Absolute Basic Starting Costs

As I’ve said earlier in this blog, an affiliate marketing business is one of the least expensive to launch, but a few small starting costs still exist. In this piece, I’m going to break down all of the items that are absolutely essential to buy, along with their costs. Of course, lots of other things are very useful for helping your business grow, but I won’t cover them here.

One Laptop with Wi-Fi capability

Most of you who are reading this already have the use of a laptop, and yes, it’s important. Doing business on a mobile phone is not a realistic option.

This is probably your single biggest expense, but if you don’t have access to a laptop, don’t despair. First, you don’t need to purchase one that’s state of the art. Nearly anything with Wi-Fi is fine for doing business on. For an older laptop, consider an online marketplace, or look on Google for dealers that sell ‘refurbished’ laptops.

If money is still an obstacle, think about selling some of your things, either on eBay or an online marketplace. Alternatively, if you like to craft things, consider selling them on sites like Etsy. As long as you have things that others can buy – and skills that you can trade for money – you don’t have to worry about making what you need for covering your starting costs.

Safe, reliable Internet service

In most parts of the world, the regular use of a quality Internet connection will be one of your starting costs. However, if you can get free access where you are, consider yourself lucky.

For most businesses, the ideal solution – and probably the least expensive, in the long run – is to have your local telecommunications provider install an Internet connection in your home, for which you’ll usually pay a monthly fee once it’s active.

If a home connection is impossible for some reason, there are several other ways to get connected to wi-fi during the times that you actively work. Nowadays, many businesses rent temporary workspace by the hour, day, or month – and wi-fi is included in the price. There are also the well-known standbys of hotel business centers, coffee shops, and Internet cafes. Even in small communities, you are likely to have a few options.

Email marketing: automated and broadcast service

If you’ve seen affiliateswim.com’s Coaching section, you already know that you can’t have a successful business without building a quality email list. For that, you need to subscribe to an emailing service that allows you to set up both sequences of messages to new list members, along with one-time broadcast emails to your entire list.

Although there are several options to choose from, it’s my opinion that GetResponse is the service that offers the best value and performance for the lowest price.

Funnel builder or other web page tool/host

If you’re not comfortable with HTML, subscribing to a funnel builder is usually the least expensive option. If you DO want to code your own pages, you can simply subscribe to a web hosting company instead, but the price is not likely to be much different from an inexpensive funnel builder.

For my beginning students, I recommend the Home Business Academy’s HBA Funnel builder for much the same reasons that I recommend GetResponse for emails. Both are powerful, both are flexible, and they offer very good value for just about the lowest price available.

Final words

Taking action is the key, my friends. And now you have the plan. You can’t succeed until you start.

Coach’s answers, session 1


Here’s at least some of the questions that came in this time.

Magige David wrote:

“Hello how to improve business”

I don’t know what products Magige is trying to market, so I can’t give any specific advice, but I CAN offer some broad advice about improving marketing campaigns that, in my opinion, everyone should know.

Every successful marketing campaign, whether it’s from a solo affiliate business or the marketing executive at a giant company like Microsoft or Sony, requires two steps that the marketers have to perform. There are no exceptions to this rule.
First step: Build an audience of people who all have the same type of problem.
Second step: Create and send marketing messages to your audiences that will show them (not just tell them) how your product(s) can help them solve the problems you identified earlier.

Don’t worry, I’m going to talk about these steps in much more detail in a future blog post. For now, just understand that if you follow both of these steps correctly, your marketing absolutely will succeed. If you don’t, it won’t.

Don’t forget to prepare more questions to ask in the next session.

Ask the coach, session 1


To help my students succeed, I’ve decided to hold Q&A sessions in this blog from time to time, and here’s the first one. All you have to do is email one question to me by a particular deadline (which I will announce at each new session), and I will publish the questions and my answers in a blog post to be written after the deadline. Simple as that. However, you might want to look at the details below before you actually send something off.

More information

In each session, I will answer questions about any of the following topics:

  1. The Affiliate Swim business
  2. Affiliate marketing generally
  3. Other online marketing
  4. Other types of marketing

Include information in the email about how you want me to identify you when I publish your question in a blog. I can use your real name, or an alias, or keep the question anonymous. Whatever you want.

If you want to include your city/state-province/country in your identification, let me know that information, too. However, it isn’t required.

Please note that I might not use your question if it’s a duplicate of someone else’s, or if it’s not appropriate to publish in the blog. Don’t take it personally.

The deadline for this session is 12:00 AM, November 4, 2021 UTC. Here’s a link to a UTC clock

Can’t wait to hear from you all!

Coach Dave

Answers for this session are in this post.

The downside to advertising

megaphone guy

I believe very much in the power of online advertising, but in reality, the downside to advertising is significant.

