There are many affiliate programs that demand a payment in advance for various reasons, from "weeding out non serious affiliates" to "restricting access to a great opportunity". Personally, I think paying for the privilege of advertising a product is a very strange situation. So I am very exceptic about advertisers that expect me to pay them to help them make more money and sales. However, in some cases it may be a good idea to pay to join an affiliate marketing program.
So you want me to pay to increase your sales?
As an affiliate marketer, you will only get paid each time somebody you referred makes a sale. Given how most affiliate programs operate, that sale is one they wouldn't have done without you, because the person had not visited the website before you told them about it. So you are actually helping the advertiser make new customers, who potentially could buy many times on their lifetimes and even bring them even more sales from their contacts. Now, why would I want to pay to be allowed to do that, when there are dozens of free and reliable affiliate platforms where the money flows in a more favourable direction for me? I also don't believe paying will stop bad affiliates from joining in, and the lack of sales and results will weed out the "non serious" ones.
What kind of affiliate marketing program is worth paying for?
If you are new to affiliate marketing online and the affiliate program you are joining offers serious, proven training and a website for you, it may be worth paying for it, if only for the convenience of having all your reading material in one place and being able to start selling and promoting right away. However, considering how easy it is to get a free website and the amounts of free affiliate training you can get online, not to mention books and videos on you tube, I wouldn't pay more than a few dollars for this kind of services. In fact, I'd probably spend that money on training from an established marketer that I can use to advertise many other affiliate products succesfully.
Affiliate marketing is not the same as MLM or direct-sales programs
Multi-level marketing and direct-sales programs often ask you to purchase their products, in order to demonstrate them to potential buyers. This is not the same as affiliate marketing, and while for many it is a valid business model, it shouldn't be confused with it. To start with, if you become a direct-sales consultant you'll be expected to manage orders on behalf of your clients, place them on the system and deal with any refunds or complaints your clients have. With affiliate marketing, you are sending leads to the advertiser website, and that means you have no responsibility if the client is not happy with the product, or is not able to place an order. Of course, advertising products that are faulty or a waste of money will damage the trust people have on you, which is to be avoided, but at least you don't need to go around collecting payments and placing orders for other people.
Paying for affiliate marketing programs
I personally still have to see a popular and legitimate affiliate program that asks for a payment in advance. While there may be some out there that are good, in my personal opinion is a bad business move to pay for something you can have for free, specially if there are few to no guarantees of you ever recovering your investment. Most advertisers will be happy to pay you for bringing them new clients, and so I'd avoid paying for an affiliate marketing program but I could consider paying for training and technical support if I really needed it.
If you have ever paid to join an affiliate marketing program I'd love to hear about your experience and if you think you got value for your money.