Probably the biggest question on anyone’s mind who is considering starting an affiliate marketing business is, “How long does it take to start making money with affiliate marketing?”

Truth be told, when I hear about any business model designed to make money online, this is the question I ask!

A lot of people are going to give you many different answers, but I’m going to give you the best guidance I can so you know what to expect. So keep reading below to get a realistic timeline and see if affiliate marketing is for you!

Expectations Are Hard To Pinpoint

One of the reasons the question is asked so often is because there are so many variables that play into the results you can expect. Affiliate marketing isn’t something that a lot of people understand or even know that it is a business model for making money online.

Writing a list with information on itIf you were going to open up a McDonald’s franchise, for example, there is a wealth of information at your fingertips that can guide you into a realistic timeline to become profitable.

You can find all kinds of statistics from the corporation itself and your city council to help you determine what you should expect from a franchise restaurant in your area, such as:

  1. Size of your restaurant
  2. Number of seats available
  3. The population of the area you are in
  4. Wages you will need to pay
  5. Corporate taxes that will be levied, and so on…

All of this information will be used to create reliable projections about how fast you can become profitable. It’s much easier in this case to have a good, realistic mindset going into your business.

However, with affiliate marketing you can ask 10 people how fast you can start making money, and you’re likely to get 10 different answers–with no real expectation of which one is more accurate for you!

So I’m going to give you a basic timeline that is realistic for most people starting out in this business. Then I’ll go over some factors that can cause this timeline to slow down or speed up.

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A Timeline For Most Beginners

~ First month–Finding a quality hosting service to set up your website can be done much easier than years ago, so you accomplish this within one day. Then during this first month you:

  • Choose a niche
  • Pick a name for your website
  • Start your site on a free subdomain or buy a domain
  • Choose a theme for your site
  • Create your base pages–About Me, Affiliate Disclosure, and Privacy Policy
  • Start writing your first posts, which is your content
  • Research and apply to affiliate programs to monetize your site

~ Second and Third Months–You are going to be adding content, but writing is likely to take a while. The research for each post is time consuming, and you’re working on things like your writing style, how to find topics, what keywords should you use, how to add great images, and how to target your key audience. For a lot of people, it’s intimidating trying to write 1000 word posts regularly–I was one of them!A calendar

Your posts are getting indexed on Google, Bing, and Yahoo, but they will dance in and out of the rankings. Your site is young and not established as an authority yet, so good rankings aren’t likely at this point.

It’s likely that you’ll have a lot of questions about working in the back office of your website during this time. You will want a secure site that offers a great experience for your visitors.

So you’ll know what you want to do, but it will take time and research to figure out how to do it. There are great plugins you can add to your site to give it more functionality, but it takes time to find them and try them out.

~ Fourth thru Sixth Months–Your writing is getting faster and you’re getting into a good rhythm writing about 3 posts per week. It’s less time consuming, and writing 1000 words is getting easier every day. By the end of this time period, you have somewhere around 50-75 posts on your site.

Your posts are getting indexed faster, and you’re starting to see them rank faster. However, it’s still normal to see them dance in and out of the search engines. You’re adding product reviews and seeing that they are getting ranked faster on Google.Google logo

You start seeing your traffic increase, although it’s still fairly low. It’s not unusual to see sites younger than 6 months old still getting only 10-15 visitors a day or even less.

Many people abandon their sites during this time if they’re not seeing the results they want, so Google can be stubborn about sending traffic your way when your site is this young yet!

You start looking at social media more during this time as ways to promote your site. After signing up for a few of them, you post your new content regularly, and you start getting followers.

You may or may not have gotten any sales during this time. If you have, you’re feeling pretty good, but if not, you’re getting down and frustrated!

That’s OK, because whether or not you get sales during this time is not an indication of whether your site is going to be a success or not. Many successful marketers have taken months before making a penny.

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~ Six Months to One Year–Six months of effort and sacrifices of time to work on your business with not much money coming in are taking a toll. You take a few days off, relax, and come back refreshed–but you don’t quit!

These six months are the breaking point of your site because you need to have faith that the effort you’ve been putting in will start paying off.

Computer with an envelope for emailYour traffic starts increasing gradually, and the numbers are trending in the right direction. Once the traffic increases, clicks on your affiliate links increase, and you see sales begin to rise. Seeing results motivates you even more, and you start publishing four posts per week!

You start your email marketing campaign by signing up for an autoresponder service and creating a subscription form. This starts your email list building, and you start sending out a newsletter twice a month with your recent posts and promotions.

You also start working on creating videos for your site and create a YouTube channel.

Your sales start to increase each month, and by the end of your 1st year, your earnings are consistently rising slowly each month into 3 figures. You’ve got somewhere around 100 posts or more on your site.

~ The Second Year–The results of your hard work keep showing. You keep adding regular content to your site, posting on social media, and sending newsletters to your email list–rinse and repeat!

Putting some of your earnings back into your business will help you scale your profits faster. So you start some paid advertising campaigns and your earnings rise.

By the end of the 2nd year, there are 250-300 posts on your site, your earnings are increasing, and you’re making 4 figures every month or possibly more!

Now you decide to scale your business even further by outsourcing content and beginning another website!

