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How 11 Affiliate Marketers Made Their First $1000 in Commissions

Updated on October 15, 2020

12 Min Read
How affiliate marketers made their first commissions

Affiliate marketing can be the ideal choice for people who want to generate a sizable amount of income, without having to work on product development. You sell somebody else’s product, and make money on commissions. Sounds simple enough? However, it’s not as straightforward. If you are wondering how to make money with affiliate marketing, you need to know it’s not that simple.

As with every other thing in life, the beginning is often the hardest part for most people. But, once the money begins to roll in, the motivation perks up, and you are also able to reinvest in order to improve your marketing strategies.

We realized that 2020 has not been the ideal year so far for some affiliate marketers out there. That is why we reached out to some of the industry professionals to find out how they got started, and what tips they have to share about their journey to the first $1,000 they earned in commissions.

What The Experts Have to Say

We compiled advice from some of the leading affiliate marketers in the world. Here’s what they had to say about reaching their first $1,000.

1. About the Contributor

My name is RJ Weiss. I am the founder of The Ways To Wealth. It is an independent personal finance website that publishes reviews, “how to” guides, best-of lists, product comparisons and more. Since our inception in 2016, over 9 million readers have turned to us for insights and recommendations on topics as wide-ranging as side hustles, freelancing, frugal living, investing, travel hacking and everything in between.

How He Made the First $1,000

I earned my first $1,000 with the combination of Pinterest traffic driven to good content that included relevant affiliate offers.

This was in 2016 when it was easier to get content to go viral on Pinterest. Yet, today, Pinterest is still a great traffic source for new blogs. In fact, If I was starting from scratch today, I would put a lot of resources into Pinterest because it’s less competitive than Google.

The key to making Pinterest work is treating it as a search engine. In other words, think of each new Pin you submit as a new blog post. You want to make sure it has a title that users want to click, has a pin description that explains what the reader will learn, and the content is high-quality.

I often create multiple, and sometimes dozens, of Pins per blog post too. With the idea that Pinterest is a search engine, this allows one single blog post to rank for many keywords. More so, this strategy allows you to bring in quality, long-term traffic to your site. Some of my pins from years ago, still see traffic because of this.

Pinterest doesn’t work for every niche out there, however, if you happen to be in a nice where there is a lot of content, it’s a great place to bring in that initial traffic, and therefore early revenue, to your site.

Increase trafficSource: Social Pilot

2. About the Contributor

I am Adam Connell, the Founder of Blogging Wizard; a leading learning resource for anyone who wants to start and grow a blog.

How He Made the First $1,000

Around 2011-2012 I ran a blog about building websites with WordPress. I’d been building websites for a while and wanted to share what I was learning.

Pretty soon, I started to notice that the tools, plugins and themes I used to build websites had affiliate programs.

I had no expectations that I would make any money but I liked the idea of possibly being able to make a bit of extra income. After a few months I’d made my first $750. It was sometime later till I broke the $1,000 but that’s a story for another time.

How did I do it?

I created buyer intent content around the tools I used on a regular basis. I knew the tools inside out so it was easy to create tutorials, reviews and list posts.

There were two key factors here:

  • The tools I promoted were amazing. Their core offering was spot on and so was there support. The same went for the design & UX of their website. Fully believing in the products you promote is key.
  • I didn’t just randomly drop affiliate links in articles – each affiliate link had purpose. Each article was focused on satisfying a particular need.

While there are a lot of other factors to consider in your affiliate marketing strategy, these are two that are extremely important.

And That’s That!

3. About the Contributor

My name’s Leigh has been doing affiliate marketing and have sold two projects in the last three years — one for mid-six figures and the other for low-seven figures. I’m also a very happy Cloudways customer. Leigh Louey-Gung is the Founder of Life Operating System.

How He Made the First $1,000

I started affiliate marketing back in 2014 in the VPN space (back before it blew up and was dominated by the major tech sites). We made my first thousand dollars by building our website on a domain name with an existing backlink profile.

We did extensive keyword research to identify a decent opportunity we thought we could make money from, without having to invest thousands of dollars to rank for the keywords. I wrote the first piece of content on the site and we then hired a team of guest post outreachers to try and secure guest posts on other websites.

When we had guest post requests accepted, I wrote the content, posted it on the websites, and pointed backlinks back to our websites. This process took two months before we started to see results and three months before we made our first commission. By month four, we’d made our first thousand dollars in affiliate marketing.

4. About the Contributor

Kevin Miller is the Founder and CEO of The Word Counter. He is a growth marketer with an extensive background in SEO, paid acquisition and email marketing. Kevin studied at Georgetown University, worked at Google for several years, is a Forbes contributor and has been a head of growth and marketing at several top tier startups in Silicon Valley.

