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What Are Affiliate Programs? How They Work + How To Make Money With Them

If you have been researching ways to make an income online, you have probably come across Affiliate Marketing and ‘affiliate programs’ and are wondering what they are all about.

In this article I am going to explain exactly what affiliate programs are, how they works and more importantly how to find and choose the best ones to make money with.

Let’s get started!

What are affiliate programs?

Affiliate Programs are the arrangements that exist between a company or merchant and its affiliates. The basis of this arrangement is that the affiliates promote the company’s products and send potential buyers to their website. When one of the visitors they sent makes a purchase, the affiliates receive a commission.

This method is part of a strategy called Affiliate Marketing, which many companies use as part of their marketing tactics to generate sales.

How do affiliate programs work?

Each affiliate program has its own rules and agreements when it comes to requirements, commissions, promotional methods, and cookies.

I will explain all these factors later but for the general part, all affiliate programs work in a similar way:

But all affiliate programs work in a similar way:

  • The company creates an affiliate program with its own requirements
  • Aspiring affiliates apply to join the program
  • Those who are accepted receive a unique affiliate link that they’ll use to send people to the merchant’s website. This affiliate link is also used to track and attribute the commissions.
  • The affiliates promote the offer through their method of choice (social media, ads, a blog, youtube, etc.)
  • When somebody clicks their affiliate link and buys the product, they get paid the established commission.

Affiliate Programs Rules

Each affiliate programs has its own rules or terms which are usually are outline in what is known as an Affiliate Agreement.

The following are some of the most important factors to consider when evaluating whether you want to join an affiliate program or not.


The commission is the payment you would receive for every sale. Depending on the program it t can be either a fixed amount or a percentage of the revenue. Some programs will also have a tier-based system where affiliates can increase the percentage of their commissions based on how many sales they refer per month.

Other products that have a recurring payment like membership or apps can also generate recurring commissions for as long as your referrals keep using the products.

There are also different types of affiliate programs based on the type of commission they pay.

Cost Per Sale (CPS) Affiliate Programs

These are the most popular type of affiliate programs and it basically means that you get paid whenever somebody clicks on your link and buys the product.

Cost Per Lead (CPL) Affiliate Programs

These types of programs don’t require a sale to credit you a commission. Instead, you get paid for every email or phone number you refer. These programs are very common in personal finance and insurance niches.

Cost Per Action (CPA) Affiliate Programs

These programs pay you when a specific action is completed. The action can be anything from downloading an app, watching a video, or filling out a form.


Every affiliate program has its own requirements you need to meet in order to apply which in some cases will be pretty easy and in others more challenging.

For the easier programs, most times you only need to fill up the application form with your details and explain how you plan to promote their products.

On the other hand, for the affiliate programs with the most requirements, sometimes you’ll need to have a website, blog, or a big social media following or show proof of income you have generated through other affiliate programs.

The goal of these requirements is to make sure you have some basic knowledge of marketing and won’t promote the products in an spammy way that can prejudice the brand’s reputation.

Finally, for some programs especially with courses and digital products, you’d need to first buy the product in order to promote it.

Promotional methods

While most programs give their affiliates freedom regarding the methods and platforms they can use to promote their products, they also have some rules regarding things like the use of brand names as well as images and creative materials.

For example, some affiliate programs don’t allow you to bid on the brand’s name or related phrases when using Google Ads.

It is always worth checking what the rules are when applying to an affiliate program so you can stay compliant and don’t waste time and effort on methods that are not allowed.


Last but not least, you want to review the affiliate program payment terms. Most programs will send the payment during the next month after the refund period has passed.

This is a common practice but it is best to review the agreements, especially if you are just starting out as an affiliate and in need of the money so you don’t get surprised by the news while you are waiting for your payouts.

Types of Affiliate Programs

There are different ypes of affiliate programs based on hwo they are managed and what type of commission they pay.

Types of affiliate programs by who manages them:

Affiliate programs can be run by the company itself or by an affiliate network. Here are some of the main differences:

Merchant managed

These affiliate programs are managed in-house by the company and you can usually apply directly through their website.

Since there is no intermediary between yourself and the merchant, it is best that you do some research to make sure they pay their affiliates fairly and on time.

Network managed

Affiliate networks are companies that act as an intermediary between affiliates and merchants. They can be helpful for small comanie since they put them in front of thousands of affiliates and they also take care of all the tracking, reporting and payments.

Affiliate programs can also benefit affiliates since they give you information on a company’s record, what other’s affiliates are earning with the program as well as making sure you get paid on time.

