A reader on Medium recently pointed out that I was using an affiliate link in one of my articles. He did so in a manner that suggested he’d caught me with my hand trapped in the cash register.

When you turn the process of creating content into a revenue-generating endeavour, you’ll encounter people like this. They are obsessed with your desire to make money online – and not in a healthy way. In their mind, you’re pulling the wool over the eyes of your audience, ‘doing it for the clicks’, and basically treating anyone who happens to discover your content like an absolute mug.

This is, of course, utter nonsense, and such feedback (if we can call it that) is simply born from jealousy and zero understanding of what it takes to put yourself centre stage on the internet.

Those who throw shade at the use of affiliate links are arguably the most idiotic because this is one of the most frictionless ways to keep the online economy chugging away.

Here’s why.

The path of least resistance

There are no affiliate links in this blog post, simply because there is no reason to include any. I could, of course, shoehorn one in, but that would be treating my audience like idiots and it would render this blog post nothing more than a poorly disguised advert for one of my partners.

However, when the opportunity to include an affiliate link does present itself, one should always grab it with open arms. There’s a very good reason for this – it looks totally natural, doesn’t get in the way of the reader, and is consequently the path of least resistance for monetising your content.

Sponsor reads are the antithesis of this. No matter how efficient you become at slipping them into your content, they always look and feel advertorial. Trust me – most content creators have a troubled relationship with sponsor reads; no matter how much we believe in the product we’re peddling, it always feels a bit unnatural.

Affiliate links are entirely different. They’re practically invisible, because they just look like regular links, and if they appear naturally within a sentence, they won’t put anyone’s nose out of joint or harm the flow of your content.

Smart passive income

Ah, the dream, right? Money that enters your bank account while you’re sleeping and which continues to flow long after the initial effort required to generate it.

Passive income is a crucial source of revenue for content creators. It is completely unpredictable and should never be relied on as the main source of revenue, but as stocking fillers go, it’s very nice indeed.

When it comes to smart passive income, affiliate revenue is second only to selling your own digital products. If you pick the right programs and add those links to the best-performing content, you’ll reap the rewards long after the publish date.

A case in point – I’ve worked closely with Benks, who sell a bunch of really well-made tech accessories. Last year, I featured one of their headphone stands in a YouTube video as part of an accessory round-up. It spent only a few minutes on screen, but over a year later I’m still helping them sell one or two of those stands every single day, and grabbing a nice little commission from each one.

That’s a smart way to earn money, isn’t it?

Everyone wins

There are no losers when it comes to affiliate marketing.

Let’s consider the process:

  1. The content creator signs up to an affiliate program and grabs a link for a product they like.
  2. The content creator writes an honest, favourable review about the product and includes the link within the review.
  3. A consumer finds the review as part of their buying research and realises that it is indeed a sensible purchase.
  4. The consumer clicks the affiliate link, buys the product and lives happily ever after.
  5. The retailer or brand gains another customer.
  6. The content creator receives a kickback for the sale.

As noted earlier, there is no friction in this process at all. It is completely seamless, and the mechanics that make the affiliate program possible are invisible – they chug along in the background like a well-oiled machine.

Often, affiliate programs come with better deals for the consumer, too. I’ve struck up several brand partnerships where I’ve gained access to an affiliate program that has a discount code attached. In that instance, the consumer fares even better than the rest of the people in the process!

Complaining about the presence of justifiable, natural affiliate links is so shortsighted. I can’t think of any other form of online revenue generation which is as beneficial for everyone as this.

Content creation isn’t cheap

Making money online is absolutely fine!

Let me repeat: you are allowed to make a living or create a profitable side hustle on the internet.

The good news is that most people won’t be obsessed with your desire to generate revenue online, but this last point is worth making because those who are (like my affiliate friend mentioned at the start of this blog post) may occasionally spoil your day.

Creating content isn’t cheap. There are the tools of the trade, for starters (that laptop, your web hosting, and the software you use to draft your blogs didn’t come for free, did it?) and there is also your time, which is easily the most costly part of the process.

Whether you’re doing this full-time or running it on the side, the process of consistently making money online by providing your audience with valuable content is expensive. Affiliate revenue will support that endeavour without you having to continually chase it – and for many people in this game, that form of smart passive income is what keeps them motivated.

Go forth and create!

Sign up to as many affiliate programs as you can. Start with Amazon Affiliates, and make sure you ask every brand with whom you have a partnership if they have their own program.

Providing you reference the fact that your content includes affiliate links (for instance, within the footer of a blog post or in the video description), and as long as you don’t needlessly shoehorn unrelated affiliate links into your content, you’re doing nothing wrong.

Remember – when it comes to affiliate marketing there are no losers.