Are Affiliate Programs Scamming Bloggers?

There’s been a lot of debate in the blogging community recently about so-called ‘ambassador schemes’ that certain companies are running for bloggers and whether or not they are actually worth your time and money investing in, and whether or not bloggers are actually reading the small print on contracts for things such as image ownership, etc. In this post, I want to discuss if some affiliate programmes and ambassador schemes scamming bloggers?

Before we get into the discussion, I just want to make a quick disclaimer. I am a part of some affiliate programmes and obviously not all of them are scams, or not beneficial to bloggers. In the past I have been part of some of the ones I am going to discuss.  If you are a part of schemes like the ones I have described, then this post is in no way shaming you for doing so, it is merely highlighting some of the issues I, and a lot of bloggers, have with this kind of ambassador program. Right, now we’ve got that out of the way…

When I started blogging and started to follow other bloggers and YouTubers on Twitter & Instagram, it was my ultimate dream to one day get a personalised discount code to share with my readers. Back then, I had no idea about commission and that I might get monetary compensation from this. I just thought it was so cool, and that if I ever had one that I’d have ‘made it’ as a blogger. So, when I was approached by a certain brand who offered me a 20% off code to share with my readers that would be ‘chloealr20’, I bit their hand off to say yes. Even though I didn’t read the catch, the products I’d be promoting for them I’d have to buy myself (at 50% off). However, at the time I saw it as a fantastic deal because I’d get 25% commission on all products bought using my code.

After a few weeks, my code had made me about £30, but I’d spent more than that on products that I was promoting for this company. In the time I was a ‘queen’ for this brand, they never once regrammed me, helped promote my blog on Twitter or give me any rewards like were promised in the initial email I’d received from them. So what was I getting from this program? Not money, not exposure. In fact, I was losing money. I decided, a few months later, that the scheme wasn’t for me anymore and stopped advertising my code anywhere. There was no benefit for me basically paying that brand to promote their products.

The fact is, we work hard. We have a lot of stuff on our plate. We need to actually feel like we’re being properly compensated for our work. It doesn’t matter how you feel compensated; it could be money, exposure, PR samples. Whatever it is, you need to feel like your work for a brand is beneficial for both of you. If you don’t feel like you’re benefitting from a collaboration, then just don’t do it. Sometimes, brands like this just like to take advantage of smaller bloggers that are just desperate for their first brand collaboration or – like me – are lured in by the appeal of having your own discount code.

I’ve seen a lot of people also complain about the brand Sand Cloud, which offer you 35% off their products and a hashtag to use ‘for a chance to be featured’ on their Instagram, which takes the piss. That doesn’t make you a brand ambassador, that just makes you a customer with a bit of a discount code. Companies like this hardly ever look at you or your blog when you apply, they just accept you right away because essentially, for them, it’s promo that you’re paying for. I personally find this really degrading to bloggers, who work so hard to create an image and content that they’re proud of. I got accused on Twitter of ‘starting a witch-hunt’ when I tweeted a screenshot of an email from a company I had offering this service – I was told that it was unnecessary and that loads of huge companies do it so why should I be calling people out. My response was this: what is unnecessary is that it’s nearly 2018 and some brands don’t appreciate the work that bloggers do and continue to try and mug us off.

So, all in all, I think that as long as you and the brand are both benefitting equally from an affiliate programme or ambassador scheme, then it’s definitely not a scam. However, if you feel in anyway like you’re not getting a fair deal then just don’t go for it – say no and move on. You’ll have plenty of opportunities in the future that are bound to fit you way better.


  1. October 29, 2017 / 5:52 pm

    Such a good point! I don't think a lot of people realise they can lose money while still earning commission. Not something that's spoken about too often!

  2. October 29, 2017 / 5:56 pm

    I’ve noticed a lot of these affiliate programmes going around lately and mostly choose to steer clear. X


  3. October 29, 2017 / 6:39 pm

    I have always thought this, which is why I don't normally participate. A company approached me to ask to work with then and then they told me I need to join their affiliate programme first. Er, thanks but no thanks. Some make quite bit of money with them though.

  4. October 29, 2017 / 6:42 pm

    I’ve made money through affiliate schemes before, but some are just dodgy as hell! 😩

  5. October 29, 2017 / 6:43 pm

    That’s why I wanted to alert people to it! It’s defintley caught some people out – including me!

  6. October 29, 2017 / 7:04 pm

    I agree I would only work on an affiliate scheme if it’s a fair rate and I really enjoyed the products and like the brand x

    Kayleigh Zara ��

  7. October 29, 2017 / 9:20 pm

    Totally agree – this is why I didn't become a "Queen" – I don't have any codes that give me money off for this reason, I just don't like how they work – Sorry you lost out on it lovely! 🙁

    Erin || MakeErinOver

  8. October 29, 2017 / 9:26 pm

    It’s ok, it was quite a while ago now! Just want to warn smaller bloggers!

  9. October 30, 2017 / 2:43 am

    That does sound horrible and I am sorry you experienced that. But thank you for sharing your experience because it can help others!

  10. October 30, 2017 / 2:43 am

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  11. October 30, 2017 / 5:23 am

    Thank you for this write-up. I'm still new to blogging, and I've wanted to sound "more important" by signing up to do affiliate programs. But there are so many sketchy ones that are only here for your money and not your brand/blog. I've signed up for some and it makes me question their integrity.

