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Affiliate Marketing vs Selling Your Own Products: Which is Better?

Affiliate Marketing vs. Creating Your Own Products: Which is Better?
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If you’re here, it’s likely you’re at a crossroads. You’ve probably heard about affiliate marketing and selling your own products. You might have looked into the different product options like:

  • eBooks
  • Digital courses
  • Membership sites
  • and, you might have even looked into physical products

You know you can make money with either option and there’s lots more benefits like location freedom, impacting others, and becoming an authority on various topics. The problem you’re probably having now is answering the questions, “Which business model should I choose?”, and “Which is best for ME?”.

The funny thing is…you’re not the only one that asks that question. In fact, I’ve been asked this quite a bit. Some people will say things like:

  • Why would I spend my time promoting someone else’s products when I can sell my own?
  • Why take a percentage when I can have the whole thing?
  • Or, if they’re more in favor of affiliate marketing, they might say “Why create my own products when I can make money without all of the added responsibilities?

There are many pros and cons to each business model you should consider–that’s why I’ll be comparing the two business models here in this article.

, I will tell you:

  • What each is
  • How each works
  • Pros and Cons
  • What they each do well and they don’t
  • What others are saying (good and bad)
  • The Major Differences
  • My Recommendation
  • And, Alternatives (in case you want to continue looking)

To see this content in video format, check it out here:


What is Affiliate Marketing? An Overview

It’s likely you know the “generic” response already, so I’ll break down affiliate marketing a little different.

Have you ever seen people who say, “Tell your friends about my product or service, and I’ll give you [some pre-determined reward]”? If so, this is the core of affiliate marketing.

It is a type of marketing where business owners leverage the influence of someone else’s audience to gain more exposure of their products and services. Affiliate marketing happens ALL THE TIME.

Now, affiliate marketing has become more formal. Rather than simply passing on referrals verbally and tracking referrals manually, there is tracking links, tracking software, and other technology that helps to make sure affiliates are being paid accurately, and merchants are being charged accurately.

Affiliate marketers have to divide their time in 4 ways: acquiring the work, doing the work, managing the work, and strategizing about the work. You can see how the tasks break down in an affiliate marketing here.

What is Selling Your Own Products? An Overview

In contrast to affiliate marketing where you’re selling products and services that are already complete and being fulfilled by someone else, with selling your own products, you’d be in charge of the product development, product maintenance, and customer support functions. Product developers have to divide their time 4 ways like affiliate marketers do, but it’s many more tasks to do. Let’s see how the tasks break down…

Acquiring the work: 

When you’re acquiring the work, you’d be looking for potential customers. You could be responding to inquiries from paid ads, doing social media marketing, networking in forums, doing cold emails, responding to inquiries of potential customers, or performing other tasks that bring more customers to your business. These tasks would likely also apply to affiliate marketing.

Doing the work

Doing the work is where the list varies and where most people underestimate the effort when comparing affiliate marketing and creating your own products. As an affiliate, you’d do:

  • Writing blog posts
  • Creating graphics or images for social media
  • Setting up ad campaigns
  • Optimizing ad campaigns
  • Designing your website or landing pages
  • Doing your copywriting
  • Creating your videos
  • Optimizing content for search engines
  • Organizing your finances
  • Setting up legal disclaimers

Which are the sole tasks the affiliate would have to do, but in addition, a product developer would also have to:

  • Research the market to identify a demand that you could build a product to solve
  • Create the product
  • Set up and manage payments
  • Manage refunds and customer satisfaction
  • Maintain and update the product to ensure its relevant and up-to-date

Managing the work:

Whether you decide to become an affiliate or a product developer, you would likely have to hire at some point, however, a product developer may need to hire for more tasks, so they might require more positions with a wider pool of skills.

Startegizing about the work:

In terms of strategizing about the work, you’d have to do business planning and spotting out opportunities for growth regardless. With an affiliate business, you can also decide to add on an additional affiliate partner, move into a new niche, or creating a product could be a second step after validating the idea with affiliate marketing.

In fact, I recommend all entrepreneurs start out as affiliates before launching products because in this way, they can master some of the tasks required and build an audience, then they can launch their products to a group of people who are familiar with them.

How Do I Get Started with Affiliate Marketing?

To get started with affiliate marketing, you’d choose a niche, build a website, get traffic, and convert the traffic into paying customers. You can get started by building a free website here:

How Do I Get Started with Creating Your Own Products?affiliate marketing vs. creating your own products

To get started creating your own products, I’d recommend you begin by validating the demand for a product like what you’re considering as an affiliate–this way, you won’t spend lots of time and money on developing a product that no one buys.

Large companies use this model. For example, my local grocery store is a huge franchise called HEB. They’re located all across Texas and they’re Walmart-size stores. They sell products that are their HEB brand and products that are other people’s products.

Before they decide to launch a private labeled product, they observe how well they’re selling a product that’s someone else’s first. If they see a demand, and they see they’re doing well selling someone else’s products, they consider that product for private labeling–Walmart and other large companies do the same thing.

