This question is always in the forefront of people’s minds when they’re starting a new business.
And for good reason.
Even more so when it’s an online business. This is still uncharted territory for most.
The goal of this article is to stop people from spending money unnecessarily, while still listing the money-spending opportunities that are worth it.
I know… spending money on new toys is a lot of fun. We’ve all done it.
Especially when we’re so excited to finally start a new business and take steps towards financial freedom in the promised land of Online.
It’s OK to dream a little and associate a pleasant goal with this journey, but it’s even more important to wake up and plant your feet firmly on the ground.
Worry not, though. Starting an affiliate marketing business can be as inexpensive as your budget dictates.
You could also blow a lot of money fast if you wanted to. There certainly isn’t a shortage of opportunities to do that.
I’m not one of those who spent a lot of money unnecessarily, but I definitely could have spent some of it a bit wiser.
Some things you just don’t need when you’re starting fresh.
For example, building an email list is fantastic. But paying for a monthly subscription for the software you need in order to do that when your website isn’t getting any traffic just doesn’t make sense, does it?
You need an audience first before you can start collecting their emails. Makes sense, right?
Not to mention that you probably don’t even have an info product to offer in exchange for people’s emails yet. Maybe you’re not even familiar with the concept of offering something like a free course to get people’s emails.
This is why it’s important to take big breaths and only spend money when you know exactly why you’re spending it.
You can always kick things into a higher gear and implement whatever you need when the situation warrants it.
If your website suddenly starts getting thousands and thousands of visitors per month, you can have everything you need to start collecting emails almost overnight.
On the other hand, if you’re someone who has the money, but doesn’t have the time, there’s going to be some advice for you as well throughout this article.
There definitely are ways to skip steps that money can buy.
However, I would argue that a complete beginner should not buy their way into affiliate marketing.
Learn the ropes the hard way, and then make spending money a part of your strategy.
Can you start your affiliate marketing business with no money?
Can you start your affiliate marketing business with $0? Yes, you can.
Is it a good idea? You be the judge.
You could definitely start a YouTube channel for $0 dollars and keep the expenses at $0 dollars for as long as you wanted. More on this in the next section of this article.
However, if you decide to go with a website, I wouldn’t advise going with the cheapest option – which is free.
Although you could make an entirely free website with the “wordpress.com” domain, WordPress.com would place ads on your website as they please.
Not that ads are inherently bad, they’re absolutely not. But they’re not “your” ads in terms of making revenue off of them.
You can only get rid of “their” ads if you opt-in for one of the paid plans.
The other reason is that the “wordpress.com” domain would hurt your brand in the long run.
For example, people would much easier trust the “peanutbutterking.com” than “peanutbutterking.wordpress.com.”
With content being exactly the same on both sites, I guarantee that “peanutbutterking.wordpress.com” would see less traffic.
Simply because it seems spammy to some people. They would rather choose the “peanutbutterking.com” site.
Furthermore, you cannot use any WordPress plugins with the free plan. And plugins are arguably the best thing about WordPress.
And last but not least, you do not own the domain if you choose the free option.
Always register your own domain separately from the hosting service if you want to be certain you 100% own it and have full control over it.
Such free websites certainly have their place in a couple of situations, though.
Two situations where free websites are OK:
1) Your budget is non-existent. Zero. Nada. Zilch.
That’s OK. We’ve all been there.
Sometimes you just cannot justify spending anything on a venture like this.
Good news is that there is a way to bootstrap affiliate marketing to the max. Just be aware of the downsides that I mentioned previously.
Go ahead and create the free website at WordPress.com and try to make the domain look as good as possible. Spend some time thinking of something clever that would suit your niche well.
Do some research online and pick a free WordPress theme that you like. Flash Blog, OceanWP, and Hestia are some of the free themes that people often recommend.
And you’re pretty much done.
From this point on, you operate just like any other affiliate marketer would. Start creating content and don’t stop.
Google will not penalize you for having a free website domain from the SEO standpoint. Your site will be placed on the top of the search results if and when you deserve it.
Again, I would skip a few coffees that month and at the very least get my own custom domain name, but it’s ultimately up to you.
2) You want to create a single-offer website.
Let me elaborate.
There are affiliate marketing methods that only require a small website with a single product that you want to promote.
The website itself only usually contains 1-3 articles about the product and that’s about it.
I found this YouTube video by Franklin Hatchett that describes one of these methods really well. Take a look.
