Affiliate Marketing and Dropshipping have often been termed as two of the best ways to earn money online. On the outside, both of these models look similar since both of them involve promoting someone else’s products to earn money. However, while there are some similarities, there are also some big differences between Affiliate marketing and Dropshipping. Let us get into the details of both these models and give you a clear picture of which one you should choose to make money. Let us begin!

Affiliate Marketing vs Dropshipping

BasisAffiliate MarketingDropshipping
MeaningAffiliate marketing, A part of Digital marketing that allows you to earn commission for promoting an online retailer’s products.Dropshipping is the practice of selling someone else’s products for a margin.
Income ModelCommission BasedMargin Based
Decision MakingLimited decision-making freedomHigher level of decision-making authority
PayoutBased on minimum thresholds and requires waiting timePaid after every sale without any waiting period
Customer SupportAffiliate marketers do not generally interact directly with customersDropshippers might have to cater to customer needs

What is Affiliate Marketing?

Affiliate Marketing
Affiliate Marketing source

Affiliate marketing is the practice of earning a commission for promoting the sales of an online retailer. Affiliate marketers make money based on different payment models, which include Cost-per-Lead, Cost-per-Sale, etc. Different social media platforms can be leveraged by affiliate marketers to attract an audience and ultimately drive growth for their affiliate partners.

Let us take an example. ‘A’ promotes an electronic item through his affiliate link on his Instagram account. ‘B’ finds the deal lucrative and purchases through A’s affiliate link. As soon as the sale is confirmed, A’s commission will get tracked to his dashboard and will become eligible for final confirmation and payout in a set amount of time.

Key Players of Affiliate Marketing

There are three key players in affiliate marketing:

1. The Merchant 

The merchant is the company or individual that sells the product or service like mCaffeine, Hostinger, MakeMyTrip, etc. The merchant sets up an affiliate program and provides affiliates with links to promote their products or services.

2. The Affiliate Marketer 

The affiliate marketer is the person or business that promotes the merchant’s products or services. Affiliate marketers typically earn a commission on each sale that they generate.

3. The Customer

The customer is the person who purchases the merchant’s product or service. The customer is the one who ultimately benefits from the affiliate marketing transaction.

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Pros and Cons of Affiliate Marketing

Passive income potentialDependence on the performance of the product or merchant
No need to create your own productsCommission rates can vary and be low for certain products
Wide range of products and niches to promoteIntense competition in popular niches
Low startup costs and minimal financial riskDifficulty in building a substantial income initially
Flexibility in terms of working hours and locationReliance on effective marketing and promotion strategies
No customer support or after-sales responsibilitiesPossibility of fraudulent or unethical practices by some affiliates
Opportunity to learn valuable marketing and sales skillsDifficulty in finding reputable and trustworthy affiliate programs
Potential for scalable income through multiple affiliate partnershipsConstant need to adapt to changing market trends and consumer behavior

How to Start Affiliate Marketing?

Here are a few tips to help you get started with affiliate marketing:

1. Choose a Niche

The first step is to choose a niche that you’re passionate and have some knowledge about. This will make it easier for you to create content that people will find valuable and that will help you promote the products or services that you’re affiliated with.

2. Find Affiliate Programs

Once you’ve chosen a niche, you need to find affiliate programs offering products or services relevant to your niche. Many different affiliate programs are available, so take some time to research different programs and find ones that offer good commissions and have a good reputation, like EarnKaro.

3. Create Content

The best way to promote affiliate products or services is to create content that people will find valuable. This could include blog posts, articles, videos, or social media posts. When creating content, focus on providing valuable information and naturally promoting the products or services.

4. Drive Traffic to your Content

Once you’ve created content, you need to drive traffic to it. There are many ways to drive traffic, such as search engine optimization (SEO), social media marketing, and paid advertising.

5. Track your Results

It’s essential to track your results to see what’s working and what’s not. This will help you fine-tune your marketing efforts and make more money from affiliate marketing.

What is Dropshipping?

Dropshipping source

Dropshipping is the process of selling someone else’s goods with a markup on the original price. Dropshippers usually add a certain amount as their margin, which is their main source of income. Just like Affiliate marketers, Dropshippers also use different social channels to promote their partner’s products.

