One of the problems with being a professional organizer is that many of us work one-on-one with clients, and there are only so many hours a day we can work. When we aren’t working, we aren’t earning money. If a client cancels an appointment, we don’t earn money. If we are sick and can’t work, we don’t earn money. While we are away on vacation, we don’t earn money. To make a long story short, to be successful financially, it’s wise to create multiple income streams – ways to earn money while not working one-on-one with clients. Some of my income streams include coaching other organizers, teaching NAPO webinars, writing books, speaking, selling business forms, etc. One other option is affiliate programs.
What Are Affiliate Links and Programs?
You’ve probably noticed a sentence or two while reading a blog or newsletter that says something about a relationship the blogger has with a particular product or service and if you (the reader) make a purchase via the affiliate link, the blogger earns a small commission at no extra cost to you. An affiliate program is where a company pays a person or another business (the affiliate) a commission for sending them customers. There are many types of affiliate programs that include both products and services.
How Affiliate Programs Work
When you sign up with a company to become an affiliate, they give you a unique “affiliate link” to post on your website or social media platforms. The link could be a URL or a graphic banner ad. When one of your customers clicks on the affiliate link, it tracks back to the company (typically using cookies). Your customer has a certain period of time (30 days, for example) to buy a product at that business for you to earn a commission from the sale.
Is it really that easy?
Unfortunately, it is not that easy. Each affiliate program has a detailed user agreement (lots of small print, legal stuff to learn), so you must proceed with caution. You may find that some affiliate programs only pay commissions annually. Others may not pay unless you reach a threshold amount. Affiliate programs are not something you want to just casually jump into as there are consequences if you violate agreements. Why else would some social media platforms make it so difficult for users to link to products from their posts? It’s a complicated topic; take time to educate yourself before posting or linking anything on your website, newsletters, or social media streams.
Some jurisdictions only allow affiliate links on websites and not in e-newsletters or emails. You also need a disclaimer on your website that states that you earn a commission from some of the links (mentioned above).
It’s wise to create a body of work and build a following (by that, I mean you should regularly blog about niche topics). With a blog, you can target your posts and improve your internet search ranking (SEO). Remember, you own the content on your website – which is not true of your social media accounts. To truly benefit, you send readers from your social media accounts back to your website to read your content and click on your affiliate links.
There may also be tax implications, so you may wish to speak to your accountant and/or bookkeeper to get their take on adding another revenue stream.
Choosing an Affiliate Program
There are many affiliate programs to choose from, but not all of them will be a good fit for you and your professional organizing business.
- Terms and Conditions: If the terms and conditions are complex with many exclusions, it might be wise to avoid becoming involved with the company.
- Commission Rates and Upsells: If the rates are a few pennies per click and they don’t pay out until you reach $100, it might not be worth the effort unless you have a very active website. A lower commission rate on one $500 office chair might earn more commission than a larger commission rate on lower priced items. Always take the time to do the math! Look for affiliate programs that offer commissions on upsells. An upsell is a purchase made in addition to or after the initial purchase.
- Payouts and Returns: An affiliate program may pay out quarterly, annually, or only after you have earned a certain amount. Find out how they pay you as well (wire transfer, check, PayPal, etc.). Examine their return policies and how that relates to your commissions. You may not get a commission if the customer returns the product within 30 days of purchase.
- Support: The company should have customer service agents for affiliates in case you have concerns about your account. You should also see what metrics they track and provide. The data will help you know if you’re getting more sales from your website, newsletter, or social media feeds, and what type of content generates the most conversion (clicks or sales).
Of course, your goal is to earn income, but there are factors to take into consideration besides commission rates.
- Target Audience: There is no point in signing up with an affiliate program to offer products your customers don’t want. Stick with products and services that benefit your audience. One of the reasons the Amazon Affiliate Program is popular is because it offers so many diverse products.
- Niche Market: If you have an organizing specialty, look for affiliate programs in that area. For example, if you organize small businesses, look for office supply programs. If you specialize in move management, check out affiliate programs with various moving companies.
- Product Quality: Stick with high-quality products that you use and believe in. Remember that belonging to an affiliate program is akin to an endorsement. When you recommend products that work and endure, it reflects positively on you and your business.
- Corporate Values: As with product quality, the companies you do business with can reflect what you stand for. You might choose – or not choose – an affiliate program because of their policies on employment equity, sustainability, or social responsibility.
When choosing affiliate programs, don’t be afraid of subscribing to competing brands. In doing so, you provide your audience with a larger variety of products to choose from. This will increase your chances of a sale.
Do the research up-front and learn as much as you can. When you find the right affiliate programs for your business, it can be very rewarding and possibly lucrative.