Yes, you’ve read the title correctly — While the entire idea of becoming an affiliate is for YOU to make money while promoting a company’s product or service, there are more than a handful of companies out there that actually require YOU to pay THEM money before you can be part of their program. While this may seem like an outlandish idea, more and more companies seem to be adopting this form of recruiting for their affiliate programs. With all these businesses forcing you to hand out your own money upfront just to become their affiliate, the question still remains — should you? While I can’t outright tell you which programs you should invest your time (and in this case your money) into, I want to at least give you the PROs and CONs of such programs so that you have a better understanding of what you may be getting yourself into.
Why you should AVOID Pay-to-Join Programs
Let’s face it, many times when someone asks you to pay them money so that you can then make money, you may be a little hesitant to do so. It is, after all, completely natural to feel unsure about something. Not only that, but it is also the correct instinct to have when preparing to invest yourself into a program. When I personally come across programs that ask for money upfront, the first word that pops into my head is SCAM.
Though being a scam may not always be the case (because there many pay-to-join programs that are indeed legitimate), I still choose to proceed with caution and do more research before handing in an application. As an influencer, I believe it is not only in your best interest to do your research, but it should also be a self-established requirement for yourself, before tossing your hat into any ring. As I mentioned in my article “CAN CERTAIN ONLINE AFFILIATE PROGRAMS HURT YOUR REPUTATION?“, many times you will run into programs that will not only try to deceive your followers, but you as well. Remember that your brand’s image gets affected by the types of products and services you promote. If you decide to promote something that is a scam or provides people with empty promises, your image may be tarnished as an influencer and you may feel like a fool for ever working with that business.
Now if a company tries to sell themselves to you, to the point that you feel like you are their customer rather than their partner, then many times that’s because a customer is all you are to them. When seeing some of these affiliate programs that are around nowadays, they are starting to take the shape of classic pyramid schemes. I’m sure many of you have come across a pyramid scheme before but just in case you haven’t, I’ve designed a diagram to illustrate how a pyramid scheme works:
With these types of business formats, the creators of the product or service will likely see the biggest percentage of each “transaction”. I say “transaction” rather than “sale” because its the new member fees that many of these companies really profit from. Think about what these companies are creating here. Sure — they may have an actual product to sell; it may even be a product that genuinely does what it says it will — but if they have the ability to sell themselves to people, people who would literally PAY to promote them, they have just made money off of a promise rather than a product. Why is this so profitable for them? Because it costs money to produce a product, but it costs nearly nothing to promise someone something. When these companies pitch to you the idea that you can make money by joining them, they are making you a promise — a promise that costs them nothing. So remember, next time you see a company that looks very similar to the type of company that I’ve stated above; they may likely just be trying to make you another pawn in their game.
Why You Should “Buy the Ticket and Take the Ride”
On the other hand — what if I told you that by them asking for a small membership fee, that they were in fact making a reasonable request?
Let me remind you what an affiliate is. It’s when you promote or endorse a product that you feel provides VALUE to your viewers. How are you suppose to genuinely know if a said product or service holds value unless you actually try it for yourself? What many of these legitimate companies are doing by asking for a fee or a purchase is weeding out the potential affiliates that aren’t in it for the better interest of their customers, but rather they are just after more commissions to stick into their own pocket. It’s sad to say, but there are many influencers out there that only care about the money and will exploit their viewers vulnerability to their own benefit. Personally, I applaud companies who don’t want to be associated with those types of affiliates, and if they have to ask for a purchase so that they know their affiliates will give an accurate review, then I very much agree with their decision.
Another reason why a company may ask for a membership fee, is when they offer additional benefits to their affiliates upon joining their program. With some of these companies, they will provide promotional videos, callers to close a sale, and even marketing coaches for their affiliates to utilize. Having these types of tools readily available for their affiliates isn’t cheap. By asking an applicant for a small payment when first joining their program, many times that money helps pay for those tools the affiliate will be able to use.
Building onto the idea of marketing coaches, I would also like to point out that some affiliate programs even provide their affiliate partners with full on marketing classes to help train them to better market products to their viewers. Many times their strategies that they teach apply to marketing as a whole and not just to the product that they are selling. Many of them who offer training courses will teach you how to utilize social media for your marketing campaign, how to use and understand copyright laws, and some even teach you how to make a website that will help make sales for you. Let us not forget that proper education costs us money regardless. If you were to enroll into a university or even a technical college, your tuition alone would be far higher in price than any of these affiliate “membership” fees. By providing you with such helpful strategies, you are very likely to get more value out of their program than what you paid to be in it.
There are many affiliate programs out there and I know how hard it is to determine what the best move to make is. What I ask of you is to not rush into anything. If you truly want to succeed in affiliate marketing, then you have to make thoughtful, educated decisions and the only way to do that is to look into EVERYTHING about a program before you just jump into it. Like I said before, I can’t tell you whether or not you should pay to be a part of something; but I hope with the parts that I touched in this article, that you’ll have a better idea what to think about when faced with these types of programs. Of course, if the idea of paying to be an affiliate is totally against your beliefs, then simply don’t do it. There are still MANY programs out their that cost nothing to join. All you need to do is find the right fit for you and excel at it.
I hope this article taught you something new about affiliate marketing. Don’t forget to follow The Passive Incomer on social media and also bookmark our site so that you can stay up-to-date with all of our new articles being posted here. Thanks for your time and good luck!
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