually creating your own digital property. Niche blogs are essentially online magazines that focus on one topic such as running shoes or cookware.

This type of affiliate marketing is reliant on organic search traffic and requires search engine optimization (SEO) like keyword research and a high level of authority in the category that you’re making content about. In short, you can buy a domain, build a simple WordPress website, and then join affiliate programs. Brands will often even send you free products to take photography and give your honest feedback to your audience, in addition to giving you commission on sales you generate!

Starting an affiliate niche blog requires expertise in SEO and writing, but it’s a good way to build a sustainable business (that you can also sell).


Do you have unique insights into a certain topic or lifestyle? Newsletters are great ways to gain traffic without ever having to show your face and, perhaps most importantly, you’re not reliant on Google or another platform to bring you new visitors.

Newsletters are a way to build a high level of trust with an engaged audience that cares what you’re writing about. (They wouldn’t subscribe to it if they weren’t interested in what you have to say!)

When you’re consistently putting out interesting ideas and advice, people will be more likely to buy the products that you recommend.

You don’t need to own something to start making money in affiliate marketing, here are two ways you can quickly earn cash in the space, while not being responsible for the operational overhead most affiliates experience.

UGC Content Creation

Whether it’s used by paid media buyer affiliates or publishers looking to grow their social media following, there’s a lot of money in making user generated content (UGC) on behalf of affiliates. In this arrangement, you can be a contractor for others and help them earn commissions while they pay you a flat fee.

If you’re comfortable in front of a camera, have basic editing skills, and can shoot great footage, becoming a freelance content creator is a fun path to take. Creator Cashflow on Whop gives you access to expert coaches who can teach you editing, trending hashtags, and more to get you started!

Commerce Writing for Blogs

Did you love those essays back in high school? Well if you’re a skilled writer and have a passion for online brands, being a commerce writer could be for you. Instead of owning the blog yourself, you can be a freelancer for these affiliate niche blogs and handle some of the work that they need done.

You’re typically paid by word or on a flat-rate basis and editors will give you a brief that you will complete. Sometimes it could be a roundup where you find the best products in that category, or it could be a standalone product review in which the brand will send you their products and you’ll take pictures and give your feedback.

Commerce writing is a great way to use a skill that you probably already have to connect with existing affiliate marketers, learn best practices, and get exposure to the industry’s best brands—all while making money.

How to Make Money Online with Affiliate Marketing Today

Affiliate marketing is here to stay. It’s one of the original forms of making money online and because it changes with every new platform and tool, it’s also one of the most exciting spaces to be in.

Affiliate marketing lets you promote other people’s products without having to worry about inventory, shipping and handling, or customer service. Although it requires less time and capital than building your own business and the potential to exit is a lot lower, it’s still difficult and can earn you thousands of dollars.

At Whop, we have many courses and communities that teach things like TikTok Shop and user-generated content. These resources will show you how to go from A to Z and provide you with training materials and a community dedicated to your success. Whop also has it's own affiliate program, where you can get paid to refer customers or creators.

Explore Whop today and start making money online with affiliate marketing!

Why You Should Trust Us

Joe Niehaus is an experienced commerce writer for niche sites like The Adult Man and The Quality Edit. He has been writing online for several years and previously worked in affiliate marketing with several of the top ecommerce brands. Joe constantly stays up to date on the latest trends and techniques in the affiliate marketing world to give you the most accurate information available.