Growth August 14, 2020

We Generated $19,243 ARR With a Self-Built Affiliate Program That Consists of Only 30 Lines of Code. Here’s How It Works

Stefan Vetter @StefanVetter

Our MarTec start-up Friendly currently generates an annually recurring revenue (ARR) of $27,106. Of this, a whopping 71% ($19,243) came from affiliates and agency partners:


Six active customers came through affilates and agency partners, including our largest customer. Another one is still in the trial phase.

I decided to develop the affiliate program myself and not to rely on an existing solution like Rewardful. I had three reasons for this:

  1. I wanted to have maximum control over the affiliate program so that I could influence every aspect myself.

  2. The integrity of our affiliates and partners is of the utmost importance to me. There are many ways in which bad affiliates can even harm you. That is why I did not want a fully automated solution. Instead, I do things that don’t scale: I make a personal video call with each potential affiliate before we work together.

  3. Another aspect is of course the cost – having your own solution will save you money for a tool. But that was not the main reason for my decision.

In this article I am going to show you the implementation of our affiliate program in detail in three simple steps.

Important note: if you don’t want to deal with web development or are looking for a fully automated tool, then this article is not for you. In this case I would choose an external tool.

More in this post 👇

https://friendly.is/en/affiliates-kit

  1. 6

    This is my favorite kind of post to see here on IH. It's open, informative and shares what others would need to replicate what you've done!

    1. 1

      Thank you so much for the kind words!

  2. 2

    Just the way it should be done. Love it!

    How do you get new affiliates to promote your product?

    1. 1

      Great question! So far, I asked a few people from my network if they were interested. And some saw our launches on Product Hunt or came across our website and asked about it. So mostly organic. I never did a real promo about it.

  3. 2

    Thanks for sharing! So how did you go about finding potential affiliates?

    1. 2

      So far, I asked a few people from my network if they were interested. And some saw our launches on Product Hunt or came across our website and asked about it. So mostly organic. I never did a real promo about it.

      1. 2

        oh dang that's really awesome

  4. 2

    Browsers are becoming unreliable around cookies, add to that many {script|affiliate|parameter-stripping|privacy-focused|ads} blocking addons and (arguably) tracking becomes really unreliable. For more reliable solution I would add referral name or code to Local Storage.

    1. 1

      Please correct me if I am wrong but browsers are becoming unreliable on 3rd party cookies right? In this example, this cookie solution should be fine because it's not a 3rd party cookie. (friendly.is domain is adding a cookie for this domain so browsers should be respectful to this.)

    2. 1

      Good point, thanks for the tip.

  5. 2

    I love how you’re using the minimal amount of code and a sprinkle of no code (Google Sheets) to get this done. This is the best of both worlds.

  6. 1

    Do you utilize a URL shortener or do you have your affiliates send out a URL with your ref tag in it? I am curious as to whether or not this affects the performance of the affiliate program because sometimes people will feel manipulated if they're clicking on an affiliate link.

    1. 1

      No, we don't have a URL shortener which we provide for our affiliates. Some are using an own one, others share the URLs with the ref param in it. I can't say if it is affecting the performance. Our numbers would be too small for a reliable analysis, too.

  7. 1

    Step 1: Define a URL parameter
    Step 2: Read affiliate cookie
    Step 3: Create commission dashboard

    Your step 3 reminds me of https://knowyourmeme.com/memes/how-to-draw-an-owl

    1. Draw some circles
    2. Draw the rest of the f* owl.

    Jokes aside, thanks for sharing your code!

    1. 2

      Haha, yeah. But actually there's no more magic behind it. Step 3 just consists of some Google spreadsheets glued together with IMPORTRANGE queries (the code is in the article).

      The affiliates then send me monthly invoices based on their custom dashboard (spreadsheet) and I pay them out. That's it :)

  8. 1

    With ARR you mean Annual Revenue, right?

    1. 1

      Yes. Annual recurring revenue.

    2. 1

      Annual Recurring Revenue!

  9. 1

    This is so impressive, thank you so much for this content :)

    1. 1

      Thank you, Abdullah 🙏

  10. 1

    Thanks for posting this.

    I've been considering running an affiliate program for https://pikaso.me for some time. I'm also not very keen on using third-party solutions. Seeing that you've implemented this yourself and it has been successful, made me more determined to do it myself.

    One question: How do you pay your affiliates? Based on my experience in a previous startup, getting users' bank info and processing payments manually every month is not something I really want to deal with.

    1. 1

      They send me an invoice and I pay by bank transfer / Transferwise. Yes, that's some manual hassle that I might automate in the future.

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