11 Best Alternatives to Affiliate Marketing (To Earn MORE Money) [2024]

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In the fast-paced world of online business, staying ahead of the curve is essential. In this article, we’re exploring the 11 best alternatives to affiliate marketing that deserve your attention.

What is Affiliate Marketing?

what is affiliate marketing

Affiliate marketing is a performance-based marketing model where affiliates promote products or services and earn commissions for each sale or lead generated through their unique affiliate link.

It’s a popular business strategy that has grown tremendously over the past few decades, providing opportunities for people to earn passive income.

Here’s what makes affiliate marketing stand out:

  • Low Barrier to Entry: Getting started with affiliate marketing is relatively easy and often requires no upfront investment. Affiliates can join programs, obtain links, and begin promoting products quickly.
  • Diverse Product Offerings: Affiliate marketers can choose from a wide range of products and services across various niches, such as health, technology, fashion, and more. This allows them to align their promotions with their audience.
  • Flexibility: Affiliates can work from anywhere, set their own schedules, and choose the products they wish to promote. This flexibility makes affiliate marketing an attractive option for those seeking a better work-life balance or a side hustle.
  • Passive Income Potential: Successful affiliate marketers can earn passive income by creating evergreen content that continues to drive traffic and sales long after the initial effort. This scalability allows affiliates to build multiple income streams and increase their earnings over time.

However, it’s important to recognize that affiliate marketing is not without its challenges.

Competition can be fierce, and generating consistent sales requires ongoing effort in content creation, traffic generation, and audience engagement.

Also, affiliates are subject to the terms and conditions of each program, which can change without notice and impact their earnings.

Despite these challenges, affiliate marketing remains a popular option for those willing to put in the time and effort to build a real online business.

Why Look for Alternatives to Affiliate Marketing?

While affiliate marketing can be a financially rewarding online business model, there are several reasons why entrepreneurs might want to seek out alternatives.

By exploring other online business opportunities, you can diversify your income streams, reduce your reliance on affiliate programs, and potentially increase your overall earnings.

Market Saturation

As affiliate marketing has grown in popularity, many niches have become saturated with competitors all promoting the same products.

This increased competition can make it challenging for new affiliates to gain traction and generate commissions.

By exploring alternatives to affiliate marketing, you can tap into less competitive markets and find unique opportunities that align with your skills and interests.

Profit Margins

Profit margins in affiliate marketing can vary significantly across programs and niches.

While some programs offer generous commissions, others may provide lower rates that make it difficult to achieve a sustainable income.

By considering alternatives to affiliate marketing, you can try out business models that offer higher profit margins or more control over your pricing and revenue.

This flexibility can help you build a more profitable and stable online business.

Limited Control

As an affiliate marketer, you have limited control over the products you promote and the customer experience.

If a merchant’s website is slow, difficult to navigate, or lacks social proof it can negatively impact your conversion rates.

By pursuing alternatives to affiliate marketing, such as creating your own products or offering services, you gain greater control over the quality and delivery of your offerings.

This control can lead to higher customer satisfaction, repeat business, and a stronger brand reputation.

Diversification

Relying solely on affiliate marketing can leave your business vulnerable to changes in affiliate programs, commission rates, or market trends.

Diversifying your income streams through alternative online business models can mitigate risk and create a more resilient business.

Exploring alternatives such as ecommerce, digital product creation, or freelancing can provide additional revenue sources and help you weather any challenges you may run into on the affiliate side of things.

Criteria for Choosing the Best Alternatives to Affiliate Marketing

Keep these important criteria in mind when considering each potential option:

Profitability and Revenue Potential

One of the primary factors to consider when choosing an alternative to affiliate marketing is its potential for generating profits and revenue.

Assess each option’s average earnings, profit margins, and scalability to determine which ones have the highest income potential.

Look for business models that offer recurring revenue, high-ticket sales, or the ability to increase your earnings through upsells and cross-sells.

Startup Costs and Ongoing Expenses

Different online business models come with varying startup costs and ongoing expenses.

Some alternatives, such as dropshipping or print-on-demand, may require minimal upfront investment, while others, like developing a software product, can be more capital-intensive.

When evaluating each option, consider your budget and risk tolerance, and choose a model that matches with your financial resources and goals.

Time and Effort Required

The time and effort required to launch and maintain an online business can vary significantly among different alternatives.

Some options, like freelancing or coaching, may require a significant time investment in the beginning but offer more flexibility as you grow.

Others, such as creating a blog, may require consistent effort over an extended period to gain traction.

Assess your availability and willingness to commit time and energy to each alternative before making a decision.

Skills and Expertise

Different online business models require different skill sets and expertise.

For example, creating and selling online courses may require teaching and presentation skills, while running an e-commerce store may demand knowledge of product sourcing, marketing, and customer service.