TL;DR Find a product you want to promote on an affiliate network like Clickbank > head over to wordpress.com > create a free WordPress blog > write 1-3 articles on the product you want to promote > start utilizing free traffic by posting comments with your affiliate links on forums, blogs, and Facebook Groups.
Does this guerrilla-style approach work? Yes, it does. Provided that you do it right and don’t give up.
Do I recommend doing this? Not really. And for multiple reasons.
Let’s say you start doing what Franklin suggests in this video.
You find a product you want to promote, make a free WordPress blog, and write 1-3 articles reviewing and talking about the product.
After that, you start spending a few hours a day searching through forums, blogs and Facebook Groups for commenting opportunities.
If you do it right, you probably would start making sales within the first week or two.
The first problem is that you’d be disingenuous in the process. Even if you believed in the product you were promoting, you still wouldn’t be the innocent advice seeker from the comments you post.
You’d be just another shill.
The second problem is that there’s zero brand-building for you or your business even though you’re spending significant amounts of time on it.
Such websites always remain looking spammy and untrustworthy.
The third problem is that you would be relying on a very unlikely scenario to make sales.
Think about it, you would need a customer to click on a link in a random comment they stumbled upon and then make an impulse purchase through your tiny website they don’t trust or know anything about.
Should the customer close their browser for any reason before buying the product, you probably would never see them again.
Your website would make zero impressions on them. The next time they feel like searching for a solution to their problem, they’d look elsewhere.
I believe your time would be better spent developing your brand and producing high-quality content and establishing yourself as an authority within your niche.
How much does it cost to start your affiliate marketing business on YouTube?
If you’re basing your affiliate marketing business on YouTube, you absolutely can succeed while not investing a dime.
You could even use the free Wi-Fi internet at your local coffee shop to upload your videos.
In fact, when starting a YouTube channel, I’d make a point of not spending a dime on it. Even if that meant shooting the videos on your phone at first.
Sure, the videos would look amateurish, the editing would not be great, and the thumbnails you make wouldn’t be world-class.
But who cares? You would also be learning a great deal about your craft and improving in the process.
Once you’ve made a few dozen videos and learned the process in and out, it would be OK to consider investing a few bucks here and there.
I would absolutely start by paying someone on Fiverr to do my thumbnails. There are a lot of artists who understand how to make great thumbnails there.
When you find someone whose work you like, order a few custom thumbnails from them. Afterward, just mimic their style and you’ll have your own personalized thumbnails that can become a part of your brand.
Once you get your YouTube channel on the right track and creating videos becomes second nature to you, you should start thinking of expanding your business.
A logical step would be creating a podcast since you could simply rip the audio from your videos and upload them on a podcasting platform.
Starting a website would also make a lot of sense at this point.
If you had some disposable income, there would be opportunities to wisely spend some money at this stage. More on this later in the article.
Where else can you start your affiliate marketing business for free?
1) Starting your affiliate marketing business for free on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.
I would not base my affiliate marketing business on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter alone. Even though it’s free.
The main reason being is that these platforms are not search engines like Google or YouTube.
This is important because, for example, a YouTube video can keep bringing traffic to your affiliate offers for years.
And your Twitter post on the same topic basically disappears in a matter of minutes. It’s still there, but no one cares about it. No one searches for old Twitter posts.
People usually do not visit these three platforms to search for solutions to their problems. It’s as simple as that.
People don’t like clicking on links and leaving these platforms because that’s just not why they’re there in the first place.
That’s not to say nothing’s being sold on social media. We all know the opposite is true.
Arguably, the only reason social media exists is because it’s a great way to sell us stuff.
They’re just not aligned with how affiliate marketing works in the best way.
Of course, you could always make it work if you’re persistent enough and employ the best practices and methods for the specific social media platform you’re on.
For example, if your affiliate marketing business revolves around something highly visual, like makeup, Instagram absolutely could work well for you.
It’s just that YouTube would work even better simply because YouTube is the second biggest search engine in the world on top of being a social media platform.
2) Starting your affiliate marketing business for free on Pinterest, LinkedIn, and Quora
These three platforms can be useful tools in your affiliate marketing toolbox. Much more so than the former three.
Each one of them is useful in a very different and unique way.
Let’s start with Pinterest.
It’s worth mentioning that Pinterest is the largest picture-based search engine in the world. It’s one of the largest search engines, period.
55% of Pinners say they use the platform to shop for and find products, while 40% of Pinners have a household income of $100k+.
