“Make money while you sleep.” 

It sounds like a too-good-to-be-true scam. But content entrepreneurs frequently use passive income streams in their business.

One of the most popular is affiliate marketing. A third party pays a commission to a creator or influencer any time a shopper uses their unique link to purchase products or services from that company. 

Affiliate marketing isn’t new. In 1994, Zac Johnson participated in the BuyWeb program created by CDNow, a company that sold CDs and tapes. In the nascent days of the public internet, other site creators could include a referral link to CDNow and earn money every time someone used it to buy a CD or tape and have it shipped to them. 

Affiliate marketing has come a long way. Today, over 80% of brands having some type of affiliate marketing program. It’s a great way for them to reach established audiences through someone those readers, viewers, or listeners trust. By 2022, the industry is expected to spend $8B on affiliate marketing.

Audience-focused content creators are key players in that market. For example, a blogger can post about the best travel essentials and link their recommendations to the brand’s commerce page. Likewise, a beauty-focused Instagrammer could ask viewers to swipe up to see an affiliate marketing link to related industry products. (Disclosure of the relationship is a must to keep audience trust.) In return, the blogger earns a percentage of what their readers spend. 

Audience-focused content creators are key players in the #AffiliateMarketing industry that is expected to be $8B by 2022. #creatoreconomy Share on X

Affiliate marketing often is one of the top revenue streams for content entrepreneurs. PayScale reports the average affiliate marketing annual income is $51K, with the bottom 10% earning $37K and the top bringing in $71K.

Though the top reason for affiliate marketing is the income opportunity, 45% of creators say they like it because it doesn’t disrupt the user experience like display ads on their site would, according to VigLink research.

Tilt Advice

Yes, you can make money while you sleep. But that doesn’t mean you can sleep on the job. It takes hard work to build and grow an audience that will attract brand interest. And you can’t stop, you have to strategically plan how to incorporate those affiliate links into your content business.

Content entrepreneurs can make money in their sleep, but they must work during their waking hours to grow an audience. #PassiveIncome #ContentBusiness #CreatorEconomy Share on X

To participate in affiliate programs, you need to apply. In umbrella-organized affiliate programs, you also may need to apply to the individual brands within the program. The application forms typically ask about your site, audience size, unique visitors, and total views per month. Most programs have minimum thresholds for audience or views before they accept the creator.

Once you get approved, you can use their affiliate links and start earning commissions. If you get rejected, you can always ramp up your blog and social platforms and reapply.

Here are a few of the most popular programs:

  • Rakuten Advertising: They represent over 1K brands, including Sephora, New Balance, Pac Sun, and Ray-Ban. They also use commission suite software to help creators decide how they’re going to implement their program and receive proper credit for their contribution to a purchasing decision.
  • LIKEtoKNOW.it (owned by Rewardstyle): LTK focuses on social media followings. Its affiliate partners create personalized shops with access to over 5K brands. The program includes retargeting reminders and one-on-one growth consulting. You’ll need about 10K page views per month or about 10K Instagram followers. 
  • Amazon Associates: Connect your content brand with the world’s largest online marketplace through this program. This program is designed for content creators who operate on their own, such as bloggers and podcasters. You can earn from $100 to $25,000 per month from an Amazon affiliate website, depending on your site traffic and conversions. However, please note that Amazon recently slashed its commission rates.  
  • Amazon Influencers: Designed for social media influencers, this program lets you set up a shop with a dedicated link as you promote and recommend products on your social channels.

Other options include CJ Affiliates, which connects with brands such as Overstock, Priceline, GoPro, Lowes, Apple, Expedia, Hello Fresh Office Depot, and Impact Radius, which includes brands like Uber and Target. 

Content creators who build audiences off social media can do @Amazon Associates affiliate marketing program. Those who build audiences on social media can create earn money through Amazon Influencers. Share on X

Though the income amounts vary greatly, all content entrepreneurs with successful affiliate marketing programs have one thing in common – large audiences. They also usually use multiple affiliate links.

Ryan Robinson, who blogs about how to blog as a business, had about 500K readers and over 500K unique sessions in a month. He had over 30 affiliate links on his site. In one month, those links earned him $37,097 – about 84% of his revenue.

It isn’t easy, but if you work hard to build, grow, and engage your audience, affiliate marketing could become a great revenue stream for your business. And that will help you sleep easier at night (while you make money too.)

About the author

Bonnie owns Word of Mouth, a content agency specializing in social media, content marketing, and editorial writing. She's written for Marie Claire, Harper’s Bazaar, Coveteur, Man Repeller, Health.com, and more. She loves wearing fanny packs and laying in the fetal position.