If you want to promote an affiliate program that is managed through a network you’ll need to apply to said network first. In some cases getting accepted to the network gives you access to promote all the programs they manage and in other times you’ll need to apply again for the program from inside the network.

How to Find Affiliate Programs

85% of companies have an affiliate program so have probably come across lots of brands that have them. However, unless you are actually looking for them, you won’t notice as part of their audience.

If you are interested in making money as an affiliate, here are some of the best ways to find affiliate programs:

1. Google

If you don;t know yet what program you want to promot,e the bets way to start is by researching your option on Google. You’ll finds thousands of articles from bloggers like myself who have put together lists with the best affiliate programs in every niche you can think of.

You can try searches like:

  • Best affiliate programs in (niche)
  • Best high ticket affiliate programs
  • Best affiliate programs that are easy to join, etc.

My list of Best Affiliate Programs for Beginners is also a great place to start.

2. Spy on affiliates

Another good way to find affiliate programs that didn’t pop up on your Google searches is to check what other affiliates in the category you are interested in are promoting. You can check blogs, youtube channels, and even social media accounts and notice what products are they sharing.

Look out for links inside articles, in the description of youtube videos, or in the bio links for Instagram and TikTok accounts. If they are linking to a product, it is very likely that it is an affiliate offer and it is also a good sign that it is working well for them and generating commissions.

3. Check brands you like

We all have brands that we are love and that we are loyal to. Most chances are that the brands you like also have an affiliate program and you could make money promoting it.

To check if they have an affiliate program you can simply do a Google search for “brand + affiliate program” or go to their website and scroll all the way down. The link for the affiliate program should be on footer as “affiliate program”, “partner program” or “referral program”.

If you find that they do in fact have one, make sure to do some research and find out their commission and rules to see if they are actually worth promoting.

What to look for in affiliate programs?

Now that you know what affiliate programs are and how they work, you might be wondering how to choose one between the thousands if options.

Here are some key elements to look for to find a winning affiliate program:

Choose mid to high-ticket affiilate programs

Affiliate commissions can be anything from $0.10 cents to $2,500 per sale so it only makes sense to choose the ones that are going to pay you more and help you to make money faster.

While there can be some benefits to promote low-ticket programs like Amazon’s and other retailers there are also lots of drawbacks. People are used to buying there every day so you just need to put your links in front of people and the sales happen more easily. However, it also takes a lot more sales and a big audience to make a significant income.

On the other hand, you can choose to promote high ticket offers that pay $100+ per sale and build a full-time income faster. If you use the right methods, it’ll be easier to grow your income and you won’t need to wait for months or years to see significant results.

Make sure they are already successful

As a new affiliate it is importnat that ypu maximize your chances of success by choosing programs that are already giving good results to other affiliates.

Make sure to do some proper research about a program before promoting it. Read the reviews and pay attention to what other affiliates and content creators are doing. If they are have been promoting one affiliate program for a while it means that it is giving them good results since no one continue to put time and effort into something that isn’t paying off.

Affiliate Programs FAQ

Which is the best affiliate program?

In my opinion, the best affiliate programs are those that pay either high-ticket or recurring commissions. This is the best way to grow your income fast and build a passive income that gives you certainty every month and allows you to scale your profits month after month.

Some of my favorite programs for high-ticket and recurring commissions are Clickfunnels, ActiveCampaign, Hubspot, Clickbank, and M4trix.

How do affiliates get paid?

Affiliates get paid on a commission-basis for every purchase they help generate. To track this, affiliates get a unique affiliate link when they join a program and they use it to direct people to the offer. When someone clicks on the affiliate link, a piece of code (aka cookies) is saved in their browser so if/when they make a purchase, the commission can be attributed to the affiliate.

How to promote affiliate products?

This is one of the most common questions I get and the answer is, there are many ways to do and part of your ‘job’ as an affiliate is to choose the one you think will work best for you and for the offer.

You can promote affiliate products through social media, a blog, a website, any types of paid ads and other methods. The best one will depend on the offer, the target audience and your personal preferences.

If you want to learn more about the methods that I use to make 6-figures/year with high-ticket affiliate offers, make sure to check out this video.


Affiliate programs are part of a strategy called Affiliate Marketing in which brands allow people to promote their products in exchange for a commission when a sale is made.

Anyone can apply to join an affiliate program and make money by promoting products that are already created and tested.

Check out this article if you want to learn more about How To Make Money With Affiliate Marketing

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