Being an affiliate can be extremely rewarding, but it's often not easy. There's a lot of competition, and depending on where you live, tax legisltation is a clear and present danger.
As with any business, being a successful affiliate means being smart about how you manage and maximize the bottom line. Here are five techniques for doing just that.
Many of the things affiliates do -- from copywriting to link generation to research -- is tedious. The good news is that a lot of the labor affiliates perform can be outsourced. Freelancing services like Elance are a great place to find writers, researchers and virtual assistants. And in some cases, crowdsourcing labor through Amazon's Mechanical Turk is viable too.
Handing off low-complexity but labor-intensive tasks to others so that you can focus on performing the critical tasks nobody else can is usually not only good for the bottom line, but good for your sanity and lifestyle too.
Many affiliates use multiple channels, and own multiple properties. But many use different technologies to manage those channels and properties. For instance, I can't count the number of affiliates I've met who have portfolios of websites, many if not most built by different people running on different content management systems.
Over time, using the best tools available at the moment can become a real drain on resources, and in turn profitability. The better solution is to standardize which tools and technologies you use. For instance, if you're running a network of websites, build them all (or migrate them all) to the same CMS. Not only will this make management of your sites easier, it will allow you to invest in developing functionality that you can use on every one of your sites.
Consolidate Service Providers
For some affiliates, service provider relationships resemble technologies: a lot are used. But just as having a network of websites all built by different people on different platforms is inefficient and costly, so too is having many service providers. Take, for instance, hosting. You've probably encountered plenty of people who run multiple websites and use multiple hosting companies -- for no good reason.
Consolidating service provider relationships is not only good for the mind, it's usually good for the bottom line, as many service providers will reward you in some fashion for sending more business their way.
Easy places to consolidate service provider relationships are: web hosting, email hosting and delivery and analytics.
Do More with Less
The most successful affiliates I know have one thing in common: they know what they do well and are laser-focused on doing what they do well. This means, for instance, targeting a very specific niche and 'dominating' it instead of focusing on ten different niches. It also means knowing which affiliate programs are a good fit, and doing more with them instead of signing up for every program thinking that they might miss out on something good if they don't.
Offer Your Expertise
One of the most successful affiliates I know could live comfortably off of his own affiliate income, but instead he chooses to offer his expertise to others as a consultant. While consulting isn't for everyone, his explanation for why he consults instead of expands on his own is worth considering: "if I try to sell things I don't understand and don't care about I'll probably fail."
So instead of trying to expand into lots of new markets himself, he's almost doubled his already impressive income by helping other affiliates replicate his own success in markets they know.
Photo credit: AMagill via Flickr.