Real numbers. Screenshots. Everything you need to know about leveling up your business using affiliate links!
Why did you start researching affiliate links?
When the pandemic first hit, my interior design business was sloWwwWww. I added a blog to my website on March 28, 2020 in hopes that Google would notice consistent activity on my website + put me closer to the top in interior design search results. I was posting almost every other day. My fifth post [only 9 days after starting my blog] ended up going viral out of nowhere. Before I knew it, I had over 10,000 monthly views. My blog wasn’t doing what I initially intended it to, but it was definitely getting attention. I had always dreamt of having more than one revenue stream + I took this immediate traffic as my chance to possibly monetize my blog + create a second income.
Why affiliate links?
At the time I created my blog, I only had ~400 Instagram followers + ~300 Pinterest followers. From my research, I found that using affiliate links was not only the easiest way to monetize a blog, it was also doable for someone with a small following. Running ads on your blog + getting brand deals/sponsored content is only lucrative for those with a large following.
What are affiliate links?
If you’ve ever made a recipe from a food blog + saw clickable links within the recipe post, THOSE are affiliate links! Here is an example from one of my favorite food bloggers, Minimalist Baker:
That underlined text is a specialized URL that the food blogger created [through their affiliate program of choice] + inserted into their post. If you click that link + make a purchase, the food blogger receives a small commission on that sale at no extra cost to you! Food bloggers spend entire work weeks [typically >40 hrs] developing recipes, shopping, cooking, cleaning, taking/editing photos, taking/editing videos, creating blog posts, creating links for their blog posts, updating their socials ALL in hope that you will love, use, share + support their content. When you make a purchase from a creator’s affiliate link, you’re financially supporting their passion + allowing them to continue making more content. If it weren’t for fans, clients, consumers + followers, we would not be able to make money doing what we love!
How did you get started with affiliate links?
Amazon is the easiest way to get started with affiliate links. Anyone can sign up for Amazon Associates. Their dashboard is simple, creating links is easy + sales are fun to track. There are other affiliate programs that accept everyone [Walmart + Home Depot to name a few], but they’re sketchy, hard to understand + I never made a penny from them. Although Amazon is only one retailer, they still offer the widest range of products on the internet. It’s an amazing place to start + I highly recommend starting with only Amazon. The other widely-accepting programs are so not worth your time.
I’ve heard Amazon Associates is strict. Is this true?
Did you start making money right away?
Pretty much! Although it was only 47 cents here + $3.02 there, it was cool to see that people were actually purchasing items through my links! My advice: share every one of your blog posts to Pinterest. Use as many keywords in the description as possible. Head to my “aura blog” Pinterest board to see how I title/use keywords on the posts I create. To this day, the bulk of my blog traffic comes from Pinterest!
Okay… linking to Amazon items is cool, but how do I graduate to Target + Pottery Barn?!
As an interior designer, being limited to Amazon was tough for me. Don’t get me wrong, they have a great home organization selection, awesome rugs + lighting, but I reallyyyyyyyy wanted to be able to link bigger ticket items like furniture + high-end decor. This is when I applied for LTK [formerly rewardStyle].
If you already have a grasp on how LTK works, skip down to “What’s the benefit of using LTK in an interior design business?” to learn how LTK drastically improved my design business + to get a behind-the-scenes look at my commissions earned as an LTK creator.
What is LTK?
On the front-end, LTK [LIKEtoKNOWit] is an app where consumers can shop their favorite creator’s looks. If Miami-based blogger Rachael Proctor [@summerofdiane] posts her usual perfection on Instagram + I decide I absolutely need the romper she’s wearing, I’ll visit her page on the LTK app where she links all of her outfit details. I can easily click on her romper link, add it to my cart + checkout!
On the back-end, LTK Creator [formerly rewardStyle] is a way for creators to monetize their content. 12-48 hours after my romper purchase, Rachael’s LTK Creator account will update recording the sale. It will show her the date of purchase, which link was used to make the purchase + the commission she made from the purchase.
Why is LTK an amazing tool?
Because everyone wins! The consumer gets consistent, quality content at no charge [fashion inspiration, home decor ideas, wellness tips, etc.] + the creator gets paid for their hard work + expertise. When a consumer makes a purchase using a creator’s link, it is at no extra cost to them, but it pays the creator a well-deserved commission.
How do creators get paid when a consumer makes a purchase using their link?
It’s pretty simple. As you see above, Rachael styled, shot, edited + posted a super-satisfying photo of her custom Converse high-tops [MUCH more difficult + time-consuming than she makes it look]. As a “thank you”, the Converse brand pays Rachael a small percentage of any sales made by consumers that saw her photo, clicked her link + made a purchase. However, it is important to note that if no consumers make a purchase or if the consumer does not follow her link correctly, she makes zero commission.
Read more about properly shopping creator’s links + important DO-NOTS in my “How to Shop my Links” guide.
How much money do creators make when a consumer makes a purchase using their link?
It’s all percentage-based + the commission rate varies from brand to brand. Some brands offer higher commission rates than others. Let’s get more specific with the Converse example. Converse is owned by Nike. As you can see below, Nike isn’t the most generous company:
To get even more specific, I can see on the back-end that if a consumer purchased the $80 custom Chucks from Rachael’s photo, she would receive only $3.36 in commission:
Can creators link to any brand they want?