This makes Pinterest a force to be reckoned with when it comes to affiliate marketing opportunities.
What you could do is each time you create a piece of content, you also create a Pin that links back to it. This link will also count as a backlink to your site.
By doing this, you at the same time drive free traffic to your content and ever so slightly raise the page and domain authority of your site.
LinkedIn’s value, however, lies in the organic reach.
To illustrate this, let’s say the same number of people follow you on LinkedIn and Facebook. Organic reach means that your new post would be shared with a lot more of them by the algorithm on LinkedIn.
Platforms like Facebook algorithmically throttle organic reach to force users into buying ads to promote their content.
LinkedIn still doesn’t do that, or they do it to a lot lesser degree. In time, this will probably change for the worse so you should take advantage of it before it’s too late.
Quora is a whole different ball game than the rest of the aforementioned platforms.
Quora is a question and answer type of site. Which means people visit Quora to find answers to their questions. Or better yet, solutions to their problems.
This is exactly where your role as an affiliate marketer comes in. And that is connecting people with solutions to their problems.
Make note that affiliate links are strictly prohibited on Quora, though.
This shouldn’t scare you away because simply spamming your affiliate links won’t get you anywhere even on the platforms that allow them.
The right way of using Quora for affiliate marketing would be genuinely providing value and, from time to time, mentioning your content that contains affiliate links.
For example, let’s say you have a gardening blog.
What you should do is help others out by answering their gardening related questions on Quora.
If your answers are helpful to others, the moderators will have no problems with you mentioning your blog every now and again.
You would be establishing yourself as an authority figure and gaining your audience’s trust.
And remember, people will only buy from you if they trust you.
A sensible spending plan for the first year of your affiliate marketing business.
This applies to people who decide to base their affiliate marketing business on a blog, which is arguably the best way to go about it.
I’m going to recommend you the bare minimum to lay a healthy foundation for your affiliate marketing business.
The things you will need are:
Purchasing your own custom domain goes a long way to making your business seem more professional.
Many website hosting services will offer to purchase the domain for you when you sign up for one of their hosting plans. Some may even offer the domain for free.
However, in order to be 100% sure that you own the domain, always do it separately through one of the dedicated domain registry services.
This is an insurance policy that enables you to switch website hosting without much hassle should you decide to do that in the future.
I suggest a trusted domain registry service like Namecheap. They’ve been in the business since the year 2000 and had millions of domains purchased through their service over the years.
One extra expense that may save you some headaches down the line is Domain Privacy.
This option is usually offered by the domain registry services and it costs $7-15 per year, depending on which company you go with.
What it means is none of your personal contact information will be listed on the Whois registry. Instead of your information, the domain registry service will list their contact information.
This will significantly cut down on the unwanted emails and phone calls from the people who want to sell stuff to the owner of your domain. Meaning, you.
2) Shared website hosting.
Shared website hosting doesn’t exactly break the bank these days and it offers a lot for the $3-5 per month. Depending on which company you go with.
There’s no need to go fancy with any of the extra features. Basic plans will serve you well in the first year of your affiliate marketing business.
I use and recommend A2hosting. Their basic plan goes for around $3 per month.
Should you want some of their more fancy features, or ever the dedicated hosting plan, you can always add them in year two and beyond.
I have to mention, so far I’ve exchanged a few messages with their support team and they are great. It’s always good to know that Support has got your back like that.
3) WordPress Theme.
There are thousands of WordPress themes out there.
I’m not going to recommend a theme here because I have no idea what your website is about. On top of that, themes are highly subjective.
Don’t pick just any theme, though. Research this thoroughly and make sure to pick a theme that is fast, reliable, mobile-friendly, and fits your niche well.
And don’t worry, even being picky will still leave you with a ton of great choices.
In case you were wondering, I’m using a WordPress theme called Squared which is a part of Thrive Themes. More on Thrive Themes later in this article.
4) Logo and Images.
Having a nice looking brand logo makes your operation look that much more professional.
It’s no wonder companies are throwing a lot of money at logo designers. Logos are important.
However, it’s hardly a pressing matter. You can always save up $25-125 down the line and have a nice logo designed for your brand on a website like Fiverr.
Just make sure you eventually get a decent looking logo.
Photos for your articles are much more of a pressing issue. You need photos immediately.
Publishing articles that consist only of text doesn’t only look bad, but it hurts your SEO.
Text-only articles have a very hard time capturing and keeping the attention of your audience.
