Affiliate marketing is an art and a science at the same time. Learning how to be an excellent affiliate marketer takes time and effort. Learning what it is and how to do it is easy, it takes as little as 30 minutes. Managing to earn money, be profitable and scale it to making a great living is the real challenge.
Being an affiliate marketer means you promote other people's products and services and you get commissions whenever you bring them sales. The advantage for the retailer is that he doesn't have to bother with marketing, promotions and stuff like that, he only takes orders, handles customers and delivers the goods.
On the other hand, you, as an affiliate, have the advantage of not having to deal with stocks, picky customers, delivery terms, returns and so on. You just direct leads towards your partner's business and you both win then they become customers.
If you want to become an affiliate marketer, you can start by joining one or several affiliate networks. These are communities where merchants meet affiliates. They handle the commissions and payments and they usually charge the merchants a small fee for that.
After you learn how to do it, you need to learn how to do it exceptionally well. The art is picking the right merchants and products to promote. If you run a fishing website, let's say, you'll want to find products that are related to fishing: lures, fishing rods, books about fishing techniques and so on. Out of all products available, some will sell very well, while others will be flops. You won't know from the very beginning who's a winner and who's a loser. In time, you'll know how to recognize products that have the greatest potential.
In affiliate marketing, you'll have to use a website or more to drive traffic to your chosen offers. Traffic can come naturally from search engines, but you'll need to learn and master SEO for that to happen. You should also know that SEO takes time. Sometimes many months or even years may pass from the first action you do to the first big success. Search engine marketing is a much faster method to get those results, but it requires a bigger budget to start with. Basically you buy your place in search engines. You bid on keywords, together with other websites promoting products from the same category. The highest bids win the highest spots. You only pay when people click, but if they only click and you don't make sales, you lose money.
Tweaking search engine marketing campaigns for success may cost you money in the beginning. You need to find that thin balance where the income exceeds the spending, so you become profitable at the end of the day. After you manage this, you need to scale it to the point where you can call it a living.
Basically, the success pillars in affiliate marketing are attention and continuous education. Pay attention to what happens to your websites, learn everything you can, learn a new thing every day, read all books and blogs that you can find and you might wake up one day and realize you're an expert in affiliate marketing. Money will follow.