I want you to consider testing products and services as an affiliate before creating your own version, then it lowers the financial and time risk associated with product development.

Added to that, it also helps in many other ways I’ve described in my post 7 Reasons Why Entrepreneurs Should be Affiliates (especially before product development or service design).

Who is Affiliate Marketing For?

  • Affiliate marketing is perfect for someone who wants to start a business, but doesn’t have products or service
  • Someone who wants to start a business with a small budget
  • Those who want lifestyle and location freedom
  • Those who want endless earning potential
  • Someone who doesn’t mind commission-only pay (based on affiliate product sales)
  • A media personality

Who is Creating Your Own Products for?

  • Someone who doesn’t mind customer support
  • Those who are good at doing research and identifying opportunities in the market
  • Those who want control of the product they’re promoting and the pricing
  • Those who have a reputation and can launch a product to a pool of potential buyers
  • Someone who has a little more time and money to invest into their business
  • Someone who doesn’t mind commission-only pay (from their own products)

Affiliate Marketing Tools & Training

There are lots of programs out there that suggest they’ll teach you affiliate marketing. In theory, affiliate marketing is very easy to comprehend, but to succeed in affiliate marketing, you need perseverance. Most people get innaccurate information, and quit because they’re given false expectations.

An affiliate marketing education can range in costs: from hundreds of dollars well up to tens of thousands of dollars (from some retailers). Added to the education, you’d also need:

  • A supportive community
  • A domain
  • Website hosting
  • and, Tools for market research

I recommend you get all of the tools and support you need to be successful as an affiliate at Wealthy Affiliate.

Tools & Training for Creating your Own Products and Services

If you’re looking to create your own products and services–this can vary quite a bit. For most product developers, you’d need:

  • A supportive community
  • A domain
  • Website hosting
  • Tools for market research
  • A shopping card or payment processor
  • Hosting or Storage (specifically for product files)
  • Learning management system – For digital course sales
  • Graphic design – To create thumbnails, book covers, product images, and more
  • Copyediting

I’d recommend Create and Go’s course Six Figure Blogger or their Pro Blogger Bundle for step-by-step guidance on how to create digital products.

What Does Affiliate Marketing Do Well

  • It’s a business model where you’d be focused most on growing an audience and recommending relevant products and services to them
  • You can have lots of earning potential
  • You can have location independence
  • There’s lots of time flexibility

What Does Creating Your Own Products Do Well

  • You control your prices
  • You control the product features and benefits
  • You have lots of earning potential
  • Depending on the products you choose to create, you could also have lots of location independence and time flexibility

What Doesn’t Affiliate Marketing Do Well

  • You don’t control pricing
  • You don’t control the innerworkings of the business–a business you promote can go out of business
  • You may not like creating content
  • Most affiliate marketers have to be patient to grow an affiliate income. It’s not a get rich quick business model.

What Doesn’t Creating Your Own Products Do Well

  • Creating products doesn’t create the audience for them. You’d still have to acquire customers
  • You have to deal with customer refunds and complaints
  • Creating products isn’t the quickest entry into the market
  • You bear the higher financial and legal risk as a product developer

Affiliate Marketing Review Roundup

Common Positive Feedback

  • I was able to quit my job and do affiliate marketing
  • I have much more lifestyle freedom than ever
  • I love being able to help people get products and services they need

Common Negative Feedback

  • It took me a couple years to get my affiliate business working–longer than I expected
  • I almost gave up
  • I ran into many scams before finding a program that taught me what to do

Most Helpful Positive Affiliate Marketing Review

This review came from Alenka at Affiliate Marketing Action Today. I asked her a few questions about affiliate marketing (in bold) and these were her responses:

What’s your experience with affiliate marketing?

A year and a half ago I was in great need to start working from home. I was looking for ways to not only exchange time for money but also to build a business that will eventually bring me if not 100% passive income, then an income that I could automate in such a way it feels like passive income. After examining a few other online business models, I decided affiliate marketing was the way to go for me. And, I haven’t been wrong. It’s quite a bit of work to start with, but I can now see how it’s all paying off. All the efforts you put in, eventually, get rewarded many times over. 

Why did you choose it over other digital agency business models (e-commerce, selling physical products online, making handmade items, Amazon FBA or EBay selling, or selling services?

The only other business model I tried is e-commerce. It didn’t suit me because I didn’t want to deal with customer service and worry about shipping products. Now, this is not to say that e-commerce is not great for making money online. Just that it didn’t suit me.

How long have you been in affiliate marketing?

18 months

What would you tell someone in digital marketing who is considering affiliate marketing over other business models?

I would advise them to take advantage of the amazing features of affiliate marketing:
– You don’t need to create, manufacture, produce you own product
– No worries about customer service, shipping, inventory, etc
– It’s a nice kind of selling – you are recommending a product that you like yourself, you feel happy about it, so it feels great to be helping someone else out there who might benefit from your recommendation. Affiliate marketing makes me feel good about what I do every day.
– It’s fairly simple to automate. You will need to put in some good work at the beginning, but some time down the line, you can automate a large portion of your affiliate business. 

