There are many ways to get people onto your list. Lead magnets are one such resource. For example, you can build ebooks, checklists and cheat sheets. But you can also do content upgrades, such as PDF versions of an article with added resources in them, four-part video training series, and more. Think about your audience and what you can offer them to better serve them, then treat them with some respect and you'll eventually reap the rewards.
Let no one tell you that email marketing is dead. An email list is crucial for every affiliate marketer. You can start building up your email list with a lead magnet (like the information products mentioned previously) or even just by encouraging your audience to sign up for your updates. You can then push your content to this audience via email and also direct them to your affiliate offers. Don't be sleazy about the sales, but if you build up enough trust with your email audience; when the time comes, they will not mind purchasing a product from you.
While these models have diminished in mature e-commerce and online advertising markets they are still prevalent in some more nascent industries. China is one example where Affiliate Marketing does not overtly resemble the same model in the West. With many affiliates being paid a flat "Cost Per Day" with some networks offering Cost Per Click or CPM.
Forms of new media have also diversified how companies, brands, and ad networks serve ads to visitors. For instance, YouTube allows video-makers to embed advertisements through Google's affiliate network. New developments have made it more difficult for unscrupulous affiliates to make money. Emerging black sheep are detected and made known to the affiliate marketing community with much greater speed and efficiency.
If you're ready to enter the ecommerce fray, you could sell your own stuff. Of course, along with selling your own stuff on your own website comes a whole slew of both responsibilities and technical configuration and requirements. For starters, you'll need a website and a hosting account. You'll also need a merchant account like ones offered by Stripe or PayPal. Then you'll need to design that site, build a sales funnel, create a lead magnet and do some email marketing.
Affiliate marketing is commonly confused with referral marketing, as both forms of marketing use third parties to drive sales to the retailer. The two forms of marketing are differentiated, however, in how they drive sales, where affiliate marketing relies purely on financial motivations, while referral marketing relies more on trust and personal relationships.