When you are an “online entrepreneur greenhorn” in the very early stages of your journey of building your first online business, it is very likely that you aren’t able to or just not willing to make initial investments into software products, services and education to support your business efforts. Not to speak of recurring investments. At least not yet!
I’ve been there, I know what it feels like.
And here’s the good news: There are ways to getting started in the world of “making money online” and setting yourself up for success COMPLETELY FOR FREE! The business model that I would like to suggest to you and that allows you to get rolling for free is called affiliate marketing. And in this article, I want to outline step by step what it takes to build your first blog and how to start with affiliate marketing FOR FREE.
What Is Affiliate Marketing? And How Does It Work?
Affiliate marketing, simply put, is the business of helping other people solving their problems by creating relevant content and recommending products and services to them that will help them solve what they are struggling with. Most people in today’s world are searching for solutions online using search engines like Google, Bing or Duckduckgo.
What you are trying to do as an affiliate marketer is writing relevant, interesting, and helpful content that attracts visitors to visit your blog. Once they are there, you can start building trust by providing helpful information to them. And ultimately, maybe, recommend them a product or service that will help them even further solving their problem and earn a commission in doing so.
That’s affiliate marketing in a nutshell, explained very briefly.
If you want to learn more about the very essence of affiliate marketing (the inner mechanics and the correct mindset, without any technical fluff and details) you may also want to read my article “How To Earn Money On Blogging: Exploring The Ingredients Of Affiliate Marketing” where I go a lot more into the details. We’ve just scratched the surface here…
That was more of a definition than something easily understandable or very actionable, right? Okay, let me give you a very specific example: I am an Affiliate Marketer. You are the person I am trying to help to solve his or her problem. Surprise!!! 🙂
So, what is YOUR problem I want to help you solve?
Since you have found this website through a google (or bing) search, chances are that you have heard somewhere about affiliate marketing and would like to get started. But you don’t know what the fuzz it is all about and if it is the right fit for you. So you want to hit the ground running with as little financial commitment as possible.
Now, my job as an affiliate marketer is to give you the information you are looking for. That’s why I am sitting here at 6 o’clock in the morning, even before having my first coffee, with my wife and kids still sleeping in the next room, writing this article. And it’s fun! I do it because I really enjoy compiling my knowledge into articles. What drives me in the very first place is my excitement of helping others!
However, excitement isn’t something I can pay my bills with, right? Full disclosure: Here is MY affiliate marketing plan for this article, plain and simple, laid out for you:
Write a step-by-step guide that solves your problem, explaining to you how to start with affiliate marketing for free. My intention is to give you an actionable plan to success and that you know, once you’ve finished reading this blog post,
(a) what affiliate marketing is about,
(b) where to go to set up your first blog completely for free,
(c) what to write about in your first article, and finally
(d) how to find products and services to recommend to your readers (and how to do it).
If I was doing a GOOD job when writing this article, then you will probably leave this blog knowing everything you wanted to know, starting your own blog, and live happily ever after. In that case: Great you made it here, thanks for stopping by and reading my content. Farewell, my friend, and all the best to you and your business efforts!
But if I was doing a GREAT job when writing this article, you will know all the basics by the end of reading it, AND hopefully want to learn even more and dig even deeper… Maybe I was able to point out to you that it is absolutely possible to start for free and on your own, but that there is a much better option. One that is also FREE to start with, but offers a premium model as well that will get you in touch with an amazing community and incredible, actionable training that a single blog post like the one you are reading right now simply cannot offer (because then it would be a series of ebooks rather than a single blog post 🙂 ).
With steps (1), (2), and (3) I as the affiliate marketer, went out of my way to provide you with a lot of free information. Maybe I earned your trust by being upfront, helpful, and supportive. Maybe, somewhere down the line, you decide to follow my recommendation… If you decide to do so, this will help me putting food on the table and paying my bills. Maybe 1% of the people reading this article will do so. 99% won’t! Yet, I have helped 100% of the people who came here looking for answers. And that’s a pretty good feeling, too!
That is my plan for today, and you can learn to do the same in ANY NICHE and on ANY TOPIC that YOU ARE EXCITED ABOUT!!! Isn’t that good news? Sounds great, right? Let’s get cracking!
