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Like millions of Americans, I found myself out of work during the pandemic. At first, I was laid off from my waitressing job. Then I began working for myself as an online fitness coach, but running the business required 10-hour workdays and I was only making $1,000 to $2,000 a month.
So in July 2021, I decided to pivot. I took my entrepreneurship experience and started to use my TikTok and Instagram accounts to market wealth-building tools and online programs.
By October, business had taken off and my TikTok following grew to more than 40,000 followers. Since then, I’ve been making about $8,000 per month in passive income through commission off my affiliate posts, including ones that are several months old and recurring subscriptions to my educational programs. What’s nice is that I now work just two hours a day, mostly posting on social media.
When people ask me how they can create a passive income-generating business, I tell them that there’s a lot of heavy lifting work at first, but it pays off in the long run.
Here’s my best advice:
1. Automate your business
To make passive income, set up automatic systems at the start of your business. This will save you so much time because your most essential tasks will run on autopilot.
Create a product that requires limited upkeep
I started my entrepreneurial journey as a personal trainer. But I found that selling a one-on-one coaching service meant I’d always be trading my time for money. To make passive income, you have to offer a product that doesn’t require so much energy creating and delivering the product.
Becoming an affiliate marketer solved that problem; I currently sell products and services from other brands that I don’t need to deliver myself.
The goal is to create a product once and sell it for a long time with limited upkeep. Some examples: digital courses, online community subscriptions and apps.
Generate sales funnels automatically
A “sales funnel” is the process that a customer experiences before they make a purchase.
With my business, customers find me on social media, then they’re pushed through my sales funnel: They sign up for my email list and are sent product offers there.
I have a system in place on my website that creates the sales funnel for me; customers are automatically added to my email list and introduced to products without me having to do anything.
I use a platform called ClickFunnels, but there are other great options like Builderall or Systeme.
Set up an email auto-responder
The “Rule of Seven” is one of the oldest rules in marketing. Based on research by Dr. Jeffrey Lant, it says you need to contact a prospective customer seven times in 18 months before they are ready to buy a product.
But these days, with so many online ads, you may need to contact potential customers even more often to make a sale. I use Aweber to automatically send daily follow-up emails to prospective customers who haven’t purchased my product until they buy or unsubscribe.
I’ve seen other business owners use GetResponse and Mailchimp to send automatic emails.
2. Don’t try to reinvent the wheel
I see a lot of people try too hard to reinvent the wheel completely with social media posts to get their business into the spotlight.
But after acquiring 109,100 TikTok followers, I’ve learned that the key to going viral and growing your audience is to study what’s working for others. Sure, you want to be original, but you should be posting content people already find interesting.
Use this process to put your own twist on social media posts:
- Study what other people in your niche are talking about. For example, if you are selling wellness products, is there a particular conversation that’s happening in the wellness space that you could add to, or questions people are always asking in the comments section that you could answer? Use these insights to nail down your message or what information and advice you’ll be sharing.
- Pay attention to the formats being used. Are your successful competitors posting a lot of spoken stories, or a lot of dances overlaid with advice as text-on-screen? Are their captions long, or does the content in the post speak for itself? Take note of what formats are resonating and brainstorm ways you could do something similar.
- Zero in on the hashtags and sounds that are catching traction. Save sounds and hashtags you’re seeing across the platform you’re working on. Add these elements to your intended format to get your message in front of as many people as possible.
To stay on top of trends, I regularly watch marketing TikTok creator @secretsocialari, who shares her strategies for going viral and building an engaged audience.
3. Focus on solving a problem
The main goal of any business is to sell a product or service. But at the end of the day, no one cares about what you sell — people care about their own goals, their own dreams, and their own problems.
You want to indirectly market your product in a way that highlights how it can help meet your audience’s needs or help them achieve a goal.
4. To sell to your audience, engage with them directly
Individual posts on Instagram or TikTok are great for providing value and entertaining your audience, but it’s almost impossible for your audience to get to know you through these curated posts.
Having a connection with your audience is important. As people get to know who you are, they begin to trust what you are saying and what you are selling, which will lead to more sales.
I engage directly with my audience by responding to their comments and messages, or by going live on Instagram and TikTok. This gives me a chance to build a personal connection with them through genuine back-and-forth conversation.
5. Be selective about what you promote
If you’re planning to start an affiliate marketing business, these are the main things I recommend looking for:
- High gravity: Gravity means the number of people who are actively promoting the product. If this number is high, you know the product is good.
- Low refund rate: If a product has a high refund rate, it means that a lot of people have been unsatisfied with it, so you want to avoid these. Promoting products with high refund rates can decrease your audience’s trust in you.
- Recurring subscriptions: These are the best types of products to promote because you will receive a commission payout every month each time the subscriber renews their subscription.
- Positive reviews: I always Google reviews for the affiliate programs I’m looking into before deciding to promote them. I want to make sure its a widely-liked product.
I also sell products that I’ve personally enjoyed, like the online course I used to start my business.
Shannon Smith is an affiliate marketer who teaches others how to make money online. Follow her on TikTok @hustlewithshan and @shanxxxsmith.