How He Made the First $1,000

I monetize my content with Google Adsense and the Grammarly affiliate program. The Grammarly affiliate program pays .20 cents for a free sign up and $20 for a paid sign up. We are doing everything we can to boost our search rankings, and we have drastically increased our budget for content creation while many others have slowed down.

Writers have a greater capacity to get new topics completed, and it helps me plan out the entire years’ worth of content and get it at a cheaper rate. We are publishing one new post per day and will continue to do so in perpetuity! This will help to grow our business and then we will layer on email marketing and potentially paid Facebook ads and Google Adwords.

Google AdsSource: Group Twenty Seven

5. About the Contributor

Nick Drewe is the founder of – they help over 3 million online shoppers save money every month, and this is his story about his initial success with affiliate marketing.

How He Made the First $1,000

Getting started as an affiliate marketer is daunting. Which advertisers should you promote? Which networks should you join? Affiliate marketing is all about building relationships, and that can take time.

At Wethrift, we made our first thousand dollars (and many more after that) by leveraging what are known as sub-affiliate networks. Sub-affiliate networks are essentially aggregators of affiliate relationships.

Sub-affiliate platforms like Yieldkit and Skimlinks give affiliates access to tens of thousands of advertisers without having to build tens of thousands of individual relationships. As an affiliate marketer, this means you can easily experiment with promoting many different advertisers to your audience, and quickly learn which programs perform the best.

All sub-affiliate networks take a share (usually around 25%) of any revenue that you generate through them, however if you have success with an individual advertiser, you can always build a relationship with them directly.

Earn at your own pace.

Refer customers and set up your passive income stream

6. About The Contributor

Robin Young is the CEO of Fitness Savvy, a gym equipment  site where you can learn about fitness, filter products in detail  using fitness-specific attributes. Their filters even include mini-guides, which link to in-depth guides to help you better understand what the attributes mean.

How He Made the First $1,000

When I started out, I didn’t want to be a typical affiliate marketer. Rather than find a keyword-rich domain and copy what others were doing, I decided I wanted to build a brand. Unfortunately, this meant that I tried working on too many elements at the same time.

This meant that it took a while to earn my first $1,000. In hindsight, there would have been nothing wrong with taking the easy money route at the start while working on the brand. The easy route would have been focusing on a very niche set of products and creating detailed reviews and buying guides.
I spent too much time concentrating on a wide range of categories (from whey protein to resistance bands) and did lots of link building which was pointless as the site was too big and had lots of thin content from where I tried to add as many products as possible.

By removing thousands of product pages, concentrating on core categories and creating detailed product pages, search rankings began to improve, and now income is a few thousand dollars per month. My advice for new affiliate marketers is to try and break the mold, but to use tried and tested methods to start with while developing your unique product.

7. About the Contributor

Patrick Garde is the co-founder and technical director of ExaWeb. He runs a digital marketing agency in the Philippines.

How He Made the First $1,000

Before starting my own digital marketing agency, I started out as an affiliate marketer. I researched niches and websites that sell well on Flippa and try to replicate it. If I remember correctly, I made my first thousand dollars in affiliate commissions when I made an Angry Birds blog where we put out content for walkthroughs, tips, and tricks, as well as merchandise.

Since there was demand for Angry Birds products back then, we were able to average around $700-$900/month in affiliate commissions. I was able to sell it on Flippa for a few thousand dollars as well. As for failures, I made a website like StubHub. People visited my website which has affiliate links on StubHub.

I was able to generate some commissions, but it did not last long. Unfortunately, I was not able to sell the website as I did not know back then much about legalities on websites and such. In addition, I also made a site about Taylor Swift. I thought we would not face any problems as there are plenty of fan sites for Taylor Swift.

I’m not sure if I pissed their legal team as they issued a legal action and they took my fan site. The learnings I got from my experience is there is plenty of risk if you are going to play around with trademarks (Angry Birds, StubHub, Taylor Swift, etc.) as your website can be taken by the legal owner. My best advice is to create your own brand where you will do your affiliate marketing to avoid any troubles.

8. About the Contributor

Stacy Caprio does marketing for Which helps people overcome skin complications and boosts their confidence.

How She Made the First $1,000

I’ve done affiliate marketing in several niches and on programs including Amazon, CJ, and more. I made my first thousand in affiliate commissions through product reviews, and sharing these on YouTube and blog posts. I still promote affiliate products today but my focus has shifted to selling my own products because you get such a higher revenue percentage when the product is one you are wholesaling or selling versus selling via an affiliate link.

9. About the Contributor

My name is Wilfrid Mpoyi and I am a digital marketer.

How I Made the First $1,000

Initial success with affiliate marketing. I was in a bad financial situation before making my first commissions, my previous business failed. I had no more money to invest in advertising. Free traffic was my only option. I created a YouTube channel on a very specialized topic: Internet memes. People consume a lot of them on social media. I knew there was a market. Though, It took me several months to get enough audience to build trust with brands. I promoted merchandise around memes.

