Affiliate Marketing for Students: Everything You Need to Know

When I was a student, I spent the majority of my time drinking beer and playing Mario Kart. It would have been far more productive to kick up an affiliate side hustle. I had the time and more than enough energy – I just didn’t have my priorities straight. Life could have been much better for me much faster had I started an affiliate marketing business as a student.

The fact you’re reading this means you’ve got a much more proactive attitude than I had (and most of your fellow students have). Great – it means you’ve got a head start.  

In this article I’ll share everything you know about doing affiliate marketing as a student. Reasons to get started, reasons to NOT get started, and what steps you’ve got to take if you think it’s right for you.

Reasons to do affiliate marketing as a student

Here you’ll find the most attractive reasons to start doing affiliate marketing as a student.

Barely any upfront investment needed

Most businesses need both an upfront and continues cash investment. Not affiliate marketing. You can cover an entire year’s worth of business expenses for less than $100.

The vast majority of tasks that affiliate marketing consists of (writing content, building links, putting together a website, doing keyword research, data analysis) are things you can do yourself.  

You can work on it whenever you want

Got a spare hour to kill before college? You can bang out an article. Are your friends out partying while you don’t feel like it? You can improve the design of your site. There’s always something you can do at any given time.

Are you crunching down for exams? Worry not. It’s okay to not touch your site for a week (or two). It will still be there when you get back.

Affiliate marketing is quite possibly the most flexible business model out there. You don’t have to liaise with clients or suppliers. You don’t have worry about opening hours. Nobody will be beating you up for not checking your email for a few days.   

You’ll gain invaluable business skills that college won’t teach you

College is great in that it provides a structured learning environment, teaches you theoretical knowledge and offers some practical applications. But affiliate marketing is the type of environment where you can truly learn and hone real-life business skills which aren’t usually covered by a college curriculum.

Here are some things you’ll pick up along the way when doing affiliate marketing:

  1. Digital marketing skills. Affiliate marketing heavily relies on digital marketing tactics such as Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and social media marketing. There’s only one way of learning these things and that’s by doing.
  2. Sales and persuasion techniques. As an affiliate marketer, you’ll need to convince your audience to buy the products you’re promoting. This requires understanding the art of persuasion, crafting compelling narratives, and implementing effective sales techniques.
  3. Data analysis. Affiliate marketing involves tracking and analyzing your performance, including click-through rates, conversion rates, and ROI. These are crucial analytical skills which are key in any business setting.
  4. Customer understanding: To be a successful affiliate marketer, you need to understand your audience’s needs and preferences. This deep customer understanding can help you not only in marketing but also in product development, customer service, and other areas of business.
  5. Entrepreneurship and self-management. Since you’re essentially running your own small business as an affiliate marketer, you’ll gain skills in entrepreneurship and self-management. This includes learning how to be self-motivated, manage your time effectively, and handle the ups and downs of running a business.
  6. Content creation and website building. Effective affiliate marketing involves creating high-quality, engaging content and developing a trustworthy looking website.

It can be very, very lucrative – even if you only work on it parttime

There are affiliate marketers out there who’re earning hundreds of thousands a month. Are these numbers realistic for any affiliate marketer, let alone a parttime student? No, but it shows you that there is no real income cap on the business model.

With many other jobs you can do online – like offering graphic design or other freelance gigs – you’ll be always constrained by your time. You’re trading your hours for money, and when you stop working the money stops coming in.

You’re building an asset

An affiliate site doesn’t only give you a monthly income. You’re also building a digital asset that grows in value as long as you’re putting the right amount of effort into it. And assets can be sold.

Affiliate websites are getting sold on a daily basis for a monthly profit multiplier of 20-40x. Which means that if you manage to get your site up to a monthly profit of $1000, you could sell it for up to $40.000.

Reasons to avoid affiliate marketing as a student

Affiliate marketing definitely isn’t a good choice for every student.

Affiliate marketing is a lonely gig

This is something I didn’t really consider when I started my career as a full-time affiliate marketer. Affiliate marketing is a lonely job path by design. You’re rarely interacting with suppliers (you affiliate partners) and you don’t have any clients.

And if you’re doing affiliate marketing as a student, you’ll definitely won’t have the funds to hire a team.

One way to make it more social is to start your site with a partner. But this comes with a bunch of challenges – especially if both of you are working on it  parttime. The main point of contention in these types of partnerships revolve around commitment around time and having skill sets which are complementary.

Luckily there a many Facebook groups and Reddit groups around affiliate marketing where you can interact with peers.

But if you’re a really social animal, you might want to consider a business or job which is a bit more human-oriented by design.    

Earning your first (meaningful) income can take a long time

Are you strapped for cash and looking to earn some money quickly? Then affiliate marketing is probably one of the worst ways to go about this.

Sure, you can earn your first few affiliate dollars in a few months. But turning it into an income stream which makes a meaningful impact on your financial situation can easily take anywhere from 9 to 12 months.

And that’s assuming you’re super consistent with it and are doing (most) things right.  

No matter what a flashy TikToker or YouTuber tells you, affiliate marketing is not a quick path to riches. Nor is it easy.

How to get started with affiliate marketing  

If after reading this you feel that affiliate marketing might be right for you, then I’ve got some good news. Kicking off your affiliate marketing journey is pretty straight forward.

The basic steps to get started with affiliate marketing are as follows:

  1. Pick a niche for your website
  2. Identify relevant affiliate programs
  3. Build your affiliate website
  4. Start publishing content

I explain what all of this means in my super comprehensive affiliate marketing guide for beginners.

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