Stock photos from a site like Shutterstock will drive your costs up by a lot, though. Take a look at their monthly plans and you’ll see what I mean.
If you can afford a service like that, go for it. Your articles will look that much better.
Thankfully, there are alternatives.
Royalty-free photo sites like Pexels don’t have as large of a library as some of the paid services, but they’re definitely worth checking out. After all, it’s free.
Another thing you could do is take your own photos whenever possible.
Not only do the phones have very decent cameras these days, but taking your own photos will make you seem that much more authoritative to your audience.
For example, if you have a blog in the gardening niche, taking your own photos would be ideal.
I realize that shooting your own photos isn’t always practical or even possible, though. Just keep this option in mind and save a few dollars here and there by doing this.
In-browser graphics design tools like Canva can be a fantastic addition to your toolbox as well. With some creativity, you can make a lot of the graphics you need on your own.
Canva has a lot of free and paid assets for you to choose from. I use the free assets all the time.
Advanced options that add to cost of your affiliate marketing business, but may be worth it to you.
I’m mainly going to talk about two things in this section: WordPress Page Builders and Autoresponders.
WordPress Page Builders are plugins that enable you to create custom website layouts.
Page Builders have come a long way over the years and the most user-friendly among them require no coding whatsoever. They’re very beginner-friendly and visually responsive.
Elementor has a completely free version that’s surprisingly feature-rich. It has a lot of the basic features that beginner users could ever want or need.
The paid version obviously has more features, but until you need some of them, the free version will serve you well.
You can check out the Elementor pricing plans and the difference between free and paid versions here.
Thrive Architect isn’t free, but it is very competitively priced. And it offers a lot of bang for the buck.
It’s a fully drag-and-drop solution that requires zero coding.
With Thrive Architect, you get a lot of pre-built designs to choose from, as well as a host of page elements to tailor your posts and pages however you like.
It’s truly amazing what you can do with Thrive Architect.
You can check their pricing here.
Don’t mistake Thrive Architect with Thrive Themes suite. Thrive Architect is only a part of the Thrive Themes suite that’s available separately from the suite.
Thrive Themes is an industry-leading suite of WordPress themes and plugins that’s available through a paid monthly subscription. You can check it out here.
Both Elementor and Thrive Architect are theme-agnostic page builders. This means they work with any and all WordPress themes with ease.
This is important because not all WordPress page builders are like that. Some only work with certain themes.
Furthermore, both of these page builders are front-end page builders. Meaning, you work directly on the page and see every change immediately in real-time.
This saves a lot of time and makes for a much smoother and user-friendly page building experience.
Last but not least, Elementor and Thrive Architect don’t lock you in on their platform.
You can freely switch to a different page builder whenever you want and your content will work with the new page builder just fine.
I’m only pointing this out because a lot of the page builders out there have very specific ways of coding things, for the lack of a better term.
This makes switching to a different solution impossible without losing everything you’ve done before.
That’s a nightmare no one should face in today’s day and age.
In case you were wondering, not only do I use Thrive Architect, but I also use the entire Thrive Themes suite. I want access to all of their plugins.
Next up, let’s talk a bit about Autoresponders.
Autoresponders are software solutions that allow you to automatically send out emails to your email list.
Some people and companies have email lists that consist of millions of customers. Imagine what would take if you had to manually send emails to a thousand of your customers, let alone a million.
This is where autoresponders kick in.
You simply tailor an email sequence that will automatically play out once a customer signs up to your email list.
The most basic example of this is where a customer signs up to your email list and your autoresponder kicks in and sends them a “Thank you” email.
In this email message, you can introduce yourself to the customer and tell them a little bit about yourself to build some rapport, for instance.
You can use your autoresponder to send emails to the entire email list whenever you want.
Or you can segment your audience into groups based on some criteria and reach out to a specific group and not the entire list.
This is all a tiny part of email marketing, which is considered the Holy Grail of affiliate marketing.
Why? Simply because once you have access to your customer through their email address, you can truly start building a relationship with them.
When should you starting paying for an email autoresponder?
The answer is, more or less, once you have an established website that’s bringing in traffic and you have an info product to offer in exchange for people’s emails.
In other words, you need an audience and a value-packed offer. No one’s going to give you their email address just for the heck of it.
On to the cost autoresponders.
Autoresponders charge you based on how big your email list. The bigger the email list, the more you have to pay.