How To Start With Affiliate Marketing FOR FREE?
Great, now that we’ve got the basics out of the way and know-how earning money with affiliate marketing actually works, let’s take a look at places where you can actually start building a blog of your own. Your very first website and own piece of internet property! It may sound like rocket science, but in fact, it is something that literally ANYONE with access to a computer can do.
It’s easy, it’s really exciting, and a moment you will always remember for years to come!!! We’re going to lay the foundation for your online business right now. Ready?
Content Management Systems: How Modern Websites Are Built
There are quite a few platforms that allow you to build your own website with a drag-and-drop interface and without any in-depth technical knowledge on your side.
In contrast to “the old days” when I tried building my very first business, affiliate marketers don’t have to be coders or tech-savvy nerds anymore. You don’t need to be a computer scientist and build your website by writing HTML and CSS yourself. You don’t even have to know what these two things are. In today’s online business world, most bloggers use so-called “Content Management Systems” (CMS), that allow them to focus on their core business: Content creation!
There are also other CMS systems like WordPress, Drupal or Joomla, or even very specialized solutions like Shopify for people who want to set up storefronts on the internet.
However, in this guide, we will focus on WordPress. Over the years, WordPress has established itself as the de-facto industry standard, and it is the CMS that I personally use and that I feel comfortable with.
FREE Hoster Options: Your Blog’s New Home
Every website on the internet needs a place where it “lives”, a so-called server. Hosters are the companies that, well, “host” that server, i.e. they are the ones that run the computers that your website lives on. Usually, hosters also offer additional services like one-click-setups for your WordPress blog, tech support and so on.
For the sake of this guide, let’s take a quick look at two common hosters that are free and super easy to use for beginners:
Wealthy Affiliate is my personal platform of choice. I said that before and I won’t back off from pointing that out 🙂 Sorry! Especially because Wealthy Affiliate as a platform combines everything you need for your affiliate marketing businesses for years and years to come.
Besides the excellent training and community, it also provides an outstanding hosting service called “siterubix”, and even with a completely FREE membership Wealthy Affiliate hosts a fully-fledged WordPress blog for you without asking for a dime from you.
It is all you need to get started. Plus, you will receive outstanding training from Kyle, which is one of the two owners of Wealthy Affiliate.
WordPress itself offers a hosting solution for your very first blog on their own website WordPress.com. Just as with Wealthy Affiliate the hosting of your blog is totally free to get started. However, I don’t think they offer any kind of training on either the technical aspects of blogging nor on the business aspects of affiliate marketing.
Creating Your Website
For the sake of this guide, we will go with Wealthy Affiliate, because it is a platform that I really like and it combines
- the creation and hosting of your blog for free,
- a lot of training,
- and a great community all in one place.
It offers an entirely FREE membership (hence qualifies precisely for what this article promised from the very beginning) but also a premium, paid membership if your business needs grow and you decide that it’s time to upgrade and can actually see the benefits of a paid platform (which beginners simply can’t, I get that, because I’ve been exactly there a few years ago).
If you want to learn more about the Wealthy Affiliate platform and why I recommend it from the bottom of my heart, please don’t miss out on reading my full review of Wealthy Affiliate here.
Step 1: Set Up A Wealthy Affiliate Account
First things first: Let’s get you your very own Wealthy Affiliate account. To get started, CLICK HERE! All you need is your best email address. A credit card or so isn’t required at all!
Next, enter your name, and, most importantly, choose a username that suits you. Make it something memorable that you can identify with, as it will be your alias for everything you will do on Wealthy Affiliate. Be it chatting with the community, asking questions on the training, or reaching out to support. Finally, enter your password of choice and you’re all set.
Step 2: Create Your Blog
Now for the fun part: On the onboarding page, hit the button labeled “Dashboard”.
Then, click “Websites” in the top menu bar and select “Build A Website”.
In the new dialog, select a name for your blog. In this case, I named it “My Example Blog” and for the domain name I chose “myexampleblog.siterubix.com”.