Evaluate your existing skills and consider which alternatives align best with your strengths and interests.

If you lack specific skills, assess your willingness to learn and invest in acquiring them.

Market Demand and Competition

When choosing an alternative to affiliate marketing, it’s essential to evaluate the market demand and competition within each niche.

Conduct market research to identify profitable niches with a strong demand for products or services.

Analyze the competition to determine how saturated the market is and whether there is room for a new player.

Look for opportunities to differentiate yourself and offer unique value to your target audience.

Alignment with Personal Goals and Values

Finally, consider how each alternative aligns with your personal goals and values.

Some business models may offer a better work-life balance, while others may provide more opportunities for creative expression or social impact.

Reflect on what matters most to you and choose an alternative that resonates with your aspirations and principles.

Top Alternatives to Affiliate Marketing

Alternatives to Affiliate Marketing
Alternative Description Primary Benefit Startup Difficulty Best For
Blogging Creating and publishing content on a specific topic Ad revenue, sponsored content Medium Individuals passionate about a topic
Master Resell Rights (MRR) Selling rights to digital products for resale One-time purchase, multiple sales Medium Entrepreneurs in digital markets
Ecommerce Selling physical goods online Direct sales profit High Retailers and product creators
Digital Product Creation Creating and selling digital goods or services High-profit margins Medium Creative individuals
Dropshipping Selling products without holding inventory Low startup cost Medium Entrepreneurs starting out
Online Coaching/Consulting Providing expert advice or training online Direct client payment Low Experts in any field
Print-on-Demand Selling custom printed products on demand No inventory needed Low Creative individuals
Social Media Marketing Agency (SMMA) Offering social media marketing services to businesses Recurring client contracts High Marketing professionals
Newsletters Creating and distributing digital newsletters Subscription fees, ads Low Writers and creators
Freelancing Offering your skills as services Flexible work, direct payment Low Skilled individuals in any field
Software as a Service (SaaS) Offering software on a subscription basis Recurring income High Software developers

1. Blogging

Back in the spring of 2017, I found myself at a crossroads. Tired of my day job and itching for something new, I stumbled upon the idea of starting a blog in the outdoor niche.

After some research, I discovered that blogging and affiliate marketing often go hand in hand. Many successful bloggers monetize their content by promoting relevant products to their readers.

My first venture was a blog dedicated to outdoor gear—not just any gear, though. I focused on eco-friendly products, starting with a deep dive into biodegradable camping soap. It was a niche I cared about, blending my love for the environment with my newfound path.

As I created content, I naturally began incorporating affiliate links for the products I recommended. The turning point came a few months in when I made my first affiliate sale—someone bought a backpack I had reviewed made from recycled materials. That first commission was real proof that my content was resonating with readers.

Over time, I expanded my monetization strategies beyond just affiliate marketing.

I began to incorporate display ads (through Raptive), which generated income based on the traffic my blog received.

Sponsored posts were another avenue, where outdoor brands would pay me to create content featuring their products.

Finally, I even created my own digital products (think eco-friendly travel guides) which I could sell directly to my readers.

Pros:

  • Flexibility to monetize through display ads, sponsored content, and digital product sales
  • Opportunity to build a strong personal brand and establish expertise in your niche
  • Potential for long-term, passive income through evergreen content

Cons:

  • Requires a significant time investment to create high-quality content consistently
  • Highly competitive, making it challenging to stand out and attract an audience
  • Susceptible to Google algorithm changes

Looking back, I’m glad I chose blogging as my entry point into the world of online business. While affiliate marketing was a key part of my monetization strategy, diversifying with ads, sponsored content, and digital products helped create a more robust income stream.

That’s why I recommend blogging as a powerful alternative(or complement) to affiliate marketing. By creating valuable, niche-relevant content, you can build a loyal audience that trusts your recommendations, whether you’re promoting affiliate products or your own digital products.

Getting Started: Choose a niche that aligns with your interests and expertise, and set up your blog by following this guide–> Learn How to Start a Blog on Bluehost

2. Master Resell Rights (MRR)

If you’re looking for an alternative to affiliate marketing that still allows you to sell digital products without creating them from scratch, Master Resell Rights (MRR) might be the perfect solution.

MRR is a licensing agreement that allows you to purchase a product, such as an e-book, software, or course, and then resell it to your customers while keeping 100% of the profits.

Pros:

  • Save time and effort by selling pre-made products
  • Sell the same product unlimited times for recurring income
  • Full control over pricing and marketing

Cons:

  • Limited creative control over the product’s content and design
  • Potential for market saturation if many sellers offer the same product
  • Need to have digital marketing skills to be successful

The difference between affiliate marketing and MRR is that with affiliate marketing you earn a commission for promoting someone else’s product, with MRR, you have complete control over the pricing and marketing of the product.

