23 min read

The Ultimate Guide to Knowing What to Pay Affiliate Managers

We get a lot of questions surrounding pay and compensation. What do I pay my affiliate manager? How do I structure their bonuses? What is the industry average? Should I hire in-house or get a contractor? Here we provide detailed answers to these questions so that you can hire the right affiliate manager for your business. Use this information along with our guide to what makes a perfect affiliate manager so you can find your rockstar AM.


Compensation and Incentivization 


After you have found your perfect affiliate manager, it comes down to figuring out how to compensate them for their work. The most important thing to remember is that you should never over-complicate this process. If you find yourself pulling out a calculator to figure out their pay based on your strategy, you have made it too difficult, and your affiliate may be losing out on hard-earned money. 


Affiliate managers thrive on challenges and need clear-cut compensation with easy-to-calculate potential bonuses, commissions, and other incentives. Here are some examples and guidelines: 


  • They MUST be easy to calculate and understand so affiliates can make their own calculations and have control over their deals. 
  • Regular bonuses PLUS flash/one-time bonuses will help give your affiliate managers more momentum.  
  • Offering to combine monetary and non-monetary deals can often work better, such as massages, time-off, trips, airfare, house-cleaning, etc. 
  • Salespeople love recognition, so offering title raises can help give your affiliate managers an incentive to work harder. 
  • Clarity and transparency are a must for your affiliate managers’ deals, so DO NOT rush this step. 


In hand with these important guidelines, you must not replace stability with efficiency. Your affiliate managers are counting on you to provide them with fair pay for their work. If you are continuously changing their compensation structure, they will have an unstable base, and they may not want to work with you. Most salespeople DO NOT know how much they actually make for the work they do, which is why it is essential to formulate a concise compensation plan.


Review these three numbers:  


  • They have made $____ so far this year based on the salary, commission, bonuses, and perks. 
  • They are on track to make $___ this year. 
  • If goals are hit, they will make $____ this year.


This, in combination with quarterly reviews for their financial projections, will help establish a more designated format to help accurately compensate your affiliate managers. 

affiliate manager compensation

What Kind of Affiliate Manager to Hire?


Let’s look at the three types of affiliate managers, the details of payment for each category based on the standard within the affiliate manager industry, and the things to think about before hiring a candidate.


  1. In House 


In-house affiliate managers are full-time employees who work solely for you with benefits. 


Type  Base  Benefits  Commission  All In 
Entry Level- No relevant experience but has the soft skills   

$55-77 K 






$65-80 K 

Standard- With relevant or some AM experience   

$65-80 K 






$70-90 K 

High Experience- Perfect AM candidate  

$100-120 K 






Tied to Revenue 


Sought-after benefits and perks: 


  • Medical, Dental, Vision, 401k, Paid Family Leave, Paid Time Off 
  • Flexible Hours, Remote Work, 4 Day Work Week, Fitness Perks, Education Assistance


Additionally, there are some other expenses that you need to keep in mind: 


  • Events — Find new relationships and continue to nurture existing relationships (tickets, airfare, lodging, per diem, time away). 
  • Training/Coaching — Affiliate Training Program and/or Sales Manager.


When looking at these numbers, it can be much easier to look at the flat bonus structure. It gets the affiliate manager’s mind off focusing on the calculations of those large numbers. A flat bonus structure makes sure to keep the affiliate managers focused on the things they can control and focus on the things the position is producing. If you want to introduce 1-3% commission then use it in a tier method — if they bring in $25,000, they get x amount in commission, and slowly raise the percentage instead of a flat rate. 




The contractor has multiple clients under their belt, and there are two types of affiliate managers within this option. Admin focused affiliate managers are replying to current affiliates, pulling reports, paying affiliates, sending assets out, etc. The sales-focused affiliate is usually bringing their relationships and traffic sources to the table, and has a more established track record.


Type  Base  Retainer  Commission 
Admin/Support  $15-25/hr  $1-3 K/per month  Very Low 
Sales Focus  Hard to Find  $3-7 K/per month  3-10% 

There is a really big range, and this can be good if your company doesn’t have the bandwidth or structure to hire an in-house affiliate manager and wants to do a short-term program. When debating this option there are other aspects to think about: 


  • You would not have to pay any benefits or taxes typically associated with hiring an employee
  • For extra expenses, this option is more economical; the contractor will have to pay for their own travel, lodging, and event tickets (unless there is a specific event in which case you will pay). 
  • They will come in with their own experience and existing relationships. 
  • The amount of time dedicated to your project may differ based on what other projects they have assigned. 
  • Do they cover both hunter (affiliate skills) and farmer (growth and project management) roles? Is there someone who works for them that can assist with the missing piece?



The agency has a team of affiliate managers, growth managers, and project managers to choose from


Retainer  Percentage  Benefits  Commission  Investment 
 $4-10 K P/M   5-10% Average   No  Yes  $48-120 K  PLUS 5-10% of Gross Sales 


Things to consider before hiring an agency: 


  • They have their own relationships and go to their own events which offer the benefit that they handle the salesperson side of the project.  
  • The agency will self-manage and self-coach their team members, so the downfall is that you are not building your own team. You also won’t be a part of the decision-making. 
  • The agency will have other clients so you are just one in the bunch they will be working with, and they will prioritize in their own way. 
  • They will have a good combination of the hunter and farmer types within their team.


All three fit into a specific moment within every business, however, after running our own affiliate marketing agency and also years of hiring and training affiliate managers for our clients, we highly recommend going with an  in-house affiliate manager. It is essential that you think about the experience levels in hiring to grow your department. There aren’t a ton of people with experience, so hiring those with little to no experience may be the only option. As a result, it is up to you to train them in how to create relationships and cater to these individuals to make the high-ticket deals.


Things to Consider 


Two things can be true simultaneously:  


  • You can get faster traction with someone with a large network and experience, and 
  • The contractors who are well-known can be vastly overpriced and often not worth the investment in the results they produce. 


It is often a common misconception that hiring the top affiliate manager will help grow your program. However, it is never that simple. If you truly want to grow your business, choosing an in-house affiliate manager is the best long-term strategy. The best hires tend to be entry-level or those with some experience with an ambition to grow. They are affordable and will respect your business as much as you do, because they are grateful to you for offering them a growth opportunity. It is important to mention that these hires may require a bit more money and time invested in them, but they are often the most loyal, highest-performing affiliate managers in the business. 


If you decide to hire an entry-level or low-experience affiliate manager, remember to put your time and money into their training to make sure they become the best affiliate manager in the industry. E5A is here to help you find, hire, and train your very own rockstar AM






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