Make sure your name suits the content you want to write about and resonates with your audience. You don’t have to overthink this too much. But “Rocket Space Ship Blog 1337” would be a bad choice if you want to write articles about cats, for example. “Cat Toy Review Center” on cattoyreviewcenter.siterubix.com might be a much better choice! What do you think? As this blog will be your “brand identity”, it’s worth thinking about this one a bit. As who do you want to be known across the worldwide web? Do a short brainstorming session, think a bit about it. But don’t overcomplicate things…
Finally hit “Build my Website” – And you’re done! Pad yourself on the back! You own a website. That’s pretty incredible, isn’t it?
For now, I do not want to overcomplicate things: Your blog is ready to go and you can start writing content. Of course, there is still a lot of stuff you can configure inside of WordPress, but your initial framework is ready and waiting for you to populate it with articles. So let’s get to that!
If you want to learn more about how to configure your WordPress blog, change themes, etc. I would highly encourage you to either take the training offered inside Wealthy Affiliate, which will walk you through the process step by step, or read my article about getting started with WordPress (when published).
What To Write About?
Done with padding your back? Great! Then let’s login to your new blog by clicking “Login now” on the page that you were forwarded to after creating your blog.
So now your sitting in front of your newly created, pretty empty blog. But what to write about? Well, you’ve already chosen the broader theme of your blog. The topic you are excited about (or just very interested in) and want to tell the world about. Maybe it’s cats? Or video games? Or insomnia?
The first step, before even thinking about recommending products to anyone, is to create helpful, exciting, and relevant content for your readers. There are several techniques that you can use to come up with ideas. Of course, you can, in theory, write about ANYTHING YOU WANT! It’s YOUR blog, after all!
Your First Piece Of Content
For now, we are going to do exactly that. What we are going to do is giving your blog some personality. We’ll create a simple “About Me” page, where visitors to your blog can stop by and learn a little bit about who you are and what drives you. It adds to the soul of your blog and gives it credibility and personality!
Later, when you want to create your first blog post on a “real-world topic”, so to speak, you have to dig a bit deeper. What this basically boils down to is the topic of what is known as “keyword research”. Covering the topic of keyword research, however, and therefore coming up with new blog post ideas would certainly be beyond the scope of this already way-too-long article. If you want to learn more about it, please read my article about keyword research (when published), or, yet again, check out the excellent training over at Wealthy Affiliate.
When I said “real world topic” I didn’t mean to say that the “About Me” page isn’t important. It is! It’s about you, and YOU are the heart and soul of your business. It’s the first step in the process of creating tons of content designed to HELP people!!!
So let’s get started…
How To Write Your First Blog Post?
Back to your “About Me” page. In your WordPress dashboard, which is where you will find yourself right after logging in, hit “Posts” then click “Add New”.
This will bring up your WordPress editor. Simply type “About Me” in the “Add title” textbox and then, in the content section below, start writing a bit about yourself.
Don’t overthink it! Just write as you would talk to a friend! Don’t try to write any kind of “high literature”. That is not what blogging is about. Just be yourself!!! If you need some inspiration, you can check out my “About Me” page HERE.
When you’re done, hit “Publish”… That’s it! Again, time to give yourself a pad on the back. Well done! You’ve just created your first blog post!!!
That’s it for your “About Me” page. In the long run, however, you’ll have to think about your “business plan” when writing content, which is to attract visitors and thus create some traffic. Therefore you want to find topics to write about that people actually search for, not some random ideas you have brainstormed at your desk… That’s where the keyword research kicks in. Again, it’s no rocket science, but simply out of the scope of what I can teach you in a single blog post. You can, however, learn more about it here (when published).
Let’s Talk About Making Money
Okay, I want to quickly touch on the “making money” part of affiliate marketing. As you can imagine, getting into all the ins and outs of affiliate programs, commissions and proper linking is a bit out of scope for this article. To get a general idea of how this stuff works, I’d encourage you to read my article on the general concept of affiliate marketing here.
After you have created a bunch of articles with the intention to help your visitors (and thus, drive traffic to your blog), it’s time to finally think about product recommendations.
In most cases, you would do so by writing a product review of a product that you like and think would help your audience solve their problems (see, there is it again: the focus on helping). Once you have that review ready, you would link from your existing articles to that review, wherever appropriate.
