Blogging. Affiliate Marketing. Network Marketing. What the heck is the difference? Let’s break it all down so you can make an educated decision as to whether or not one of these types of businesses could be right for you!
IMPORTANT: Before you start investing time, effort, money, or energy into any business, MAKE SURE YOU DO YOUR HOMEWORK!
A blog is a breathing website! The content is continually updated and users (such as yourself) are typically able to interact with the author by posting comments under articles. Users can also share information they find valuable by posting the content to their own social media outlets.
Some of the ways bloggers are able to monetize their blogging efforts are by offering space on their webpage to advertisers and sponsors, linking themselves up with Affiliate Programs (we’ll talk more about that later), selling their own tangible products, offering their services for a fee or links to other membership programs – the list goes on, and on, and on!
There are TONS of resources available online that can teach you how to capitalize on your blog. It’s something that can be started off on a part time basis to make a little extra money, and could potentially become a steady stream of income if effectively utilized. Blogging does require effort and consistency on your part – you want to make sure you keep the content fresh so you can keep your target market’s attention. You want them to keep returning to hear what you have to say so they stay in front of, or next to, what you’re advertising, selling, learning, etc.!
TIP: Make sure your market is targeted and that the products you offer are consistent with your audience. If your blog is about dog breeding, it is not likely that your affiliate auto parts program is going to be a huge money maker!
“Become an Affiliate.” “Affiliate Program.” Ever notice these words at the footer of the website you visit and purchase products from ALL THE TIME? Many companies offer programs to “Affiliates” to drive traffic and sales to a company or retailer’s website, and in return, the company or retailer monetarily compensates the affiliate for the lead or sale. Affiliate Programs vary from company to company: some pay a commission based on converted sales, while others pay for leads and traffic. The commission amount also varies from program to program.
Typically, the company will assign a link that is unique to you, the Affiliate, that can be posted or embedded on your webpage. Banners and images are usually provided as well. When a user on your blog or website clicks on the link, the traffic is driven to the retailer’s external site through the link. That activity can be tracked back to you through your unique link! You may get paid a commission if the prospective lead or customer makes a purchase on the retailer’s website or signs up for an account with the retailer. In other cases, you may get paid a commission just for driving the lead to the site.
Make sure you review all the details of each Affiliate Program as they can vary drastically from place to place. It’s also important to note that in order to become an affiliate, generally you’ll need to have a blog or website to market your links. I’m sure that if you’re creative enough, you may be able to do it without a website or blog, but it would be tricky.
TIP: Do you (or would you) actually purchase the products or services you’re offering on your site? If the answer is “NO,” I would reconsider if it’s something you want on your page or in your community. You should be able to stand behind the products you’re marketing. Even though you’re not technically the vendor, the products and services are a reflection of you because they are YOUR recommendations. If you wouldn’t personally use it, my rule of thumb is don’t attempt to push it on others!
Ok, here’s the one that always seems to confuse people: Network Marketing. Just hearing these two words together can raise the hair on the back of a person’s neck, or cause them to run in the other direction. Why is that? Well, let’s examine.
Often times, the first thoughts that people have when they hear Network Marketing, or Multi Level Marketing (MLM), are “Pyramid Schemes,” “Money Triangles,” “Fraudulent Business,” etc., etc. Maybe they’ve had a bad experience in the past, tried an opportunity that wasn’t suited for them, or have been sold a product that they just didn’t need or really want in the first place. The truth of the matter is that “Pyramid Schemes” are ILLEGAL! The business that your friend asked you to take a look at last week might be a Network Marketing opportunity, but chances are it is not a “pyramid scheme.”
The Network Marketing business model is based on “Word of Mouth” referrals. Rather than staffing an office or call center to market and distribute a product, a company will pay commissions to Independent Consultants for product sales that a consultant personally generates, as well as sales generated by sponsoring new consultants, and sales made by said new consultants. By working with Independent Consultants rather than “Employees,” at tax time the company is able to issue form 1099 to any consultants who earned more than $600.00 that fiscal year. This business model can be appealing to a company looking to keep payroll expenses down, or to a consultant looking to offset their income by having home based business expenses**. **(I am by no means a tax professional, so please consult with your accountant or financial adviser as to the benefits and/or financial details and responsibilities of owning a home based business or operating a Network Marketing company.)
Here is the important part: remember what I mentioned earlier about doing your homework? Well, DO YOUR HOMEWORK! How long has the company been in business? Are they a member of the Direct Selling Association (DSA)? (Side note: It takes a very long time for an application to be reviewed and approved by the DSA. They do background checks and an array of other research before they will approve a company to be admitted into the Association. If the company you are checking out belongs to the DSA, again, chances are they are not a “pyramid scheme.”) Are they rated with the Better Business Bureau (BBB)? What kind of products or services do they sell and what is the average price of the products or services? Is the product something you can see yourself using? There are many questions you need to ask yourself and get the answers to in order for you to make an informed decision. These will get you started on your path to business opportunity education.
If your goal is to start a home based business with a low start up cost and low overhead, a Network Marketing company could be a good fit for you. The hours are flexible and a reputable outfit will provide you with free or low cost training to get you started on the right foot. Most of the time for a monthly fee, the company will provide, host, and maintain several different websites for you where customers can purchase your products or services and watch a video of your business opportunity, with another site that tracks your progress, commissions, goals, events, etc. The prices are generally reasonable considering what it would actually cost you if you were to buy a domain name, create your own website, and have it hosted every month. Don’t forget to check with your financial adviser regarding the benefits of owning and operating a home based business.
Make sure you don’t confuse the word “simple” with “easy.” Many Network Marketing companies are based on a simple idea, but you still have to put in time and effort. You are not going to “get rich quick,” and if anyone promises you otherwise, I’d seriously reconsider joining their organization, and even go as far as to report them to the corporate headquarters. That consultant could just literally be a bad consultant standing in the way of you and a good opportunity. If you think someone is acting inappropriately, let the company know! They should know if their name is being tarnished in the community, and chances are, they will remedy the situation. If you are consistent, patient, and honest, you will have a better chance of being successful in the industry.
TIP: One of the most critical components to being successful in Network Marketing is this – you MUST, MUST, MUST be able to stand behind your product or service!. Don’t try to sell someone a product or service that you would never in a million years consider trying or buying yourself. You’re getting face to face (or phone to phone, keyboard to keyboard, etc.) with people who know, love, and trust you. Make sure that you do right by your community!
(For more information regarding starting your own home based business offering a recession proof product, click HERE!)
Alissa McDowell is a small office business administrator turned Momtrepreneur. Well versed in wearing many hats, she is currently a work-from-home-mom at “Chez McDowell”. This wife, mother of two, chef, bookkeeper, and housekeeper works part time as a Network Marketer and Blogger promoting a recession proof product in the new economy. Follow her blog at www.alissamcdowell.com for money saving tips, business strategies, and products and services associated with balancing home life with business life. Alissamcdowell.com is a community where ALL entre(and momtre)preneurs can network and share ideas. You can also find her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/mcdowell.alissa.