Affiliate Marketing vs Network Marketing: Which is the best?


As the world of online marketing continues to evolve, two distinct paths have emerged as popular choices for those seeking to generate income through it: Affiliate Marketing and Network Marketing

While they both share a common goal of promoting products or services, they differ in their underlying structures and approaches. This makes it important for aspiring entrepreneurs to carefully consider which path best aligns with their strengths, preferences, and risk tolerance.

Will affiliate marketing continue to dominate, or will network marketing make a powerful comeback? In this article, we’ll weigh their benefits and disadvantages, and also explore the differences between these two popular marketing strategies.

Whether you’re a seasoned marketer or just starting out, this informative piece will guide you in choosing the right marketing model for your success.

Keep reading to learn more!

What is Affiliate Marketing?

Affiliate Marketing
Affiliate Marketing

Affiliate marketing is a performance-based marketing model where you get to earn a commission by promoting a product or service made by another retailer or advertiser using an affiliate link. You can promote products or services from any company that has an affiliate program. 

In affiliate marketing, the business (merchant or advertiser) pays the affiliate (publisher or partner) a commission when a visitor clicks through the affiliate’s link and makes a purchase on the merchant’s website. 

The affiliate is essentially a salesperson for the merchant, but instead of working directly for the merchant, the affiliate is an independent contractor who promotes the merchant’s products or services on their website, social media channels, or other online platforms.

Affiliate marketing is a popular marketing strategy for businesses to reach a wider audience and generate more sales. It can also be a great way for affiliates to make money online by promoting products or services they are passionate about.

Pros of Affiliate Marketing

Low start-up cost: One of the biggest advantages of affiliate marketing is that it is very affordable to start. You don’t need to have any upfront costs; all you need is a website, blog, or social media account to promote the products or services you are affiliated with.

Flexibility: With this marketing model, you get to work from anywhere and set your working hours. This gives you the freedom to structure your business around your lifestyle and other commitments.

Passive income: Affiliate marketing can be a great source of passive income. Once you have established yourself and built a following, you can continue to earn commissions even when you are not actively working.

Earn massively: There is no limit to how much money you can make with affiliate marketing. Successful affiliate marketers can earn tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands of dollars per year. It all depends on the products or services you promote, your target audience, and your marketing skills.

You promote products/services that you are passionate about: With affiliate marketing, you can promote products or services that you are genuinely passionate about. This makes it easier to create engaging content about them, and also recommend them to your audience.

Cons of Affiliate Marketing

High competition: Affiliate marketing is a highly competitive field, as there are already millions of other affiliate marketers promoting the same products or services. This can make it difficult to stand out from the crowd and get your links clicked.

Low conversion rates: The average conversion rate for affiliate marketing is between 0.5% to 1%. This means that for every 200 people who click on your affiliate link, only one or two will make a purchase.

Commission-based payment: Affiliate marketers are only paid when they generate sales; this means there is no guaranteed income with affiliate marketing. If you are not able to generate sales through your affiliate link, you won’t earn any money.

Reliance on other businesses: As an affiliate marketer, you are relying on the success of other businesses. If the merchant you are promoting goes out of business, you will no longer be able to earn commissions from their products or services.

Potential for scams: Unfortunately, there are a lot of scams in the affiliate marketing industry. Some shady merchants may try to rip off affiliate marketers by not paying them commissions or by promoting fraudulent products or services.

What is Network Marketing?

Network Marketing
Network Marketing

Network marketing, also known as multi-level marketing (MLM), is a marketing model that involves promoting products or services through a network of recruits. As a network marketer, you earn commissions not only from your sales but also from the sales of people you recruit into your network. 

In network marketing, you typically have to buy into a network marketing company to become a distributor. You then promote the company’s products or services through various channels, such as social media, email marketing, and one-on-one meetings. 

The multi-level aspect of network marketing comes into play when distributors recruit other people to join their network. These recruits become part of the distributor’s team, and the distributor earns commissions from their sales as well.

This creates a potentially lucrative income stream, as distributors can earn commissions from multiple levels of their network.

Pros of Network Marketing

Low-cost to start: Unlike traditional businesses that may require significant upfront investment in inventory, equipment, or office space, network marketing typically requires little to minimal investments. 

High revenue: Successful network marketers can earn a high income, and also generate a passive income stream from the sales generated by their network. 

Flexible work hours and location: Network marketing offers flexibility in terms of work hours and location. As an independent representative, you can set your own schedule and work from anywhere.

Personal growth and development: Network marketing provides opportunities for personal and professional growth, as distributors develop leadership, communication, and sales skills. 

Build your team: As a network marketer, you have the opportunity to build your team of distributors and earn commissions from their sales.

Cons of Network Marketing

Low success rate: Most network marketers do not achieve significant financial success. In fact, some studies suggest that only a small percentage of network marketers earn enough income to make a living. 

High competition: Network marketing is a competitive industry, with millions of other marketers promoting the same products and services. This makes it difficult to attract and retain customers.

Risk of scams and unethical practices: There have been instances of fraudulent or unethical practices in network marketing, such as making false claims about products or services, or using deceptive recruitment tactics. 

Time commitment and upfront investment: While the startup cost of network marketing is relatively low, it requires a significant time commitment to build a successful business. You need to be willing to invest time and effort into activities such as recruiting, training, and marketing to generate sales and expand your network.

