Success Story: My Affiliate Side Income as a Student

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When I was a student, I was earning quite a lot of money online. It was more than enough to live an extremely comfortable student life. I was raking in between 1000$ and 1500$ extra money every month from a combination of affiliate marketing + SEO – which opens up a new world when you’re living in a student home. 🙂

And, after been thinking a while, I want to share my story in order to inspire other students to be able to do the same.

This is a story that fits for those of you that:

  • Wants to make a decent side income with affiliate marketing
  • Want to know the struggle of earning money online
  • Wonders how people can earn money on websites
  • …and those who are curious about how a ‘rich’ student really lives his life. 🙂

What will this article cover?

Let me just be straight with you. I am not going to be your “online marketing guru” or trying to sell you any expensive course. That’s not the person I am.

I would never charge money from students that wanted to make a side income with affiliate marketing.

After working with affiliate marketing for 10 years, I’m sort of bored of teaching it to other people. I’ve done that a lot. Every time someone in a bar asked me: “So…how do you really earn money online?”, I’ve tried to give them the best explanation possible.

However, I am going to motivate you and make you more interested in the concept of making money online.

Therefore, this article will cover:

  • A personalized journey where I tell exactly how I was successful with affiliate marketing
  • Tips and tricks for students that want to have a decent side income
  • What to do and what NOT to do with your extra money.
  • …and I think it will be a good read.

This article will not cover:

  • Boring headlines like “What is affiliate marketing?”, “Is SEO dead?”, etc.
  • I am not going to dig deep into how you make your first website or anything like that. If you have questions: feel free to write something in the comment field below the article.

Extra student income: My finances

So how would a typical month look like financially when I was a student? And how did I get to the point where I earned a decent side income online?

Budget

Available income: ~ 2000 USD.

Total cost every month: ~ 1700 USD.

Housing700 $
Food400 $
Alcohol and partying300 $
Holidays150 $
Books & other school expenses100 $
Misc50 $

This is not 100 % accurate, but I guess it’s as close as it gets.

In regards to my income, about 800 $ came through government funding. The rest came through my side income as an online marketer.

So how I was able to make money online while being an MBA student?

Let’s dig a bit deeper into that.

First of all: for some reason, people love to see screenshot of “income proof” when it comes to affiliate marketing. This is a screenshot from one of my affiliate networks back then, Tradedoubler:

I earned about 40-50 % of my affiliate side income through this network.

Later in the article, I’m gonna explain exactly what I did with this money – and how it helped me to ALWAYS have money available while being a student.

Student side hustle: Affiliate Websites in a small market Pro tips

You’ve probably already noticed that I’m not from a native English speaking country. I’m Norwegian.

That means I can talk, write, and understand the Norwegian language. And that gives me one h… of an advantage in the affiliate marketing space.

Tip 1: Make a website directed towards the market you know the best

This leads to my number one tip: make a website in your domestic market.

If you’re American, make a website directed towards Americans. If you’re Swedish: go for a Swedish website.

And if you’re from Luxembourg (total inhabitants: 600,000 people)….well….try to figure out something. 😉

There are many reasons why I chose to make my websites in Norwegian. These are some of them:

  • I could easily write high-quality articles
  • I know the Norwegian customer. I know their needs – and their preferences
  • The market is small, but people have a lot of money in Norway
  • Contacting potential affiliate partners and link building in my native tongue was easy

Tip 2: Don’t start too many websites

Oh gosh. I wish I knew about this several years ago.

If you just started with affiliate marketing or plan to start, this will be my number 1 tip to you:

Do not start two, three or four projects. Start one!

My first website was a website about contact lenses. It went alright actually – and I earned about 500 $ per month pretty quickly. My firsts reaction to that was:

“Wow. If I can just make 10 websites, I’ll be able to earn like 5000 USD per month without any problem? Affiliate marketing is so easy!”

Oh gosh.

When I look back at this, I cringe. This bizarre mentality made me start websites in all the below-mentioned niches:

  • Cosmetics
  • Mobile phone equipment
  • Protein powder
  • Furniture
  • Sunglasses and eyeglasses
  • And a couple of more

When you try to balance 10 different websites as a single operation…they will all fail. You don’t have enough manpower or time to manage and update all of them. And even though I earned a few dollars on most of them after a while, I was never really successful before I started to scale down and focus on a handful of projects.

