The Broke Person’s Guide to Affiliate Marketing (No Money Required)

If you want to learn how to start affiliate marketing with no money, then you’ve come to the right place.

I’ll show you a step-by-step process for one of the best methods to make money online when you don’t have any capital to start a business.


How does affiliate marketing work?

Affiliate marketing with no money involved means you promote other people’s products in exchange for a commission. The company you become an affiliate for will give you a special tracking link for their product(s).

If you share the link online and somebody clicks and buys, you get paid. Some affiliate programs help you make money on not just the products you promote but everything you offer.

Take Amazon, for example.

Say you share an affiliate link to a book on Amazon. With Amazon’s affiliate program, you get a commission for everything that person buys within 24 hours of clicking on one of your affiliate links.

So, if that person happens to be in the mood for a $2,000 flat-screen TV on the same day they buy the $25 book you promoted, you’d get a commission for both.

Here’s the beauty of affiliate links: The products you promote for companies are no more expensive than they would be if the person went straight to the site and bought.

But why would a company pay you to promote a product at no extra cost to the people who buy?

The answer is simple. They’re using you to acquire new customers. They figure they can make back the money and then some by acquiring and retaining that customer.

Smart companies know the real money isn’t made on the front end. It’s made on the back end by selling the same customer more of what they just bought or something new. This increases a customer’s lifetime value (LTV).

Some companies have their LTV dialed in so much that they know exactly how much to spend to acquire a customer and make a certain profit.

I use affiliate marketing in my business. I have courses and programs that teach people how to get paid to write online. There are other creators in a similar niche as me but they don’t have a product or course like mine.

They promote my courses in exchange for a commission. I acquire a new customer I wouldn’t have otherwise had, and they get paid. It’s a win-win scenario.

The affiliate marketing world is large.

But you have to figure out a few things:

  • What products are you going to promote?
  • How are you going to get eyeballs (traffic) to those products?
  • How are you going to convert those eyeballs into sales?

We’ll cover the basics of each and then I’ll drop my favorite recommendations for beginners who want to learn how to start affiliate marketing with no money.


What products you should promote as an affiliate marketer?

There are a few considerations you need to make when picking products. You want a product with high demand that you also have the ability to promote often enough to get sales. And you also want to make sure the commissions are profitable enough for you to stack your income together and make a good living with affiliate marketing.

All the variables to consider:

  • Will you enjoy or have the motivation to create content to get eyeballs on this product? If you have no money to spend on ads, you’ll only be able to get eyeballs on your products through organic content creation for affiliate marketing, which means creating content that only costs time instead of money.
  • What kind of products do you want to promote? One option would be promoting expensive products that don’t require a ton of traffic to get enough sales to reach your income goals. Or, you could promote inexpensive products and attempt to get a high amount of traffic so you can reach your income goals through volume purchases.
  • What content format suits you best? If you like to talk and you’re good on video, promoting through YouTube or TikTok might make the most sense for you. If you’re more of a writer (vs. someone who would create a niche blog), writing on Medium, or posting social media content might be a better fit.

The good news? There are tons of options.

The bad news? There are tons of options.

You can fall into analysis paralysis and overthink it. My suggestion? Come up with an initial plan and stick with it. I’ll give you some of my favorite recommendations in a second.


How will you get eyeballs (traffic) to those products?

Traffic is the lifeblood of online businesses, especially affiliate marketing businesses.

Since paid ads are out of the question, let’s look at the different ways you can get traffic through organic content (and start making money):


Niche blogs

Niche blogs are blogs focused on a single topic. You write a bunch of blog posts about that topic with the hopes of picking up organic traffic with SEO. You can also get traffic from other sources.

I have a friend who runs a niche site on dating and relationships. After dealing with some ups and downs thanks to algorithm changes on Google, she decided to start experimenting with Pinterest. She replaced the organic SEO traffic she lost with the traffic from Pinterest and business is booming.

Most people who make money as affiliate marketers with niche blogs do it this way:

  1. Create SEO-optimized blog posts
  2. Add links to affiliate products in their posts
  3. Run display ads on their website
  4. Allow sponsors to publish posts on their site for a fee


Social media content (written)

The best writing platforms to get traffic right now are Medium, X, LinkedIn, and Substack. Writing content on platforms is similar to writing on a blog except the traffic goes to your profile on the platform instead of directly to you.

The benefit? These writing platforms have built-in traffic from their millions of monthly users. If you learn how to write content that resonates with the audiences on those platforms, you can tap into that traffic and convert it into sales.

The downside is that you don’t own this traffic. A shift to the algorithm can tank your traffic overnight. Also, beware that some platforms have rules against promoting affiliate content.

Most people who use writing platforms for affiliate marketing do it this way:

  1. Create compelling content on social media
  2. Direct people to join their email list
  3. Sell the affiliate products via email


Social media content (video)

You can create content on YouTube and TikTok and then promote affiliate products in different ways. The process is similar to written content but using video instead. Find a topic you enjoy creating content about that you can tie to specific products.

Some platforms, like TikTok, let you directly promote affiliate links on the video itself, but in the case of YouTube, you’ll have to put the product links in your description. You can also consider doing YouTube ads as a form of affiliate marketing.

For example, I wanted to learn how to film YouTube videos well, so a friend recommended a video creator who had a step-by-step breakdown of what equipment to buy and how to film the videos. I went to the link in his description and clicked on his affiliate link. He helped me get what I wanted, and he got paid.


How will you convert those eyeballs into sales?

If you want people to end up buying the products you promote, it’s not enough to just get good at creating content and attracting eyeballs. You have to convert that traffic.