Another Real-World Example
Real-world example again: THIS article you are reading RIGHT NOW is one of those “being helpful, trying to give you information to solve your problem”-articles. As you may have noticed above, every now and then I will link to my review of Wealthy Affiliate (oops, I did it again)! That’s a review-type article with the intention of recommending you a product that I really like and that I am convinced of.
You may, however, also write reviews on articles that you DO NOT like and spread the word of warning. One example of such an article would be my review of Online Marketing Classroom. The rationale here is (a) to issue a fair warning if you think a product is bad and (b) recommend the product that you think is the better alternative. However, it’s fine to place commission-paying affiliate links even in negative reviews. You issued a warning. If someone still buys the product, why shouldn’t you take a fair share?
If you are interested to learn about a variety of affiliate programs that you can start with adding to your own affiliate marketing business, you may probably want to check out my article on the best free affiliate programs for beginners (when published).
But I’m No Writer… And No Expert!
Let’s quickly touch on two very common misconceptions that beginners have when it comes to writing a blog. When I say: “Everybody can be a good affiliate marketer”, many people would object because they think that you have to be a “born” writer or highly trained expert in your niche.
That is not the case! People usually want to trust other people’s opinions and recommendations, and learn from experiences that other folks have made. Let me put it plain and simple: If you have ever, in your life, recommended stuff to any of your friends, then you are already an affiliate marketer. You just didn’t know!
Be yourself and share your knowledge and experience! If you are genuinely excited and/or interested in a topic, and just write about it as you would talk about it with a good friend, then visitors will come (and their trust and most likely money will follow).
Oh crap, 3000 words already… Time to wrap this one up! If you made it here. Awesome, thanks for staying with me!!!
It is totally possible to start an online business from scratch, and it is even possible to do it totally for free. However, I’d argue that affiliate marketing is probably the only business model that allows us to do this. However, as with everything, the rule “you get what you pay for” applies.
If you expect to start and run your business for free, then your possibilities are limited, of course:
- You will not have your blog hosted on your domain (i.e. you’d have to stick with cattoyreviewcenter.siterubix.com instead of cattoyreviewcenter.com)
- Chances are that you’ll only find limited or low-quality training. Wealthy Affiliate, yet again, is probably one of the very few exceptions (access is limited for free members, but the quality is the same)
- In my experience, it’s hard to find a community of like-minded individuals outside of “gated communities”, that are as serious as you are about your business. I tried it, and I never found a free community that would compare to any paid community that I have seen ever since. It’s hard to explain, but finding a helpful, engaging, encouraging, and motivating community of supportive peers is very important, especially if you plan to work alone and from home.
- Free tools often offer limited access. Take Jaaxy, my go-to keyword tool, for example. It offers a free version and a premium membership. While the free version works fine in the very early stages, it limits you to a certain number of analysis requests per month… That’s a pretty tough limitation, especially when you are still learning your craft and happen to make mistakes along the way.
However, it is doable, and if you have to decide between not starting at all, and starting totally free, then I’d yell at you:
“START! Don’t wait! START TODAY, and start for FREE!”
Starting TODAY is always better than waiting for TOMORROW. And if you feel like it, you can always upgrade to a paid plan at a later date, whatever platform you choose!
My Recommendation: The All-In-One Solution
So your options are:
Search the web for free approaches. Read tons of articles and how-to guides and figure out everything for yourself. It’s the hard way, for sure, but it can work, no doubt about it. But chances are that you will get distracted along the way, lose interest, or simply give up way too early because you lose focus.
Accept help and guidance from a community of experienced affiliate marketers that know their craft and have been where you are now years ago. There’s a Chinese proverb that goes like this:
To know the road ahead, ask those coming back
That’s the approach that I took years ago, and I don’t regret it. I’m still a member of the very community that helped me so much, and today, I am able to pay it forward to those trying to understand the road ahead… However, even with years of experience on my back, I know that there is still “a lot of road ahead”, and I am happy for the support I get from these guys on any given day.
So once more, with my final words of this article, I would like to invite you, nay, encourage you to check out my Wealthy Affiliate review. Allow us to help you get started. You won’t regret it! I promise.