There are a few things to consider when deciding on commission for client referrals.
Bear in mind that numbers are arbitrary. You can charge/give people whatever percentage you want; it boils down to the nature of the partnership, and the amount of work involved.
Let’s say you want to partner with a company that serves your market. You could approach them by offering your service as an add-on service to theirs. It would allow them to provide a better experience for their clients, and make additional income that they might not have made otherwise. They get to make money on autopilot by just referring clients to you.
It’s a win – win for both parties.
With that said, the commission you offer wouldn’t have to be as high. Perhaps 5%-20%.
Again these numbers are arbitrary, and it’s like picking a name out of a hat. You can offer them a percentage, and they’ll either agree or make a counter offer. Your offer should always be reasonable, so instead of taking my suggestions as law, just use them as a benchmark of what is reasonable ;).
If you’re looking for someone to do more work to find clients for you, like prospecting and vetting them as well (which could be a full-time job), you’d want to offer more.
It also boils down to how you position the opportunity.
Maybe you pay them a lower commission, but they get bonuses and other perks if they hit certain goals. Consider leveraging your network to help them find more clients, which would be extremely valuable.
My point is that it’s not all about the percentage, but also about the value proposition.
But here’s a more clear cut black and white answer (because some might find it more helpful):
Pay a **higher percentage** (like 15%-40%): if they are doing the majority of the work to get you clients, and especially if you’re going to be relying on them heavily.
Pay a lower percentage (like 5%-20%):
If there’s minimal effort involved on their part. For instance, I wrote a post about how I “hacked Upwork” and used a friends profile to find clients.
I used his “platform,” but I was doing all the work (you can read more about the details here). Because I was doing most of the work, I offered him a 10% commission, and he was very happy with that. No extra work on his part, just free money (he got a smooth $500 from one of my projects).
So if it’s as simple as them referring you via email, sending a link to their client, or giving you access to their database, then it can be lower percent.