Is affiliate marketing a waste of time? Well, yes and no. It really depends on your motivations for why you’re even bothering with trying to make money online (through affiliate marketing) in the first place. So in this post, I will leverage my experiences (since 2006) and share with you my honest take on this topic.
What Is Affiliate Marketing?
Before we even get into whether affiliate marketing is a waste of time or not, we first have to establish what the heck affiliate marketing is in the first place.
To put it simply, it’s nothing more than a person recommending a product or service sold by an affiliate (i.e. a brand, company, or vendor) and getting a commission in return if this recommendation results in a sale.
This principle is actually nothing new.
If you’ve watched TV or listened to radio (or even watching YouTube or listening to podcasts these days), then you’ll undoubtedly have noticed promos and plugs being made in the content you’re consuming.
Heck, it could even be a subtle product placement in a movie scene or show.
Or, it could be a smooth segue into an ad or promo during a dialog in a radio show or podcast.
If you’re considering getting into the field of making money online, chances are you will need to put out content in a website, social media post, podcast, or video, and tout some product or service in the hopes of earning income off of this effort.
Most people go into affiliate marketing or the make money online niche under the assumption that “if you build it, they will come” (to borrow an old “Field of Dreams” movie quote).
However, there’s so much more that goes into it, and from my successes and failures (many more of the latter, by the way), I can tell you that you’re going to want to be honest with yourself about why you’re considering doing this in the first place.
So here are my pros and cons of affiliate marketing, and how it can be a waste of time (and money) if you don’t come in with the right mindset and work ethic.
Why Is Affiliate Marketing A Waste Of Time?
Affiliate Marketing is not worth your time (and money) if you’re in it for the wrong reasons. So what are some of these reasons?
You’re Only In It For The Money
Even though affiliate marketers are lured into the industry as a way to make money, you’re in for a world of hurt if that is your sole reason for getting in.
The reason why is that you’re going to need a lot of patience and persistence to even make a small but consistent income for your efforts.
In fact, it took me over 2 years of running my waterfalls blog before I even started to see any consistent payments (and this was back in 2006 when my options were primarily limited to Google Adsense).
With so many new websites and new content in other media these days, the competition is even more stiff now than it was back then.
Ultimately, this means you’ll likely have to work even harder and persist for longer to start seeing results, and you’ll have to keep it up before it starts putting a dent into your living expenses.
You Don’t Focus Your Efforts
Another reason why the majority of affiliate marketers fail is that they’re too easily distracted and wind up losing focus.
Making money online is a niche where you’re pretty much on your own, and therefore you’re going to have to learn the ropes through trial and error without any mentorship, coaching, or a community to help steer you in the right direction.
This affiliate marketing platform provides such support if you’re serious about getting into this niche.
So imagine if you don’t have that hindsight about what works and what doesn’t work.
Then, it would be easy to chase a new affiliate marketing program or a new niche topic to start a website on or a new product to review, a new plugin to try, etc. etc.
They call this “shiny object syndrome”, and it easily affects aspiring website owners and aspiring affiliate marketers who don’t know any better.
Indeed, without having lived the lessons learned and learning how to grow from previous mistakes and failures, it would be difficult to be someone that’s a bit more discerning.
As a result, you really want to maintain focus on a particular topic or niche, and run with it for at least 6 months (or more if you’re only doing it part time).
That way, you can see if it gains traction before you decide if your efforts are working or not.
I wouldn’t try to multi-task or switch topics until you’ve “mastered” your niche so you’d be in position to apply your knowledge to new niches or ventures.
You Aren’t Willing To Learn
As much as we’d like to think that we can go on and on focusing only on talking about the things we’re passionate about in our blogs, the reality is that you need to learn about so many aspects to affiliate marketing (let alone running a website).
After all, you not only have to learn the ins and outs of how to use your website content management system (e.g. WordPress and its plugins, themes, and web coding), but you also have to learn how to communicate with your audience.
Moreover, technology constantly changes rapidly, and what might have worked at one point in your blogging career might not be enough anymore as time moves on.
For example, in my waterfalls blog, I had thrived on my website alone until I saw that my competition was passing me by with a better content management system (i.e. WordPress) as well as better presence on YouTube and Instagram.
In fact, there are constantly changes to even the products and services you once thought might be here to stay like Google+ or the Universal Google Analytics.
So without maintaining that mindset to keep learning and keeping up with the best practices of the day, then you could find yourself being left behind!
When Is Affiliate Marketing Worth It?
Given that I’ve been brutally honest about why Affiliate Marketing is a waste of time (and money), why would you want to get into in it (assuming you’re still on the fence)?
Well, here are the reasons why I pursued and stuck it out with my affiliate marketing efforts…
I Am Passionate About My Niche
While there’s conflicting advice about why “follow your passion” is considered bad career advice, I can honestly say that if my blog wasn’t a labor of love, then all the trouble that went into it wouldn’t be worth it.
