8 Recession-Proof Product & Service Ideas for Affiliates

You CAN thrive as an affiliate during tough economic times…

With the U.S. dollar sinking to new lows, oil and gold attaining new heights, and both food and gasoline prices rising quickly: corporate CEO’s, the media and government officials finally acknowledged what millions have seen coming for years – the U.S. economy is in BIG trouble – and the future looks bleak.

During uncertain financial times, people without jobs don’t spend money, while those who do have jobs tend to cut back on discretionary spending, postpone larger purchases or shorten their holiday buying lists – which doesn’t sound like a happy prospect for those of us who want to sell to them.

However, there are many ways to survive and even thrive during a recession and diversification is typically the first key to continued prosperity. Fortunately for most affiliate marketers, making the leap from promoting luxury items to ‘recession-proof’ products that consumers use regardless of their economic status or level of income is fairly simple. We can add new products to our current mix or start pumping out content on a new domain, join some affiliate programs, ramp up the marketing and be in a new business in relatively short order.

So, if your commissions from the sale of cars, diamonds and fur coats have been falling off of late, here are a number of recession-proof product and service suggestions for your consideration.

  1. Job Search

    Although the employment market is perpetual, during a tough economy, mergers, acquisitions and layoffs all inevitably lead to more job seekers. Point your visitors to career websites such as Monster.com where they’ll find millions of job postings along with general career advice and help to prepare for interviews. Monster.com pays a buck for each new resume posted and 50 cents for each new My Monster account created.

  2. Resume Preparation Services

    As many of your job-seeking visitors will find it difficult to get an interview because they don’t have experience or their resume is out-of-date, you should also tell them how they will benefit by using a service to beef up their resume. Some services, such as Employment911.com, have market-specific offerings such as military transition resumes, a niche which CEO Frederic Thom reports was marked by a sudden increase in February. Employment911.com pays commissions of 12.5% to 25% and their resume writing package prices top out at $357.90 for executive level positions. ResumeEdge.com, which pays 12% and powers the resume writing services of The Wall Street Journal, Yahoo! HotJobs, and The U.S. Air Force is another option to consider.

  3. Education

    When, after all the stops have been pulled and the job search still fails to pan out, many people choose to stay in school or return to school to beef up their education and subsequent chances for finding a job. Companies with affiliate programs in the education field include those that help with college and university placements as well as scholarship search, which provides direct assistance to students with college education funding. Online training to improve basic computer skills or those which are geared toward technical certifications like Microsoft, Oracle, Cisco and Novell as is offered through TechnieCert.com (ShareaSale) are becoming increasingly popular. You might also consider promoting language-learning programs such as Rosetta Stone (available through CJ) for those of your visitors who decide to flee the country in search of brighter economic prospects.

  4. Business Opportunities

    While there is never any shortage of those seeking business opportunities, an increasing unemployment rate makes this market even more potentially lucrative, especially for those who have had business success and can teach others how business is done. In addition to selling instructional information products in the form of ebooks, podcasts, webinars and conferences to new entrepeneurs; affiliates can make bank promoting productivity and marketing tools as well as office supplies. Almost every business needs business cards and PsPrint, a CJ merchant that pays 15% commissions, has a staggering 3-month EPC of $521.15. When they eventually need to incorporate, you can promote American Incorporators $299.00 incorporation packages for a tidy 34% commission.

  5. Tax Preparation and Filing Services

    QuickTaxEconomic slowdown or not, the tax man cometh every year and helping your visitors find additional spending money through deductions can be very lucrative. With over 138 million taxpayers set to file their taxes online this year, industry experts expect 2008 to be the most popular year for filing federal income tax online… until the 2009 tax season. Several IRS authorized merchants can be found at Commission Junction, including TurboTax, H&R Block and QuickTax, the latter of which pays a 30% commission on all their products, including a premium tax preparation service which costs $69.95.

  6. Health Care

    In the absence of legislated universal health care, people who have just lost their employer-sponsored health plans will need to buy health insurance while they have no pre-existing conditions and are still eligible. When you partner with an insurance provider that has relationships established with over 160 health insurance carriers, you’ll earn $40.00 for each health insurance application submitted for an individual or family. Assurant Health pays up to $78.00 per lead and both Commission Junction merchants have 120-day cookies.

