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Starting a referral or affiliate program as a freelancer.

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Starting a referral or affiliate program as a freelancer.

Customers rely on word of mouth more than they do on paid adverts. and buyers also rely on recommendations from trusted friends, or platforms. Referrals are an integral part of many successful businesses, and you may also need to leverage referrals as a freelancer. Besides organic ways of building referrals, you also need to have a referral program where you pay your referrers a commission. Building such a freelancer is not easy because of multiple reasons, including financials and trust. Here are the steps to build a referral program.

1. Define your target market or audience.

This is the utmost important step in building a referral program because you don't want to end up having a low conversion per referral you receive. Define what your target audience is, what they like, where they spend their time, how they spend their time, and the problems they may be having at any given time. 

These are the variables that can help you define your audience

  • What are your services - What do you have to offer to people? What are the problems for which your services are going to offer solutions? This critical self-introspection helps you know who might be interested in your services and how to approach them.
  • Demographics - This includes age, race and sex. After knowing your services, you now need to think and research who might be interested in your services. If you're selling baby toys, for example, your audiences are mothers with newly born babies and you can find these in clinics etc. If you're selling pool tables then your target audiences are places where men gather like beerhalls.

So basically know your clients. Everything about them.

2. What's your approach?

Now you need to strategise on your approach. Here are a few questions you may need to ask yourself.

  • How are you going to build your referral program? - This is a technical question. There are multiple ways of doing it, companies like DigitalOcean for example, have a tracking system. Each referral is given a unique code which they can use to identify a referral member and others just use word of mouth in their referral programs.
  • Are you going to be exclusive or open? - If your services are general, then it's a good idea to keep the program open for everyone, and if your service covers a niche market then you may need to be exclusive, manually picking people and or platforms which can be members.

3. Payment strategy.

There are many payment strategies for referral programs which you can choose from. And they all depend on how financially secure the business is. Here are strategies you can use:

  • Commission - This is the most popular strategy. You can give a 10% - 20% commission for every sale you get from an affiliate. It's good noting that many affiliates favour this method because it is easy to implement. There is only one thing that determines how much you are going to give to an affiliate, a sale.
  • Exposure / Advertising / Tracking / Sales - This is when you can also pay affiliates based on the volume of referrals you got from them or their platforms. And the weight of each link you get from the affiliate is measured and awarded. This method requires robust tracking methods. And the system can be easily gamed by your affiliates and that's why having a sale commission method is the best when you're starting out.

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