The Disadvantages Of Affiliate Marketing

updated: May 3, 2022
by Ray Alexander

Affiliate marketing is full of disadvantages, did you know that? The official number of affiliate marketers in the world is unknown. But each year millions of people sign up with a large variety of affiliate programs and do nothing or quit after a short while. If you are new to affiliate marketing and already full of doubts because you're not making decent money, that's exactly it. 

"Affiliate marketing is easy" is a misstatement. There's no doubt it's easy to start, but there are quite a few negative factors that can take you in the wrong way. It will be good for you to acknowledge - or accept - the disadvantages of affiliate marketing from the start. Because won't it be better to know how to work around them rather than to be disillusioned or demotivated all of a sudden at a later date?

The Disadvantages Of Affiliate Marketing

#1 It's Not A Quick Solution To Anything

It takes a while before you start making money. Because just like any other business, affiliate marketing requires a long term strategy too. It takes time and effort to establish your own way to promote other people's products or services.

Many brands offer you a unique referral link with social share buttons. "Share our page with your friends and you'll receive a 10% commission on each product that they purchase!" You'll be extremely lucky if you simply tweet the same link over & over again and make money. That's not sustainable.

In fact, I was a typical example who underestimated affiliate marketing. I started my niche website in November many years ago and started to promote some Christmas gifts for men. I made a few hundred dollars before Christmas, not knowing it was just pure luck. Wow! Affiliate marketing is so easy, I'll carry on what I'm doing and I may be able to quit the job in the next few months!

The following 6 months - nothing. It wasn't absolutely nothing, but I struggled. My average monthly income was around...$20.

It took me 9 months before the level of my affiliate income started to pick up. A year before I finally decided to quit my day job. It takes some people 3 years - depending on the niche, how hard they work, and how much time is available each day.

And this misconception leads to #2...

#2 False Advertisements, Spams and Scams

This is a vicious circle. Many instant (but unsuccessful) affiliate marketers exist for 2 reasons;

  1. Because of the "affiliate marketing is as easy as 1-2-3" myth.
  2. Because some businesses heavily rely on affiliates to promote their products (such as cryptocurrency exchange agents), they let anyone join their partnership program instantly.

As a result, those new instant marketers randomly reach out to anyone they can find on Facebook or any other SNS, brag about their 'amazing' income stream, and repeatedly send out messages and emails, i.e. spamming.

...Which makes newly recruited affiliates think spamming is the standard way of selling. So they open a new social media account with a fake ID, do exactly the same - the only way they know - find people and boast about their 'amazing system'. Not only do they waste their time, but they lower the reputation of the whole affiliate industry.

#3 They Don't Like You!

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While some businesses allow anyone to join their affiliate program instantly, most others take a strict manual approval procedure in order to ensure their affiliates work in their best interest. Some businesses actually refuse to offer any kind of partnership programs for the very reason above (#2).

Email marketing service providers often prohibit users from placing affiliate links in their email. They need to protect their other users as well as themselves from spams, understandably. 

Facebook doesn't allow affiliate links, so you have to place a link to your own webpage where you promote products.

So what does all this tell you? You need to learn to promote affiliate products 'legitimately'. Otherwise, you'll risk harming your own reputation, and that will be damaging for your affiliate business!

#4 Very Competitive

Anyone can become an affiliate, which means it's a very competitive world. You need to learn various techniques, especially to make your website known. In order to drive organic traffic, the SEO technique is the most essential element. While you intend to use paid traffic, you need to know the best way to advertise or good traffic sellers too.

You'll have to build the specific knowledge and skill to stand out from the crowd, because...

#5 You Don't Have Your Own Brand

People choose to buy specific brands for various reasons. Because they like the style and uniqueness of the products, easy to use, price or customer service... But obviously, affiliates don't have their own brand. They merely promote products on their behalf.

You see, people happen to find you (your website from Google search, your video on YouTube or on social media) recommending a specific product. They happen to make a purchase via your link and you receive a commission. That's a one-off. You won't have recurring 'customers' until you become an influencer and people start to show interest in every product that you recommend.

#6 No Control Over Affiliate Programs

Businesses can cancel your partnership program agreement at any time, mainly for 3 reasons;

1. You haven't made any commissions for a long time.

They don't wait for your forever. For example, Amazon Associates will cancel your account automatically if you don't make any commissions in your first 180 days.

2. They found you breaching their affiliate agreement.

This is something you need to be cautious about. If the business finds you promote products not just in some unethical way, but in the way that can damage their reputation. Although they should value your honest opinion as a reviewer. If you love their product but think the customer service sucks, you can say so - in the way to support them!

3. Because they're closing down.

They simply decide that their affiliate program is not profitable for them. Or They're ceasing to trade. 

With the reason No. 1 above, you'll probably see that coming. But with a reason such as No. 2 and 3, your income source can be suddenly cut off one day.

#7 No Guarantee Of Revenue

Your monthly income can fluctuate just like any other sales results experienced by businesses. Some months are better than others, and when something like #6 above happens - your main affiliate product's suddenly gone out of the window, and you just look for alternatives elsewhere. And it will take time to promote a new business or product from zero and make money. So you need Plan B - best not to rely on one company's products.

#8 You're On Your Own

(a) You market someone else's products. (b) You work from home. These two elements together mean you're really on your own.

If you were to sell your own product, you would obviously have extensive knowledge of it, and perhaps look for areas of improvement continuously, and that could be the biggest motivational factor. But you have no control in that area because you're merely marketing someone else's products.

It means you need to know them inside out in order to be able to voice your opinion about them with confidence. But working from home means you don't get much support from the product owners. They don't provide opportunities to discuss, or Q&A sessions. All you normally get is a monthly affiliate newsletter and occasional greetings from their affiliate managers.

In fact, you don't get much support from anyone if you don't have a mentor or a community to back you up. (If you don't - join an affiliate marketing community where help and support are provided literally 24/7.)

The Disadvantages Of Affiliate Marketing

This is a list of all the negatives, but you know there are many advantages to affiliate marketing too. Don't be discouraged! Just by knowing all the pros and cons, you won't be wasting your time wondering if the job is ever suitable for you.

(Real Time) Affiliate Income Report Last Month
April 2022: $6,350.00

About the author 

Ray Alexander

Hi! I’m Ray. Over the past 15+ years I have been involved with web designing, programming and online marketing. I work from home and have a passion for exploring new tools, services and programs in order to make money online. I’m here to help you succeed in building a profitable business by sharing my experiences. Any question, don’t hesitate to ask!

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  1. It’s an amazing article. I agree with all the points. I’m slowly beginning to understand that I have to be myself and be honest. But how do I stay true to myself?

    Even people who don’t know what affiliate marketing means do know that if you heavily promote something then you must be after the commission. It’s also a lonely business and your income is not guaranteed that’s a scary thought of never making success. It’s hard to keep your mental state strong or you get influenced by all kinds of negatives.

    1. Hi Chris, thanks for your comment. I know how you feel, but some of the points (no guarantee of revenue, you’re on your own, competitive) also relate to any work-from-home business in general. If you are struggling with something and need help, I’m here – don’t hesitate to let me know, I’ll see what I can do for you!

  2. Very good post. I think you have the points because previously I was struggle promoting affiliate products and the return very disappointment.

    1. Hi Amulya, thanks for your comment. Yes I do recommend you to try a niche affiliate marketing if you’re willing to learn and keep these “con’s” in mind. Any specific questions, don’t hesitate to ask me again any time.

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