Down the road, you might be able to afford hiring writers and editors. But as a student trying to get a small side income, that’s not realistic on short-term. Therefore, you would have to limit the number of online projects you’re running.

My tip is to only stick to one.

Tip 3: Go for affiliate offers with a high payout per sale

When I ran my contact lens affiliate website, I earned around 5-6 USD in average per sale.

Then I started a website about credit cards. Every credit card application provided me with between 25 and 50 USD.

Needless to say: I focused on the latter.

That’s something I found out pretty late actually. But there is a reason why most big affiliate companies do not focus on pushing iphone covers. If you can get 10 % of an iphone cover that costs 7,99 USD, you’re not making money. Simple as that.

Correlation between high payout and high competiton

Some of you might go:

“Well, isn’t it super hard competition for keywords like credit card and unsecured loans?”

It is. But it’s much easier to rank for those terms in your native language compared to in English.

Morever, if your native language is English, you can always find relevant sub- niches such as:

  • Student credit cards
  • Unsecured loans for people above 50 years of age
  • Credit cards with travel rebates
  • …and a lot more. 🙂

Tip 4: My last tip: follow Income School

I would strictly advice you to not spend a lot of time watching various fake online gurus tell you how to make money online. Most of them are crap.

But if there’s one Youtube channel you should follow, it’s Income School.

This is how they look like:

And this is (more or less) what they will teach you:

  • How to write SEO-friendly articles
  • What affiliate programs to use
  • Why you shouldn’t spend time building backlinks
  • And a lot more useful stuff.

If you’re completely new to affiliate marketing and SEO, I would probably spend 4-5 hours watching their videos. However, if you sort of know the game a bit…you should not spend more than 1-2 hours.

Spending time watching Youtube about SEO and affiliate marketing is one of the biggest mistakes people do in this game. You better start opening your website and write something useful, mate! 🙂

Affiliate income success as a student – what does it mean for your life?

Everything. It means so much.

Most Norwegian students abroad lives off the payment they get from the government. that’s about 800 USD every month.

I had a net income of about 2000 USD per month.

That helped me live the student life I really wanted. Among other things, these were some of my “accomplishments”:

  • Always afford quite expensive holidays every summer and winter
  • Travel around the world to meet friends that studied in other parts of the world
  • I could always afford food, alcohol and drinks as much as I wanted
  • Most importantly: I never had to spend time on a “traditional part-time job”, which will take up so much of your time.

Affiliate income is amazing. You can work exactly when you want – and the money will pour into your bank account every month regardless of how much you worked that month.

That’s why I would say it’s also super student-friendly. Before exams, I would just shut down the “affiliate world” totally, but still, be able to earn the same amount of money.

Doesn’t that sound good? 🙂

My current affiliate income

So…did I ever scale it up?

1000-1500 USD extra might be nice as a student, but probably not enough to support yourself when you’re working.

I have a full-time job now. And I love my job.

But I do also have an affiliate income of between 2500-4000 USD per month. Even though I live in one of the most expensive countries on the planet, it’s still a quite nice side income.

The income is distributed among these websites:

Norwegian website 11500-2000 USD
Norwegian website 2500-1000 USD
Norwegian website 3300-800 USD
Sustainability Matters100-150 USD

PS! I do never reveal my current niches to people. That’s one of the rules I have.

Even though less than 1 % of my readers are Norwegian, it might hurt me to reveal which niches I earn quite some money in. 🙂

Why isn’t Sustainability Matters Daily making a lot of money?

As you can see, the website you’re currently on doesn’t make me a lot of money. Frankly, I keep it mainly to teach people about living a more environmentally friendly lifestyle.

Profit has never been the focus of owning this website. I just want a place where I can educate other people about what I think is important in life.

Once you’ve started to understand how you can effectively earn money through affiliate marketing, you’re never gonna stop. It’s so addictive. And ultimately, once you learn it, it’s quite easy as well. 😉

Famous last words

Now, I’m gonna stop here. But you might have some questions for me. I’m gonna answer some of those in the section below.

