Affiliate Marketing vs MLM

Affiliate marketing is simply where you receive commission for promoting other companies’ products on your affiliate site. I will explain the difference between affiliate marketing and mlm – network marketing as they seem very similar and this can be confusing at times.


Affiliate marketing is an art, and can reap rich rewards for you when done in the right way. Before coming across Wealthy Affiliate, I knew that I had to have a list of subscribers linked up to my website as they would eventually be my most prized customers. I did not know how to go about this though and wasted years signing up with various affiliate marketing training sites like Google Sniper and Maverick Moneymaker. With very little support online and offline.

It seemed easy then – put the systems in place and your income will snowball.

Once you have at least 10 posts up on your website, with affiliate links in place, you simply sign up to affiliate marketing networks like Clickbank, CJ (Commission Junction) Amazon, ShareASale, etc and wait for the monies to come in.

Now, Social Media is all the rage and can be used to establish your brand’s reputation. You can also use PPC (Pay-per-click) advertising using Google Adwords, or Bing and Yahoo advertising. However, since the costs of PPC advert campaigns can mount up quickly, it is advisable to use either social media or email marketing to build your brand name and build your list.

These two methods cost peanuts in comparison.


So What Is MLM or Network Marketing?

MLM stands for Multi Level Marketing and used to be the term used for what is now called Network Marketing. Yes, they are the same thing. The first term emphasizes the different levels of payouts in compensation for the retail sales you do.

The Network Marketing term stresses that you make a bonus depending on how large your team is and much retail sales it makes.


For example – in Forever Living, as a new Business Owner, you get paid 35% on retail sales you make. On the next level of team leader, you are paid 30% profit on all personal retail sales, 8% Personal Bonus on all personal use and retail sales and 3% Team Leading Bonus.

At that is just for Starters. The higher you go up the ranks, the more bonuses and higher your commissions become. You can also get Royalty Bonuses.

That’s not all, if you reach the benchmark number of CC (Forever’s term for points) you are flown to an all expenses paid trip to Forever’s Global Rally to receive a percentage of the firm’s annual profit share. This can fun up to thousands of dollars and some people are given a million dollars – and this on top of their monthly income.


Tell Me The Difference!

Right, before I venture way off topic – the main difference between affiliate and network marketing is that one is based online and commissions run at normally anywhere from 4% (Amazon)-75% (ClickBank). There are no royalty bonuses paid or all expenses paid holidays.



Network marketing is more traditional and retail sales are normally offline and made during home parties, or table-top events. All advertising has to be compliant with company regulations and the use of 3rd party websites is frowned upon.

There is heavy emphasis on ‘recruiting’ everyone you know who might want to earn an extra income. It is very hard work and success is made not just by selling products, but by duplicating successful Business Team Leaders within the company.


Difference Number 2

Affiliate marketing is centred around writing content for your site and emails. Also creating videos that demonstrate aspects of your site’s concept. You learn to be really tech savvy especially after learning aspects of WordPress,



Network marketing draws you out of your comfort zone as you are speaking on the phone and face-to face with your warm and cold market. The good thing is Social Media features a lot in the meteoric rise of certain business owners’ payouts since 2013. So network marketers can use the internet to promote brand awareness within company guidelines.


Difference Number 3

With affiliate marketing you can do a lot of work in the comfort of your own home. However, network marketing means you have to attend local business meetings and also bring your prospects and other team members to meetings. It seems there is always one to attend! 1 on 1 meetings to explain the business opportunity, home parties, table-top at events, global rallies, business team leader meeting and various ongoing training which you pay for.


Difference Number 4

Once you join up as an affiliate, you only need to pay for such services as an autoresponder such as Aweber, MailChimp, Get Response, to name a few. This is on a monthly or annual basis. Also domain names are relatively quite cheap at $13 a year. What I’m trying to say is you do not have to fork out a lot of money for the few add-ons you may need to set your affiliate marketing system up.



Network Marketing on the other hand can really end up costing you a packet as you invest in training on Social Media, Business Basics and Accounting, for example. You also have to be a ‘product of the product’ by buying company products for personal use each month.

Difference Number 5

In network marketing it is quite important to join a good team with a direct upline that can encourage and help you learn the ropes of the business. I have seen people cry and become really indignant and resentful if their direct sponsor is either miles away or just gives one-worded answers to their questions.



In an affiliate marketing and training program like Wealthy Affiliate, the founders, Kyle and Carson have created a community of members who fall over each other in their rush to welcome, encourage and train you each step of the way. As the months pass by – I still have nothing but praise for the excellent spirit of support that is evident in WA.



Neither affiliate marketing nor network marketing are get-rich-quick schemes. You have to work hard at both. Personal development is more important in network marketing because you have to know how to communicate and duplicate your efforts in a way that is both ethical and diplomatic. You are dealing directly with people from all walks of life most of the time, so professionalism counts.

In my research, I have noticed that email marketing forms a big part of communication in affiliate marketing and needs to be friendly yet professional at the same time. Website design and titles should be interesting otherwise the temptation to click away to another site can be huge.

I hope you decide which type of marketing model suits your personality and also make a good choice of business opportunity so that you can get off to a flying start.

If you have any comments or questions, please feel free to leave them here below.




  1. Hi Stella,

    What a brilliant post I myself have always wondered what the differences were between the two. After reading your post I now know exactly what they are thank you for yet another very informative post.

    • Hi Ofa,

      Yes, there is a big difference between affiliate and network marketing.
      The first is centred around computers and typing and the other – well, you read the post!

      All the best…

  2. Great Post Stella. The problem with the MLM is that they are pyramid systems and your success depends on whether others will be have the same level of determination that you have or not, and that is hard to assess and to build.
    Since 99% of people quit as soon as they start, it is very hard to get a lot of dowlines built.

    • Hi Pablo,

      Thanks for commenting…Network marketing is actually not a pyramid scheme and yes it can be hard work for the first 2-5 years, but after that you can literally cruise. I have personally met many people in Forever Living who are on 6-figures and have overcome shyness and many other character traits that can prevent them from having good self-esteem.

      Once you understand the compensation plan, it becomes clear that you can become richer than the person who sponsored you if they are not as pro-active as you are. The business model is a simple yet effective one.

      Out of all the MLM or network marketing companies I know, Forever Living stands head and shoulders because they are ethical, up to date and very supportive. Like one big family.

      Personally, I do not like talking so much and that has been a barrier to me succeeding with network marketing. On the other hand internet marketing can also be hard, but like MLM, just follow in the footsteps of people who have been ethically successful and you and myself will succeed.

      All the best.

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