No. Not every brand is partnered with LTK. In my personal experience, I’ve found that most brands I want to link to are partnered with LTK. Brands I use often such as Target, Etsy, McGee&Co, Lulu&Georgia + Wayfair are linkable. Some brands that I’m super bummed out about not being partnered with LTK are IKEA USA, Hobby Lobby + Restoration Hardware. These brands don’t allow creators to make commission off of their products.
*What’s the benefit of using LTK in an interior design business?*
If you’re a designer, you know that you spend about 20% of your time designing + 80% dealing with administrative tasks. Being accepted into LTK radically changed this for me.
LTK is the best tool I’ve acquired for my business. Being a creator on LTK allows me to do more of what I love + totally avoid the stressful parts of interior design. I truly enjoy designing functional, cohesive spaces + selecting the best possible products for my clients. The stress: pricing, invoicing, collecting payment, ordering, shipping, handling, storage, item inspection, returns, repairs, troubleshooting, scheduling, traveling, deliveries, installations, warranties, THE LIST GOES ON.
When I first started my business in 2018, I had no way to link out to products. I handled everything from start to finish + was constantly dealing with the laundry list above. The frustration experienced did not equal the profit I was making or the unhappiness I was feeling. I was doing WAY too much work for little payoff. With LTK, I get to create beautiful lookbooks for my clients + my job pretty much ends there!
How do you use LTK in your design business?
With my clients: After I design the space + all custom cabinetry + countertops are ordered, I start finalizing my client’s lookbook. My lookbooks contain all other elements in the space: appliances, plumbing fixtures, tile, hardware, flooring, lighting, seating + decor. Once my client approves all selections, I post their lookbook on my blog + send them the link to shop! Here’s one I created for my clients in June 2021: Barrington, RI Coastal Kitchen. All links included in my lookbooks are affiliate links created with LTK. When my client shops their lookbook, I receive a commission from the product sales.
With online consumers: Like most creators, I sprinkle affiliate links throughout blog posts I create. In my post My *NECESSARY* Tools For The Daily Design Grind, I outline what I use to increase productivity + organization in my design business. Each item mentioned is linked [with an affiliate link I created in LTK], so if someone reading the post loves my blush pink portfolio that I shared, they can easily click the link + purchase it. If they do, I make a commission.
What happens after your clients or consumers shop your links? How do you see what they purchased + how much commission you made?
If orders are placed using my affiliate links, the purchases begin showing up in my LTK Creator app + on the LTK Creator website. When my Barrington, RI Coastal Kitchen clients shopped their lookbook, this is what I saw on my end 12-48 hours afterwards. As you can see, I made a total of $369.17 from this lookbook.
That commission is from a single client lookbook + you also use affiliate links in your blog posts. How much have you made using affiliate links altogether since you started?
I started my blog in March 2020, but I wasn’t accepted into rewardStyle [now LTK] until May 28, 2020. This is when I began tracking what I call my “blog money”. 17 months later + here is my running total:
I thought my blog would maybe make $100 its first year… if I was lucky. Once I got started, it quickly became a fun hobby. The more time I spent on it, the more rewarding it became. I was watching my monthly blog traffic go from hundreds to thousands. Seeing those commissions go through, although very small at first, was super exciting + encouraging. It made me want to continue + work harder at it. I now have a side-hustle that I genuinely enjoy + that makes me some extra money on the side!
Note: this is just part of the LTK Creator website. They have so many more awesome analytics that you can filter through by day, week, month + year. You can see number of clicks totals, orders placed totals, items ordered totals, commission totals + charts of your growth over time. It’s super fun to go through + look at from time to time. My favorite section is this earnings tab 🙂
We can’t tell… do you TOTALLY LOVE affiliate links?
Affiliate links fully changed the way I run my business + not even kidding, the way I live my life! The time previously lost to conventional design business tasks [pricing, invoicing, collecting payment, ordering, shipping, handling, storage, item inspection, returns, repairs, troubleshooting, scheduling, traveling, deliveries, installations, warranties, etc.] is now better spent improving my life + my business. I have a much healthier work-life balance + I am more passionate about the things on my daily to-do list.
Would you recommend I start using affiliate links in my design business?
For clients: Absolutely! If you’re looking to do more design + less tedious work, affiliate links are the way to go for your business. You + YOUR CLIENTS will be happier. My clients actually prefer shopping my links themselves because the pricing is 100% transparent. When they click my link, they see the live, online price that every other online shopper would see. It’s exciting for them to physically SEE for themselves that they’re paying just as much as the next person, but they’re getting a professionally-designed space.
Remember: you need a blog if you’re going to start with Amazon affiliate links [my recommended starting point]. Amazon links ONLY work properly on blogs. Read about my experience with Amazon Associates above. If you’re starting with LTK, their links work anywhere [blog, email, PDF, text message, even DM]!
For a blog: ONLY if you’re going to stay consistent. This is only way you’re going to see results + be encouraged to stick with it! When I was doing my initial research on affiliate links, most people said things like, “Profit should never be the reason for starting your blog.” I don’t agree with that at all. It’s completely okay to want your side-hustle to be a money-maker! Isn’t that what a side-hustle is?! Get out there, be consistent + start making that dough!