For example, ‘P’ finds a wholesaler who sells an article for ₹1,000. P finds a customer for the product through different promotion techniques. ‘P’ adds his margin, let’s say, ₹500, before selling the product. Now, the customer buys the product at ₹1,500 while the wholesaler only gets ₹1,000. So, ‘P’ makes a clear profit of ₹500. That is basically how the Dropshipping model works.

Key Players of Dropshipping

Here are the key players in dropshipping:

1. Dropshippers 

Dropshippers are people or businesses selling products without carrying inventory. They create a store and list products they can purchase from a wholesaler or manufacturer. When a customer makes a purchase, the dropshipper places an order with the wholesaler or manufacturer.

2. Wholesalers and Manufacturers

Wholesalers and manufacturers are the suppliers that take orders from the dropshipper and ship it to the customer. 

3. Customers

Customers are the people who buy products from dropshippers. They can customise the products according to the choices provided by the dropshipper. 

Pros and Cons of Dropshipping

Low startup costs and inventory managementLower profit margins compared to traditional retail
No need to handle or store inventoryDependence on suppliers for product availability and quality
Wide range of products to offerPotential for shipping delays or fulfillment issues
Flexible location and scalabilityIncreased competition in popular product niches
Reduced risk and financial investmentLimited control over product quality and shipping process
Easy to test and validate product ideasPotential for shipping delays or fulfilment issues
Ability to focus on marketing and salesDifficulty in building brand loyalty and repeat customers
Can be integrated with various sales channelsComplexities in managing multiple suppliers and inventory

How to Start Dropshipping?

Here are the steps on how to start a dropshipping business:

1. Choose a Niche 

The first step is to choose a niche that you’re interested in and that you have some knowledge about. This will make it easier for you to find products to sell and market your store.

2. Find a Dropshipping Supplier

Once you’ve chosen a niche, you must find a dropshipping supplier. Many different dropshipping suppliers are available, so take some time to research different suppliers and find ones that offer good products, prices, and customer service.

3. Set up your Dropshipping Store

Once you’ve found a dropshipping supplier, you must set up your store. You can do this by using a dropshipping platform like Shopify or WooCommerce.

4. Find Products to Sell

You must find products to sell once you’ve set up your dropshipping store. You can find products to sell by browsing your dropshipping supplier’s catalogue or searching for products on online marketplaces like AliExpress or Alibaba.

5. Set Prices

Once you’ve found products to sell, you need to set prices. When setting prices, you need to factor in the cost of the product from your supplier, the cost of shipping, and your profit margin.

6. Promote your Store 

Once you’ve set prices, you need to promote your store. You can promote your store through social media marketing, search engine optimization (SEO), and paid ads.

7. Fulfil Orders

When a customer places an order, you need to fulfil the order by placing an order with your dropshipping supplier and having the product shipped directly to the customer.

8. Provide Customer Service

As a dropshipper, you’re responsible for providing customer service for any problems that customers may have with their orders.

Differences between Affiliate marketing and Dropshipping

While there may not be some startling differences between affiliate marketing and dropshipping visible right at the onset, there is in fact one big difference between the two matched with some small ones.

1. Meaning

Affiliate marketing is the process of promoting an online retailer’s products and services in return for a commission for every effective sale. Dropshipping is the process of selling a supplier/manufacturer’s products after adding margins to the cost price of the product.

2. Income Model

Affiliate marketers run their businesses on the basis of commissions from online retailers. They earn a percentage of the sale amount that they generate. However, dropshippers can decide their own margins. It could be as high as 100%. Their income model involves putting affordable markups on the products they sell.

3. Decision Making

Affiliate marketers generally have to get in line with the instructions, terms, and conditions, and commission rates already established by the online retailer. They do not have much flexibility in this matter. However, dropshippers are free to set their own margins on each product they promote.

4. Payout

Dropshippers make instant money as soon as a customer completes their purchase. Affiliate marketers on the other hand might have to consider different things like payment methods, minimum payout, commission confirmation time, etc.

