Affiliate vs. Network Marketing: What’s the Difference?

What's the difference between affiliate and networking

Being your own boss. Working from anywhere. Making money while you sleep.

It’s a dream opportunity and, unlike actual dreams, it can be a reality. Two ways that you can make it happen are through affiliate marketing or network marketing.

If you’ve ever looked into running your own business, you’ve probably heard these terms and may be wondering if they’re the same. Although they’re often used interchangeably, they don’t describe the same type of opportunity.

So what’s the difference between affiliate marketing and network marketing? And, more importantly, which one is better?

Let’s take a closer look at affiliate vs. network marketing and see which may be the better option for you.

What is Affiliate Marketing?

Affiliate marketing is a marketing technique that involves promoting someone else’s product or service and receiving a commission for each one that is sold through your efforts. The company tracks these purchases using a unique link that shows which affiliate referred the customer.

As an affiliate, you can work directly with the merchant or become part of what’s known as an ‘Affiliate Network.’’ With the latter, you get a unique tracking link that you can use when recommending the product or service you’re promoting. If someone makes a purchase using your link, you’re paid a commission.

Typically, affiliate marketers achieve success by finding products they love and sharing them on their social media platforms. When people make a purchase using your link, you earn a commission from that sale.

The percentage paid to affiliates varies from company to company and even from one product to the next but, in general, sales have to be high to generate appreciable income. The most successful affiliate marketers achieve success by creating their own niche websites that rank well on Google and bring a high volume of leads to their site.

Below is an overview of the three most common affiliate income opportunities:

  • Pay-Per-Sale: You receive a percentage of the sale price for every purchase made using your link
  • Pay-Per-Click: You host an ad on your website or blog and get paid every time someone clicks on it.
  • Pay-Per-Lead: You get paid when visitors fill out a contact form and leave their information.

What Does Affiliate Marketing Look Like in Practice?

Let’s assume that you’re like me and LOVE shopping, so you sign up as an affiliate with your favourite clothing company. You share your outfits of the day on Instagram, create unboxing videos to share your finds, or set up a website and blog about fashion. If someone shops the products you linked, you get paid.

This is affiliate marketing in a nutshell. By creating social media content that A) catches people’s attention and B) is written to appeal to the product’s ideal customer, you can literally make money while you sleep.

Popular Affiliate Marketing Companies

Companies with extensive affiliate marketing networks include:

  • Amazon
  • eBay
  • Like to Know It
  • Sephora
  • Wix (web host)

What is Network Marketing?

Also known as social selling, network marketing is similar to affiliate marketing in that you can earn money by sharing and recommending products. Every time someone shops using your link, you earn a commission.

Influencer marketing follows a similar strategy- they endorse and recommend products to their social media followers, with whom they have built up high levels of trust. Every time someone uses their link to make a purchase, they get a percentage of the sale.

When the products are high quality and your content is engaging, you can really maximize your earnings. If you choose, you can increase your income even further by building a team and receiving commissions on their sales too. While this is not a requirement for network marketing, don’t be surprised if it happens. When your social media friends and followers see what you’re doing, they may ask you for a link that they can use on their own platforms. You’ll grow your network as well as your business.

What Does Network Marketing Look Like in Practice?

Social selling is similar to affiliate marketing in that you can be up and running in minutes. You still earn every time someone purchases through links you share, as well as when they purchase from your provided website.  By sharing fun and engaging content on social media, people will learn to know, like, and trust you- and, ideally, buy from you and recommend you. When you offer excellent customer service, your customers will often buy from you again once they fall in love with the brand.

 Let’s revisit our first example of loving shopping and clothes! When you sign up as a rep with ZYIA (or a similar network marketing company), you are literally doing the same thing- blogging, creating videos, sharing outfits of the day on Instagram or Facebook, and sharing clothes you love in person or online. Anytime someone buys the products you have linked or recommended, you get paid.

For example, if you are a yoga enthusiast who loves activewear, you could:

  • Share photos of yourself meditating in your favourite outfits
  • Post unboxing videos
  • Blog about yoga and fashion

Network marketing also has an added layer of earnings to stretch your income further.  It is not a requirement, but you can choose to help team members do exactly what you’re doing to earn income.  When they share and sell products, you also receive a percentage of their earnings. Additionally, if that person recruits a friend, you will receive a percentage of that new person’s earnings too. With ZYIA, you can go up to 10 levels, which is an amazing income extension.

Like I said earlier, team building is not crucial to success in network marketing, but it does add an extra layer of income that’s always great to have.

