Let’s dive into the exciting world of affiliate marketing vs dropshipping, exploring the question on many minds: which path is more profitable? If you’ve ever found yourself intrigued by making money online, you’ve likely come across these two popular methods. Both affiliate marketing and dropshipping offer the allure of financial freedom, flexible work hours, and the potential to earn from the comfort of your home.

However, they each come with their challenges and rewards, and it’s essential to understand the nuances before diving in. In this article, we’ll break down the key differences between affiliate marketing vs dropshipping. Through that, we’ll offer insights to empower you to make an informed decision. Whether you’re a budding entrepreneur looking to start your online journey or someone seeking additional income streams, reading this article will provide valuable insights to guide you toward the path that best aligns with your goals.

What Is Affiliate Marketing?

Affiliate Marketing explanation

As we now know, affiliate marketing is one of the most popular eCommerce methods. As affiliate marketers, we earn money by promoting other companies products and services.

When we participate in affiliate marketing, we don’t need to worry about having a store, processing orders and payments, or providing customer service. Ultimately, we must have a blog or website that receives lots of traffic to promote various products and services.

With this in mind, the first step to affiliate marketing is finding and working with a third party to promote their product. Let’s take an electric toothbrush as an example. We can promote this product by writing reviews and highlighting unique features to attract customers to click the promotional link.

To elaborate, we provide an affiliate link to our audience and persuade them to click on it. When our viewers click on the link, the conversions track to us, and we earn a commission per-click basis.

Overall, we can earn money quickly and easily with affiliate marketing. With this information in mind, let’s look at the pros and cons of affiliate marketing.


  • Passive income
  • Low-cost startup
  • Low risk
  • No customer support required

As an affiliate marketer, a company pays us a percentage of its earnings from the promotional link we advertise to our audience. As such, affiliate marketing provides us with a passive income. Generally, it requires little to no starting capital as we do not need to pay for standard overhead fees like operating a store.

Furthermore, affiliate marketing is a low-risk business model since the startup and operational costs are low. As we do not need to run a traditional type of business, we can focus on promoting products and increasing website clicks.


  • High level of competition
  • Commission based payment
  • Requires patience and planning
  • No control over pricing or products
  • Affiliate links can be removed

While affiliate marketing comes with great benefits, there are drawbacks. The most significant one is the high level of competition. As affiliate marketing is easy to start and low-risk, many can become affiliate marketers. Thus, we must always fight for the top spot amongst our competitors.

Moreover, as affiliate marketing is commission-based, we only receive an income if our audience clicks on the promotional links. Although affiliate marketing can be a great source of passive income, attaining higher profit margins with a commission-based salary can be difficult.

Similarly, affiliate marketing requires patience and planning. As such, we need to continuously test and optimize our content to ensure our click rate is through the roof! Otherwise, we will need help to earn our money. However, we can achieve our goals by dedicating time and planning to it.

What Is Dropshipping?

how dropshipping works

Another eCommerce method that brings in significant profits is dropshipping. Dropshipping is an eCommerce business model that fulfills customers’ orders without holding inventory. Instead, we partner with a dropshipping supplier who keeps the stock in their warehouse and delivers the order to our customers.

In other words, as dropshippers, we act as a middleman between the customer and the supplier. The best part is that we only have to pay the supplier after selling the product.

That said, the first step of dropshipping is finding trending products to sell in our store. Let’s assume a dropshipping supplier sells a computer table that costs $100. As a dropshipper, we list the computer table for $150 in our store and market the product.

Then a customer orders from our store, and our dropshipping supplier delivers the product to our customer. Finally, the customer pays us $150, and we pay the dropshipping supplier $100 to make a $50 profit.

Now that we know how dropshipping works, let’s look at the pros and cons of the business model:


  • Low startup budget
  • No need to hold inventory 
  • Low risk
  • Scalability
  • Immediate payouts
  • High earning potential 

Dropshipping is a low-cost business model that allows us to start with little to no initial capital.  In fact, we can sell without holding inventory of the product beforehand. Thus, we get to keep most of our profit without overhead fees.

Additionally, we only pay for the products once we sell them. Also, the risks are minimal because we do not have to pay for products in advance. And we can gradually scale our business by listing and fulfilling more orders to increase our profit margins.

As a rule of thumb, we must add products similar to our best sellers when listing products. In the same way, marketing, providing excellent customer service, and optimizing product pages help us increase sales even more.


  • No control over stock availability and shipping times
  • No control over product quality

On the downside, the dropshipping industry is highly competitive, with many people selling similar products. However, we need to research products and find a unique niche to beat the competition.