If you’re still wondering about anything, feel free to leave a comment below. I try to answer everyone.

FAQ

✅Why do you write an article about affiliate marketing on Sustainability Matters?

Because this is the only international platform that I have. Also, 99 % of my readers find my articles through Google.

That means I am quite sure that this article will only be read by people who are genuinly interested in any variation of online marketing.

✅Is there something you wish you did, that you never did in terms of affiliate marketing as a student?

Oh, absolutely. Two things.

Firstly, I wish I took it more seriously. I was “happy” earning 1000-1500 $ per month. If I had the same self-discipline back then as I have now, I could easily have tripled that.

Secondly, an awful lot of people earned an awful lot of money on Facebook while I was a student. You might remember these horrible “viral sites”?

Several people earned up to 500 $ PER DAY with these websites (source: Stream-seo.com.) I honestly don’t know why I never did that. But I regret it.

✅ What are your best tips for writing SEO-friendly affiliate articles?

First of all: always produce quality content.

I’m sure some people would say this article isn’t well-written. But what I know for sure is that it gives a lot of useful information to certain groups of people. And that’s all you have to do.

Don’t fill internet with crap. Always fill it with useful, well-written and well-structured content. If you do so, Google will like you – and you will get a lot of visitors to your website.

7 thoughts on “Success Story: My Affiliate Side Income as a Student”

  1. Avatar

    It’s so motivating to hear about people when they succeed. Not sure if you (still) feel that 200 USD per month is a lot, but that’s what I currently earn on my personal finance blog. I’m in a niche where my competitiors spend like 10,000 USD per month on links and articles, which means I am literally a small fish in a big pond.

    1) Would you , if you were me, leave the personal finance niche and go for something else?

    2) How much money do you feel a website needs to earn before it has “succeeded”?

    1. Avatar

      Good to hear you found this article motivating.

      In regards to your question, I feel I am in a position to answer. I’ve owned (and sold) several websites on the Norwegian market that has been related to personal finance. More specifically; unsecured loans and credit cards.

      1) I would not leave the niche if you have real-life in-depth experience with the topic. If you can share useful information to the public: go for it.

      If this is a niche that you’re not comfortable writing (something new) in, I would sell my website and try something else. You will always find people interested in buying personal finance websites if they got some organic traffic.

      2) It’s hard to say. Back in the days, I would say that it was a great website if it earned around 500 USD/month. Now I would say that a project isn’t “started properly” unless it earns 1000 USD/month.

      But please don’t use this number as a benchmark for when you should feel satisfied or happy with your website. Some people might even be happy to earn 150-200 USD/month on their blog.

  2. Avatar

    I respect you for not telling your niches.

    However, I struggle to find a niche for my affiliate website. My previous two websites failed because they were literally filled with spun content. And as you also write in your article: Google HATES spun/fake content.

    Do you have any idea how a poor student like me can find a niche to my affiliate website? I don’t want to pay anyone to find one for me.

    1. Avatar

      Hi Lovran.

      I have a couple of ideas when it comes to picking a niche:

      1) Find something you’re interested in.

      2) Find a big enough niche to write at least 200-400 articles.

      3) Never choose a niche where you have zero personal experience. One of the advantages of my niches is that I have a lot of personal experience to share, which is unique on the Norwegian market. Google knows how to give an advantage to people that share from their personal life. 🙂

  3. Avatar

    Super motivating to read about how you created a side income while studying. Do you feel that the fact that you studied for an MBA helped you to create a business?

    I have been looking into making a website about cooking and food. The reason for that is that I am currently enrolled in a bachelor program about nutrition. However, I have ZERO knowledge about running a business. Is this hard?

    1. Avatar

      Hi Torgeir. I assume you’re Norwegian as well, but I’ll answer in English as other people might read these comments. 😉

      The business part of it is not hard at all. You don’t even need a business bank account to get started.

      I have set up a business in my own name where I gather all the affiliate income from various networks. This is something that literally takes you only a couple of minutes.

      In other words: you should NOT be scared at all from running affiliate/SEO business just because you don’t know how to run a company. If you have interesting information to share with the public, I would highly recommend you to start a website.

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