The Entrepreneurship’s Dark Horse

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D. Hart is a forty-something entrepreneur from Durban, South Africa. Nine years ago, he discovered affiliate marketing – the referrals-based commission earning model that gives him the freedom of being an independent business owner.

While affiliate marketing may be something of a dark horse, in South Africa it is a lively and interesting space to be in. From Zando in fashion to Faithful to Nature in natural foods, there are a bunch of local affiliate programs with appealing prospects for budding entrepreneurs. Low start-up costs and an increasingly connected world are as good reasons as any to investigate the potential of affiliate marketing to build a viable income.

In 2012, D. Hart signed up to the Travelstart Affiliate Program. When he started out, he was referring about 300 flight bookings every month. Today, he refers an average of 2,000 bookings per month through his two websites: sa-airlines.co.za and Domestic Flights South Africa.

I spoke to D. Hart to find out more about the performance-based sector, his journey as an affiliate marketer and some tips for success.


  • How did you get started with affiliate marketing?

When I started out I in the early 2015s, I focused on Amazon’s affiliate program and I launched the first website in South Africa to offer the Kindle e-reader. From there, I wanted to see if there were any programs in the local scene and that was when I found Travelstart’s.

Even though Travelstart’s affiliate program was unknown at the time, the good commissions, affordability and dedicated support were convincing enough for me to sign up and it has taken off.

  • With so many affiliate programs to choose from, what made you choose a program in the travel category?

Having done my share of globetrotting in my younger years I have always been enthusiastic about travel. If you decide to go the affiliate marketing route, I think it’s important to choose a category that resonates with you beyond earning potential.

I also liked the fact that Travelstart is a local company and I’m a firm believer in supporting local businesses. They have a dedicated support team who are there to help affiliates, offer free tutorials, world-class technology and real-time reporting.

  • How long did it take to start earning money?

In the early days, it was quite slow and, being a novice in the travel business, I was up against some big competitors who had an established brand and base of customers. I also learned some harsh lessons early on when Google penalised my AdWords account. It was around this time that I shifted my focus to organic traffic acquisition.

In today’s competitive world, small businesses generally need multiple ways to generate revenue, and creative entrepreneurs are able to establish multiple streams…

The real income appeared in 2018/19 when my websites’ search engine visibility improved, and I began to realise the true potential of being an affiliate marketer. I quit my day job and put all my time into my websites and since then I have grown my flight sales by 40% year-on-year and increased my earning power by 68%.

  • Let’s talk start-up costs… is it reasonable or expensive to become an affiliate marketer?

Travelstart has invested a lot of time and money to make their program one of the best in Africa. With the exception of time, start-up costs are reasonable and joining the affiliate program is free. Once you’ve joined an account manager supplies online marketing creative, white labels, iframes and many more marketing tools. Domain registration is inexpensive (around R99 per year) and hosting will set you back around R99 per month depending on the provider.

Businesses should always be looking for ways to generate greater revenue. In the case of affiliate marketing, promotional efforts are not that expensive, and the sales can be significant…

  • Which lead/traffic generation tactics do you focus on?

Initially, I put all my resources into ads but six years ago I changed my approach to focus on organic traffic acquisition – I believe organic traffic, while time-consuming, is the best way to build lasting website visitors and keep marketing costs down.

  • Is affiliate marketing your only source of income?

Yes. Initially, I kept my day job in order to pay the bills.

  • Lastly, when you’re not working on your website, what are you getting up to?

The flexibility and lifestyle affiliate marketing gives me is awesome. I can spend most of my time at home or working from wherever suits me, and I never miss out on supporting my children at school functions and sports. I don’t answer to anyone and I set my own working hours.

As long as I put quality time into maintaining my websites and keep up to date with Google, life as an affiliate marketer is rewarding. Who else can say they earn money while they sleep?


Conclusion

There are plenty of successful affiliates out there, but these guys are crushing it. If you want to be the next eight-figure affiliate superstar, look at their business models.

Here are a couple of takeaways to get success in affiliate marketing:

  • Huge affiliate marketing success stories take time. These sites weren’t built overnight or ripped from a spy tool. affiliate marketing can make you your first few million, but then you’ll want to scale into something different.
  • You gotta work with proven brands, or become one. When you’re a leading voice like PC Magazine or Ask Men, you can get awesome deals going direct with Fortune 500 brands like Dell.
  • You can’t just write great content. You have to be a great marketer to make it work. There’s a ton of great content out there that never gets found because they creator can’t sell himself.

I hope this is some awesome inspiration for you. I love affiliate marketing and it’s always great to see who else is killing it out there.

Do you have a success story? Feel free to share it with others in comments below.

14 comments

  1. Ali,
    Thanks for providing fresh, relatable content… so may times I’ll come across marketing blogs/make money sites and it’s the same post: Product review… pro’s/cons… “this product is good/average/poor…. here’s what I recommend”…. Enough people write the same type of post, so they are most likely effective, but I prefer the personal touch and the content/value you provide without the clumsy “sales pitch” at the end
    I’m a fan

    Bob

  2. Hi Ali, That’s a good post and very educational. I like the idea of presenting case studies with folks that have been in this business for a long time. Some of their tried and true tips will certainly help me and others along their journey towards affiliate marketing success. There’s a lot of interesting information on this website and I plan to stay tuned.

    Bob

  3. Hi Ali, this is an article that gives first-hand information from D Hart’s experience as an affiliate marketer. There are quite a number of important takeaways here, but my main one is that it is interesting to note he started with paid ads and moved into purely organic traffic. That tells me I should keep going through the organic traffic route because I know even though it takes longer, many successful affiliates have stated they focused on organic traffic as the rewards over time strengthened the longevity of their business.

    Thank you for this, lots to learn from this interview.

  4. Hi Ali,

    Thank you for sharing this amazing story. I am new to affiliate marketing and I would like to learn more from successful stories. I am interested on how to become a great marketer. Could you share more on your website regarding this subject?

    Thank you very much

    Kind regards,

    Yoana

  5. Hi Ali, this is a really nice post. I feel like I can learn a lot from this. It’s always difficult starting out not knowing where I could go or what I could this. It’s definitely helpful to get some advice like this. It’s definitely difficult in terms of how much time and effort I have to put in initially but I’m hopeful that it will get better and better. Thanks for sharing this interview!

    Regards,

    James

  6. Hi Ali,

    It is great to know that guys locally make the big bucks as well, I am also a firm believer in supporting local businesses. You gave some very good advice to become a successful affiliated marketer and definitely something I will try out.

    You always leave food for thought and I find that very refreshing.

    Thank you for sharing.

  7. Hi! Thank you for sharing the experiences of D.Hart in this post! It’s worth reading for anyone that are planning to start affiliate marketing like me! Having a conversation with successful entrepreneur is always time worthy. It’s inspiring and I’m motivated. You done a great job on this post.

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