Why I Don’t Do Affiliate Marketing

Hi Abby,

I am organizing an online creative business conference in May, and wanted to see if there might be a way for us to work together.

We are looking for a few influencers to serve as advisers to the attendees. Advisers get a free pass to the event and advertising space in the conference guide. In exchange, we would provide you with an affiliate link to promote the event to your network.

Let me know if this sounds like a good fit. Of course, I am happy to answer any question you might have.

Thanks!

Andrea

I got this very nice, professionally written request earlier this week. I turned it down.

I don’t do affiliate marketing. I thought I’d explain how I came to this decision and why I feel really good about it. For an alternate view, you should read Elise’s explanation of why she embraces affiliate marketing and how she makes it work for her blog and her values.

First, what is affiliate marketing? An affiliate marketing program is a way for businesses to make more money online by reaching a larger audience. The business signs a blogger up as an affiliate and asks the blogger to write about their product or service. In exchange the blogger is rewarded financially for each new customer they bring in. Being an affiliate is like working on commission. The more you hustle the more you make.

In the case above, the conference costs $100 per person. As an affiliate I would earn $50 for each new customer who clicked over from my blog and signed up for the conference. My blog gets about 3,000-5,000 pageviews on an average day and many people come here for creative business-related content so there’s a good chance I’d have generated some sales through my affiliate link.

Most people who do affiliate marketing (and that’s most people who have successful craft blogs right now) do it as a way to get paid for blogging. Writing a good blog is hard work. Writing a book review, for example, can take four or five hours. If you use an affiliate link you can at least feel as though you’ve made a few dollars for your efforts.

And savvy craft bloggers only accept affiliate offers that are well-aligned with their content. The feeling is that if you would be recommending a product anyway why not become an affiliate and earn some money for it.

When I look at those arguments, though, they’re not enough for me. The way I see it, you and I are on the same team. If I see a book that looks interesting, I’ll to buy it and make something from it, and tell you what I think about it without muddying the water with a sales pitch.

When I write my newsletter I often include links to upcoming conferences or publishing opportunities or job openings in craft-related businesses. I recommend these things to you because I want you to succeed and to make the most of what’s out there. I’d like for you to trust my recommendations without reservation.

And even if my blog doesn’t make money directly, it certainly makes money indirectly. My entire business hinges on this blog and every opportunity, every relationship, every sale happens because of it.

Which is why the only business I’m an affiliate with is my own. I’m my own brand partner, and very happy to be that. I’ll gladly write a post about how you can make your email newsletter amazing and recommend my ebook about it. You can bet I’ll give you tips on how to sew a teddy bear for you baby’s first Christmas and link to my pattern for it. My sales pitch energy is focused right here on my own offerings.

Let’s think for a minute about what I’d have gained and lost if I’d said yes to that affiliate marketing offer for the conference. Today’s post would have been about the conference’s great line-up of speakers and amazing resources. I’d have told you that it’s worth the tuition fee and sent you over to take a look, hoping you’d sign up so that I could get your $50 for a product I didn’t create.

I would have disclosed my affiliate status and somewhere in the back of your mind you’d have noticed that my motivation might not be true. You might have wondered whose team I was really on.

That post would have would have eroded your trust in my voice, at least in some small way. And once I said yes to doing it, I’d end up saying yes to more opportunities like it, even if it was just a few each year. Maybe you’d say, “Good for her! She’s making it work!” But at the same time you would know that I was recommending this conference over another one because I stood to get paid for it. I can’t have that be part of what I do.

My voice is the most important thing to me. It is what I’ve worked on here, three posts a week for nearly a decade, and I don’t want to lend it to Amazon, or to a conference, or to anyone, even for $50 kickback.

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