Since we are dropshipping, we depend on our suppliers’ stock availability and shipping times. In the same way, there is no control over the quality of products sold in our stores. After all, we never get to see or check them. That is why we must research dropshipping suppliers before working with them.

Which Is Better – Affiliate Marketing Or Dropshipping?

When starting as an online entrepreneur, one of the most critical questions is whether to opt for affiliate marketing or dropshipping. Well, hold on tight because we’re about to reveal why dropshipping takes the lead. In this section, we’ll explain the differences and why dropshipping is the better choice. Whether you want to run your online store or earn more money, get ready to see why this business model is the top pick for your online success.

Let’s look at their main similarities and critical differences to get a better idea.

Key Similarities

  • Low effort
  • Requires a third party
  • Low-risk

The first similarity between affiliate marketing vs dropshipping is that both models require low effort. In addition, we need a third party because we are marketing and selling other’s products in both cases.

Lastly, the two methods don’t require us to pay for products in advance. Instead, they need us to drive website traffic and ultimately increase our profit potential. Therefore, both of them are low-risk business models.

Key Differences

  • Profit margins
  • Generated traffic
  • Order fulfillment 
  • Customer service 
  • Business automation

While affiliate marketers earn a fixed commission, dropshippers can set their profit margins. In most cases, dropshippers make much more than affiliate marketers. Moreover, affiliate marketers generate traffic on others’ websites, while dropshippers generate traffic for themselves.

Another key difference is that dropshipping requires order fulfillment, whereas affiliate marketing doesn’t. Also, dropshippers have to handle customers, whereas an affiliate marketer doesn’t deal with customers.

Unlike affiliate marketing, we can automate a dropshipping business with automation software. For instance, AutoDS is a dropshipping automation software that helps automate our business operations. Its features include product importing, price and stock monitoring, order fulfillment, and more. Using these automated tools, we can quickly scale a dropshipping business.

Which One Is More Profitable?

affiliate marketing vs dropshipping- which is more profitable

Now that we know the key differences and similarities between affiliate marketing vs dropshipping, let’s see which is more profitable. While these eCommerce methods can create a generous passive income, dropshipping is the clear winner. And here’s why:

  • Branding
  • Higher profit margins
  • Scalability
  • More website traffic
  • Loyal customers

The first advantage of dropshipping over affiliate marketing is the ability to build a brand. Although we sell a third-party supplier’s products, we can use various branding techniques to stay ahead of the competition. For example, we can utilize private label dropshipping, which increases our brand awareness.

Furthermore, we have more control over our profitability. We choose our profit margins instead of getting a small fixed profit on every sale. For example, high-ticket dropshipping is much more profitable than earning a small commission from affiliate marketing.

Correspondingly, dropshipping allows for more scalability than affiliate marketing. With the help of automation tools for product imports and price/stock monitoring, we can automate our day-to-day operations.

For instance, AutoDS Products Importing allows us to import thousands of products from our suppliers’ page in a few clicks. As such, we can dedicate the time we save from not having to manually operate our business to marketing and providing exceptional customer service.

With this in mind, marketing ultimately increases our website traffic. Rather than driving traffic to a third-party website as an affiliate marketer does, we can focus on improving our dropshipping store’s traffic and, thus, generating higher sales.

Finally, we can work towards building a loyal customer base. Instead of redirecting customers to another company’s website, as an affiliate marketer would, we can convert them into loyal customers by providing valuable items and customer support. While affiliate marketing generates passive income, dropshipping is much more lucrative over the long term.

Frequently Asked Questions

How much can you earn with a dropshipping business?

Your earnings in dropshipping can vary widely based on factors like your niche, marketing strategies, and effort. But, to give you an idea, you can gain higher than 30% profit

How much can you make from affiliate marketing?

Affiliate marketing earnings also fluctuate depending on your niche, audience, and promotional efforts. Beginners earn a few hundred dollars a month, while experienced marketers can make several thousand dollars monthly. 

How much does Shopify pay affiliates?

You can get a recurring commission of 20% of the merchant’s monthly subscription fee. It recurs monthly as long as the merchant remains a paying Shopify customer and you remain an active Shopify Partner.

Can I start dropshipping without money?

Definitely- you can start dropshipping without money since you don’t have to hold inventory. You just need a selling platform and a supplier that you can trust, and you can start earning money!


In conclusion, after comparing affiliate marketing vs dropshipping, it is evident that dropshipping has the advantage for individuals looking for a more profitable and fulfilling endeavor. While both methods have advantages, dropshipping allows you to develop and expand your online business, giving you complete control over product selection, price, and customer experience. 

If you’re excited to begin your dropshipping adventure, remember that information is your most valuable asset. Explore our materials designed to help you manage the complexities of dropshipping and achieve success below: