Kulwant Nagi launched his affiliate career on a broken promise.
His employer guaranteed him eight-hour days and a work-life balance. They did not deliver.
Kulwant’s 5 p.m. quitting time soon became midnight. Midnight turned into 2 a.m. until eventually the former verification engineer found himself sleeping in his office to ensure he delivered products on time to his employer.
“I didn’t know what I was going to do,” Kulwant recalled. “But I decided then that I cannot live this life.”
Unemployed and without a plan, Kulwant did what any 24-year-old would do: He took to the internet for advice.
“I was just searching the internet, and I found the term ‘blogging,’” he said. “I saw that people were making money. And I said, ‘OK, let’s do it.’”
But there were two considerable roadblocks between Kulwant and a career as a successful content creator.
First, the internet in his small town of Haryana, India, was sketchy at best, making it difficult for him to dedicate the necessary time and energy to his new endeavor.
He also didn’t know the first thing about blogging.
“For three years, I made very little money,” Kulwant said. “Almost zero.”
With the money he had saved, he began attending conferences throughout Asia, where he met creators making their own hours on top of a comfortable living. But one encounter in particular—a backstage conversation with affiliate marketer Charles Ngo—changed his life forever.
“When he told me how much money he was making on a daily basis, all I could say was … ‘Oh, fuck,’” Kulwant said. “I would say that conversation was the turning point in my life.”
Kulwant returned to India more inspired than ever. After a bit of research, he found a SaaS product he liked and created a website to promote it. His website quickly climbed the rankings until it was No. 1 on Google. The sales started rolling in. And Kulwant was now, officially, an affiliate marketer.
“Until that point, [the internet] was just an imaginary world to me where people were talking about how you could make money online,” Kulwant recalled. “But when I started making the money myself, I had more trust, and I started to believe.”
The anatomy of a fruitful affiliate partnership
After nearly a decade and countless partnerships, Kulwant now earns well into six figures in his niche as an affiliate marketer of SaaS products. He also hosts a series of affiliate marketing online courses for those starting their own affiliate journey.
Kulwant now has a large audience of aspiring and established affiliate marketers who trust him for honest endorsements of products to help grow their brand.
But brand alignment with is critical, he said. And unfortunately, many of the companies looking for affiliate marketers who contact him don’t do the proper research before reaching out.
“A lot of brands think that because I am a good affiliate marketer, I can promote anything,” Kulwant said. “But that is not the case. Every marketer has a niche. It doesn’t make sense when someone like a graphic design company approaches me. Why would I promote that product when I am not in that niche?”
After establishing brand alignment, Kulwant looks for brands at least three to five years old. And genuine endorsements don’t come without a genuine product, he said. The platform must have enough good reviews and people happily using the service.
“I can’t have my audience yelling at me and saying, ‘Kulwant, the product you recommended to me was wrong,” he said.
Affiliate agreements: The floor, the ceiling, and how to get there
After Kulwant checks all the boxes on a good partnership, it’s time to talk money. With some commission checks coming in at more than $3,000 per sale, he said there isn’t necessarily a ceiling for what a good affiliate marketer can make. But he recommends his students don’t take any agreements under $50 per conversion.
Regardless of the payout, Kulwant said marketers must be consistent with their content—and its quality—if they want to grow their brand.
“Ultimately, the efforts are the same,” he explained. “You have put the same work into something that pays $5 as something that pays $5,000.”
But Kulwant said that content isn’t worth a dime if you’re not registering on Google’s algorithm through proper link building and SEO best practices. It’s one thing he wished he knew during the three years he scraped by without a commission.
“You can create the best content in the world, but it’s useless if it doesn’t rank on Google,” Kulwant said. “But on the opposite side, if your content isn’t as good, but good websites are talking about you and linking to you, you are the king.”
Trends in affiliate marketing: Building trust through video content
Kulwant understands that times are changing. Link building is as important as ever, but most companies now want to charge a fee for a guest blog that directs back to his site.
“It’s getting tougher and tougher now because people understand how the system works,” he explained. “When I reach out to someone and ask to write a blog on their page, they say, ‘OK,’ but they want to charge $300 or $400.”
Paid ads don’t work as they used to either. End users are far more educated than they were even five years ago. They know that anyone can buy a Google or Facebook ad. And they know those ads can’t always be trusted.
Today, that trust now lies in the hands of content creators.
“People used to search something, land on the webpage, then they would make their buying decision,” Kulwant said. “Now, they know that anyone can run the ads and drive the sales. But if a creator is promoting a product after using it, it’s more trustworthy.”
Kulwant predicts video creators will be the ones to drive the most affiliate marketing sales moving forward—particularly those who know their way around YouTube.
“People are starting to only trust creators who put out video content,” he said. “They are no longer satisfied with only text content.”
Product reviews and tutorials are Kulwant’s video content of choice. Ten to 15 minutes is his sweet spot, which he said should be more than enough time to showcase a product, demonstrate its features, and convince viewers that the product can actually help them improve their business.
“People are shifting their attention,” he added. “If you’re not creating video content, you might be losing the game.”
But no matter where consumer attention shifts in the future, Kulwant is confident that affiliate marketing is here to stay.
“The companies that deny that are the ones that don’t want to grow,” he said. “The affiliate marketing model will always be there.”