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Diversifying Your Freelance Business with Affiliate Income

We’ve talked about affiliate marketing on the blog before.

And I’ve been breaking out my own affiliate earnings in my monthly income reports for some time. But I haven’t really tackled the subject in depth for y’all myself.

So today, we’ll fix that.

Because affiliate marketing (when done right) can be a great way to diversify your freelance business. And who wouldn’t want a little passive income in their lives?

(For those of you that aren’t “in the know,” affiliate marketing is basically just promoting products, tools or services to your audience in return of earning a commission on any sales.)

Passive Income Is a Myth

What is passive income, really?

According to Wikipedia (the most reputable source on the planet) 😉 :

Passive income is an income received on a regular basis, with little effort required to maintain it.”

The reason I think passive income is somewhat of a myth, is that there’s usually a TON of effort that goes into producing it. Maybe not forever, but many times the effort is front-loaded, meaning you do a lot of the work up front.

For example, with affiliate marketing you have to build some sort of platform with an engaged and loyal following. That takes time. And usually a fair amount of effort (think producing quality content, promoting said content, engaging with your audience, etc.).

But that’s like anything worth it in life, right?

If passive income (or anything) was easy to come by, everyone would be doing it. And succeeding at it. But that just doesn’t happen in the real world.

Even folks like Pat Flynn, who has passive income in his blog’s title – Smart Passive Income – would probably dismiss the above definition. I can’t say that for sure mind you, but I happen to know he works pretty darn hard to build and maintain his online business.

I.e. It’s required a little more effort than the definition hints at.

How do I know? His podcast is on my shortlist and I absolutely <3 it. This episode provides a great “behind-the-scenes” look at his hard work by interviewing his family about the last few years.

Plus, he now employs a whole team of people…

diversify-your-freelance-business-with-affiliate-marketingIt Comes Down to Discipline

Now, just because I said that I think passive income is a myth, doesn’t mean that I don’t think you should still make it a goal (maybe by correcting the definition just slightly).

Putting forth a fair amount of effort now in return for a future payoff is smart.

It’s actually called discipline. And it’s appeared as a theme in my own life for some time (in some ways at least). 😉

This past weekend I ran my 5th(?) half marathon.

It felt harder than childbirth. (I’m not even joking, ask my girl Noelle that ran it with me. At the end of childbirth, at least you get a baby…)

Noelle picked out the race (we run one together every year) and won’t get to pick next year’s. To be fair though the description said it was a trail race (fun, right?) that was “hilly.” Hilly was an understatement…

I should have been tipped off at the start line when the announcer said the distance was really closer to 16-18 miles when you took into account the incline. Say what? I only trained for 13.1 miles and my last long run was a very flat 12 miles.

That race kicked my ass. I’ve never wanted to quit so bad in my life. Like at mile four I wanted to throw in the towel already. It was BRUTAL.

But three hours and 15 minutes later (almost an hour longer than “normal”) we crossed the finish line. How? DISCIPLINE. And a little bit of grit.

We had planned in advance to run (and finish) this race. We had trained (good enough we thought anyway). So we HAD to finish. There was really no other option.

And I’m happy to say that somehow we did just that. Want proof?


(Ignore the 3:30 time – our heat started 15 minutes after the first runners.)

Affiliate Marketing Done Right

What does running a half marathon have to do with affiliate marketing?

More than you’d think! Here are five ways in which you can apply training for and finishing a brutal race to building a successful affiliate income stream.

1. It Takes Time

Training for a half marathon takes time. And so does the actual race apparently. 😉

While it would be ideal to start a website/blog today and start earning an income from it 30 days later, for most of us it doesn’t happen that way.

I can’t remember for sure when I made my first affiliate commission, but I have to think it was at least six months in. And it’s taken over two years for me to get to the $2,500 per month mark.

Could you do it faster? Sure can! I’ve seen others do it (a few of whom are on my affiliate team).

My goal from the get-go though wasn’t to monetize my site by earning affiliate income. It was to build a sustainable freelance writing business.

It just turned out that by sharing what I was learning on the subject, I developed an audience interested in the same subjects. Which eventually led to the opportunity to promote products that were the right fit.

2. It Doesn’t Have to Be All or None

I don’t run races to win them. I sign up and train for them in order to finish them, get some physical activity in and feel accomplished by following through on my commitment.