5. Customer Support

Affiliate marketers are generally free from any kind of personal interaction with customers. They simply redirect the potential consumer to a real eCommerce store. However, dropshippers generally carry out their business through professional-looking websites that emulate the look of an eCommerce store. Dropshippers become responsible to be in touch with customers and solve their queries.

Moreover, you might also like our latest blog where we have mentioned how affiliate marketing is different from network marketing. Do give it a read.

Similarities Between Affiliate Marketing and Dropshipping

1. Marketing

Both dropshippers and Affiliate Marketers are responsible for marketing their partner’s products to generate sales. The more sales, the higher the income in both models.

2. Product

Both dropshippers and affiliate marketers are free from the burden of keeping an inventory or worrying about the packaging, delivery, or quality of a product. All of that is taken care of by the third-party seller.

3. Low-Risk

Since there is no requirement for keeping an inventory, both affiliate marketers and dropshippers can start their businesses with minimal investment and risk. All they need is the internet, a working laptop, and good content creation skills.

4. Endless Income

Once they get the hang of it, both affiliate marketers and dropshippers can make big bucks from their respective marketing models. Constant focus on building an audience helps both affiliates and dropshippers to build a recurring income stream for their business.

5. Client Satisfaction

Both Affiliate marketers and dropshippers have to keep customer satisfaction as their top priority. Several unknown factors like shipping delays, bad-quality products, wrong items, etc. may lead to lower trust for both affiliates and dropshippers which may lead to loss of revenue in the future.

Affiliate Marketing vs Dropshipping – Which one should you choose?

This question’s answer is influenced by a number of variables, such as your budget, the kind of product you are selling, your target market, and your personal preferences.

Since there is normally no initial investment to join an affiliate network, affiliate marketing is typically a low-cost option to launch your internet business. Also, since the affiliate program manages product storage, shipping, and customer service, you don’t need to do any of those things yourself.

Dropshipping is an excellent option to launch an online store without having to spend money on inventory upfront. It also enables you to rapidly and easily test new product concepts without having to buy a sizable quantity of stock and run the risk of it not selling.

In the end, it largely depends on your unique needs. Affiliate marketing is a fantastic choice if you want to get started quickly and affordably. Dropshipping can be a better choice if you want to be able to swiftly and simply test out new products.


Now that you have a clear picture of the basics of both affiliate marketing and dropshipping, their similarities and differences, we are sure you will be able to make an informed decision about which model suits you best.

If you choose to try affiliate marketing, we recommend you try EarnKaro to become an affiliate partner of more than 300 online retailers including big names like Flipkart, Myntra, Nykaa etc. Best of luck!

Last but not least, many times people get confused between Affiliate marketing & Influencer marketing. Check our latest blog to know about the differences between affiliate marketing & Influencer marketing. Do have a look.


What is best affiliate marketing or dropshipping?

Both affiliate marketing and dropshipping are popular online business models that can be profitable if executed properly. However, the best option for you depends on your skills, resources, and preferences.

Is Dropshipping Better Than Affiliate Marketing?

Dropshipping is a far more lucrative choice, even though affiliate marketing is perfect for beginners who don’t want to interact with customer service. You can earn more money from running an online dropshipping business than from an affiliate marketing website.

Can I Do Affiliate Marketing And Dropshipping At The Same Time?

Combining affiliate marketing and dropshipping can be a successful marketing tactic. It’s a fantastic strategy to boost sales at your dropshipping store.

Can I start dropshipping with no money?

It is possible to launch a dropshipping business with no money, but it would be very difficult to grow without spending money on things like marketing, website development, and product sourcing.

Mansi Rana
Professional Experience. Mansi joined EarnKaro in 2022 as a Content Analyst. With over three years of experience, she is a seasoned content writer specializing in niches such as affiliate marketing. Educational Background. A Journalism and Mass Communication graduate from Amity University, Mansi channels her passion towards empowering aspiring micro-influencers through the power of affiliate marketing. More About Her. She indulges in her passion for beauty and fashion in her spare time, immersing herself in extensive research and staying up-to-date with the latest trends and innovations.


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