How to Start Affiliate Marketing with no Money?

Maria Kuznetsova Maria Kuznetsova
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Affiliate marketing is one of the most lucrative ways to earn money online. But what if you have no money to start? In this article, we have handpicked over 10 of the best ways to do affiliate marketing for free that will allow you to start a profitable online business with no money.

How to Start Affiliate Marketing with no Money?

Is It Possible to Do Affiliate Marketing With No Money

How to do affiliate marketing with no money is the main question for those who are just starting out and literally have no budget. However, the main worry is whether it is even possible to establish an online affiliate marketing business for no cost.

The basis of any successful marketer is traffic. You need traffic (an audience) to which you will offer products and earn affiliate commissions on sales. Let’s take a quick look at each step:

  • Joining most affiliate programs is free (for example, you can join Travelpayouts, the largest travel affiliate platform, with zero costs)
  • Building traffic, or people to whom you will offer services and products of various brands and earn a commission on sales. Traffic can be both paid and free.

Zero cost or partially free (up to $100 per year) traffic sources include:

  • Personal blogs
  • Social media pages
  • Email newsletters
  • Communities or forums
  • And some others

All of these platforms can give you tons of traffic, which you can leverage to successfully earn money online. Most importantly, it is completely free. Anyone can start a Facebook page and organically grow an audience. Maybe you already have one?

If so, you can really start affiliate marketing for free. Further down the page, we’ll walk you through how to start the affiliate marketing process with no money.

How to Do Affiliate Marketing for Free

Starting out with affiliate marketing with no money is not rocket science as long as you have a step-by-step guide. We have put together everything you need to make money in affiliate marketing without making an investment.

1. Study the Basics of Affiliate Marketing

To save money and most importantly, your time, it is better to start the journey with at least a little training. You need to master the basic theory in order to understand the principles of how affiliate marketing works.

Depending on your knowledge, you can choose the right course on SkillShare. This is a paid platform that gives all new users up to one month of free access to their courses.

In the Affiliate Marketing section, you will find dozens of courses, such as:

Choose a course based on your knowledge gaps as well as on the courses’ reviews and number of students. In addition to general courses on affiliate marketing, you can learn more about content creation, graphics, and more.

In addition to SkillShare, you can find other courses on the platforms or just on YouTube, such as this series of videos

When choosing a source of information, be sure to look at the date of publication to make sure that the information is up-to-date and relevant. In affiliate marketing, although there are some basic things that never change, a lot of things can change quickly. Moreover, if possible, learn only from experienced and well-known affiliate marketers.

If you want to get into the details of travel affiliate marketing, Travelpayouts provides free access to Academy with five courses that will teach you how to make money in the travel niche.

2. Find a Niche

At the initial stage, you will face an important task: choosing a niche. This is fundamental. There are dozens of niches you can work in, here are just a few:

  1. Travel
  2. Gadgets
  3. E-Commerce
  4. Education
  5. Health

You can check any general affiliate network, like CJ and AWIN, and navigate your niches based on their headings. 

The most popular niches that you should also pay attention to are:

  • Travel: This niche has consistently high demand (year round) with some seasonal picks (such as Thanksgiving day in the US). As most people go on trips literally every year, there is a large audience in this niche, literally almost everyone on the Internet. In the travel niche, you will earn on flight tickets, hotels, car rentals, and other travel services, for example, through the Travelpayouts Partnership Platform.
  • E-Commerce: This is one of the most popular niches in 2024; however, it’s very competitive. You can earn money by selling products from Amazon or other sites.
  • Education: In this niche, you can make money by attracting customers to educational products. For example, sites such as SkillFactory and similar platforms pay an affiliate commission for attracting students.

Choosing a niche is the foundation of your future income. To choose a niche, you should focus on key factors, including:

  • Niche Competition
  • Products
  • Audience
  • Your Interests

If you don’t have an audience yet, that’s fine, so consider choosing a niche in terms of the potential audience you can find. Niches such as law or health are profitable, but they have high competition (you can check by indirect signs by analyzing the cost per click in Google Ads).

Of all the variety of niches, it is worth concentrating on a niche with a lower competition rate. Since the higher the competition, the more time and money it takes to start earning.

