How to Build a Profitable Business Online by Selling Nothing

Affiliate Marketing

Learn three simple strategies to help you stack on more revenue without the headaches of fulfillment and customer support.

5 min read

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Imagine a business that contains no fulfillment, deliverables or customer support and can be sold for 25 times its monthly net profit. Now, imagine this business also maintains a consistent 30 percent margin and could be managed without any full-time employees.

Related: How I Make a Full-Time Income in My Spare Time — And How You Can, Too

Sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it? Well, it’s not.

It’s called affiliate marketing and it’s a business model drenched in time and location freedom, impact and profit. It’s also the first business my wife, Jill, and I started together back in 2012.

You see, back then Jill had a social media management service and my business (which had started feeling like a job) was coming to an abrupt end. We had been researching potential business models (hello, selling physical products, online courses, done-for-you services, coaching, consulting – you name it) and finally landed on this little thing called affiliate marketing.

If you’ve never heard of it, don’t sweat. Because once I’m done, you’ll have a three-tiered strategy you can use to build a wildly profitable business … by selling nothing.

Sound good? Great. Let’s dive in!

What is affiliate marketing anyway?

Simply put, it breaks down into three simple steps:

  1. A visitor comes to your website.
  2. You recommend relevant tools, products or services in your content via outbound affiliate links.
  3. If the visitor clicks on any of those links and makes a purchase, you get a commission.

Basically, you are the “connector” between your audience and a product creator or service provider you’ve either used, like or believe in. What’s even better is commissions can range anywhere from 4 percent (like Amazon’s associate program) to 75 percent (by selling digital products through Clickbank) depending on the industry and the offer.

Not too shabby!

So, how do you get started? First, you need to find and sign up for an affiliate program. Now, it’s very possible that an individual merchant will have its own in-house program, however the easiest way to get started is to join relevant affiliate networks.

Not sure where to start? Here’s a list of 10 affiliate networks you can sign up to today. What do you do once you’ve registered though?

Related: 4 Marketing Strategies Every Startup Can Afford

Strategy 1: Product reviews

Good news: Creating a persuasive product review is pretty simple.


Because there are millions of people searching for honest reviews of the products they are interested in purchasing. Think about it: Have you ever Googled a product you wanted to buy to see what others have said?

This is where your product review would come in. If you can produce a high-quality objective review (and you understand the basics of search engine optimization), you can rank on page one of Google — allowing you to generate commissions from one single post.

(Hot tip: It’s always best you use the product so you can speak honestly about it.)

Related: 8 Ways to Make Money While You Sleep

Strategy 2: Strategic partnerships

Fun fact: According to Statista, ecommerce sales are expected to hit close to $5 trillion globally by 2021.

Five. Trillion. Dollars. Let that sink in for a second.

Since there is no shortage of new industries or products coming onto the market, why not collaborate with companies that line up with your values and spread the word on them? One of the ways we’re doing this is by building strategic partnerships with existing course creators in our space.

And since the global e-learning market is projected to hit $331 billion by 2025, there is a ton of opportunity for collaboration. Wondering how this works? Here’s an example from our business. There is an entrepreneur in our space who has created one of the best online courses on how to use webinars to grow your business. Since we don’t plan on creating any courses on this subject, we reached out to her to see if we could send her leads for her course.

Once we got the green light, we wrote a blog post that we use to send qualified leads to her webinar on how to create webinars. I know, so meta. From there, if someone makes a purchase from that webinar for her course on webinars, we make a commission.

*fist pump*

Not into selling courses? No problem! You can build strategic partnerships with service providers, software creators or consultants. It just takes a little courage to put yourself out there.

Related: 4 Ways You Can Attract the Traffic You Want to Your Affiliate Site

Strategy 3: Product launches

Confession: This strategy is dependent on your industry.


Because there are really only a few industries that run launches to sell their products and programs. Some of them include:

  • Health and fitness
  • Business
  • Finance and trading
  • Love and relationships

You likely already know by now if your industry uses this strategy and if so, there’s a big opportunity you can take advantage of right now. In the business space there are a ton of them, however, there is one that seems to take over the whole internet for two weeks in February. Each year it opens up for enrollment at $2,000 and affiliates earn at least $1,000 per referral.

To give you an idea of how much money you can make, we’ve heard some of the top affiliates of this program earn close to $1 million each year.


Want to get in on that action? Do some research in your industry to see if there are any influencers or experts who not only run product launches, but have a partner program.

While not every business will be able to take advantage of all three of these strategies, decide which one works best for your industry and start building up that affiliate revenue today.

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