I’ve often heard new marketers say things like, “If only I had a multimillion-dollar ad budget, I could be as successful as Amazon.” Maybe some of you have been thinking this. If so, stop it. You can’t expect miracles from any advertising service.

In the online world, the downside of advertising of any kind consists of three disadvantages:

  1. Ads do nothing to increase the trust that your audience may have. (Remember how trust is one of the three pillars of marketing?)
  2. Everyone seeing your ad knows that they are going to be pitched. Although it’s still possible to build trust from this mindset, it’s harder than building trust from simple curiosity.
  3. As soon as you stop paying for the ad, it stops giving you traffic.

If you want to overcome these problems, you need to do two things:

  1. Optimize all your ads for profit metrics, and
  2. Develop as much of a base of free traffic as you can

Optimizing for profit

To generate a profit from your advertising, you as an affiliate need to be offering upsells that you know to be profitable. The other things you need are the major metrics from the advertising service, which are:

  • Your Click Through Ratio (CTR)
  • Your Cost Per Click (CPC)
  • Average value of a sale (probably from your vendor’s affiliate tracking software).

All this information is required when you want to calculate the ROI (Return on Investment) for your advertising spend, but it does not reveal the entire picture.

For example, you would expect a strong ROI to generate large volumes of traffic, have a high CTR, and a low CPC. That’s generally true, BUT many successful ad campaigns for high-ticket items end up having a smaller volume of transactions, a slightly lower CTR, and a slightly higher CPC.

The two most important things you can do after calculating profitability are to make sure that your user experience is clear, smooth, and engaging; and to make good use of your analytics software to track user behavior accurately.

Too much downside of advertising? Grow your free traffic!

The second part of overcoming advertising problems is not as difficult as it sounds, even if you are renting traffic to a sales funnel for your first offer, but free traffic demands free content, and that can be very time consuming.

The most widespread free content that small businesses use today is blogging, and that’s for a couple of reasons. First, an experienced writer can bang out a decent blog post fairly quickly, and second, blog posts are about the easiest thing to optimize for search engine keywords.

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with YouTube videos or podcasts for delivering free content, although they tend to take longer to create. They do support keywords for SEO, of course, but a text-based blog is able to take better advantage of these.

Another way to generate organic traffic, although it’s likely to be in small amounts at first, is through social media. Many people like to follow businesses on Facebook or Instagram, so it pays to make your presence known.

Affiliate Swim is a teaching site for online entrepreneurs who want to learn how to launch affiliate campaigns.

You can study our free affiliate marketing course in the Coaching section. For additional support, you can join our Facebook group for free coaching from experts and other students, as our time allows.

Once you launch your campaign, check out the store, which has many different nice-to-have items for most online entrepreneurs.

Handling criticism, part 1


When you have a business with any traffic, you can expect a regular stream of criticism, so your skill in handling criticism the right way is incredibly important.

The wrong way, of course, is to lose your temper and enter a verbal slug match with your critics. The critic might just be trying to find out more about the product you’re selling, for instance. Or, your critic may just be a “Karen” who feeds on combat.

A better approach is to draw the critic into the open, and ask for specifics about why they’re concerned. This approach can not only win over potential buyers, but also deflate any empty trolling.

For an example, here’s a conversation that I recently had with a male Karen that I’m calling “Ken-Ken” for anonymity.

Ken-Ken: Just another work-at-home scam. But what do you expect form someone who runs a business but goes out of his way to conceal his identity?

Me: I don’t conceal my identity at all. You can talk to me any time using my email on the site.

By the way, what is it you think I’m promising that would make this a scam?

Ken-Ken: The scam part is the $500/year for software that you are selling and your claims that anyone will get rich (besides yourself) following your magical instructions. But you know that already so why ask me?

Me: I don’t sell any software, or even any subscriptions for $500/year. You have the wrong business.

Ken-Ken: You need to look at your website.

Me: Again, I don’t sell software; I just recommend various products for online entrepreneurs that are (in my opinion) nice to have. I’m definitely not saying they’re needed for getting rich.

Also, I sure as hell don’t make any claims that people will get rich following “my magical instructions.” They’re not magical and they’re not original to me: they’re actually a common marketing strategy that has a good track record of success.

Ken-Ken: And you get a sales commission for the products you are flogging. A good way to spot a grifter is someone who tells you that he will make you rich but wants nothing in return. It reminds me of that orange guy who ran for president and said he would pay for his own campaign – it never happened.

Me: Of course I want something in return. I hope my audience will like some of what I recommend enough to buy it. I just don’t require them to buy anything. That’s not a scam and I think you know it.

Ken-Ken: As you inflate the value of your magic formula, it would be a safe bet that you are upselling other product as well. As the things you are selling are get-rich schemes it is kind of self-evident that you don’t have much interest in providing value.

