Some merchants run their own (in-house) affiliate programs using dedicated software, while others use third-party intermediaries to track traffic or sales that are referred from affiliates. There are two different types of affiliate management methods used by merchants: standalone software or hosted services, typically called affiliate networks. Payouts to affiliates or publishers can be made by the networks on behalf of the merchant, by the network, consolidated across all merchants where the publisher has a relationship with and earned commissions or directly by the merchant itself.
The problem with affiliate marketing, like many other home business options, are the so-called gurus and get-rich-quick programs that suggest affiliate marketing can be done fast and with little effort. Odds are you've read claims of affiliate marketing programs that say you can make hundreds of thousands of dollars a month doing almost nothing ("Three clicks to rich!"). Or, they suggest you can set up your affiliate site, and then forget it, except to check your bank deposits.