FTA: The Ethical Guide to Affiliate Selling for Creatives



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[badge style=”1″]This post was originally published 3/26/13 and can be found here.[/badge]


Affiliate Sales: What is it? How does it fit into the blogging experience?

In yesterday’s Blurb Designer Book post, I had a small disclaimer at the bottom:

As an affiliate with Blurb, I do receive a small commission when one of my readers clicks on one of the above links and chooses to make a purchase through Blurb. There is never any extra cost to the reader. While I may receive products from Blurb (and other companies) at a free or discounted rate, this does not affect the way in which I review the product. My thoughts are always my own and always honest.. My first responsibility is always to the reader and I would never purposefully try to encourage the purchase of a product that I don’t believe in. I’ll have a few more thoughts later this week about ethical affiliate selling and where it fits into the blogging experience.

Today I’m going to talk a bit about affiliate selling. I think more often than not crafty and lifestyle bloggers pass over the opportunities to explain to their readers the business side of blogging, the pros and cons, and the ethical dilemmas that arise. As a blogger (or any writer) I think its important to be upfront and honest with your readers and to give them the clearest view of how things work, both for you and for them.

What is Affiliate Selling?
Affiliate sales is a type of marketing conducted by businesses in which there is a revenue sharing arrangement between a company and rewards affiliates for customers and sales generated through that affiliate. Affiliate programs are revenue sharing arrangements that reward bloggers like me for bringing customers and sales to businesses.

What is an Affiliate?
An affiliate is a individual/business that has an agreement with a company in which the affiliate will choose to market products or services sold by the company in exchange for some type of payment (such as a commission).

In my case, I am an affiliate for several companies such as Amazon, Blurb, Lemon and Raspberry, Two Peas in a Bucket and more. In each of those cases, I have a contract with the individual company as to what they expect from me (the affiliate) and what they (the company) will offer in return.

There are two other important groups in affiliate marketing: Affiliate Management Groups and Customers. Because affiliate marketing can be time consuming and complicated, many companies are choosing to work with Affiliate Management Groups (such as Share-A-Sale), groups that manage affiliate sales of several companies, to take care of the nitty gritty back end of affiliate selling.

Why would you choose to be an affiliate sales person?
I’d like to add a side note here: Personally, I hate selling things. I absolutely hate trying to tell people to buy something that they don’t want or need. I guess I could never work in retail. That point being said, here’s how affiliate sales works for me.

When I became an ambassador for 30 Days of Lists last September I was offered an affiliate link as a form of compensation. What I liked about it was that it was something I was already telling my readers about, and if my readers chose to purchase the class, they would also be supporting me. I gradually expanded the companies that I work with.

What companies do you work with?
As of March 2013 I am an affiliate with: 30 Days of Lists, Amazon, Apple/iTunes, Big Picture Classes, Blurb , Craftsy, Moo.com, Lemon and Raspberry, and Two Peas in a Bucket.

How do you pick which companies to Affiliate with?
I personally have a very strict criteria:

  1. Will this product service benefit my readers?
  2. Do I use the products/services they sell? If not are they products/services that I know my readers will be interested in.
  3. Are they a ‘good company’? I believe in ethical sales, ethical marketing practices, and the ethical treatment of customers and employees — if I think that a company is not up to my personal ethical standard, I will not affiliate with them (nor would I want to recommend that my readers purchase things from them)
  4. Do they make affiliate selling easy? Most companies love their affiliates and view them as a part of their sales team. There should be good communication from the company (about sales, promos, new products, etc) to the affiliate. If a company is not willing to help you market their products, then they probably aren’t worth working with.
What makes a good affiliate company?
Companies that are willing to work with affiliates. The best companies will send out emails about sales they are running or new products that are being released. They will send affiliates promotional codes to share with readers, making sure that the affiliate seller is a brand-spokesperson and has the best, most up-to-date information on the company.

What makes a good affiliate seller?
Someone who is genuinely interested in the products that they affiliate for. I honestly feel that the best affiliate selling is the kind that would happen whether or not you had an affiliate link to the product.

Readers know when you are truly excited about a product or a service. That genuine talk will come straight through in your blogging. Giving honest thoughts and reviews of products will gain you trust with your readers, showing that you care about their wallets as much as you care about your own.

The true key to affiliate selling is to create a community of trust between you and your readers. If your readers know that you are only going to tell them about products and services that you think are worthwhile then they are more likely to take your advice when recommending a product.

Affiliate sales has a negative reputation because of the unethical way in which many people exploit it. Affiliate selling should never be done maliciously and you should never try to trick people into clicking on affiliate links. If your reader is clicking on an affiliate link then they need to know.

Do Not Fear! This is a GOOD thing for ethical affiliate sellers.

Because using affiliate links never costs customers any extra money, it is a GREAT way for your readers to help support you. If you’ve built up a loyal and trusting community among your readers, then supporting you through affiliate links is a no brainer. The key is always loyalty and trust between you and your audience.

Side Note: By law in the USA, you MUST inform people when you are using affiliate links (links in which you may be compensated because of a sale). I have found that the best way to do this is to be up front and honest in blog posts that are talking about affiliate products, as well as having a dedicated affiliate disclaimer somewhere on your page.

Something along the lines of: ‘This is a for-profit blog. There are affiliate links throughout this blog in which I receive a small commission. If you would like to support (my blog) without any additional cost to you, please use these links; if not please feel free to go to those websites without using those links. Thank you for your support.’

How can I start affiliate sales on my blog?
The best way to start selling through affiliate marketing is to take a look at the products and services you already use and are already blogging about. Do any of those companies offer affiliate programs? Send them an email and find out.

If you have any questions please feel free to contact me. I’ll absolutely be posting more about affiliate sales as well as the business of blogging. I am always willing to answer a few questions and help someone out who’s looking to get started on any new project. If you need a little bit more help, I offer creative consulting services through email/online chat, phone, and video — please contact me for rates and details.