Alternatives to Affiliate Marketing: What is Better than Affiliate Marketing

What is Better than Affiliate Marketing

Affiliate marketing has become a popular way for companies and influencers to earn money online by promoting products or services. However, affiliate marketing is not the only profitable online business model out there.

In fact, there are several other online money-making methods that some consider even better than affiliate marketing. In this blog post, we will explore some of the top alternatives to affiliate marketing and also, affiliate marketing advantages and disadvantages. So, let’s start with how affiliate marketing works.

How Does Affiliate Marketing Work?

Affiliate marketing involves promoting products or services on behalf of a company for a commission on each sale. Affiliates partner with brands by joining their affiliate programs and receive unique affiliate links to track referrals.

The affiliate then shares these links through various platforms like their website, social media, or email list to drive traffic to the merchant’s site. If the referral makes a purchase, the affiliate earns a percentage of that sale as a commission.

Affiliates can join multiple affiliate programs to promote a variety of products. Brands often work with affiliate networks that provide tracking software and connect them with potential affiliates.

Advantages of Affiliate Marketing:

  • Low barrier to entry – no upfront costs to get started
  • No inventory required – affiliates promote other companies’ products
  • Passive income potential – earn commissions on sales from promotional efforts
  • Free to join affiliate programs – no fees to participate
  • Variety of products/services to promote – join multiple affiliate programs
  • Access to affiliate networks – provide tracking and connect affiliates with brands
See also  Passive Income vs. Investment Income: What's the Difference?

Disadvantages of Affiliate Marketing:

  • Low commission rates – typically 5-15% on average
  • Fierce competition – challenging to stand out from other affiliates
  • Requires substantial traffic to generate sales
  • Limited income growth – reliant on preset commission structures
  • No control over pricing of products/services promoted
  • Commissions depend on customer actions – can be unpredictable
  • Scaling up earnings requires large traffic growth
  • Cannot build brand recognition – promoting other companies’ products

7 Alternatives to Affiliate Marketing

1. Dropshipping

One increasingly popular online business model that competes with affiliate marketing is dropshipping. With dropshipping, you set up an online store but don’t actually keep inventory. When a customer places an order, you purchase the item from a supplier and have it shipped directly to the customer.

This allows you to run an online retail business without upfront inventory costs. Dropshipping can be more profitable than affiliate marketing since you can set your own product prices rather than earning a percentage of sales.

2. Selling digital products

Creating and selling digital products online has become a major industry. Digital products like eBooks, courses, templates, and stock photos can be created once and generate passive income when sold over and over. Profit margins tend to be higher with digital products compared to physical products since there are no manufacturing costs.

Selling digital products allows for scalability not restricted by physical inventory. While affiliate marketing earns a commission on others’ products, selling your own digital products can be much more lucrative.

3. YouTube monetization

Building a YouTube following and monetizing your videos through ads, sponsorships, and affiliate links has proven to be highly profitable for many. Though it takes work to build an audience and regularly create video content, lucrative YouTube channels can bring in significantly more income than affiliate marketing alone.

See also  Best P2P Lending Platforms for Investors

Unlike affiliates who earn small commissions, YouTube stars with millions of engaged followers can earn exorbitant amounts through their channels.

What is Better than Affiliate Marketing

4. Freelance services

Offering freelance services in areas like programming, graphic design, writing, and consulting can also be more profitable than affiliate sales. While affiliate marketers earn passive income on commissions, skilled freelancers can make hundreds of dollars per hour on client projects.

Freelancers can scale their client roster and rates over time, making this a very scalable online business model. The freedom and high hourly rates offered by freelancing services can surpass the more limited earnings from affiliate marketing.

5. Blogging

Building a blog allows creators to establish their own brand and connect with an audience through valuable content. Bloggers have full control over their platform to publish content on their chosen niche and embed advertisements, sponsorships, and affiliate links.

While launching a blog itself has a low barrier to entry, bloggers need consistency and effort to grow their readership over time through search optimization and social media promotion. However, the payoff can be much higher income potential than pure affiliate marketing, as bloggers can leverage their traffic into multiple streams of passive revenue.

As their archive of content accumulates, bloggers can earn ad income or sell digital products that continue generating earnings with minimal ongoing work.

6. Podcasting

Podcasting follows a similar model of building a brand and audience around unique content – in this case in audio format. It does require a greater learning curve and larger time investment to consistently produce high-quality recordings.

However podcasters own their platform and can monetize through paid sponsorships, affiliate links, and exclusive premium content for loyal listeners. Most lucrative is earning income from a back-catalog of episodes that continue being downloaded or streamed long after the initial recording.

See also  Earn Money with Honeygain: Turn Your Unused Internet into Cash

With their own recognizable brand and audience, podcasters have long-term revenue potential that is not restricted by the ceilings of affiliate commissions.

Though podcasting has steeper startup costs, its intimate format fosters strong listener engagement and opportunities to diversify income sources.

7. E-Commerce

Launching an e-commerce business has higher barriers to entry but enables entrepreneurs to sell their own physical products directly to customers. Profit margins can exceed affiliate commissions because the store owner controls pricing and keeps 100% of sales revenue minus overhead costs.

While affiliate marketing earns small percentages per transaction, e-commerce business owners can scale their profits by growing their customer base and inventory. However, this requires significant upfront investment and handling logistics like sourcing products, inventory management, fulfillment, and shipping.

But owners have full control over their brand, customer relationships, and revenue channels. With their own online store, entrepreneurs can far surpass income from affiliate marketing alone if they succeed in building a loyal customer base.


While affiliate marketing is an accessible way for bloggers and influencers to monetize their online presence, other online business models can offer greater earning potential. Dropshipping, creating digital products, building a YouTube audience, and offering freelance services can all be extremely lucrative online businesses.

The flexibility and high-profit margins of these alternatives can make them superior to relying solely on affiliate marketing. There are many online business options worth exploring that go beyond affiliate links. Learn here more about passive income ideas and tips on how to make money online.