Getting Started: Learn how to build a $500 per day MRR business.

3. Ecommerce

If you’re looking for a more hands-on approach to online selling than affiliate marketing, ecommerce could be the perfect alternative for you.

Pros:

  • Higher profit margins compared to affiliate marketing
  • Complete control over branding, pricing, and customer experience
  • Opportunity to build a loyal customer base and generate repeat sales

Cons:

  • Requires a substantial initial investment in inventory and website development
  • Dealing with shipping logistics and potential product returns can be time-consuming and costly
  • Managing inventory levels and preventing stockouts can be challenging

The main difference between affiliate marketing and ecommerce is that affiliate marketing involves promoting other people’s products and earning a commission on each sale, while e-commerce involves selling products directly to consumers through your own online store.

Getting Started: Create a product or product line. Set up an ecommerce store using a platform like Shopify, and invest in high-quality product photography and descriptions. Use social media and email marketing to drive traffic to your store.

4. Digital Product Creation

As someone who makes a nice income selling their own courses, I can vouch for creating digital products as a great alternative to affiliate marketing.

Digital products are intangible assets that can be downloaded or accessed online, such as e-books, courses, software, templates, or graphics.

Pros:

  • High profit margins since there are no physical production or shipping costs
  • Ability to help your audience solve specific problems or achieve their goals
  • Potential for passive income, as you can sell the same product multiple times without additional effort

Cons:

  • Requires a significant upfront time investment to create a high-quality, valuable product
  • Dealing with potential customer support issues and refund requests
  • Risk of digital product piracy or unauthorized sharing

Unlike physical products, digital products don’t require inventory management or shipping, making them a cost-effective option for online entrepreneurs.

Getting Started: Identify a problem or pain point in your niche that your digital product can solve. Outline your product and create the content, whether it’s an ebook, course, or template. Set up a landing page on Systeme.io and use email marketing and social media to promote your product.

5. Dropshipping

Dropshipping is a popular ecommerce model that offers a low-risk, low-cost alternative to traditional online selling and affiliate marketing.

Pros:

  • Low startup costs since you don’t need to purchase inventory upfront
  • Flexibility to test different products and niches without a large financial investment
  • Potential for high-profit margins, depending on your product pricing and supplier costs

Cons:

  • Highly competitive, with many sellers offering similar products at low prices
  • Dependence on third-party suppliers can lead to inventory and shipping issues beyond your control
  • Difficulty in differentiating your store and building a unique brand identity

When it comes to affiliate marketing and dropshipping, the main difference is how products are sold and delivered. With affiliate marketing, you promote other people’s products and earn a commission on each sale, while dropshipping involves selling products through your own online store, but the supplier handles the inventory and ships the products directly to your customers.

This means you never have to handle the product yourself, reducing the need for upfront investment and inventory management.

Getting Started: Research potential dropshipping products and suppliers using a platform like AliExpress. Set up an ecommerce store and import your chosen products. Use social media and paid advertising to drive traffic to your store.

6. Online Coaching/Consulting

Online coaching and consulting is a growing industry that offers a unique alternative to affiliate marketing, allowing you to monetize your expertise and help others achieve their goals.

As an online coach or consultant, you provide guidance, support, and advice to clients in your area of specialization. This can include business coaching, personal development, health and wellness, or any other niche where you have valuable knowledge and experience to share.

Pros:

  • Leverage your existing skills and knowledge to make a positive impact on others
  • Potential for high hourly rates or package prices, depending on your niche and experience
  • Opportunity to build meaningful, long-term relationships with clients

Cons:

  • Can be emotionally demanding as you invest significant time and energy into each client’s success
  • Requires a consistent pipeline of new clients to maintain a stable income
  • Potential for clients to have unrealistic expectations or be difficult to work with

Getting Started: Identify your coaching niche and target audience. Develop a coaching package or program and price it appropriately. Create a website and use social media and networking to attract your first clients.

7. Print on Demand (POD)

Print on demand (POD) is a popular eccommerce model that allows you to sell custom-designed products without the need for inventory or upfront production costs.

With POD, you create designs for various products, such as t-shirts, mugs, phone cases, or posters, and upload them to a POD platform or your own website.

When a customer places an order, the POD provider prints the design on the chosen product and ships it directly to the customer. This means you only pay for the product when a sale is made, reducing your financial risk and inventory management responsibilities.

Pros:

  • Low startup costs since you don’t need to purchase inventory or equipment
  • Ability to offer a wide range of products featuring your unique designs
  • Passive(ish) income potential, as the POD provider handles production and shipping

Cons:

  • High competition, with many artists and designers offering similar products
  • Limited control over the quality and shipping of the final product
  • Potential for design copyright issues if you use protected images or fonts without permission

Getting Started: Create designs for your chosen POD products and set up a store on a platform like Redbubble. Promote your products through social media and by partnering with influencers in your niche.