Affiliate income is just one small part (~10% last month) of my overall online income.

It doesn’t have to be the only or the primary way you make a living online. It can totally be supplemental for you like it is for me.

And maybe that makes the most sense from a goal perspective in the beginning anyway. Why? Because it takes the pressure off of “making a sale” and puts it on “promoting quality products that benefit your audience.” And that’s key to long-term success.

3. Don’t Promote Junk

Probably this relates in that you shouldn’t eat junk when training for a marathon… not sure if I followed that rule. 😉

It should go without saying, but I’ll say it anyway.

Don’t promote stuff you aren’t familiar with or use yourself. Have I used every tool and taken every course I’ve promoted in the past?


But if I haven’t (and it’s actually very few), then I’ve developed a relationship with the person selling the product or trust the opinion of someone that’s used it in the past. If I’m putting my name on it, then I need to vouch for it – it’s my reputation on the line after all!

4. Make Your Goal Serving Your Audience, Not Selling to Them

Again, it was my goal to finish, not to win. And to finish by running my race, not taking an Uber (or ATV – we were offered!) to the finish line.

If you can take the approach of serving your readers, rather than selling to them, everyone wins!

Schlepping product shouldn’t be your primary goal. It should be providing value, education and encouragement. And if you happen to have a tool, service or product that can help provide that, great.

If you don’t, don’t just fill-in-the-blank with something mediocre. Again, you just hurt yourself (and your readers) in the process.

5. Don’t Be Afraid to Try

I like to challenge myself (even though I regret it at times), because that’s how I grow and see results.

I encourage you to do the same. Challenge yourself by trying something new and don’t be afraid of alienating your audience.

I.e. Just because you’re coming from a place of service, doesn’t mean you can’t promote affiliate products. If they’re quality products, it’ll be a win/win for you and your audience.

And here’s the thing, building and maintaining a successful blog that makes a difference in people’s lives is A LOT OF WORK. So why shouldn’t you be compensated for your time? Most people don’t have a ton of extra time for hobbies, so it makes sense that you might monetize said website with affiliate marketing in the right way.

2 Ways to Take the Next Step

In today’s post I’ve shared with you why affiliate marketing makes sense and how to go about it the right way.

If you’d like dig further into earning an affiliate income, consider one of the below options for taking your next step. Remember, don’t be afraid to try!

1. Learn from One of the Best

One of the online courses that I’ve taken (and actually finished) this year is Michelle Schroeder’s (who runs the blog Making Sense of Cents), Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing <– affiliate link.

If you’re a true newbie at this affiliate marketing stuff, you should enroll in her course. She’ll teach you more about what it is, how to do it right (including the rules/regulations) and shares how one blog post of hers earned her over $300,000! Crazy, right?

Even if you’ve been moderately successful with affiliate marketing, you might want to give the course a go. There were some things I already knew, but there were also a few new things I learned too. Best of all, taking the course made me FOCUS on affiliate marketing and what role it played in my overall business.

2. Join My Affiliate Team

The second option I have for you is to join my affiliate team.

If you’re familiar with me, my products and have (or are growing) an audience that is a good fit, you should consider it. Here are a few highlights for you to mull over as you make your decision:

  • Payout is 40% REGARDLESS of the purchase package.
  • Commissions are paid out at month-end (so no 30 day net terms) and via PayPal Mass Pay (so I absorb the fee on my end).
  • I offer a nice, long cookie of 365 days (i.e. we’re playing a long game here and want to give people time to check me out, trust me and buy).
  • You can refer people to my free courses, income reports homepage and more, rather than just to the sales page (which if they have no context may not convert very well).
  • I’m vested in your success – the more successful you are, the more successful I am. It’s a win/win/win (because the student wins too!).
  • Upon signing up, you’ll get a “welcome email” with specific promotion strategies.
  • And I’m always working on new ways to increase conversions. 🙂

So again, if you have a blog that is a good fit (typically freelance or work-from-home related), consider joining the team!

Are you currently doing affiliate marketing? What’s been the most challenging part or what have you had the most success with so far?


Gina Horkey

Gina Horkey


Gina Horkey is a married, millennial mama from Minnesota. Additionally, she’s the founder of Horkey HandBook and loves helping others find or become a kickass virtual assistant. Gina’s background includes making a living as a professional writer, an online business marketing consultant and a decade of experience in the financial services industry.

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