Limited control over the business: As a distributor in a network marketing company, you may have limited control over the products, pricing, and other aspects of the business. This can make it challenging to address customer concerns or adapt to the ever-changing market trends.

Affiliate Marketing Vs. Network Marketing; What’s the Difference?

Affiliate Marketing Vs. Network Marketing
Affiliate Marketing Vs. Network Marketing

While they both share the same goal of promoting products and services to generate income, they differ significantly in their approach, structure, and potential rewards. Here are a few things that sets them apart.

1. Start-up Costs

Affiliate marketing typically has no upfront costs, as affiliates can sign up for free and start promoting products or services immediately. 

On the other hand, network marketing comes with some upfront costs, such as purchasing a starter kit or paying a membership fee. These costs may cover training materials, marketing tools, or product samples.

2. Commission/Payments

In affiliate marketing, you earn a commission for every sale or lead you generate. The commission rate is typically a percentage of the sale price. For example, if you promote a product that sells for $100 and the commission rate is 10%, you would earn $10 for every sale you make. 

In network marketing, you earn commissions not only from your own sales but also from the sales of people you recruit into your network. The commission rate in network marketing is typically a percentage of the total sales volume of your team. 

3. Competency

Affiliate marketers can start without any training or experience. They only need to have some basic understanding of customer perception and content marketing

However, Network marketers may require some training before they start promoting the products/services for a company. They’ll need some technical skills, a basic understanding of the product, and soft skills like communication, coordination, etc. to find success in network marketing.

4. Products or services

As an affiliate marketer, you can promote the products or services of any company that offers an affiliate program. There are tons of affiliate programs out there, so you have a wide range of products and services to choose from. 

However, network marketers can only promote the products or services of the company they are distributing for. This limits the range of products or services they can promote.

5. Risk Factors

Affiliate programs are generally considered to be a lower-risk option than network marketing, as there are no start-up costs, and you are not required to recruit others to earn an income. With network marketing, you’d need to initially invest some upfront cost to be approved as a distributor by most companies.

Which Path Should You Choose?

It’s quite difficult to say which is better ‘affiliate marketing or network marketing’ as both have proven to be effective ways to make money. Ultimately, the best way to decide which marketing model is right for you is to consider your goals, experience, and personal preferences. 

If you are looking for a low-risk way to earn extra income, affiliate marketing may be a good option. However, if you are passionate about a particular company’s products or services, and willing to put in the hard work, network marketing would be your best bet.


What are the benefits of affiliate marketing?

Affiliate marketing offers several advantages. First, it provides flexibility, allowing you to work from you don’t need to create a product or handle inventory. Third, affiliate marketing allows you to focus anywhere as long as you have internet access. Second, it requires minimal financial investment as solely on marketing and generating sales without the added responsibilities of customer service or product fulfillment.

What are the drawbacks of affiliate marketing?

While affiliate marketing has its merits, it also has some downsides to consider. To earn substantial income, you’ll need to dedicate time and effort to build a loyal audience and establish trust. Additionally, as an affiliate marketer, you rely on the reputation and quality of the products you promote. If the company you’re working with has poor products or customer service, it can impact your credibility.

What are the benefits of network marketing?

Network marketing offers unique advantages. Firstly, it allows for unlimited earning potential because your income grows as you build a larger team and they generate sales. Secondly, network marketing often comes with comprehensive training and support from the company and upline distributors. Thirdly, it offers a sense of community and camaraderie as you work closely with your team members towards mutual success.

What are the drawbacks of network marketing?

Network marketing has its fair share of challenges too. Firstly, building a successful network requires time, effort, and consistent recruitment. It may take time to establish a well-functioning team that generates significant income. Secondly, some people may view network marketing negatively due to past experiences or misconceptions about the industry. Overcoming skepticism might demand extra effort in building trust with potential recruits and customers.

So, which path should you choose?

The decision ultimately depends on your personal preferences, skills, and goals. If you enjoy marketing products without the responsibilities of customer service and product creation, affiliate marketing may be the right choice. On the other hand, if you thrive on team-building, community engagement, and unlimited earning potential through your efforts and those of your team, network marketing could be the path for you.

In Conclusion,

The decision of whether to pursue affiliate marketing or network marketing is a personal one that should be based on your individual goals, abilities, and preferences.

No matter which path you choose, it is important to do your research and understand the risks and rewards involved. There is no guarantee of success with both marketing models, but if you are willing to put in the hard work, you can achieve significant success in either field.

Do you have any questions about affiliate marketing or network marketing? Let me know in the comments section below!

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About the author

Afenuvon Gbenga

Meet Afenuvon Gbenga, a full-time blogger, YouTuber, ICT specialist, tech researcher, publisher, and an experienced professional in e-commerce and affiliate marketing. Are you eager to kickstart your online business, then you're in the right place. Join us at techwithgbenga.com, where you'll uncover the insider secrets to starting and scaling a successful online business from the best!

Before blogging which started as a side project in 2019, Gbenga successfully led a digital marketing team for a prominent e-commerce startup. His expertise also extends to evaluating and recommending top-notch software solutions to boost your online business.

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Afenuvon Gbenga

Meet Afenuvon Gbenga, a full-time blogger, YouTuber, ICT specialist, tech researcher, publisher, and an experienced professional in e-commerce and affiliate marketing. Are you eager to kickstart your online business, then you're in the right place. Join us at techwithgbenga.com, where you'll uncover the insider secrets to starting and scaling a successful online business from the best...

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