Over the years, I’ve had quite a number of folks just starting out in their online marketing career ask me how they can start making money quickly as an affiliate or promotional partner.

In most cases, these folks are starting from scratch, without a website, without a product of their own, and without an audience.

I know what it’s like.  I was in that exact position back in January, 2003.

I did what most folks do.  I researched what the experts were suggesting, and did my best to follow their suggestions.

I set up a signup form so people could get something for free.  I posted links to my website anywhere I could.  Even paid for some ads to get people to my website.  And then I started promoting products that other people had created to those who signed up for my list.

In those early days, when you only have a dozen or so folks on your mailing list, you don’t make much money.  In fact, it took several weeks before I made my first sale, and the commission on that was a whopping $15!

If I were starting over again today, I’d do things completely differently.

Before I describe what I would do now, it’s important to know that attracting an audience for your business is the hardest part of the puzzle.  Creating products can be easy, and setting up a website is something you do once and simply maintain periodically.

Yes, you can spend money on advertising whenever you want to promote a product (either your own or one created by someone else).  However, you make a LOT more money when you have an audience you can communicate with over and over again for weeks, months, and years.

Also, the easiest way to gets lots of new people to your website (and then onto your mailing list) is when you have a product other affiliates can promote to their mailing lists.  There are THOUSANDS of affiliates looking for new products to sell to their list.  Some of these folks have mailing lists of 100,000 subscribers and more.  If you have a product they like (and makes them money), you can get all the traffic you want to your website.

Once you get new people to your website, you can offer a free gift to get them onto your mailing list, and once you have a lot of folks on your mailing list, you can make decent money promoting products created by others for commissions.  For this reason, it really doesn’t matter if you make any money at all from the sale of your own product, as long as it helps you get more subscribers onto your mailing list.

With the plan I recommend in this article, you can grow your mailing list quickly and start making GOOD money promoting products made by others.

No wasting time with $15 here and $30 there.  Within a month, you could be making $500 to $1000 or more every time you send out an email.

To go into more detail, I would take a few days, organize what I know about the core topic I plan to build the business around, and then find a way to create a small product based on that information. Before I do, I’d make sure that there are similar products being sold.  If not, creating one may be a waste of time.

When you NEED to be successful, it’s best to focus on things you KNOW people are already buying products for.

Maybe I’d pull out my cell phone and record myself talking about the topic for 30 minutes to an hour.  Either audio or video, whichever I felt most comfortable with.  If neither appealed to me, I’d sit at the computer and start typing it out.  The free OpenOffice software makes it easy to create a PDF of whatever I write.

Free gift products like PDFs, MP3s, and short videos are all you need.  As long as it provides value (information, entertainment, or an experience), that’s all you need.  I’ve seen 15-page PDFs that offered a unique insight into a solution to a problem and provided great value.  The same can be true with 10 to 15 minute recordings.

That would be the free gift I’d use to get folks to join my mailing list.

Then I’d start working on creating a more in-depth product.  You know how when you’re really passionate about a topic, you can talk about it for hours?  Well, guess what?  If you record yourself talking about your topic for a couple of hours, and do so in a somewhat organized fashion, you can turn that into a product people will actually pay money for.  Doesn’t matter if it’s only $10 or $20.  Actually, low priced products work very well here.

The biggest factors determining how valuable your product is include how well does it help people solve a problem, and how unique is your solution.  The more it helps folks, and the more unique your solution, the more you can charge for your product.  Also, the fewer products that already exist that solve the same or similar problem, the more you can charge for it.

This is a good time to do a little research and see what others are selling.  If everyone is selling a manual with a set of guided meditations, then maybe you’ll want to create something that is basically similar, adding a few unique differences.  Again, when you NEED to be successful, it’s good to model successful businesses.

Whether you create your product by yourself at home, or gather a group of friends and record a workshop presentation doesn’t matter.  Whatever you need to do to get the information out in a way that helps folks and get it recorded is perfectly okay.

If you’re video recording a live event, like a workshop, you’ll want someone else running the camera(s).  If you have a friend who does this, GREAT!  Otherwise, it might be worth hiring a professional.  However, be prepared to spend good money for good video.  It’s not cheap.

A lower-cost video option is to set up a camera (it could be your cell phone) and just speak to the camera.  It’s only when you want to record a live event that video gets complicated.

The objective is to create a product that includes a couple of hours of useful information (or about 50 – 100 pages in a PDF), and can easily be sold for $20 or so.  If you can create a combination product with more than 1 component, even better.

Now, to put all this into perspective, while it’s easily possible to create a product in an afternoon, you’ll do a lot better when you spend a little more time on it.  Don’t try to be perfect.  I have some products I spent more than a year creating, and they still weren’t perfect.  Do the best you can in the time you have available, whether that’s a week, a month, or several months.  There’s also something to be said for putting something together quickly just to see what type of response you get from the IDEA behind the product, and then work to create a better product later.

Once you have your product, you need a system to process sales.  WordPress and WooCommerce is a free system that will work.

You’ll also need a way to track referrals from others.  This is known as an affiliate system.  There are a variety of options here, including a few free plugins from the WordPress directory.

There are also free plugins to run a mailing list system within WordPress.  The main problem here is that most web hosting companies severely limit what you can do with email, so you may need to sign up with an outside service for this.  MailChimp.com can be a good place to start, since they have a free service for those just starting out.