This means you have to get good at a handful of skills:

  • Copywriting: Copywriting is the art of writing words that get people to perform a desired action. For example, you might have a blog post about a topic, but good copy will get the reader to buy the product by adding a persuasive call to action (CTA) to buy it.
  • Email marketing: In many cases, it makes sense to create content that attracts eyeballs and gets them to sign up for your email list. After they get on your list, you can nurture them more so they’ll buy the affiliate products you’re recommending.
  • Conversion rate optimization (CRO): Something as simple as the color of a button on a page can affect sales. Always be testing and tweaking different elements on your pages to squeeze out as many extra sales as possible. You’ll want skills like designing A/B split tests, analyzing heat maps to see where people’s eyes gaze, deeply understanding user behavior through research, and making data-driven changes.

You can learn how to make money with affiliate marketing without having any money yourself, but you will have to make up for your lack of money with sweat equity and learn how to use these skills to your benefit.


My fave recs for affiliate marketing beginners

The rabbit hole of affiliate marketing is deep. To make life easier, here are three great recommendations for noobs who want to start making money…


1. TikTok Shop

Screenshot of from the TikTok Shop website to sign up as a seller.

This is my number one recommendation. I’ve been tempted to do it myself, but I am already busy running my full-time business. I still think about dabbling sometimes—that’s how tempting it is.

TikTok came out of nowhere and became one of the most popular social media apps out there.

With its addicting short-form videos that suck users into spending hours on the platform, it has become a hotbed for companies looking to scale their income.

E-commerce brands have been flooding TikTok to recruit affiliates who help them make sales through user-generated content (UGC) ads.

UGC ads are ads that don’t look like ads.

They use normal, everyday people to promote their products, and they have a much more authentic feel than normal ads.

I’ve purchased products from UGC ads on Tiktok before. Somebody shot a video of themselves using Turmeric Ginger soap on their face, showing the before and after of what their skin looked like. I’m into skincare these days and the ad got me to buy.

You can make money as a UGC creator by applying to TikTok Shop and becoming an affiliate for any one of the companies that promote products through the platform. Some companies will also pay you flat fees to promote their products as a UGC creator.

Screenshot of TikTok Shop affiliate seller application process

If I had to bet, I’d say UGC content will become huge in the next 10 years. A funny viral reel or TikTok is much cheaper than spending an arm and a leg on a huge TV ad. They’re also more effective. You’ll see much more of these “guerilla marketing campaigns” moving forward.

Gen Z is skeptical of traditional advertising and much more responsive to UGC ads. They’re also addicted to TikTok. If the company makes it through these attempted bans, it’s a great place to build your affiliate marketing empire.

Steps for Success:

  • Set up a TikTok account if you don’t have one already
  • Study and analyze top-performing UGC videos for brands you’d want to promote
  • Apply to join the TikTok Shop affiliate program
  • Browse available brand catalogs and select products with high engagement
  • Create your own authentic UGC videos showcasing/reviewing hot products
  • Strategically use relevant hashtags and sounds to increase discoverability
  • Continuously create new UGC videos, test creative angles, and optimize


2. Sparkloop

I gave this a spin once and made a quick $160. Sparkloop is a platform where you can get paid to recommend newsletters from creators and business owners.

The list owners set up a budget and the dollar per subscriber they’re willing to pay, usually between $1 and $5. Every time you get someone to sign up to their email list, you get paid.

Screenshot from Sparkloop's website

If you’re a content creator who has your own newsletter, you can even install a pop-up that shares featured newsletters that pop up after someone signs up to your email list.

I like this concept because you don’t even have to sell a product to get paid. You’re just getting paid to promote someone else’s free newsletter. This means you can promote these newsletter signup links in more subtle ways on platforms that usually don’t respond well to promoting products.

I haven’t done it myself, but I’ve got wind through the creator rumor mill that Reddit is one of the best places to get sign-ups for Sparkloop.

Steps for Success:

  • Sign up for a Sparkloop account and complete your profile
  • Browse available newsletter campaigns and filter by payout rates/budgets
  • Select newsletters aligned with topics/interests you can genuinely promote
  • Study the newsletter descriptions to understand ideal subscriber personas
  • Develop a content strategy blending value and sign-up call-to-actions
  • Utilize platforms like Reddit, niche forums, and your own website/profiles
  • Test different promotion angles and double down on what converts best


3. Online courses and coaching programs

I sell online courses and run a coaching program. I make a great living doing it, but it requires capital to run my business, and there’s a bunch of logistical issues involved in running them.

My programs sell anywhere from $500-$3,000, and I offer commissions to people who promote them.

The people who sell my courses on my behalf get to pocket the money and don’t have to deal with any of the headaches of delivering the course themselves.

I sometimes do affiliate marketing for other courses myself.

I target courses in these four areas:

  1. Wealth 
  2. Health
  3. Relationships
  4. Self-Improvement

Pick a vertical that best matches the type of content you want to create, and look for high-priced courses that you can be an affiliate for in that niche. You can use any format I mentioned above to get traffic to a place where you can promote courses from other business owners.

Steps for Success:

  • Identify high-revenue course verticals you have some expertise/interest in
  • Make a list of potential courses to promote in your chosen niche
  • Reach out to course creators about joining their affiliate programs
  • Negotiate commission rates and promotional guidelines/specs
  • Devise a content strategy around affordably attracting your course’s audience
  • Create blog posts, videos, social media content highlighting the course value
  • Build an email list and nurture subscribers toward purchasing the course


What you lack in money can be made up for with effort 

Learning how to start affiliate marketing with no money won’t be easy, but it can be done.

It’s the closest make-money-online strategy you can find to creating money from thin air.

Use the tools and resources in this guide to get started. And feel free to send me a thank you email when you buy that Lamborghini.