  7. Budgeting and Debt Reduction

    Helping folks reduce or consolidate their debt load and save money is always appreciated and the subject matter is relevant to almost any niche in which you are currently working. Partner with merchants that offer secured credit cards, debt consolidation services and help with foreclosures; and consider converting your weekly newsletter to a daily ‘Money-Saving Tips’ or ‘Coupons and Deals’ broadcast to gain additional traffic and branding for your site. Consider promoting Leo Quinn’s “How to Own Your Paycheck Again“.

  8. Entertainment and Vices

    Netflix, Inc.While the wise eliminate frivolous expenses during tough times, those less disciplined tend to seek more escape from reality through various forms of entertainment. So, if you were ever inclined to go the porn route, now might be the time. If that holds no appeal for you, try adding sports, concert, and theatre tickets to your mix. NetFlix (Linkshare) pays $9.00 per subscriber for each new customer who signs up for a FREE Trial.

While the suggested items above don’t represent an exhaustive list of recession-proof products and services, it should get you thinking about options that will at least keep your affiliate business profitable during the recession.

In summary, ignore the purveyors of doom and gloom. There are always ways to thrive during the hard times, if you are perceptive and swift. Choose to see opportunity and profit where others see only potential for loss and failure and use the recession as a compelling reason to diversify and grow your affiliate business.

This article is an updated version of one written for my “Affiliate’s Corner” column in Revenue Magazine.


  1. says

    Great article Rosalind. A solution I’m looking into is to expand sales into other countries. So my question to you and your readers is…. what products sell well internationally?

  2. Chua Wen Ching says

    “Hi Chua” is good :) thanks hehe 😛

    maybe i should use a english name, better 😛

  3. Chua Wen Ching says

    Hi Ros,

    Chua is my last name, but in my country and as a chinese .. Chua is my surname :)

    Thanks for the links. Will see whether I can position myself into the job market. Oh ya, do you have any other websites that has affiliates programs for job employments? i did a google, wasn’t able to find something solid :(

    Thanks again.

  4. Chua Wen Ching says

    Are the monsters and employment911 affiliate still relevant and available today? I can’t find any affiliate for the resume + create account on the monsters website? after all this was posted on 2008, not sure still working in 2010 :) any help, ros?

  5. says

    during the height of the economic recession, our online and offline business in the US have suffered some major drop in sales. now our sales are getting slowly back to normal.

  6. says

    Great article! Not only are these niches thriving during this recession, but they were thriving before and will continue to thrive after the recession is over. They’re really “evergreen” niches. In fact, I suspect that some of them will do even better while not in a recession (e.g. entertainment).

    Thanks for providing ideas for my next batch of websites!


  7. says


    Great content! I have read up on you for some time. Also checked out your section in Yanik Silver’s “Moonlighting On The Internet” book.

    I found this article extremely useful. One commenter spoke to cosmetics as being a booming recession proof industry. Yes cosmetics is a great industry that thrived during The Great Depression. Women were willing to buy cheaper goods to help their self image during a time of uncertainty.

  8. says

    This is a great article! And i totally agree on the Vice part, especially in parts of South-east Asia, where i come from, the amount of gambling on lottery has certainly increased during this period of time. And with the proliferation of online betting through “un-government” means, there are even more bets out there that are unaccounted for.

  9. gold says

    Gold has been a proven investment during previous recessions. If you can market this product to the masses, it will be beneficial to the marketer and investor alike.

    Just my 2 ounces worth 😉

  10. says

    Hi Rosalind,

    Thank you for sharing your knowledge and experience! I’m always looking for ways to improve myself and I’m glad to have found your blog. Thank you for sharing with us.


  11. says

    I think these are some essentials. I will check out these and more. I have known there was going to be a slow down. I am thankful right now. However there is a light and it is not a train coming at you from the end of a tunnel. If you do things right.

