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The Cost of Starting an Affiliate Marketing Program

Want to bypass pesky third-party fees charged by affiliate networks? Want more say over who your affiliate partners are and how much you reward them? Starting your own affiliate program is easier and more cost-effective that you might think!

Affiliate marketing in any form is a cost-efficient way to generate traffic and multiply sales. But running your own program put the cherry on the revenue cake!

For one, you get to sidestep affiliate network transaction fees. You also get complete control over how much you reward affiliates, and can even set up special rates for top performers to incentivize affiliate performance.

In short, running an affiliate program makes your investment go further.

And with tracking cookies becoming a thing of the past, self-run programs are becoming even more attractive. They offer the customization and data access businesses and affiliates will need to succeed in this new landscape.

It’s no surprise, then, that more and more brands are beginning to invest in this lucrative model.

But before you plunge in, it’s smart to do your research and make sure there aren’t any hidden costs looming.

In this article, we’ll discuss the costs of starting an affiliate marketing program. We’ll run down the basic must-haves as well as a few optional tools and services you may find helpful, all so you’ll know what to expect and how to budget.

Let’s get to it!

A calculator and a piggy bank represening budgeting

1. Your Own Website Costs

If you’re reading this, the chances are you’re already a proud website owner. After all, your affiliates need somewhere to send customers to complete purchases.

But if you’re a brick and mortar business, setting up an ecommerce site is easier and cheaper than you might think.

Website costs include:

  • Domain name: $10–25 with annual renewal.
  • Hosting: On average, monthly hosting fees range from $15–79 or more for an ecommerce site, depending on your requirements and preferred options.
  • Website design: $0–5000 and up, depending on whether you do it yourself or outsource to a professional.
    • If you set up a WordPress site with the WooCommerce plugin, your cost may be $0 if you use one of the many free, customizable themes.
    • You may want to hire a web designer or developer to will provide you with a custom solution. It’s an option if your budget allows for it, but it’s not a necessity.

At a minimum, you’ll likely spend around $200 per year on maintaining your site.

2. An Affiliate Program Management Tool

Easy Affiliate Homepage

Next, you’ll want a tool that can help you keep track of your affiliates, their performance, commissions, and other key aspects of your program.

A quality solution will also make it easy to communicate with your partners and share marketing materials with them.

There are different platforms available to run your affiliate program, but Easy Affiliate lets you do so through your own WordPress website – no hidden fees.

As mentioned, unlike third-party networks, Easy Affiliate doesn’t take a cut of your hard-earned sales, either.

There are several plans, so you’re sure to find one that fits your needs. Plans start from just $99.60 for the first year for a basic program – ideal for those just starting out.

With it’s setup wizard, Easy Affiliate is simple to install and configure, so you can have your program dashboard up in no time.

Affiliates can then log in to their accounts on your site instead of having to go through to a third-party hub.

This minimizes the time and effort required for administrative tasks, too, since you won’t have to navigate between platforms.

Easy Affiliate also easily integrates with popular ecommerce solutions. Whether you’re selling physical products on WooCommerce, digital downloads, or a subscription service with a plugin like MemberPress, Easy Affiliate has you covered.

2. Marketing Materials

To grow your program, you’ll need a team of affiliates who will publish content to help educate audiences on your products and services and encourage them to buy. There are some potential marketing costs to finding and recruiting these partners.

Here’s a list of some common tools to use for recruiting, along with their associated costs.

  • Social networking tools. Reach potential affiliates by commenting on posts or forums, sharing social media content, and joining professional or interest groups in your niche. Aside from your time investment, this recruitment method is often free.
  • Paid ads. Ads can help you reach newer or smaller influencers. You can start with Facebook for easy entry, lower cost, and integration with Instagram. Costs vary, but around $0.97 per click is typical.
  • Shareable images. You may wish to create graphics or other visual content to promote your program on social media. You can design them with Canva or other free tools to minimize costs.
Gourmet candles affiliate program
  • Landing pages. This type of content helps explain the benefits of your program to potential affiliates.

    You can build them for free with Easy Affiliate, create pages using your website builder or content management system (CMS), or use a premium landing page builder.

Once you’ve brought on a new affiliate, you may incur other costs.

Gifting your products to potential publishers and influencers to introduce them to your brand is a fairly common practice.

You might also wish to create content such as banners to share with them so they can promote your business.

easy affiliate links and banners page
You can use THE <a href=httpseasyaffiliatecomdocslinks and banners creatives title=>CREATIVES TOOL<a> IN EASY AFFILIATE TO ADD LINKS AND BANNERS TO EACH AFFILIATES DASHBOARD

Ultimately, the costs associated with marketing your program and your products can vary significantly. It just depends on which methods you use and whether you outsource certain tasks or handle them yourself.

3. Commissions and Payouts

Affiliate commissions and payouts vary according to industry, product, and even individual partnerships.

Average rates span from 5–25%. They can go up to 50% for digital products since these are much less expensive to reproduce and require no shipping expenses.

Some affiliates earn higher commission rates because they have larger followings or greater influence.

With the Easy Affiliate Commission Rules add-on, available with the Easy Affiliate Pro plan, you can set special rates to help you maximize your profitability and incentivize your partners to convert more traffic to receive larger payouts.

For example, you can reward affiliates who achieve above a certain number of sales with a higher commission rate:

Screenshot demonstrating the Easy Affiliate Commission Rules add-on

Where you set your budget is dependent upon your industry, product, and affiliates, so research your niche. You’ll need to find the balance between being competitive and profitable.

Make the most of Easy Affiliate’s data reporting feature to measure the success of your current rates and adjust them as necessary.

5. Additional Plugins and Tools (Optional)

So far, we’ve focused on the costs of starting an affiliate marketing program – the “must-haves” required to begin. However, there are some optional tools and strategic investments that can help accelerate growth.

These are worth considering, if not now, then for your future plans and budgeting:

  • SEMrush. Helps with keyword search, competitor analysis, and other search engine optimization (SEO) strategies. Starts at $99.95 per month.
  • Pretty Links. Optimizes and shortens links to increase brand awareness and boost traffic. Starts at $99.60 per year.

These are just a couple of examples to help you plan for possible expenses as you continue to invest earnings back into your business.


Starting an affiliate marketing program doesn’t have to be expensive. There are multiple options available for every step of the journey. You can start small and grow your program as your business scales.

Required startup costs to consider include:

  1. Your own website maintenance and management costs.
  2. An affiliate program management tool such as Easy Affiliate.
  3. Marketing materials to recruit partners and help them promote your brand.
  4. Commissions and payouts for affiliates.
  5. Optional tools such as Pretty Links.

With the costs of running your website aside, you can start running an affiliate program from as little as $30 a month. After that, you only need to pay out once you’ve made a sale.

The great thing is that affiliate marketing is very scalable. And with an affordable tool like Easy Affiliate, it’s an option available to businesses of all sizes.

Do you have any questions about the cost of starting an affiliate program? Let us know in the comments section below!

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