Make extra money from the internet: how to start a blog or become an affiliate marketer

The internet can feel like a Wild West, but it’s also brimming with opportunities. Claire Mason looks at how to monetise your blog, and speaks to a man who set up his own affiliate business

No doubt you’ve seen countless examples of get-rich-quick schemes over the internet. It’s wise to take these claims with a whole shovel of salt and not pay any heed to them. However, it’s also worthwhile to approach the entrepreneurial opportunities the net offers with an open mind as money certainly can be made online.

Put aside dreams of getting rich in a nanosecond, and instead research the prospects that can create revenue streams in the medium to long term.

How to make a blog successful

Within the digital industry, the buzzword du jour is content. There is a reason for this. Create content that people want to consume and the money will follow. Blogs are the easiest way to get a digital enterprise set up, and if you’re successful, you may attract brands who want you to review their products, and even advertisers who will spend money with you.

However, most blogs fail. They can be set up with a domain that’ll cost you a few pounds, and a few clicks of a WordPress template. This low barrier to entry is partly the reason why they fail in their hundreds of thousands.

But it also offers bloggers with intent their largest opportunity. People start them with great enthusiasm, but they fizzle out very quickly. Add consistency to the content you produce, and you’re on to a winner.

You’ll grow an audience of readers by having a point of view, of saying something with meaning. Your blog might be funny or it might be serious, but it needs to be authentic.

Once you have your audience in place, which you do with regular content updates and linking to your content on social media platforms and other blogs, the advertisers will most likely find you.

How to attract brands to your blog

There is no harm in putting together a page on your blog explaining how brands can work with you. Would you be prepared to place a banner on your blog for a monthly fee? Or perhaps you’ll include a link in your content to the advertiser’s site.

Maybe you’ll review their product for them and write it up for your audience. Going back to the authenticity point, blogs enjoy a trust and reputation among their readers that the established media can only dream of.

Readers accept that blogs can turn into businesses, but don’t forsake the integrity you build up for advertising revenue. Incorporate your revenue stream into your blog in a way that doesn’t jar with your readers, and create an advertising policy upfront, even before you have an audience.

Clara, 57, found her blog boosted her income, but not through the established advertising model. She loved eating out and started a food blog, but it wasn’t focused on the food only: it looked at the wider dining experience each restaurant provided.

“I cover everything from hamburger joints to fine dining restaurants,” Clara says. “And I mean everything. Are their toilets clean? Do they listen when I say no ice in my drink? Am I put at a table by the kitchen if I dine on my own?”

Over three years, Clara’s witty style caught the eye of an editor for an online magazine, and she was offered a regular freelance gig as a column writer for the publication.

Affiliate marketing

Setting up as an affiliate is a proven revenue driver. Being an affiliate means you promote a brand’s products or services by linking to them on your site, and when a reader clicks on your link and buys something, the brand pays you a commission.

It’s known as referral-based marketing and just about every brand has an affiliate program since, for them, they’re only paying commissions based on proven sales.

Clickbank is the world leader in providing products that are part of affiliate programs. But they are not the only game in town. Most brands offer their goods through an affiliate program, either their own or through an established affiliate platform.

There are many video tutorials on how to set up an affiliate business on YouTube and various forums on the internet.

Clifford, 54, set up his own affiliate business by creating a website that reviewed the 25 best bingo sites. He evaluated their bonus offers, how easy it was to navigate around the site, the other players he met in the bingo chat rooms, and how easy or difficult it was to win.

“Visitors to my website were slow at first, but as I added more and more content, I saw those numbers increase,” he says.

“It was easy to set up links to the relevant bingo rooms and nothing beats the thrill of waking up in the morning to see how many new players have opened bingo accounts through the evening.”

That’s a key attraction for setting up an affiliate business: once the work is done in terms of setting up the site, the enterprise becomes a passive income stream.

Referral-based marketing: low-cost and low-risk

Another attraction about setting up an affiliate site or blog is that both are low-risk. You don’t need lots of start-up capital or to focus all your energies on building them.

Yes, you’ll need to devote some time to getting your online business off the ground, and you’ll need to be regular about it. However, you can do this while still employed in your current job.

There is an abundance of information available on how to set up a successful blog or affiliate business, and both can be done from your existing computer for only a few pounds’ investment. The rewards can be great though, and you could find yourself becoming the next big publisher on the block.

Weekly newsletter