When do you want to get started? If you are just starting and have no audience then some of the programs may not accept your application to become an affiliate, while others will let you get set up in minutes. If you want to get started straight away then make sure you’re applying for programs that are less restrictive. Generally the larger, network style places will enable you to get going quickly while specific niche programs may require you to have a certain audience size or characteristics.
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.
Be sure to check what kind of customer support you can expect from your affiliate program once you have signed up. Do your research online and if possible, speak to other sellers using the program to get their thoughts. Can you speak to someone via phone or Skype or do you have to wait 72 hours for email responses? Be clear on this because trust me, you will need support at one point or another.