You don't need a storehouse full of products to become an online retailer if you build a Web site full of other retailers' products and take a piece of their profits. A hot trend on the Internet, affiliate programs pay you a commission for referring business to them.

Signing up with affiliate programs that sell products similar to yours is a great way to supplement your current Web store's offerings or add revenue to a content-only Web site. After you're approved, the company usually generates code you can put on your site to send customers their way.

Probably the best-known affiliate program is Amazon.com's, which lets you build your own bookstore on your site. Users who click on the store are taken to Amazon.com to make the purchase.

A slight twist on the commission idea, Nexchange (http://www.nexchange.com) lets you add a fully-stocked store to your site, sell all types of consumer products and receive a commission on sales. Nexchange describes its program as "commerce in content," meaning the store has your site's look and feel, and after visitors buy, they're automatically returned to your site at the same place they were when they stopped to make the purchase. (With most affiliate programs, it's up to the visitors to manually return to your site.)

Membership in these affiliate programs is free, and most will actually pay you for the business. In return, you'll get the benefits of online retailing without the administrative and technical hassles.