Typically, the prices range from $15-50 per month initially and scale up as your email list grows.
With the exception of Mailchimp. You can use Mailchimp for free until your email list exceeds 2000 members. From that point on, you have to start paying the monthly subscription.
You can check out Mailchimp’s pricing plans here.
There are heavy restrictions on the free bracket of Mailchimp, however.
My opinion is that signing up for Mailchimp just because it’s free is not worth it.
Once you start having a few thousand page views per month on your website and have a thought out strategy on how to monetize your email list, paying for an autoresponder becomes a non-issue.
At that point, you will have some money to spend on it. Guaranteed.
Besides Mailchimp, there are other fine solutions in the field of autoresponders.
One such autoresponder is Aweber, which I will be using on this website. It is competitively priced and reliable.
You can check Aweber’s pricing here.
What are some of the other spending opportunities to speed up your new affiliate marketing business?
Affiliate marketing is very time-consuming.
And some people simply don’t have that kind of free time on their hands to invest in a side-gig. Or they don’t want to give that free time up.
Either way, if you are one of those people but you still want to get into affiliate marketing, there’s a solution.
It will require larger investment on your part, however.
1) Buying a pre-built affiliate marketing website
Proof that people like that exist are companies that offer pre-built affiliate marketing websites for purchase.
You simply go on a website and purchase a fully fleshed out affiliate marketing site in a profitable niche with some content already up and running.
It’s like buying a furnished apartment.
Would I advise doing this if you’re a complete beginner? Yes and no.
Let me elaborate.
Yes – if spending a $1500 or thereabout on such a website is not a big deal to you.
You will still need to maintain the website and keep adding content for it to grow, though.
And you will still have to learn the best practices of affiliate marketing. There’s no way around that.
If you understand what you are getting into and money isn’t an issue, go for it.
No – if money is an issue, even slightly. If you feel like you may regret spending money on a pre-built affiliate marketing website, just forget that this option even exists.
Keep your money and do it the slow and steady way. You will learn a lot in the process and you will get that satisfaction of building your business from scratch.
By the way, check out this awesome article by Miles Beckler on exactly this topic.
Miles recently bought one such pre-built affiliate marketing website and made a project out of it.
He aims to spend $50,000 on this project in the next year and he will document everything in monthly blog reports.
Feel free to follow his journey. I know I will.
2) Outsourcing content creation
The process of creating content is going to be the most time-consuming part of your new affiliate marketing business.
Writing articles or shooting and editing videos takes time. It’s a cold, hard fact.
If you had some money to spend, looking into outsourcing some of the content creation is definitely a good option.
I would not recommend outsourcing ALL of the content creation if you are trying to create a personal brand type website, though.
In that case, the writing should be in your ‘voice.’
So even if somebody else writes an article for you here and there, you should still go through it and edit it so it resembles your own work.
It’s something even Google algorithm is starting to pay attention to more and more.
Not to mention you might confuse your readers if, all of a sudden, articles with different writing styles start appearing. It would feel odd to your readers.
If, however, you want to create a review type website, outsourcing content creation is completely fine.
People aren’t going to visit your review site for awesome and consistent writing. They are looking for you to solve one of their problems.
You still need to maintain high writing quality standards, though. It’s just that no one expects a lot of personal flair on a review type website.
Starting your affiliate marketing business can be as cheap as you need it to be, while still offering spending options for those that have more money than time.
If necessary, you could start your affiliate marketing business with a $0 initial investment and keep your expenses at zero for as long as you want.
However, spending some money on your own custom domain, shared hosting, WordPress theme, images for your articles, and a professionally designed logo goes a long way.
Doing this doesn’t exactly break the bank, but it makes your business look more professional and trustworthy.
Spending money on these few things will serve as a strong foundation for your new affiliate marketing business.
You will get something you can build on top of in the long term.
Next logical additions to your business would be a decent Page Builder and an email Autoresponder. I’ve listed free and paid options in the article.
If you have more money than time and are willing to spend, you can skip a few of the initial steps.
For example, there are companies that offer pre-built affiliate marketing websites. You simply purchase one and continue growing it.
More on how I feel about buying a pre-built affiliate marketing website in the article itself.
Outsourcing content creation is another popular option among those willing to spend more.
If you do that, make sure to go through the outsourced content and edit it so that it resembles the rest of the content on your website.
That will keep both your readers and Google algorithm happy.
I’m interested, how much are YOU planning to spend on your new affiliate marketing business initially?