Affiliate Marketing vs Dropshipping: Which is Best for You?

affiliate marketing vs dropshipping_Pretty Link

If you've been looking at alternative ways to make money, you may have come across affiliate marketing and dropshipping. Both are popular ways to earn money online, but they are very different. 

With affiliate marketing, you're rewarded for promoting a business's products and making successful conversions. By contrast, dropshipping lets you ship products directly from the supplier to the customer without passing through the retailer's warehouse.

In this article, we'll compare and contrast affiliate marketing vs dropshipping so you can make an informed decision. We'll look at the pros and cons of each approach, as well as the costs and time commitment involved. Let's get started!

What Is Affiliate Marketing?

Affiliate marketing is a type of performance-based advertising. In this setup, a business rewards affiliate partners for each customer or visitor brought from affiliate URLs.

There are 3 primary ways to make money through affiliate marketing:

  • Commissions on sales made 
  • Commissions on leads generated 
  • Commissions on clicks 

Affiliate marketing is an excellent way to earn money by promoting products and services you believe in. Plus, our Pretty Links plugin makes it easy to simplify your affiliate marketing strategy. It can help you manage your links and track your affiliate sales.

Additionally, Pretty Links is very affordable, so it's an excellent solution for small businesses or independent bloggers.

The Pretty Links plugin.

Furthermore, Pretty Links can help you cloak your links to protect them from hackers. It can also make URLs shorter and more aesthetically pleasing for viewers.

What Is Dropshipping?

Dropshipping is a business model where ecommerce entrepreneurs sell products without carrying any inventory. It's a simple concept: you find products you want to sell in your online store, then partner with a supplier who will ship them directly to your customers.

Dropshipping is a popular business model because it's a low-risk way to start an online business. You don't need to invest in inventory upfront, so you can test different products before investing in larger quantities. Since you're partnering with a supplier, you also don't have to worry about fulfillment as long as your supplier is reliable.

If you're thinking of starting a dropshipping business, you should keep a few things in mind. Firstly, you need to find a niche market with products in high demand and low competition.

You'll also have to find a reliable supplier who can provide quality products and good customer service. You might consider partnering with AliExpress or Oberlo:

Oberlo dropshipping.

Finally, you'll need to create compelling product listings and marketing campaigns to drive traffic to your store.

Pros and Cons of Affiliate Marketing vs. Dropshipping

Affiliate marketing and dropshipping are two of the most popular ways to make money online. Let's take a look at the pros and cons of each approach.

Affiliate Marketing Pros

One of the most significant advantages of affiliate marketing is, that it doesn't require any overhead costs. You don't need to invest in inventory or make your own products. All you need is a website or blog where you can promote your affiliate links.

Another big advantage is, that you have the potential to reach a large audience with your affiliate products. If you have a popular website or blog, you can promote your products to your readers and followers.

You can also add your affiliate links to social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube. For example, The Deal Guy creates review posts featuring affiliate products:

Example of affiliate links in YouTube video description

Finally, affiliate marketing can be relatively passive. If you already have a dedicated audience and high-quality content, it's simply a matter of including partner URLs.

Affiliate Marketing Cons

However, there are also some disadvantages to affiliate marketing. For example, you need to drive traffic to your website and convince people to click on your affiliate links. If you're not good at writing copy or using search engine optimization (SEO) techniques, you might struggle to make sales.

Affiliate marketing can also be quite competitive. In 2022, American companies will spend more than $8 billion on this marketing model. There are many affiliates competing within the industry. Therefore, you'll need to stand out from other advertisers to make real money.

Another downside is relying on other people's products or services to make money. Imagine if your partner company goes out of business or changes its commission levels. In that case, you could be left without a sustainable income.

Dropshipping Pros

Dropshipping has several advantages that make it a popular choice for many entrepreneurs. For instance, it requires very little capital. Unlike a traditional ecommerce business, you don’t need to invest thousands of dollars in inventory upfront.

Another significant advantage of dropshipping is, that it’s straightforward to set up and sell products online. All you need is a website or online store, and you can begin selling products to customers worldwide. You also don’t need any prior experience in ecommerce or product sourcing.

An example of an online store.

Moreover, dropshipping is location-independent. This means that you can run your business from anywhere as long as you have an internet connection. This setup could be perfect for entrepreneurs who want to travel or live a nomadic lifestyle.

Dropshipping Cons

There are also several disadvantages of dropshipping that you should be aware of. Firstly, dropshipping businesses can have very low margins. Your profits will be slim because you’re not buying products in bulk and paying for shipping. This is why it’s essential to carefully choose the items you sell and market them effectively.

Furthermore, you’re not in control of your inventory with dropshipping. This can be a big problem if your supplier runs out of stock or makes a mistake with an order. Building a solid brand identity can also be challenging because the products don't belong to you.

Finally, dropshipping businesses require a lot of work. You'll need to find a supplier for your products and ensure that products reach your customers. You’ll also need to invest time in marketing, customer service, and other areas if you want to succeed.

Affiliate Marketing vs. Dropshipping: Which Is Best for You?

Here are the key differences between affiliate marketing and dropshipping:

  • Shipping: Dropshipping businesses have shipping costs because you are typically sending products from multiple suppliers. Affiliate marketing businesses won't have any shipping costs.
  • Risk: Dropshipping is a relatively low-risk business model because you don’t have to invest any money in inventory. Affiliate marketing is also low-risk because you don't have to spend money upfront or commit to a single partner.
  • Customer service: In a dropshipping business, you'll need to deal directly with customers and ensure they receive their products. By contrast, affiliate marketing will send consumers to third-party products and bypass customer support on your end.
  • Time commitment: Dropshipping businesses often require more time to set up and manage because you need to find suppliers, negotiate terms, and manage shipping logistics. Affiliate marketing businesses can be more or less time-consuming, depending on how much time you want to spend promoting products.
  • Profit margins: Affiliate marketing earnings are generally pretty low unless you join a program with high commission rates. By contrast, you can generally make higher profit margins with dropshipping.
  • Start-up costs: Dropshipping businesses often have higher start-up costs because you need to invest in a good ecommerce platform and set up shipping logistics. Affiliate marketing businesses usually have lower start-up costs because you only need to create a website and start promoting products.

Overall, dropshipping businesses need a little more time and money to get off the ground. However, they can be more profitable if you're successful.

By contrast, affiliate marketing often needs more ongoing effort to connect with audiences and build trust. You'll also need to make many affiliate sales to turn a reasonable profit. Still, you won't have to deal with customer service or partnering with a product supplier.


There are some key differences between affiliate marketing and dropshipping. Firstly, affiliate marketing requires more time and effort to be successful. You'll need to build a following and generate traffic to your site. On the other hand, dropshipping can be a much more hands-off approach once you get your company up and running.

If you're looking to generate quick and easy income with little upfront investment, dropshipping may be the better option for you. However, if you're interested in building a long-term brand that can create additional revenue streams, affiliate marketing could be a better fit.

Do you have any questions about affiliate marketing vs dropshipping? Let us know in the comments section below.

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Categories: Affiliate Marketing
About John Hughes

John is a blogging addict, WordPress fanatic, and staff writer.