For several reasons, the travel niche is one of the best niches to start affiliate marketing with no money:

  • Low Competition for Some Products – It is unlikely that you will be able to earn with no money from your first day of selling tickets from New York to Los Angeles, as this is product that has high competition. However, you will definitely be able to find a product or sub-niche with a low competition rate. For example, flights to less popular destinations or entertainment options during the trip. You can study the competition using the KeySearch.co tool (learn more about choosing topics in this free course).
  • Large Selection of Brands – For example, hotels can be booked on Agoda, Booking, TripAdvisor, and dozens of other sites, many of which have their own affiliate programs.
  • Attractive Rates – Selling one tour for $100 can earn you $6-$9, and there are more expensive products as well as higher commissions. You can see the full list of brands and rates in the Travelpayouts Brands Directory.

Although choosing a niche is fundamental for success, nevertheless, if you are not satisfied with your results, you can expand your niche or move to another one.

3. Choose an Affiliate Program

A niche is a rather broad concept. In order to successfully make money, you will probably want to narrow down your niche, for example:

  • Cruise ship trips
  • Traveling in Spain
  • Vacationing with children

The choice of an affiliate program is directly related to what kind of audience you have or will have. You only need the products and services that your audience needs. For example, if you decide to work in the cruise niche, you can choose the following affiliate marketing programs:

In addition to the obvious affiliate programs, you will also be able to work with any other affiliate programs that are associated with the services and products that your audience needs. Continuing with the example of cruises, your audience may require some extra activities on the trip, so you can join Viator or GetYourGuide. Just such a set was made by Katarina, the creator behind Adventourbegins.com.

Another advantage of the travel affiliate programs is that you can offer several services to one person at once, for example:

  • Flights
  • Hotels
  • Tours and Activities
  • Car Rentals

Of course, not everyone will book two or more services at a time, but among your potential customers, there will definitely be those who are planning their trip and are ready to buy several services at once. Therefore, you can experiment and work with several affiliate programs at once.

To work with all the listed affiliate programs in the travel niche, join the Travelpayouts Partnership Platform. You will gain access to over 100 brands, advanced tools, and detailed statistics.

Join the Travelpayouts Partnership Platform

Access exclusive tools and the best travel partner programs, including flights, hotels, car rental, insurance, tours and activities, all in one place.

Join Today
480,000 partners already trust us
60+ travel brands
$63M+ total paid since 2011

In the section above, we explored the travel niche. In the same way, you can choose an affiliate program in other areas. For example, in education, you can focus on a specific course vertical and work with affiliate programs that relate to these products. The main rule, when choosing an affiliate program, is to keep in mind which products or services your audience needs, so you can earn an affiliate commission.

4. Attract Traffic

Training, choosing a niche, and finding an affiliate platform are not enough to generate income if you do not have traffic. Therefore, you can’t skip the next important step: building an audience. This can take some time and, as successful affiliate marketers advise from experience, it’s important to keep working and remain diligent.

Up to this point, you have not spent a single cent on affiliate marketing. Luckily, you can continue to do affiliate marketing for free. There are several ways to get traffic for free.

Free Traffic Sources

Since your task is to start affiliate marketing without spending any money, you can immediately dismiss the option of buying traffic. So, you should explore the main sources of free traffic, which include:

  1. Organic traffic
  2. Social media platform
  3. Email newsletters
  4. Third-party websites

Let’s take a closer look into each and explain how you can use these sources of traffic to do affiliate marketing without spending any money.

  1. Organic Traffic

You can get organic traffic from Google and other search engines absolutely free. All you need to do is create your own website and fill it with content.

In 2024, creating a website on your own is definitely possible, even if you do not have programming skills. The main things you need are:

  • A domain
  • Hosting
  • A content management system (CMS)

A completely free option is to start a website on WordPress or a similar platform. Let’s discuss the approach in more detail.

  1. Create a Free Account – wordpress.com/website-builder/ 
Screenshot of the wordpress.com/website-builder registration page
WordPress.com/website-builder registration page
  1. Choose a Free Domain
Example of choosing domain on wordpress.com
Example of choosing domain on wordpress.com
  1. Choose a Free Plan
Example of choosing a plan
Example of choosing a plan

By using this approach, you can create a WordPress site that does not require paid hosting or a domain. Content management is carried out through a visually logical interface:

Example of the WordPress Admin Panel
Example of the WordPress admin panel

If you have even a small budget, you can buy a domain and hosting, which costs up to $100 per year. WordPress itself is initially free if you link it to your own hosting. For more information on how to create a website on your own domain, see this article.