    • says

      Hey Alan,

      Don’t get me started. :-)

      In a nutshell, we’re still very strong but now feeling the effects of the tanking U.S. economy.

      As our dollar soars, manufacturing jobs (particularly in Ontario) are being lost by the tens of thousands.

      Tourism, one of B.C.’s leading industries is feeling the pinch, as visits from the States are down due to the high dollar as well.

      I’ve started to see a few ‘price reduced’ signs on homes for sale around town here in Penticton… one of the hottest markets in Canada (prices on par with Toronto’s). Wasn’t expecting that to happen until after the 2010 Olympics.

      Much more to add, but as they say, “when the U.S. gets a cold, Canada gets the flu”.

      I’m waiting for it…


  12. says

    Dang Ros, this rocks! I didn’t even realize those types of services HAD affiliate programs :-)

    What’s your secret to finding such things…if you can reveal 😉

  13. says

    dear Rosaland
    At 78 yrs young I found the above website, this has been on TV its water4gas how during these times you can take 90 old technologey build your own unit cheap and increase your gas milaege to 50%

    this is Easy to use. works with all Engines 100% safe /legal etc but go to the website for all your questions .

    The manuals are available for sale and they pay 50% commission.

    Also I will have kits availbable shortly for those who do not have time to but them to gether or find the parts. here the customer will be able to purchase the kits and have there car Machinics installed the unit,

    any questions after reading the information on the web site please feel free to contact me.

    In as much as I do not have a list I thought you would be glad to put this information in your newsletter. by the way there are over 12,800 cars and trucks using these units on the road today.

    Bless you for all you do to help others earn a living

    jerry beaudry

    • Ishtiaq Nasim says

      What happened to the website? You forgot to mentioned in your comment or it was deleted when your comment was posted. Pls write the web add. Thanks

  14. says

    Hey Ros,

    Great article, especially with the “gloom and doom” that the media is preaching every day. I had just been thinking about this exact topic this morning driving into work. I was listening to the radio talk about how bad the housing market had gotten and how the economy was on shaky ground. Then after I arrived at work and sat down at my desk, I logged into me stats pages for my online dating accounts, and was immediately hit with a dose of “true” reality: Business is alive and well.

    In fact, it’s booming! The reality is there are numerous online businesses that can sustain themselves during any economic situation, and online dating just happens to be one along with the many other areas you mentioned earlier.

    Thanks for waving the flag for the affiliate marketing world. Business is alive and well as long as you have the patience and diligence to find out where it’s hiding.

    Make it a great day!

    Jason Anthony

    • says

      Hi Jason,

      Your experience reminds me about what happened to my dating sites after 9/11.

      Rather than lose business, it spiked. Goes to show you that people need people even more during tough or shaky times.


  15. says

    Other great affiliate items are small items that usually sell well in a down turned economy. Makeup sales rose approximately 5% in 2006 and eye makeup rose 6% in 2007. Eco Friendly natural makeup has made a big push in sales. You can find all sorts of organic products on the market, from lipsticks to conditioners. If you want to succeed in a recession, push small ticket items that lead to bigger sales generation. Small luxury items are also winners, from satin sheets and perfumes, to bath beads. Be trendy if you want to increase sales. Trends are marketable so find the products that fit in your niche!

    • says

      Hey Carolyn,

      You’re absolutely right, there are definitely more products & services that do well during tough times and cosmetics is certainly one of them.

      Thanks for sharing!


  16. Stephen says

    Ros, Derek Gehl recently commented that he will show those struggling to set up businesses that are sustainable how he does it from scratch with 4 presentations on video.I registered with his company which I picked up from your website within the time span.Unfortunately I have not seen his presentation. I have a few other problems on communications with this company. I bought Cory Rudls’ ” The Insider Secrets” plus other material from the company from time to time, so they have my support.
    Can you assist as you appear to have the ear of Derek!
    I enjoy your website.

    • says

      Hello Stephen,

      Derek’s videos are still available through this link.

      You’ll have to supply your name and email address and it’ll take you directly to the first video.

      As to contacting them, there is a 1-888 number via the Contact Us link on the homepage at MarketingTips.com


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