What would you tell an entrepreneur whose considering whether to do cold calling, door-to-door, flyers, live networking, or to start an affiliate program?

Affiliate Program. No contest. You can work from home, work the hours that suit you, be your own boss

Most Helpful Negative Affiliate Marketing Review

It’s also helpful to hear from people who had a bad experience with affiliate marketing or who didn’t make money after a significant amount of invested time like Bosco.

He had been trying affiliate marketing for one year and still hadn’t made money! In his post where he talks about how he’s been failing, he pinpointed the reasons he hadn’t been successful in affiliate marketing, and I decided to share his review because it can be helpful for you.

In Summary, he was failing because:

  • He thought he could outsmart the training he’s paid for by using fragments from various experts and combining it
  • He was skipping around in training programs and applying what he thought would work for him rather than applying one program entirely
  • and, He had unrealistic expectations of the growth of his business commensurate with his skill level and investment

Creating Your Own Products Review Roundup

Here are the things people say about creating your own products: both good and bad.

Common Positive Feedback

  • Creating my first product added significantly to my other income streams
  • I love having control of my own prices and quality
  • I enjoy working with affiliates and having them promote my products and make money

Common Negative Feedback

  • I know my product is better than others in the market, but I can’t get it to sell
  • I thought if I create a product that’s in demand and put it online, it would sell really fast, but that’s not happening
  • I thought my income growth would be much faster once I made my product, but I guess I was wrong
  • I hate dealing with customer support, refunds, and complaints

Most Helpful Positive GetReponse Review

Alex and Lauren McManus are two very successful bloggers. They started out in 2015 with big aspirations and very little support (aside from each other). Their first blog Health and Happy Hour was a complete flop!

They spent lots of time and money on product development: making their blog as appealing as possible, making their first product as detailed as possible, and they didn’t get sales. Now that they’ve built more than one successful blogs, they can look back at their mistakes. They were unsuccessful because:

  • They launched their first product without first having an audience
  • They didn’t know how to write sales copy or create sales pages that convert
  • and, they had not “tested” the idea to make sure it would work for them

After their first failure, they decided to revamp their product launch steps. Their second time around, they did market research, identified an opportunity, tested the opportunity with comparable affiliate products, and reinvested the revenue from affiliate sales into creating their own. As a result of their “become an affiliate first” approach, they earned more than $100,000/year in their first year with their new blog Avocado, and now they earn more than $100,000 every month!

Becoming an affiliate first works!

Most Helpful Negative Review on Creating Your Own Courses

I learned alot about product development from a bad experience Ian Pribs had with his Free Internet Marketing Project. He was a Super Affiliate of several companies, very good at driving traffic and sales online, then he decided to create his own product. He was disappointed with the quality standards and some differences in theories between internet marketing courses, so he decided he wanted to share his knowledge with the world for free.

He replaced an affiliate product he was earning more than 6-figures/year with, and decided to redirect the traffic to his own product he was giving for free. He thought people taking the course would naturally want to donate and the donations would support the infrastructure of his business–it didn’t work out that way.

He underestimated the support burden, the amount of time and money would be required, and he ended up losing money rather than gaining money. Now, he’s revamping his business and I think he’ll have much more success with his own products than he did before. The income from affiliate marketing has been crucial to the continued revenue in his business as he pivots to stabilize things with his own products.

Major Differences Between Affiliate Marketing and Creating Your Own Products

1. Responsibility

With affiliate marketing, you’re solely responsible for influencing the buying decision. After the person takes action, the merchant becomes responsible for satisfying the terms of the sale. In contrast, when you create your own products, you’re in charge of the front-end functions (recruiting affiliates, driving traffic, converting traffic to sales) and the backend customer fulfillment functions.

2. Risk

Creating your own products has more financial and legal risk because you have to uphold warranties, money back guarantees, and deliver on the quality standards promises in the sales process.

3. # of Tasks

When you create your own products, you have to divide your time across more tasks: marketing, sales, management, product development, and strategy.

4. Amount of Required Skills

With affiliate marketing, you have to be strong in the marketing and sales skills. With product development, you have to be good at product design and development, marketing, and sales skills.

My Final Opinion of Affiliate Marketing vs. Creating Your Own Courses

Overall, both are solid business models I’ve seen people use to generate lucrative incomes (sometimes 6-figures or more). Each can be very helpful and impact people in positive ways.

I personally recommend both business models, but I think it’s best to start as an affiliate, and begin creating your own product once your skills are ready and the idea has some level of proof the concept will work for you. You can see my 7 reasons for recommended entrepreneurs to become affiliates first here, or you can get started with my #1 recommended affiliate marketing training here.

Top Alternatives to Affiliate Marketing and Creating Your Own Products

If you still want to look around at various different online business models, then these are some other options (and I’ve linked to resources where you can get more information about them).

VERDICT: Both Solid Business Models, but I recommend you Start as an Affiliate 1st.


Try my #1 recommended training on affiliate marketing here.

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