Your site will not attract traffic on its own. You will need quality content that answers user questions. Therefore, the next steps are to:

  • Find topics that are of interest to your potential audience (for example, using Google Trends, SEMRush, KeySearch.co, or other tools)
  • Write content on given topics that are at least as good as the content already written by your competitors (keep in mind that your content must be unique)
  • Submit an article on your website

After Google indexes your post, if it is a high quality post that answers user questions, you will start receiving traffic. In order to attract more traffic, you may need to perform SEO optimization. Check out these articles to learn more about search engine optimization.

Inside the posts that attract the most organic traffic, you will advertise the services and products of various brands. For example, if you create content on how to visit Hawaii, you can earn money by offering hotels or other services. For example, Brandon Hughes, the creator behind Suitesandlobbies.com, uses this approach while working with GetYourGuide, Viator, Tripadvisor, and other affiliate programs.

An Example of placing a link to hotels and tours widget in an article on Suitesandlobbies.com
An Example of placing a link to hotels and tours widget in an article on Suitesandlobbies.com

Creating articles is a free process if you do it yourself. If you wish, you can outsource this task to someone else and spend an average of about $0.05-$0.10 per word. However, if your ultimate goal is to do successful affiliate marketing without spending any money, then you should opt to write the content yourself.

Strategically speaking, blogging is one of the best ways to earn money from affiliate marketing, but not the fastest. From the moment you create a website, it will take time before you receive your first income. Therefore, this method is hardly suitable for those of you who want to earn money quickly, but it is definitely suitable for those who want a reliable way to earn, which can even be turned into passive income later on.

2. Social Media

Social media is another amazing source of free traffic for you. You can start a page on one or more networks:

  • Facebook
  • Instagram
  • Pinterest
  • Twitter
  • Or others

The choice of social network depends on your audience. For example, if you choose a business niche, then it is quite possible to run social networks on LinkedIn, where there is a large business audience.

On your social media page, you can post your own content, such as text posts or photos, and grow your audience organically. From there, you can redirect traffic from your page to brand websites and earn through affiliate marketing. Read more about how to do this in our free guide.

In addition to the aforementioned social networks, you can also get free traffic from video platforms such as TikTok or YouTube. You can also produce content for these platforms for free if you have a phone with a camera.

Whichever social network you choose, be prepared for competition. Other social network users also produce useful content, so, just like with your own site, you have to compete for an audience with other bloggers.

3. Email Newsletter

Emails are another way to interact with your audience. With this method, your main task is to create an email list of exactly who may be interested in the products/services you are going to promote. You can collect such a list, for example, from your own Facebook group.

Email newsletters of up to 500 people can be organized for free, for example, through MailChimp. You will have to pay more if you have a larger audience, but if you already have a larger audience, you can probably afford it.

Mailchimp plans' cost
MailChimp plans’ cost

As a rule, email marketing is a long game. You will need to communicate with your audience to build trust and increase conversions.

4. Guest Posting

Other website owners need traffic as well, which means they will need quality articles. In this case, you can offer them a win-win collaboration:

  • Check out the most popular sites in your niche
  • Negotiate with the owners of those sites to publish high-quality articles on their sites (for free)
  • Place affiliate links inside those articles

Since popular sites tend to have high domain rankings (DA), the chances of your articles attracting organic traffic are quite high, as long as your article is of good quality. The owners of such sites, if they don’t write articles themselves, spend hundreds of dollars on content creation, so your offer can be approved and you will get to publish your content for free.

Important – Site owners often sell guest posts, as they receive similar requests from SEO agencies (they are buying articles with links). Be sure to specify in your request that you don’t need a “dofollow” link (i.e., one that passes “weight”). In this case, the chance of free placement will be higher.

Guest posting is a great way to publish a post on a site where it will likely generate more traffic than on your own freshly created website. However, strategically, it’s better to run your own site and publish quality content on your own, as you will have complete control over the articles.