At the peak, I made over $ 2,700 in a single month just on commissions. From this short experience, I learned two things. Any topic can be monetized as long as there are enthusiasts. As I still make money with this YouTube channel doing nothing, affiliate marketing is a great way to create passive income.

10. About the Contributor

I am Jan Kovac, one of the founders of Casino Guru, the biggest database of online casinos and online casino bonuses with up-to-date information on basically all online casinos on the internet.

How She Made the First $1,000

After we launched, it took us almost 1 year to make our first 13 cents. Undoubtedly the toughest 13 cents in my life, but it’s nice to look back at it now and compare it with the success that followed. Before making the first 13 cents, the project has already cost us around €130,000 in time and money spent on building it. We worked 10 to 12 hours a day, 6 days a week, used up all our savings, as well as our skills, all of our free time and energy, and were making literally nothing. But it was the reality of starting a business based on organic traffic with high quality requirements and trying to do it all the right way. Planning was difficult, too. You can’t predict or plan how your project will do in search engines, so we weren’t able to make any reasonable plans at all. We based all our effort on the belief that our project will somehow make it to the top someday. My family and friends were wondering what a strange project I got myself into. And I started wondering, too. I was persuaded that, if this project fails, I will take a break from anything related to entrepreneurship for at least 10 years. And we also agreed on a deadline – if the project doesn’t have a revenue of at least €500 per month within 6 months, we would quit. Then, the first 13 cents came, followed by quick growth that helped us turn break even within 4 months. So, the first thousand through affiliate commissions came pretty quickly after the first 13 cents. The period of growth was filled with tough but rewarding hard work. It was all worth it and full of optimism, especially when compared to the tough beginnings.

Casino GuruSource:

11. About the Contributor

I am Mike Bran, the Founder of Thrill Appeal.

How He Made the First $1,000

Thill Appeal was born out of our passion and enthusiasm for traveling, camping, outdoor sports and fun. We aim to be the place to visit when learning about outdoor action sports and adventure. I got featured in, Business Insider, and many other reputed media outlets

I have heard many success stories of affiliate marketers, but now I would like to share my affiliate marketing success story. I would like to share about the decision to build an affiliate marketing company and, little by little, collected huge success through it.

I took a start with my team in 2015 by creating an app that worked like software. There were millions of products available there. We earned around six-dollar bucks in the initial year after the launch of the app. The app was proved to be more than a marketplace and business software for affiliate tracking.

In 2017, I achieved another milestone by publishing an advanced version and upgrading the app. However, we failed to remove some bugs and couldn’t manage to scale. Due to this reason, some of our customers asked for a refund, and those days went in a complete loss. But we didn’t stop here and worked hard to build and come up with something unique and more fantastic so that we may get a response we want. At last, in 2019, we managed to build a stable version of our software, and that was the day when my company started achieving success goals. Each achievement was tremendous and bigger than what we had already achieved. Our vendors were quite happy with the new version of our affiliate tracking app.

However, by the end of 2020, we got stuck in the COVID-19 pandemic, but our app’s advanced features enabled our vendors and customers to use the software while staying at home.

Affiliate Marketing vs COVID-19 Impact – Expert Advice

It is all due to the fact that we never gave up and spent hundreds of dollars before earning thousands of dollars, and here we are in 2020, where we even fought with the pandemic and kept our affiliate marketing going.

I want to say that anyone can have their own affiliate marketing success story if they just understand that not giving up is the secret to success, and you can achieve anything.

Earn at your own pace.

Refer customers and set up your passive income stream


The first $1,000 can seem like a big figure to reach at first for most people, but you should not stop there.

There are quite a few things that were discussed by affiliate marketers above. Here are some important pointers that I’d like to summarize below:

  • Be patient: it is important that you remain patient and not give up anytime soon. Many of the people who have written above didn’t make their first $1,000 for quite a while, but didn’t give up!
  • Look for opportunities: always be on the lookout for good opportunities that you can capitalize on in order to gain more commissions!
  • Identify your market: make sure you look for a suitable market with suitable enthusiasts who can help you generate more commissions.
    Avoid going for easy money: there’s simply no such thing.
  • Be resilient: you will have off-days. Avoid feeling down, and keep your head up!

Think of it as a milestone which can open the doors for you to go on to do bigger and better things. Obviously, you might still be wondering how to make money on affiliate marketing, so the best thing to do is to get on it! Many of our affiliates are able to generate significant commissions each month, and there’s no reason to think why you can’t either!

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Shahzeb Ahmed

Shahzeb is a Digital Marketer with a Software Engineering background, works as a Community Manager — PHP Community at Cloudways. He is growth ambitious and aims to learn & share information about PHP & Laravel Development through practice and experimentation. He loves to travel and explore new ideas whenever he finds time. Get in touch with him at [email protected]


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