Finding the Money to Get Started with Affiliate Marketing

My newest newsletter subscribers for the last week or so have been getting an automated message asking what’s holding them back in affiliate marketing. While the message is automated, my reading of them and responses are not (my email is something I don’t think I’ll ever be able to have my assistant handle for me).

BrokeA common theme? That a lack of finances is holding them back from getting started.

[Said with tough love] Bullshit.

That’s your brain giving you an excuse to not try, because if you don’t try, then you can’t fail.

How dare I say bullshit? When I started in this industry over a decade ago, I was lucky to be able to pay my phone bill (and many months I couldn’t.) I had zero money to start a business. And that’s the awesome thing about affiliate marketing – while it isn’t “free” to get started, I can’t think of any business you can start that’s cheaper or has less overhead costs. Hard work can easily replace financial resources in this space.

The hard costs

Let’s look at the reality. So you want to build a blog about [doesn’t matter what topic here]. In my eyes, the bare minimum you need to get started is a domain name, hosting, a blogging platform and a mailing list.

Domain name: $12 dollars a year… Hosting: $4-10 dollars a month (I know the site looks cheesy, but they’re my host and have awesome support – and no affiliate program LOL)… WordPress: Free… Mailing List: $19 dollars a month (you’ll kick yourself later if you don’t start this in the beginning – trust me LOL.)

That means in order to get started, you’ll need to spend $35-$41 in month one. After that, your maintenance costs will be $23-$29 dollars a month. Yearly cost? $288-$360. To start a BUSINESS. Wanna get fancy? Add in the Thesis theme to make your first month costs $122-$128 (your monthly maintenance costs remain the same.) Yearly cost? $375-$447.

How to “find” the money

Now I get it… but you don’t HAVE that kind of money “lying around.” I didn’t either. So I sold some VHS tapes (not ONE word, it was a decade ago and DVD players were expensive) and a few other things I didn’t need anymore on eBay. I also ate hot dogs and macaroni and cheese for three weeks to pay for my first Yahoo listing (good lord does that date me or what?) Mmmm mmm! ;-)

Have a yard sale, make your coffee at home, quit smoking, clip coupons, pack your lunches, switch to a bank that doesn’t charge monthly maintenance fees, downgrade your cable package (or get rid of it completely and watch TV for free online), learn 119 ways to cook Ramen Noodles. Do whatever it takes, but I guarantee you that you can find a way to finance your affiliate marketing business if you really want to.

After that, it’s all elbow grease. And if you truly put in the time an effort, your site should be paying its own operating expenses within six months or less. If it’s not (and you can honestly say you gave it your all), then you’ll need to re-evaluate if affiliate marketing is the business for you. But you can’t let your mind trick you into believing money is holding you back from getting started.

It’s only your mind being scared to fail.

Show it who’s boss. ;-)

About Rae Hoffman

Rae Hoffman aka "Sugarrae" is an affiliate marketing veteran and the CEO of PushFire, a search marketing agency specializing in SEO audits and link building strategies. She is also the author of the often controversial Sugarrae blog. You can connect with Rae via Twitter, Google+ and Facebook.

Sugarrae runs on the Genesis Framework

Genesis Framework

If you’re someone who doesn’t understand a lot of PHP, Genesis will give a ton of functionality that you wouldn’t be able to obtain otherwise with a simple control panel instead of having to alter code. For the advanced, Genesis has incredible customization possibilities via Genesis hooks.

The theme is not only highly customizable, but it has allowed me to run Sugarrae more professionally, with a much more targeted focus on monetization than it ever has been able to achieve before.

You can find out more about Genesis below:


  1. Good post, Rae. Another place to get the money is a credit card. Most people have access to lines of credit that they are using in other ways, but seldomly to invest into projects that require up-front investments, but pay back (if you’re persistent, and handle things in an educated way, of course) later.

  2. It’s funny – that slips my mind as an option because when I was starting out, there was no sane place or person who was going to give me a credit card at the time. :D … I didn’t get my first credit card until I was about 28… after I’d long gotten myself out of debt with my income from affiliate marketing. :) But it’s a definite option for those who have them!

  3. Patty Gale says:

    Love it, Rae! I get so tired of hearing people complain they don’t have money to get started, yet they have no problem paying $100+ for cell service or $40 every 2 weeks to get their nails done.

    I was pretty cash-strapped when I first got started 10 years ago, but there was no other option. I either made it work or the alternative was going back to corporate America and leaving my daughter in daycare.

    I decided the latter simply wasn’t going to be an option.

  4. Really like the line: “And if you truly put in the time an effort, your site should be paying its own operating expenses within six months or less”. I think that is a very realistic goal for most people to shoot for. Except in extreme rare cases affiliate marketing isn’t the sort of thing that people can go from zero to $10K in a few months. It takes a lot of trial and error, a lot of work, a lot of knowledge, and a lot of skill to really make a living at this.

  5. fiverr is also an interesting place to get some initial funds: do something original for 5 dollars! Sing a song, write some poetry, send a postcard!

  6. I LOVE THIS, Rae!

    I hear so many times from my readers that they have no money to spend on their business. WHAT?!?! Then get some…somehow…someway…sometime soon! :)

    You gave such great examples of ways to get the cash to start. Everyone can do at least one of those things, if not several.

    Thanks, Rae!

  7. Agreed, I wish lack of funds was holding me back instead of lack of traffic, poor conversions, lack of time, yada yada yada ;)

    By the way Rae, can you be persuaded to talk us through another affiliate site development? I know you had to bail from the last one, but I reckon that would be a massive help to us strugglers.

    In any case, thanks for your guidance. All the best.

  8. My comment is awaiting moderation, so, I guess I can speak my mind and if you decide not to post it, then it will be for your eyes only. 95% of affiliate marketers don’t make it- 5% make a substantial income. I bought into an ‘affiliate program’ last October and for $50.00 I got a cheesy template that makes your site look like the Taj Mahal. I knew nothing about websites and affiliate marketing and wish I had stumbled across your blog back then. I didn’t even know what WordPress was, then. I am sure you will rub elbows with the guys, whose program I joined at Affiliate Summit. I am not saying I am giving up on it, but, it isn’t all Cherry Pie and Ice Cream; matter of fact, I have yet to see a ROI- this includes time, adword campaigns, networks, etc.

  9. Affiliate marketing can be an intimidating undertaking for many marketers, and your post offers great perspective! Lose the cable, budget your meals, cut out a few excesses and you are on your way. Now if they would only stop expecting to get rich on email submits…

  10. Chas I absolutely believe only a small minority of people who attempt affiliate marketing will have high level success. But I also believe considering the low barrier to entry, it’s worth a try. If I’d have said “oh, most people don’t do well at this, I’m not going to try it” ten years ago, I wouldn’t have the career, home, family, husband and everything else I have now. I’m a big believer that everyone should always believe they can beat the odds – at least while they give it a great try. If five years later, you’re still not covering your hosting expenses, then you need to take another look at if affiliate marketing is for you – which I mentioned in the post.

    “I bought into an ‘affiliate program’” – that’s not an affiliate program. True affiliate programs don’t cost money… I covered that in avoiding scams.

  11. I was naive and didn’t have your knowledge; I thank you for your feedback and am glad that you are helping others with what you have learned.

  12. Amen! If you are willing to spend every waking moment making sure you succeed – an amazing thing happens – you do!

    In the 90’s I remember thinking – if only i had money to invest in domains – I wish I had come across this article and taken it to heart then.

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