In fact, I wanted so badly to live out my passion for nature, travel, and hiking through the activity of chasing waterfalls that I’m willing to do what it takes to see that vision fulfilled.
This mindset of trying to make it happen because I’m into it is quite a bit different than getting into blogging just to try to make money.
After all, if you’re not into what you’re working so hard for, it gets old real quick and becomes more of a chore that is unlikely to be sustained in the long run.
Truthfully, my waterfalls blog started off as a means to publicize a book about New Zealand Waterfalls that I had published.
However, I eventually learned that I was better off just documenting and sharing my travels through this website instead of publicizing the book.
Only then did I see personal value and fulfillment in channeling my energy towards this endeavor.
I wasn’t even expecting to earn any significant income from it (though the hope to profit from my efforts was always in the back of my mind).
As a result, I put in the work and the persistence to keep learning and doing because I was passionate about doing this.
I Don’t View Setbacks As Failures
Unfortunately, I’ve had my share of setbacks during my blogging efforts, where each setback that I’ve encountered has not been pleasant and has even made me question my resolve at times to keep at it.
For example, my waterfalls website had stagnated for a period of at least 5 years in the mid 2010s.
In order to get through this prolonged rough patch, I had to work even harder to do a site migration that required me to get into web development, system administration, and dealing with contractors (each with even more failures to overcome).
And after the migration was over (it took me 3 years to get through it), I had to endure another year of lower-than-expected results.
Indeed, all this time and effort made me question whether it was all worth it.
It wasn’t until I took training from this affiliate marketing training platform that I finally started implementing the principles taught there, and then the website finally started to break out of its doldrums.
The website is now thriving once again, but imagine what a different story it would have been if I had given up prematurely!
This is why if you’re going to get into affiliate marketing, you really need to have the mindset that setbacks will happen.
That said, it’s how you bounce back from those setbacks that ultimately determine your ability to stay in the game, so to speak.
You really have to look at these setbacks as learning experiences that prepare you for the next obstacle that you will inevitably encounter down the road.
By the way, this “get back up” mindset is also true for success stories in other aspects of life.
For example, professional football great Tom Brady was one of the last players chosen in the 2000 NFL draft (he was the 199th pick in the 6th round) after graduating from the University of Michigan.
However, he used that as fuel to eventually become perhaps the greatest (if not winningest) professional football player of all time.
Similarly, basketball great, Michael Jordan, also overcame being cut from his high school team as a freshman.
And he used that setback as a chip on his shoulder to become one of the greatest (if not THE greatest) professional basketball players of all time.
I Keep Learning Every Day
Now even though I’m passionate about what I’m blogging about (even to the point that it can carry me through setbacks), I have to keep in mind that I am running a business.
Therefore, in order to stay in business, I have to keep growing, and that means I have to keep learning.
After all, not being open to learning was one of the reasons I cited for why affiliate marketing would be a waste of time.
And indeed, I had to wear many different hats, including the less glorious side of blogging like the under-the-hood technological stuff that goes on in addition to the best practices in internet marketing as a whole.
Moreover, since I also have a day job and I’m blogging as a side hustle, I have to learn how to be very efficient with my time.
Then, even when I feel like I’ve gotten the hang of what I needed to learn and know about, there’s always new training and/or classes to take to keep up with the latest best practices or to learn tricks of the trade that I didn’t know about.
This is what I mean by the learning never stops, because the moment you stop learning is the moment you stop growing and risk getting left behind!
That said, it’s one thing to keep learning passively, but to truly internalize the information you’re receiving, you have to be willing to put your learning into practice.
Like most things in technology, you learn by doing, you either use it (what you learned) or lose it, and making money online through blogging is no different.
So as you can see, affiliate marketing can be rewarding, but it’s not for everyone (in fact, it’s not for most people).
It’s one of those things where you really have to want it in order to make it happen, and that alone differentiates successful affiliate marketers from those who give up altogether (at which point then it can be construed as a failed venture).
That said, if you do identify something you love to engage in and spend more of your life on it, then affiliate marketing is a great way to at least earn a side income (if not a full-time living) from your labor of love.
In my case, even though I can’t quit my day job and replace my entire primary income with my blogging side hustle, I’ve found the journey to be very richly rewarding.
Heck, it also let me engage even more in my passions through the income earned, which brings me closer to the ultimate goal of leaving the rat race.
Indeed, I went well beyond my comfort zone in this endeavor, and that’s why I learned so much more about what I’m capable of as well as the very things I want to spend more of my life on.
And even coming away from my affiliate marketing journey with this insight is a definite win, as far as I’m concerned!
Do you still feel like you have what it takes to make it in affiliate marketing?
Let me know by leaving your comments below, or check out this post on how to get started.