It’s a lot easier to sell a digital product if you have a graphic that illustrates what it would look like if it were a physical product.  For this, unless you’re already good with creating graphics, you will want to hire a graphic artist to do this for you.  Should cost $50 or less.

And finally, you need a webpage to describe your product in a way that persuades folks to exchange their money for your product.  There’s a lot of information online on this, and it’s one of the most valuable skills to learn when you want to start a business.

There are many experts who will do this for a fee, which might range anywhere from $250 to $25,000 and more.  While the old adage, “you get what you pay for” is generally true, there are some copywriters who charge a lot more than they’re worth.  Do your due diligence before hiring someone to write sales copy for you.

The better your webpage sells, the more successful your business will be.

Personally, I’ll spend anywhere from 5 hours to 2 weeks writing the copy to sell a product.

Once you have a website, with the infrastructure you need (mailing list system, shopping cart, affiliate system), a free offer on the homepage, and the paid offer presented to those who sign up for your list, you need to test everything.

Run some ads, get folks to the website, and see how many sign up for your free offer, and how many of those purchase your product.  Get at least a couple hundred visitors before you change anything.

A good way to advertise is to set up an account with Google AdWords and run what are known as PPC (pay-per-click) ads where you pay Google a small amount for each person who clicks the ad to go to your website.  You get to decide how much it’s worth to you, although in most cases, you’ll need to spend at least 25 cents per click to get any traffic at all.  You won’t be charged until your ads have run for 30 days, so there’s time to make the money required to pay for the ads, but be smart about how to do this.  You really DON’T want to spend $1000 on ads and not have anyone buy your product.

Ideally, you want your free offer to get at least 25% of visitors to sign up for your list.  Of those, you want at least 10% to purchase your product.  This means that 2.5% of visitors are buying your product (1 in every 40 visitors), which is a GOOD number.  Most websites only get 1% to 2% of visitors to purchase a product.

If you’re spending 25 cents per click on advertising, and getting 2.5% of people to buy a $20 product, you’re doing VERY well.  In fact, you’d be making $2 for every $1 you spend.  When you can do that, put everything you have into promoting that offer.  Just do it gradually, in case the first time around was a fluke.  Even if only 1.25% of website visitors bought your product (1 sale from every 80 visitors), you’d break even, which is still good, since you’ll make more money from those who sign up for your mailing list.

If you’re not getting enough people signing up for your list, see if you can tweak the opt-in offer to get more folks signing up.  I’ve had free offers that got 60% of visitors to join a list.  If you get anywhere near that, you’ve got a GREAT offer.

BTW, my current Divine Dynamics offer is getting a 50% signup rate.  I’m also getting about 3.5% of site visitors buying a package offered after signup (averaging about $56/sale).  As a result, my website is making an average of $1.87 per visitor.  Therefore, I can afford to spend $1.75 per click and still make money.

Same thing with the paid product offer.  If you’re not getting enough of your subscribes purchasing the product, see if you can find the problem and fix it.

If you have to, go back and tweak the product itself.  Maybe add a set of worksheets or templates for people to use.  Add a guided meditation.  Re-record your presentation as video instead of audio.  Have your recording transcribed so you can add a PDF version.  Do whatever you have to do to make your product worth MORE than the price you’re asking for it.

While you COULD lower the price, don’t go below $10.  $20 is a better price point.  As long as people can see more value than you’re asking, you can charge whatever you want.  I find $20, $50, and $100 price points easy to sell.  More than that, and the product needs to be promoted on the “back end” after folks know how good your lower-priced products can be.

Feel free to study the sales pages on this website for ideas on how to sell your own product.

Ideally, your mailing list system will allow you to set up emails to go out on a schedule.  This is known as an autoresponder.  With an autoresponder, you can program in a number of emails to further promote your paid product to get more people purchasing it over time.

This same autoresponder can be used to promote products created by others.

Eventually, you’ll figure out the right combination of product features and sales messages so your new website can be counted on to make money.

This is the point where you start to invite business owners who have large mailing lists to promote your product to their list.

One good mailing from someone with a list of 100,000 subscribers can add a couple thousand subscribers to your list overnight.  With enough affiliates promoting your website, you’ll soon have your own mailing list of 5000 or more.

And one good mailing to a list of 5000 subscribers can bring in $200 to $1000 when you promote the right product as an affiliate.  When you get to the point of having 100,000 subscribers, each email you send out can lead to $5,000 to $20,000 in commissions.

Because of this, I’d give my affiliates 75% of the front-end product just to get them excited about promoting for me.  In fact, this is exactly what I’m doing now, even though I have many products to offer, and a good-sized mailing list of my own.

Adding more subscribers to your list is always a good thing.

So, overall, this is what I suggest to anyone just starting out.

Pick a topic you’re passionate about, and have some degree of knowledge to share.  Create a small product to give to those willing to join your list, and another more in-depth product to sell.  Set up a working system to sell your product and give a fair percentage to those willing to promote you, and then allow others to make good money while building your business for you.

With the mailing list created from their promotions, you can make money month after month by promoting good products, and your audience will love you for it, as long as you only recommend products that actually work, and are worth more than the prices asked.

A lot of moving parts, yes.  Even so, this is the QUICKEST way I know to making good money.

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