It can be all too easy to talk yourself out of asking a client for a testimonial: It feels uncomfortable to ask for a favor, so we side-step out of the conversation by convincing ourselves that testimonials don’t matter that much.
Here’s the news: They do. So pack away the excuses, put on your your big freelancer’s pajama pants and ask.
Just like you, clients like to feel that they’re working and living amongst friends. The best way to convince a client that you’re freelance friend material is to get their peers to say something nice about you. That way, before they even meet you, they’ll feel connected in a more grounded, real way. It’s a great way to ‘front-load’ a first impression.
Furthermore, testimonials help assuage some of the anxiety a client may have when hiring a freelancer. Think about it: they’re ceding control of a portion of their business to you! It’s normal to be a bit skeptical of an interloping stranger. Testimonials give creditability.
My experience is that testimonials not only make you look good to conventional recruiters, but also drastically increase your chances of landing a ‘cold call’ client: i.e., someone who just stumbles across your website (as opposed to being referred by a friend or colleague). Testimonials are public referrals, and more potential clients read them than you think.
Testimonials are also a good way to bring specificity to the benefits you bring to a client’s work and lend credence to your own claims. It’s one thing to say “I’m a creative thinker” – it’s quite another for a previous client to say “Joan Freelancer was one of the most original minds we’ve ever encountered, and her creative problem-solving saved our project from ruin!”
You may even learn something about your own abilities from a testimonial! If several clients call you a “great communicator”, you know that you’re, well… a great communicator.
The good news is that testimonials are both potentially very valuable AND relatively easy to get … if you can overcome your shyness about it.
Look, nobody really likes to ask for testimonials! It’s embarrassing to ask for someone to compliment you. But the benefit is worth the cost, and the good news is that the embarrassment you feel asking is probably outweighed by embarrassment that a client feels in saying “no.”
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The ideal time to ask a client is RIGHT AFTER you finish a gig, when you’re giving your final thanks and wrapping up. If you’ve ended the gig on cordial terms, they’re probably feeling pretty pleased and grateful… and now is the time to ask for a (free) favor!
Any client, however, that you’ve worked with in the last year is fair game. Clients with whom you were particularly chummy may go back even further, especially long-term clients… but be warned that they may be less specific than more recent employers.
Asking for a testimonial can be straightforward, polite, and cheerful. If you proceed without embarrassment, your client won’t see it as any inconvenience. E-mail is often best; it’s a nice visual reminder of your request, you can structure the testimonial as you see fit, and you can avoid any face-to-face hesitation.
So glad you’re pleased with the project – again, it was a pleasure working with you, and please feel free to reach out in the future!
Since I enjoyed working with you so much, I wondered if I might ask a small favor: would you be willing to write a brief review/testimonial for my freelancing business? It’ll be displayed on my website, per your approval.
I’ll send you a template and it only needs to be 2-3 sentences total. It’s really helpful not only for other clients to see the kind of work I do, but also for me to evaluate and improve. I would so appreciate it. Let me know if you’re amenable, and I’ll send over the (very quick and easy) template!
All my best,
If they respond in the affirmative, send them a brief series of questions – again, reaffirming that they needn’t answer in more than a sentence each. Questions should be very short, impersonal, and easy to answer.
Thanks again for agreeing to do this: here’s the standard template. Don’t feel that you need to answer these questions specifically, but if a structure is helpful, here they are! A few sentences total is just fine – and the last question is just for my eyes, so that I can continue to improve my business.
What did you find to be [freelancer’s] strengths?
What did you enjoy about working with [freelancer]?
Would you recommend [freelancer] to others?
Any recommendations for how I could improve?
If your client responds in bullet points or sentence fragments, rearrange the language into a usable testimonial for your website. Then, send your client the final version to get their approval to make it public. They’ll appreciate that you’re also conscientious of their reputation.
So next time you finish a gig, swallow your shyness and get that testimonial. The worst answer you’ll get is a polite “no” or silence …and it’s worth that risk! A few words could add up to thousands of dollars in new income.
Kate Shea lives and works in New York City, where she consumes an inordinate amount of Sriracha daily. You can catch up with her on Twitter at @katerone.