  12. October 30, 2017 / 8:19 am

    What a well written post Chloe. I totally agree with you, a lot of affiliate schemes take serious advantage of bloggers. I would never pay to feature a product on my blog purely because I'm not going to pay to advertise for someone. That being said there are some good affiliate schemes out there that don't make you pay for the products you promote.
    PaleGirlRambling xo

  13. October 30, 2017 / 8:30 am

    This was such an interesting read, Chloe! I believe I know the brand that you worked with before on the affiliate scheme haha, they really seem to have suckered so many bloggers in! I've been offered a spot on quite a few affiliate schemes in the past and turned them all down because like you say – why would I bother advertising a brand for free when I'm giving them money to do so?! I'm shocked that you were accused of starting a witch hunt for exposing brands who are taking the piss, you're doing people a favour in my book!

    Abbey 🍁

  14. October 30, 2017 / 8:40 am

    I don't remember seeing your screenshot on Twitter but I can't believe people got so worked up about it. I think you have every right to have screenshot and shared the email to make people aware and if bloggers decide to pay attention then that's entirely up to them of course. I think I know which brand you're referring to at the beginning and I think ANY brand who says you have to BUY their products in order to promote them and receive any sort of discount or benefit is a complete scam. They clearly have no idea how proper etiquette works.


  15. October 30, 2017 / 11:24 am

    Totally agree with this post. I’m a big believer that you’ve got to value yourself and your work – so many of these companies turn bloggers into paying customers and free publicity! Sometimes you need to value yourself more and say no, that’s not how I work!

    Stay fab girl,

  16. October 30, 2017 / 1:06 pm

    I totally agree with you Chloe, it's quite disheartening actually how some brands can take the mick out of smaller bloggers! However, there are also some great brands out there that really respect the bloggers they collaborate with. This is a great post and I definitely know that a lot of people don't appreciate the amount of hard work that goes into all of our blogs, which is sad really because, as you said, we are nearly in 2018 now.. xo

    Char |

  17. October 30, 2017 / 2:01 pm

    I've taken part in a couple of affiliate schemes with links but I only stuck with it for a couple of weeks as it just wasn't worth it – it was far more work than it was worth for me personally x

  18. October 30, 2017 / 7:53 pm

    Brands seem to be getting so cheeky and unfair with these 'programmes', I can't even begin to explain the amount of emails I've had that I have simply ignored as I don't have the energy to reply and explain why I don't want to participate and some of the rude follow up e-mails I've had because I haven't replied have been so unprofessional and amusing. These schemes are just far much more work than they're worth sometimes!
    Alice Xx

  19. October 31, 2017 / 8:33 am

    I’m so wary of this now after even a big named brand took the piss with me! It’s so unprofessional but at least our bad experiences mean we are less likely to let other brands take advantage again! X

  20. October 31, 2017 / 10:51 am

    They're really unprofessional at times! It really does show how not in tune people are with bloggers and how to interact with them!

  21. October 31, 2017 / 10:53 am

    Exactly!! It's just rude to expect bloggers to give them something for nothing! xx

  22. October 31, 2017 / 10:54 am

    Yes, it seems like everyone has been sucked in by a bad experience by this brand or one very similar when they were new. It sucks! 🙁

  23. October 31, 2017 / 10:55 am

    Yes, don't do it to sound more important! Real ops will come when you're more established!

  24. October 31, 2017 / 12:26 pm

    It's so great that you touched on this subject Chloe! I think that a lot of brands can definitely scam bloggers, especially when they're first starting out so hopefully newer bloggers will read this and be made aware of the situation! xx

  25. October 31, 2017 / 2:33 pm

    I've seen so many of these schemes and it makes me annoyed as they get so much more than they give you in return in general. I'm not a part of any of them at the moment and I'm pretty happy that way x

  26. November 1, 2017 / 3:02 pm

    Such an important topic that needs to be spoken more about!! Its a shame that these shitty brands make us feel like we need to be aware as they are so manh more amazing brands that are doing everything right!!

    Sarah | xx

  27. November 1, 2017 / 3:58 pm

    The brand you discuss at the beginning of this post, could possibly be the same one I was involved in and I didn't even get anywhere from it. I was so full of excitement for 'working' with them, that I even purchased quite a lot of their stuff for a giveaway for nothing in return from them. Like you said, no repost or anything on twitter or Instagram. I was totally devastated so that's when I knew that I needed to stop 'working' with them. They just want you to sometimes be the one who does all the dirty work/hard work and you get nothing in return.

    However, not all of them are like this and there are some great ones out there xx

    Taylor Jane ox.|

  28. November 1, 2017 / 9:03 pm

    I loved reading this Chloe, there's so many brands that seem to think providing a discount for you to personally purchase something and gain a bit of money is okay but as you said they're basically getting promotion for free and you're out of pocket. I think it's hard sometimes and is something that needs to be discussed more. Xx

    Kristy |

  29. November 9, 2017 / 1:33 pm

    In all honesty, I've never signed up to any affiliate scheme myself. I think if I purchase from the brand anyway, I might consider it but most of the time, like you say, you're essentially paying the company! I'm not crazy keen on them myself but if I know someone is an ambassador of a scheme and I'm going on the website, I will always use their code to help them out a little!

    Sian x

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