Me: I am providing value in my course and coaching. People who don’t like the products I link to simply don’t buy them. Just like with standard advertising. The other vendors have nothing to do with my value.

Ken-Ken: Like many of the people running coaching scams, you seem like you could really do well if you turned your hand to some productive enterprise that enriches others as well as yourself.

Me: I very honestly believe that my coaching does enrich others. I also don’t make wild promises that require others to give me money, which is what a scam is. This ad doesn’t promise anything.

I’ll grant that the make-money-online space IS full of scams and con artists, but there are also many of us who are actually honest.

Ken-Ken: When all you can do is repeat yourself it’s time for a new grift.

Me: I can do (and have done) a lot more. In your case, I thought I had to repeat myself to you in order to explain what a scam is. Obviously that’s not going to work; you’re going to believe whatever you want, accurate or not. That’s okay; everyone who reads your posts is going to see that you have nothing whatsoever to support your accusations.

Ken-Ken: Everyone who reads your promise of instant wealth with no further work should, hopefully, see the holes in the scam.

Me: Everyone knows I never promised instant wealth. Apart from a few lottery tickets, instant wealth doesn’t even exist. Yet again, you decided that you’re only going to believe a personalized fiction for yourself. Great. Knock yourself out.

From an Affiliate Swim ad comment section in Facebook

As you can see from the conversation above, one of the best ways of handling criticism is to show a sense of humor. In the next part to this series, we’ll look at some other strategies.

Affiliate Swim is a teaching site for online entrepreneurs who want to learn how to launch affiliate campaigns.

You can study our free affiliate marketing course in the Coaching section. For additional support, you can join our Facebook group for free coaching from experts and other students, as our time allows.

Once you launch your campaign, check out the store, which has many different nice-to-have items for most online entrepreneurs.

Fear and Trust in affiliate marketing


Fear and trust are two of the strongest human emotions, and whether you like it or not, both of them will work within you during your journey to grow your business. In fact, one of these emotions is likely to determine your success or failure, as I’ll explain here.

If you’ve been reading this blog, you likely came across my article on the top mistakes made in affiliate marketing. These are primarily technical errors, or flaws in the design of affiliate campaigns. But believe it or not, none of them is the reason that most unsuccessful affiliates fail in their businesses. That primary reason for failure is entirely in their heads, and it’s – you guessed it – FEAR.

The way that fear affects a new marketer takes a very specific path, so you should learn to recognize the symptoms. You start out full of new knowledge and new hope as you put together your first campaign, and after careful, hard work, you launch your new campaign with a feeling of celebration. What happens then? Weeks go by with no sales, no orders, and not nearly enough people attracted to your site to create enough traffic for a sale. This is the point where fear sets in.

When you, as an online entrepreneur, experience this type of fear, you typically react in one of two ways:

  • You think this must be the end of the road. No email signups from ads, no friends left on Facebook. After a few weeks of staring at your screen in disappointment, it can be very easy to decide that your project is a dud. So, you throw in the towel and take everything down. Maybe you even give up completely on affiliate marketing.
  • You decide you need some quick fix to get the sales started, and you begin frantically looking online for a ‘secret’ way to make it happen. Of course, no such secret exists, so all you actually accomplish is to waste a lot of time and money.

The most powerful weapon against these particular fears happens to be trust, and in this case, trust actually plays two roles.

Maybe you saw my first blog post, where I said that trust is one of the three pillars of any type of marketing. Yes, it’s really that fundamental: there is no way to be successful unless enough people trust your business. A very small number of people might trust you fairly quickly, and another small cluster of people won’t ever trust you regardless of what you say or do. For the rest, it takes time to earn their trust, and some take more time than others. The main thing to remember is that, in the online world, nobody is going to stumble on a random person or business one day and trust them the next. Again, trust is earned, and earning people’s trust usually takes time.

However, in this business there’s more to trust than simply the trust you earn from your buyers. You also have to trust in yourself. Trusting yourself means being able to attempt all kinds of things – many of them for the first time – without judging yourself too harshly. Here are a few tips to help you build this kind of trust when it comes to your affiliate business:

  • Anything worth achieving takes longer than you might expect.
    Pride and appreciation can only develop over time, so it’s essential to learn to be patient. Keep moving forward and don’t become discouraged: there are no overnight successes.
  • It’s not complicated, so don’t overthink it.
    You don’t need to become the world’s foremost expert at a task just to get things done. Nor do you need to wait for someone to do things for you.
  • The path to success is never straight.
    You could find your business starting to branch out in several different directions, with many different customer segments. That’s actually a great thing, if you’re starting to make a profit. But it means that you’ll have a lot more to learn, and your trust in yourself will have to keep growing.

If you haven’t taken the plunge yet, go to the coaching section and study our free beginner’s course. And I’ll see you in the Facebook group.

Affiliate Swim is a teaching site for online entrepreneurs who want to learn how to launch affiliate campaigns.

You can study our free affiliate marketing course in the Coaching section. For additional support, you can join our Facebook group for free coaching from experts and other students, as our time allows.

Once you launch your campaign, check out the store, which has many different nice-to-have items for most online entrepreneurs.

Pay to Play affiliate programs

No pay to play

In the affiliate marketing world, pay to play affiliate programs refer to a requirement, imposed by the vendor, that all affiliates must purchase the vendor’s product before they are allowed to market it.

First things first: this is not illegal. It’s also not a scam, as long as the vendors follow the usual laws and regulations about things such as making promises that they can’t keep.

That being said, here’s why I don’t like this practice.

Is it necessary?

First, it’s totally unnecessary. Think of the example from the web funnel design in our course, where I use an e-book for learning auto repair as an example. As I said in the course, I’m not a mechanic. All I have to know as a marketer is what the needs of the audience for the product are, and how the product can help them. Being a mechanic wouldn’t hurt in understanding these things, but it’s certainly not essential. Also, there’s one more major reason that pay to play is unnecessary: most vendors don’t do it. You are very likely to find competing products that are just as good and that don’t have a pay-to-play requirement.

What message does it send?

Second, it’s bad for business, both yours and the vendor’s. Never forget that your affiliate business is still a real business, with the same top-level goal as any other business: to maximize your profit. If the product that you’re required to buy does not move your financial needle in a net positive direction – then it’s a waste of your money, plain and simple. It absolutely must create more business for you than it costs. And how is it bad for the vendor? It sends out a loud message that “This product is so mediocre that we can’t make it profitable unless we force our affiliates to buy it!” If I were a direct vendor, there’s no way I would be willing to send this message to my affiliates, much less the buying public!

In the final analysis, you as a business operator need to carefully look at any offer before you decide whether it will bring in more customers for you. An offer that comes without strings attached tends to be better than an offer that has them.

Affiliate Swim is a teaching site for online entrepreneurs who want to learn how to launch affiliate campaigns.

You can study our free affiliate marketing course in the Coaching section. For additional support, you can join our Facebook group for free coaching from experts and other students, as our time allows.

Once you launch your campaign, check out the store, which has many different nice-to-have items for most online entrepreneurs.

Affiliate networks: what newbies should know

The best way to think about affiliate networks is that they act like a Tindr for the world of affiliate marketing. Although each network has its own niche or variation on the business model, all of them are in the business of pairing vendors with affiliates so that more affiliate sales get made.

How it works

  1. A vendor pays the network to be added to their database. The vendors then list products that they choose, the commission rates for each product, and any marketing tools that the affiliates might use (like ad banners). The vendor can pay the network a flat monthly rate, although there are many other types of payment structures.
  2. Affiliates join the network for free, although they are often vetted for other things, such as how much volume they’ve sold recently, or how much traffic one of their websites has. By the way, networks often refer to affiliates as “publishers,” because it has become so common for bloggers and other online publications to use affiliate ads to generate revenue.
  3. Any affiliate can request to advertise any vendor’s products. The vendor is entitled to say yes or no. Similarly, the vendor can contact specific affiliates and ask them to advertise the vendor’s products: again, the affiliates can say yes or no.
  4. When a vendor and affiliate have mutually agreed to market a product, the network automatically generates a link to identify the affiliate, vendor, and product (all encoded, of course). Whenever a potential customer clicks on that link and later purchases the product, the network records the sale and transfers the commission from the vendor to the affiliate.

Why it works

  1. The vendor wins because the cost of belonging to a network is less than the cost of developing and maintaining the vendor’s own affiliate program. And of course, both are less expensive than the vendor paying directly for ads in order to bring in more clients.
  2. The affiliate wins because the network is a convenient one-stop shop to find vendors who want to work with them. Also, a good network has vetted its vendors, so there is less risk of the affiliate not being paid the agreed commission.
  3. The network wins because it’s the type of business that can scale extremely well. There’s no limit to the number of paying vendors it can sign on, and no significant increase in overhead when more vendors join.

Should you join a network?

That depends on whether the kind of vendors they feature would be a good fit for your own goals. In any case, it doesn’t do any harm to belong to a network. You certainly don’t have to be exclusive to them.

Affiliate Swim is a teaching site for online entrepreneurs who want to learn how to launch affiliate campaigns.

You can study our free affiliate marketing course in the Coaching section. For additional support, you can join our Facebook group for free coaching from experts and other students, as our time allows.

Once you launch your campaign, check out the store, which has many different nice-to-have items for most online entrepreneurs.