8. Social Media Marketing Agency (SMMA)

A Social Media Marketing Agency (SMMA) is a business model that focuses on providing social media marketing services to clients.

It is a viable alternative to affiliate marketing for those with a strong understanding of social media platforms and marketing strategies.

As an SMMA owner, you help businesses establish and grow their presence on social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, TikTok and LinkedIn.

This can include creating content, managing UGC and paid ad campaigns, engaging with followers, and analyzing performance metrics to optimize results.

Pros:

  • High demand for social media marketing services across various industries
  • Potential for high-ticket clients and recurring revenue through ongoing contracts
  • Opportunity to showcase your creativity and strategic thinking

Cons:

  • Requires a deep understanding of social media platforms, algorithms, and best practices to deliver results for clients
  • Managing multiple clients and deadlines can be stressful and demanding
  • Potential for clients to have unrealistic expectations or be slow to implement recommended changes

Getting Started: Create a website and portfolio for your agency showcasing your skills and results. Reach out to potential clients and offer a free social media audit or consultation.

9. Newsletters

Much like blogging, running a newsletter can be both an alternative and a companion to affiliate marketing.

As an alternative, a newsletter allows you to monetize your audience directly through sponsorships, paid subscriptions, or selling your own products and services. However, a newsletter can also complement your affiliate marketing efforts by providing a platform to promote affiliate offers to your subscribers.

With a newsletter, you regularly send valuable content, insights, and promotions to your subscribers’ inboxes. This can include industry news, personal stories, tips and advice, product recommendations, or exclusive offers.

Pros:

  • Build a direct, personal connection with your audience through their inboxes, fostering trust and engagement
  • High engagement and conversion rates compared to other marketing channels
  • Potential for multiple revenue streams, such as sponsored content or product promotions

Cons:

  • Building a substantial subscriber base can be time-consuming and require continuous promotion
  • Maintaining high open and click-through rates can be challenging as your list grows
  • Increased risk of emails being marked as spam or going undelivered

By providing consistent value to your subscribers, you can establish trust, authority, and loyalty, making it easier to sell them products or services.

Getting Started: Choose a niche or your newsletter. Set up an email marketing platform like Beehiiv and create a lead magnet to attract subscribers. Start your newsletter by delivering valuable content and then start experimenting with different monetization strategies.

10. Freelancing

Freelancing is a popular alternative to affiliate marketing. It allows you to leverage your skills and expertise to provide services directly to clients and earn income on a project basis.

As a freelancer, you offer your services to individuals, businesses, or organizations in your area of specialization. This can include writing, graphic design, web development, digital marketing, or any other in-demand skill.

Pros:

  • Flexibility to work on projects that align with your interests and skills
  • Ability to control your workload and schedule, providing a better work-life balance compared to traditional employment
  • Potential for high income, especially as you build your reputation and client base

Cons:

  • Inconsistent income, especially when starting out or during slow periods
  • Handling client expectations and revisions can be stressful and time-consuming
  • Responsibility for handling your own taxes, insurance, and other business-related expenses

By working with clients directly, you have the freedom to choose your projects, set your own rates, and control your workload.

Getting Started: Create a portfolio website showcasing your skills and experience. Join freelance platforms like Upwork and start bidding on relevant projects. Network with potential clients and ask for referrals.

11. Software as a Service (SAAS)

Software as a Service (SaaS) is a business model that involves creating and selling access to software applications through a subscription-based model. It is an attractive alternative to affiliate marketing for those with technical skills and an entrepreneurial mindset.

As a SaaS owner, you develop software solutions that address specific needs or challenges faced by your target audience. This can include tools for project management, customer relationship management, marketing automation, or any other niche where there is a demand for innovative software solutions.

Pros:

  • Recurring revenue model, providing a predictable income stream
  • Ability to scale your business as your user base grows
  • Opportunity to build a valuable, long-term asset that you can sell

Cons:

  • Requires a significant upfront investment in software development (unless you are a coder)
  • Continuous development and customer support can be resource-intensive and expensive
  • Increased risk of security breaches and data privacy concerns

By offering your software on a subscription basis, you can generate recurring revenue and build a scalable business.

Getting Started: Identify a problem in your niche that can be solved with software. Validate your idea by surveying your target audience and analyzing competitors. Develop an MVP (minimum viable product) and start beta testing with a small group of users. Collect feedback, iterate, and launch your SaaS product.

Final Thoughts…

Each of these alternatives offers its own set of benefits and challenges, and the best choice for you will depend on factors such as your interests, skills, target audience, and financial goals.

Whether you’re drawn to the creative potential of print-on-demand, the scalability of SaaS, or the personal connection of online coaching, there’s an alternative that can help you achieve your entrepreneurial dreams.

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