How Affiliate Programs Pay – Get Paid “More” And “More Often”

Updated: November 25, 2018
by Ray Alexander

How affiliate programs pay will affect the level of your monthly income, and you might want to take it into consideration at an early stage - that's when you choose your favorite niche to promote. Whether you are committed to one affiliate program or have multiple sources of income from a number of programs, there are advantages and disadvantages either way.

How Affiliate Programs Pay

3 Ways To Make Affiliate Arrangements

There are broadly 3 different types of approach to become an affiliate, which will help you find the most suitable compensation scheme for you.

#1 Join Affiliate Networks First

This will be a start especially if you're not sure what kind of niches you'll be interested to promote via your website. An affiliate network acts like an intermediary agent, usually enlisting hundreds of brands or products. It manages your affiliate status, tax information and your commission payments.

Signing up with these networks is fairly easy. There will be a manual approval process, but as long as your signup is genuine and your country or state of residence allows affiliate marketing, they'll let you in. Once you have joined, you can browse the list of retailers or products. The list is sorted by business category, so you'll get an idea of what kind of niche you'd like to promote.

And finally when you find a brand or product that you like, there will be a button for you to click to request to become an affiliate. The brand (or product owner) is free to approve or reject your request. Usually there is an optional message box, so you can write a friendly message to them. Something like, "Hi, I love your XYZ (product name) and would like to promote it in my webpage and also to my own email subscribers. I'd be most grateful if you could approve my affiliate request. Thank you."

Now, there are two types of affiliate networks that you should be aware of;

[1] Well-Known Brands' Network

Famous Brands

Networks such as Awin, ShareASale, Commission Junction, Rakuten and FlexOffers list a lot of well-known, established retailers.

The thing about big brands is, they can afford to market themselves elsewhere and they don't need to rely on affiliates. So don't be disappointed if your affiliate application is rejected harshly by a well-known brand. It happens, they do reject, unless they see a good potential in your marketing method (your website has thousands of visitors daily, for example).

Also the commission rates they offer are generally low. Normally as low as 2% - 15%. If someone buys $100 worth of product via your affiliate link and all you get can be $2. (See, big brands don't need you!) So check the rate they offer and see if it's worth joining, before sending your request.

[2] Individual Products Network

Network such as Clickbank, JVZoo and Warrior Plus usually list products developed by individuals. Most of them are digital products (software, apps, ebooks) or access to members-only sites such as training courses. These sellers do rely on affiliates to promote their products on their behalf. So usually the commission rates that they offer are generous - up to 50%, 70% or even 100% on some products.

The disadvantage of individual products is that, because they're only available through these networks and virtually unknown elsewhere, they can be hard to trust. They can be scams. You need to examine the sales page and know a lot about the product before promoting it on their behalf - it's best to purchase it and test it yourself. Otherwise promoting a scam product can risk your reputation as an affiliate. There's also another factor that's not so trustworthy - these products are developed by a single individual or a small number or people, after-sales support is not necessarily efficient. If the product is a software, system error is not fixed quickly enough, for example.

#2 Amazon Associates

Amazon Logo

Amazon "Associate" affiliate program is suitable for any bloggers, because it allows you to promote almost anything that's sold in Amazon, and Amazon sells everything. So if you have a website in niche that's rare - a particular type of dinosaurs for example, Cushing syndrome for example - there are always books and other related products that you can pick from Amazon and promote. This also applies to other big e-commerce such as Walmart and eBay.

Anyone who owns a website or mobile app can apply to become an Amazon associate, and your application will be pre-approved almost instantly. But only when you've made the first sale (someone purchases something via your Amazon affiliate link), your original application will be closely reviewed. And at this point Amazon will be free to approve or reject your affiliate status.

Good thing about Amazon is that, if someone accesses Amazon via your affiliate link and buy something within 24 hours, you'll receive a commission on that person's total spend. Even if they don't buy the product you're promoting and buy something else instead.

Not-so-good thing about Amazon is the low commission rates, ranging 1% - 10% depending on the type of products and the distribution (.com, .co, .ca, etc.)


There are a couple of things you need to be careful about, too. Firstly you need to make a few sales within the first 6 months of opening your Associates account. If you don't, Amazon will automatically cancel your account upon the 6-months expiry date, and all your existing affiliate links placed on your website will become invalid. 

