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Freelance services + affiliate partnerships

“What do you do for a living?”

“I’m a full-time blogger.”

“That’s cute. Does that pay the bills?!?”

Pretty much every full-time blogger has participated in this conversation on repeat. I know, because I’ve designed the brands behind these bloggers and have a unique inside look into their business.

The answer to if it pays the bills? Heck yes.

If you’ve ever looked into how these bloggers “make it,” you’ve likely been introduced to the idea of affiliate/partnership marketing. To sum it up — brands with a large audience earn a living through recommending their trusted products and then receiving a percentage from the product as a “thank you” for the promotion. Ie: Post a photo on instagram of your latest Warby Parker glasses, share a unique affiliate link, and earn a commission off of each purchase from your audience.


So how can we as small business owners take this concept of affiliates/partnerships into our business without building a social media following of 100k, and blogging nonstop?

I’ve got some ideas for ya in a bit, but first… let’s dive into why this works for entrepreneurs.

Why it works

We’ve already learned in the “Services + _____ series” that once our client jumps over the hurdle of investing in our business, they trust us. They’re more likely to book additional services, and to heed your advice as an expert.

So when our clients circle back to us asking for a trusted recommendation outside of your services, they’ll listen.

I’ve experienced this myself when recommending businesses I’ve enjoyed working with to a friend or client. They’re tired of researching endlessly for a copywriter, so once I reveal my personal copywriter they’re thrilled to end their search and finally hire help.

There’s a value to having a recommendation from a trusted friend. Just like when a friend vouches for that hole-in-the-wall thai place, you no longer question it. Pad Thai, please!

So how can this shake down as a business owner? I’ve broken it down into 3 categories for you. Each has their place depending on your business model and clients.

Types of affiliates/partnerships:

  • Brand partnerships: If you’ve been known to become the glue between your clients and other business services, brand partnerships have your name all over it. Essentially you can establish a percentage or flat rate fee per each booked client you send another business’ way. For example: as a brand designer, you could create a referral system with your preferred copywriter and web designer. When a client asks for your recommendation and books a project, you’ll receive a finder’s fee. This may seem silly, but don’t overthink it. It’s a very common practice and often mutually beneficial. Not to mention, it’s such a great way to support your clients, while also spreading the love to other business owners :).

  • Software: Selecting the right software/apps can become a rabbit hole of research. We can minimize our client’s research through recommending our trusted sources. For example, if your clients sell e-courses and you help design the brand elements for their launch, you could also provide an affiliate link to your preferred platform (which typically has an incentive such as “one month free” connected to it). The same method can be applied to website hosting, project management, email marketing, etc.

  • Products: If you find yourself recommending products to your clients or audience, which causes them to purchase, why not benefit from the value you bring? This could take the form of online printing companies, packaging materials, your favorite physical planner or even the clothing you wear.

Is this the path for you?

I know, I know. Affiliates can sound like a dirty word. 

In some uses it can seem forced and lacking integrity. “Did she just mention that pair of shoes since she gets paid for it?!” I’ve given the side-eye as a read a post with affiliates as well, trust me.

But hopefully if you made it this far in this part of “Services + Affiliates/partnerships” you see the value and more importantly how it can be done right and with integrity. It can be a great way to not only earn additional income in your service-based business, but to also introduce your clients to your trusted resources. It doesn’t have to be forced, or even shared with every client… though it’s not a bad idea to share your affiliate resource page at project wrap-up ;). You make up the rules and know what feels right for your business.

If you already have a roster of trusted resources, and find yourself sharing these with your clients, then the “Services + Affiliates/Partnerships” model might be for you. It’s low maintenance, and can require as little or much marketing as you see fit.

That’s a wrap!

Whew. I can’t believe today concludes our 4-week Services + _____ series diving into various ways of diversifying income beyond services. I hope that you found inspiration in one of the methods we shared over the past few weeks. 

And if you’re a-ok sticking with services, and not diversifying your income, I’m sending a high five your way. You know your strengths and vision, and aren’t afraid to stick to it. I love that about you :).


Enjoy this article and find it helpful? Pin this image on Pinterest so you’ll always have this info on hand!

Freelance design services + affiliate partnerships — how to tactfully include affiliates as a passive income stream for your freelance design studio.

Freelance design services + affiliate partnerships — how to tactfully include affiliates as a passive income stream for your freelance design studio.
Freelance design services + affiliate partnerships — how to tactfully include affiliates as a passive income stream for your freelance design studio.
Freelance design services + affiliate partnerships — how to tactfully include affiliates as a passive income stream for your freelance design studio.


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