Third-Party Sites

There are many sites already receiving tons of traffic, which you can access for free, such as:

Your task here is as simple as possible: help the members of these sites solve their problems by recommending products and services from brands via affiliate links. For example, if a person on Quora asks for advice on what to see in Brazil, you can help him/her by offering one of the brand’s services:

Example of links in a Quora answer
Example of links in a Quora answer

For this method to work, it is important to answer user requests in the most useful way possible. Don’t simply slip in your affiliate link, but try to help the user solve their problem or complete their goal. Moreover, if you just post affiliate links without any additional information, there is a high chance that you will be banned and your answer will be deleted.

Choose the platform on which you will communicate, depending on your niche. For example, in the gadgets niche, are both general profile platforms (for example, Quora) and specialized platforms (for example, Gadgets360).

In addition, you can also post your own articles with affiliate links on third-party sites, such as Medium or its alternatives. You can post articles there just like you would on your own site, but you don’t need anything other than a profile. For example, you can prepare an article with affiliate links like this:

Link example for medium.com
Link example for medium.com

The disadvantage of this method is that you do not fully control the site and, one day, your articles/links may disappear. In addition, not all sites are allowed to use something other than affiliate links. For example, you won’t be able to embed a search widget for flights. Meanwhile, on some sites, affiliate links are not allowed at all. All these limitations are important to consider when developing your strategy.

Tips and Tricks

With experience, you will surely develop your own know-how and find your own useful solutions, but the following tips may come in handy to help you get started.

1. Use Paid Services for Free

You may need to work with one or more services to complete tasks like sending emails, checking keywords, and so on.

Many services offer at least a trial version that provides you access to that tool for a limited number of days or with certain restrictions. Some services offer free limits, for example:

  • MailChimp allows you to have a 500-member newsletter for free
  • SerpStat allows you to conduct 10 checks per week
  • Keysearch.co offers a one-month free trial
Keysearch free and paid plans
Keysearch free and paid plans

Therefore, if you need to solve any affiliate marketing business task, you can probably do it for free if you use trials or special offers from paid services.

In addition, partnering with Travelpayouts will allow you to access some services for free or receive other bonuses. Check the Bonus section in your personal account for more information. For example, you can receive 10,000 credits in Jasper, seven days of access to SEMrush, and other bonuses.

2. Dubious Free Traffic Sources

You may see offers for “free traffic”, for example, 300 people per day. There are many such offers on Google:

Example of free traffic offers
Example of free traffic offers

Traffic is an expensive thing, so such offers should always be treated with caution. From these dubious sources, it is possible, and even likely, that you will receive fake traffic, in the form of bots that imitate the actions of real people.

Such traffic sources cannot generate income for affiliate marketing, as you will receive income for the actions actually performed (sales of goods and services, installation of applications, etc.), which bots cannot perform.

In addition, the brand may even ban you from the program, since bot traffic is prohibited by many affiliate programs.

3. Small Expenses

It is quite possible to start affiliate marketing without spending any money. In the earlier sections, we have described each step of this process in detail; however, you may still need to make a small investment to improve the process. For example:

  • If you don’t know how to do something on your own (for example, video editing), you can always learn, but it will take time. Sometimes, it is more profitable to find a contractor who will do it faster and better.
  • If you don’t have enough photos, then, of course, you can find them in free stocks, like Unsplash. However, keep in mind that, sometimes, there are no free options and you may need to buy photos (for example, on Shutterstock) in order not to infringe copyrights.
  • Saving on your own domain now can lead you to running into problems in the future. If you have long-term plans, it may be better to buy your domain from the very beginning. A regular domain (such as one in the .com zone) can be bought for $10-$20 per year. This is a small investment that makes processes strategically safer, since you will control the domain completely.

So, when you start affiliate marketing, weigh if your desire to save is costing you too much.

  1. Traffic Sources

When working with a specific brand, always study the permitted sources of traffic. Some brands accept traffic from social networks, while some do not.

If you are just starting your journey and do not yet have any sources of traffic, and would like to develop some, one of the most common ways is to create your own site or social media page. In addition, in the Travelpayouts Partnership Platform, these traffic sources are accepted by most of the 100+ brands.

What Are the Best Ways to do Affiliate Marketing for Free?

There is no best method that will work for everyone, as it depends on your personal skills and the product you are going to promote.

For starters, you can consider a combination of different traffic sources: your personal website and social media pages. Be prepared for your first income to take time to come in, but as the stories of experienced affiliate marketers confirm, your efforts will definitely generate income. You can start affiliate marketing without spending any money, but you will need to put in time and leverage your skills to maximize your success.

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