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Factors That Can Extend Or Shorten Your Timeline

There are many factors that can change the story above to making money faster or slower, and they all depend upon you! So you will need to look at your own situation to see if there are variables that may slow down your ability to make your business profitable.

Here are some of the factors you need to consider:

A clock~ Time–This can be the biggest obstacle in my opinion. I started affiliate marketing when I was still working a job where I was on call and also taking care of my grandson many nights.

Finding the time to write was a struggle for a while, and things progressed slower for me in the first few months.

If you’re in a position where you don’t have the time to write 3-4 posts a week, don’t worry that your business won’t succeed. It may just take longer to see results. One of the biggest benefits of an online business is the ability to work on it at your own pace and fit it into your life!

~ Writing Ability–Everyone has different skills and abilities, so writing may be easier or more difficult for you. I know marketers who can write 3000 to 4000 words before lunch, and there are those who struggle to write 1000 words in 8 hours.

If you have excellent writing skills and can publish more posts with longer word counts, it’s very likely that you can shorten the timeline above to start making money. If you struggle to write good content, you could take longer to reach your goals.

~ Experience or Training–If you have ever created a website before, sold products online, or written for a blog before, you can definitely shorten the above timeline.

But if you are a complete newbie, you can expect to make money within that timeline or it could be extended depending upon your learning curve.

~ Affiliate Programs–All affiliate programs have different terms and commission rates and this can affect how long it takes to start making money. For instance, if you are promoting a high-ticket item, you’ll have fewer sales, but the profits will be larger than small ticket items. With fewer sales, it may be longer before you see any income.

~ Product Reviews–Google loves to rank product reviews! So if you have product reviews on your site, you’ll get faster ranking. If you don’t do them, it may take longer to see traffic. This is dependent upon your niche, some of them may rank very well without doing reviews.

Quality control approved stamp~ Quality of Your Site–The quality of the user experience on your site will definitely impact how well your visitors will convert into customers. If it’s well written, with easy navigation, and gives your audience information that they find helpful and enjoyable, your site will retain visitors well. The search engines reward sites like these with great rankings.

If your site is not well written, the navigation is confusing or hard to find, or your audience doesn’t find quality information, they won’t stay long or come back. Your site will not rank well, and it will be difficult to increase traffic–which means it will take longer to make money!

~ Free vs. Paid Traffic–In the timeline above, it’s assumed that you will use SEO, Search Engine Optimization, to drive organic traffic to your site, and use paid traffic after making money.

If you have a budget for paid traffic, you can kick start your traffic sooner, which means that it’s very likely that you’ll start making commissions sooner as well.

Keep in mind that paid traffic can be very expensive, especially for those who are not experienced. It’s not uncommon to spend hundreds of dollars a month without getting comparable sales for beginners!



Watch Out For False Promises From Scam Promoters!

There are many, many sites out there that are promising beginners huge earnings fast–sometimes within 24 hours! I have yet to find one that is able to back up their claims.

In fact, a lot of these sites are only around for a few months, but then new ones pop up all the time.

Always be aware of anyone who tells you that you can make easy, fast money online because they are trying to sell you something.

Beginners buy these programs and their upsells for hundreds of dollars and then sometimes spend hundreds more on paid traffic trying to get them to work before failing to make money.

Here are a few programs that I’ve reviewed recently to show you what I’m talking about:

The fact is that making money online takes time, patience and hard work. You can try to take shortcuts or buy done-for-you programs that say they’ll do it all, and you may make some money with them.

But significant, long-term, consistent income is the goal most people are looking for, and you won’t find that by taking shortcuts.

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Find Out Why Great Hosting And Training Can Be Key

Great website hosting with all the features you need to run a successful, secure business is essential to becoming profitable.

But if you add in step-by-step training, live webinars, live chat, and a community platform that is accessible 24/7, you will have the very best chance of getting your business profitable as soon as possible.

My #1 recommendation is Wealthy Affiliate, and this is the program where I host all my sites and learned how to make money online.

Their Starter membership is free for life, and you can create 2 websites and have access to Level 1 of their Online Entrepreneur Certification Training–no credit card required.

I encourage you to check out my full review of Wealthy Affiliate and see if it’s right for you. I’ve been someone who wasted thousands of dollars on programs that turned out to be nothing more than get-rich-quick schemes.

So when I experienced the quality of Wealthy Affiliate’s features firsthand, I had no doubt that it would work.

You won’t hear anyone at WA tell you that you’ll make money fast with affiliate marketing. But they will show you how to create lasting, passive income with Time+Patience+Hard Work!

So if you hear someone ask, “How long does it takes to start making money with affiliate marketing?”, let them know there’s no such thing as fast, easy money on the internet.

But if they are willing to put in the work, their income potential is virtually unlimited!

Have you ever wanted to earn money online with affiliate marketing? Have you tried any program that promised you fast money with little effort? Share your experiences or any questions you may have in the comments below!

I'm Janelle, a wife, a mother, and a grandmother of 5 angels (most of the time)! I started BuildYourEarlyRetirement.com as a way to show how anyone can become financially independent and retire early. As I build out this site, I hope you'll comment and share your experiences as well. Good luck in all your endeavors, and may your success start now!