Popular Network Marketing Companies

Companies with network marketing opportunities include:

  • ZYIA Active
  • Monat
  • Seint
  • Modere
  • Stella & Dot

A lot goes into choosing a company, but it comes down to ensuring that you love the products and that the company has values and systems you align with. If you’re looking for thriving industries, athleisure is expected to reach $380 billion this year, so (for example) if you love leggings, ZYIA Active may be the perfect business for you.

Affiliate vs. Network Marketing: the Differences Reviewed

Now for the part you’ve been waiting for; the key differences between affiliate marketing and network marketing!

Income Potential

With affiliate marketing and social selling, you share products and earn commission on any resulting sales. However, the income from social selling is significantly higher.

With affiliate marketing, you need a REALLY high level of sales to earn any actual income and, in order to be successful, you have to have a lot of influence or major SEO experience. With network marketing, the commission is significantly higher.  Let’s take a look at a practical example:

In this Instagram reel, I compared a ‘best selling’ pair of leggings from Amazon with a similar ZYIA style and showed the difference in earnings for an Amazon affiliate vs. ZYIA rep. With Amazon, you’ll make $1.12 when someone purchases through your link, while your income from the ZYIA sale would be $34.58. I ran a similar comparison on a sweater and the results are the same: $0.73 as an Amazon affiliate and $25.11 as a ZYIA rep!

I’m always scratching my head because I can’t understand the logic. You would have to sell nearly 30 pairs of leggings on Amazon to make the same amount you would by sharing a pair of your favourite ZYIA leggings.

When it comes to income, social selling is a clear winner. You can not only look cool sharing your love for certain brands online, but be compensated fairly for it. When it comes to the cool factor, free clothes and significant income knock a simple discount alone out of the water!

Cost to Join

In general, you don’t have to pay to become an affiliate marketer, but you still need products to promote. Most successful affiliate marketers, especially when it comes to clothing, makeup, and related products, have to keep buying items to share and review on social media. Signing up with Amazon or Like to Know It may be free, but to generate income, you need sales/clicks, so you’ll need to constantly stock up your favourite brands.

Networking marketing has start-up costs in the form of a starter kit or bundle. These packages will vary by company, and some offer a variety of kits to choose from. The premise is the same as affiliate marketing: you need products to try, love, and share. This is especially important if you’re selling clothing: before you recommend it on Instagram, you want to try it on, see how it fits and feels, and be sure you love it.

For example, with ZYIA, you purchase an enrollment kit for $384 CAD / $295 USD, which includes five staple pieces of activewear and a ZYIA gift card for $135 CAD / $100 USD that you can use to choose any items you love from the website. And if that wasn’t enough, with ZYIA’s structure you can ALSO earn FREE and half-off clothing as you go- from your own orders as well as orders that come from customers.


With affiliate marketing, if you don’t sell any products, nothing happens. You won’t lose your unique link or your account with the merchant. If you make zero sales in a given month, you don’t make money. That’s it.

With some network marketing companies, you’re usually expected to hit a minimum sales quota every month. If you miss this target, your rank could lower or your commission payment be delayed, depending on which company you’re with. The good news is that not all companies follow this minimum quota rule- ZYIA Active doesn’t- so you have options when you don’t want to worry about preset goals.

Experience and Training

With both affiliate and network marketing, you are an entrepreneur. You run your own business and are directly responsible for the results. However, with affiliate marketing, you really are on your own- you have to seek training and support opportunities yourself. With network marketing, you may be in business for yourself, but you are never BY yourself.

For example, when you join my ZYIA team, you have access to the mentor who helped you sign up and become part of a strong group of women who share resources, tips, and training opportunities designed to help you succeed. You also have access to:

  • A community Facebook group
  • A team training portal that is constantly updated
  • Zoom training sessions
  • Conferences and training opportunities from the corporate team

With Affiliate Marketing and Network Marketing, Hard Work Pays Off!

Both affiliate and network marketing have a lot to offer new entrepreneurs. Learning to share your favourite products can be a lot of fun and very lucrative if you become proficient at it, so how do you choose the right option?

The best choice for you may depend on your goals. If you simply want to have some fun sharing products you love to earn a discount or a few extra dollars per month, either affiliate or network marketing will fit. But if you are looking to earn an actual income, network marketing beats affiliate marketing hands down.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this article. If you have any questions about affiliate vs. network marketing, reach out to me today! I’d love to help you get started on a career that supports the life you deserve.

Interested in becoming a ZYIA Rep?

Activewear is one of the fastest-growing industries globally. By 2025, market specialists predict the US market value to surpass $100 billion in annual revenue.

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