Affiliate marketing, more easily understood by the term “referral marketing” has been a part of my life for longer than I knew it existed. I’ve skied professionally for the last 11 years, putting gear to the test in the most challenging of situations and recommending products that I LOVE (or maybe cautioning against products that I HATE) to friends, family, and fans. There are times when I know people take my recommendation and purchase a product. But a large majority of sales made from my recommendations were untracked and unnoticed by the brands I represented, lost in the ever-growing world of commerce.
 

I Was Doing Affiliate Marketing All Along, and Didn’t Know It

When I first went pro at age 17, I thought my job was simply to ski and try to become the best skier in the world. I didn’t stop to think about why companies were paying me to use their gear. It was how the industry worked, and it allowed me to live my dream, so why question it? But as years rolled on, and I was no longer the “young-up-and-comer,” sponsors became harder to find.
 
jen hudak professional skier affiliate marketer
 
For most of my career I heard the line: “we just don’t have the budget…” I would work odd jobs to off-set the expenses of my ski career. That was when I started asking relevant questions and getting transformative answers.

It didn’t take long to realize that if I was trying to make a real living in a fringe sport like halfpipe skiing, I would have to position myself strategically to help companies sell their products. That was why I got paid. I wasn’t getting paid to be the best skier in the world (that, ironically, would’ve been easier), but to be the face of a brand, build authenticity in a largely inauthentic world, and to be part of the reason people wanted to buy skis, outerwear, goggles, helmets, boots, or gloves.

This shift in perspective led me to put more effort into developing my personal brand–the Jen Hudak brand–through my website, blog, and social media accounts. The spirit of my brand would be personal growth, perseverance, vulnerability, and courage. These principles propelled me forward and are threaded into almost everything that I write and strive to do.
 

Becoming an Ambassoador

Doing my job as an ambassador while accomplishing goals as a professional athlete meant I had to find companies my personal brand image aligned with. My mother (one to pick up litter in the streets and never to jay-walk) passed on her over-developed sense of responsibility and strong morals to me. I couldn’t possibly promote gear that I didn’t like.

I went seasons without certain category sponsors, passing on offers that didn’t feel right, so I could ski using products I believed in. Using excellent equipment helped my performance and allowed me to be an honest spokesperson for brands like Under Armour, Volkl, and POC Sports.
 
jen hudak skiing brand ambassador
 
After a successful run of halfpipe competitions–two world-championship titles, five X-Games medals, and four national championships to my name–my career met with injuries, setbacks, and loss.

But the evolving world of social media and content blogging kept my career afloat. I was still a visible presence in the industry and an asset to my sponsors. In fact, last year I made the decision to retire from halfpipe skiing to focus on new areas of the sport. I had to reframe my life goals and point my compass in a new direction that would bring productivity and fulfillment.

I wanted to spend more time skiing and climbing big mountains, but my personal brand developed during my halfpipe years didn’t align with this new avenue. The traditional athlete-sponsor relationship wasn’t going to pay my bills any longer. I needed a career.
 

Finding a Network to Build My Brand On

As my job hunt ensued, my husband Chris told me about a company he had heard of–AvantLink, an affiliate marketing company based in our home town. We dug in and read every page of the AvantLink website over dinner. “Next generation affiliate-technology,” “Beyond the banner ad,” “Better tracking…” I began researching affiliate marketing and lit-up when I realized it was essentially a trackable version of what I’d done for the last 11 years! And so, I applied. I was excited to begin working for a company who could help passionate people earn an income doing what they love.

I’ve worked with AvantLink since November 2015, and what I’ve learned has been positively overwhelming. As a part of the new affiliate management department, I get to help content sites dial in their image and brand, while finding merchants that are a genuine fit for their passions. Content sites are an integral piece of the affiliate marketing puzzle because they can enhance merchant brand value and provide the authenticity that consumers desire.
 

Learn How to Earn an Income from Your Passion

If you’re like me, looking for a new way to supplement your passion, consider affiliate marketing! Here are my top 5 tips to get started.

  1. Know your brand!

    Know who you are and what you stand for. Understand your voice, your stance, and stay true to it. No, you won’t be loved by everyone, but those who love you will be loyal. They’ll come back to your site for inspiration, opinions, and direction because of your confidence and authenticity.