The other thing is the operating agreement - you need to obey the rules. If you promote Amazon products in the way that Amazon disapprove, they will cancel your account. That would cause you a big trouble if your only source of affiliate income was from Amazon. Because Amazon is the biggest e-commerce site, you'd be unlikely to keep the same level of passive income by having to promote another online store instead. 

#3 Join A Brand's Affiliate Program Directly

If you have a specific brand or product to promote in mind, check the website to see if they offer an affiliate program. If they do, either they either guide you to sign up directly on their site, or direct you to a designated affiliate network, explained in #1 above.  

You will be googling to see what other reviewers say about the product, and as you know about the reputation, you will also start to find out above other similar products or brands. If the other products interest you, do the same - check the brand's website to see if they offer an affiliate program. Each program provides a separate affiliate dashboard to you, so you need to bookmark the URL in the same folder and save your log in detail.

Disadvantages of making an individual affiliate agreement with each brand can be;

  • Each time you sign up with them, you need to make sure how they pay you (PayPal, wire transfer to your bank or via other clearance companies such as Payza, Payoneer)
  • You need to fill in the tax form for each one of them.
  • Most of them require the minimum payout threshold - they can pay out your commission only when you've earned more than the required amount, ranging from $50 - $200.

By the way, I personally don't trust companies who don't use PayPal as much as companies who use it. If they have difficulties using the world's most trustworthy online payments system, it implies there's something wrong in their payout system.

Commitment to One Program

Whether you engage with one affiliate program or multiple programs - I would recommend you to engage with several brands, at least. Because nothing lasts forever. Everyone talks about 'lifetime passive income', but you never know if the product or brand is still selling well in 2 years time. In order to prevent your income stream from drying up, it's best to continuously look for better systems.

Network Marketing

Having said that, by focusing on one program/system and know the products inside out, you will certainly become a specialist. It becomes very effective typically, in network marketing.


Multi-level marketers often stick to one membership-based program and it only makes sense. The program can be a store that sells products that are only available via networking, it can be a training course, or investment opportunity such as cryptocurrency and gold. 

It's all about sales technique and networking. Finding prospects, learning know-how, encouraging the downline referrals and being encouraged by others. So it does require a good dedication to be part of the organization, believe in the products while bonding with others. You'd be paying a monthly membership fee and the least you need to do is to earn enough affiliate commissions to cover your cost by recruiting referrals. Means you wouldn't want to try different MLM schemes and pay multiple membership fees here & there.

About the author 

Ray Alexander

ASD. Recovering alcoholic. LGBTQ+ advocate. Semi-retired. 15+ years of web-designing experience. 10+ years affiliate marketing. Ex-accountant. I'm nice and real. Ask me if you need any help in starting up your home business.

Thank you for your Comments!

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  1. Thank you for your advice….. I would like to join affiliate networks and start my online business soon….. I just keep missing moments. I guess I need somebody to guide me through it. I am very confused. If you can please contact me on Skype or phone me.

    Thank you, God Bless You

    1. Hi Zee, thanks for your comment. I just had to delete your Skype ID and phone number for your data protection purpose but have sent you an email. One of the advantages of working from home is not having to speak to anyone verbally. But this can be a disadvantage too, if you prefer to interact with people face to face or over the phone. Firstly we can find out what kind of affiliate marketing you are looking to do, then we can take it from there. I look forward to hearing from you – I’m here to help.

  2. Thank you for such a useful information. Looks like Amazon’s affiliate system is very strict. I have not joined yet but when I join I’ll have to be very careful.
    I am not interested in network marketing. It sounds like the same as working for an employer. I have seen some people attend physical meetings and events. Then it defeats the purpose of working from home and being able to manage your own time.
    It’s good to know about Paypal information. I will be careful if an affiliate network doesn’t have an option to pay into a Paypal account.
    Thank you, best regards.

    1. Hi Bunty, thanks for your comment. I agree, network marketing can be like working for someone else. Although it’s your own incentive, working in team or having to connect with others constantly is not my thing personally. I just added the network marketing at the end section because unlike content marketing, it usually requires you to focus on promoting constantly in order to make a good success. It’s not ideal to keep promoting multiple products. Thanks for your input!

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