Marketing. When operating as a consultant, you won’t necessarily be marketing your company; you’ll be marketing yourself. You’ll have to “package” yourself in a way that makes people trust you. For instance, if you’re marketing yourself as a financial consultant, ask yourself why someone would trust you with their life savings, and then figure out a way to convey that to potential clients. It might be in the form of a brochure, a portfolio, a sales letter, or all three.
Once you have that problem or need nailed, the next step is to validate that idea and make sure you’ve actually got customers who will pay for it. This means building a minimum viable product, getting objective feedback from real customers, incorporating updates, testing the market for demand, and getting pricing feedback to ensure there’s enough of a margin between your costs and what consumers are willing to pay.
Affiliate marketing has grown quickly since its inception. The e-commerce website, viewed as a marketing toy in the early days of the Internet, became an integrated part of the overall business plan and in some cases grew to a bigger business than the existing offline business. According to one report, the total sales amount generated through affiliate networks in 2006 was £2.16 billion in the United Kingdom alone. The estimates were £1.35 billion in sales in 2005. MarketingSherpa's research team estimated that, in 2006, affiliates worldwide earned US$6.5 billion in bounty and commissions from a variety of sources in retail, personal finance, gaming and gambling, travel, telecom, education, publishing, and forms of lead generation other than contextual advertising programs.
Commission Junction — This site serves as a clearinghouse for thousands of companies and small businesses looking to get into the affiliate business. It offers myriad affiliate programs, but you must apply separately to each one. Payout rates vary wildly, up to 50 percent, and some commissions are based on leads or clicks vs. sales. Frustratingly, Commission Junction deducts $10 from your accrued earnings for every month in which you don’t actively earn commissions; if you let your account lapse, your income could get wiped out.
Research individual companies in your desired niche: If possible, it’s always better to become an affiliate directly with a company (if they have an internal affiliate program), as no one else will be dipping into your commission rate. This is the preferred route for most of the prominent affiliate marketers, including Pat Flynn. Unfortunately, it’s also the most work, as you’ll have to do the research yourself to see who offers programs (they’re usually listed in the website footer).