  2. Just get started, there’s nothing to lose!

    When I first started dabbling with this stuff it seemed really overwhelming. I had no idea where to begin. But as it turned out, there were video tutorials that walked me through each step of the process and allowed me to begin hosting ads and custom links on my site without changing much. Of course, there’s always more to learn and new opportunities to seize. But you don’t need to know it all to get started!

  3. Remember that QUALITY is greater than QUANTITY

    When you get started, it might be tempting to dive in and talk about everything all at once! But you must create quality content. With the huge volume of content on the web these days, you need to differentiate yourself in the way you create content.

    The same goes for your merchant relationships. You don’t need to work with every brand in the network–only the brands that resonate with your values and feature products you stand behind and trust!

  4. Don’t forget about Consistency!

    This is an area where I can improve. But with a new full-time job, pursuing athletic goals, and finishing up my college education, I haven’t been posting as regularly as I would like. Generating enough content to keep your readers coming back for more is essential. Now, you don’t have to post every time you ski/bike/workout/cook a nice meal/use the toilet… but posting at least once a week keeps your audience attentive and lets them know you’re serious.

  5. Affiliate Marketing is not just banner ads!

    We’re all constantly inundated with advertisements on the internet. Don’t contribute to this problem by spamming your readers with too many ads. Custom links embedded in your content that directly link to products that you use and believe in can be much more powerful. The value comes from your authority, not the advertisements.

 

jen hudak avantlink
 

Learn more about how you can revitalize your career and promote your passion on AvantLink.com!

Jen Hudak
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Jen Hudak

Affiliate Account Manager at AvantLink
Jen has been working in the affiliate marketing world since 2015. She comes to the industry with extensive knowledge about building brand awareness through social media and content blogging due to her 11-year career as a professional skier. Jen is excited to help grow the affiliate department at AvantLink with particular attention given to content sites. When not at work, Jen can be found seeking out Utah powder on her skis or exploring Park City’s endless single-track trails on two wheels.
Jen Hudak
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Latest posts by Jen Hudak (see all)

  • Mike Hardaker

    Jen this is rad.

    Shouldn’t there be a link to your website? http://jenhudak.com/ 🙂

    “I get to help content sites dial in their image and brand, while finding merchants that are a genuine fit for their passions. Content sites are an integral piece of the affiliate marketing puzzle because they can enhance merchant brand value and provide the authenticity that consumers desire.”

    Is this a service AvantLink offers to all publishers? If so can you help us better dial in our image and brand for the Mountain Weekly News?

    • Hi Mike! Thanks for the support and the shout-out to my site, great tip for how leverage guest posting right there! Darius, can you add my website URL into this blog? 😉

      AvantLink created the affiliate department in January 2016. Our initial focus was on the top affiliates in the network based on revenue generated, but we’ve since expanded to top affiliates based on growth. That being said, we’re still trying to determine how to expand these services to accommodate more of our valued partners… For starters, I’ll be collaborating with the marketing team here to conduct a live-cast to discuss this topic at greater length on Friday, March 3rd! Would love to have you join!

      • Hey Jen and Mike,

        Just fyi there is a link to jenhudak.com in Jen’s author bio. That said it is a good idea to include a link to your site that describes what it’s all about if you’re doing a guest post. I’ll go ahead and add that in to the article where you talk about building your personal brand. Thanks for the discussion!

  • Paul

    I’ve been doing affiliate marketing with the focus on adventure travel, fitness, and the outdoors since 2009, and recently started sharing my experience with people who share the same passion for fitness & travel to help them start their own business.

    Would love to learn more about your experience as an ambassador, and how exactly you “help content sites dial in their image and brand, while finding merchants that are a genuine fit for their passions.”

    Thanks in advance !
    Paul aka ExtraHyperActive
    http://www.extrahyperactive.com

    • Mike Hardaker

      Hi Paul,

      Great website, I love how you are empowering other bloggers and future bloggers to start their own websites. I run an affiliate marketing forum and would love to get your contributions to our community. http://digitalmarketingsnow.com/forum lets work together to bring more people into our worlds!!

    • Hi Paul! Thanks for the comment and your excellent work with ExtraHyperActive. I’ll be collaborating with the marketing team here to conduct a live-cast to discuss this topic at greater length on Friday, March 3rd! I’m happy to answer any specific questions you have then. Would love to have you as part of the conversation!