As a freelancer, doing excellent work is only one part of your job – you have to make sure that potential customers know about it. According to survey results, freelance creative professionals rate referrals, (particularly traditional word-of-mouth referrals) as their single most important source of new business. It pays to be deliberate about getting as many referrals as possible.
As you build your freelancing career, developing a strong referral network will ensure you have access to the best opportunities you need to grow, build your skills, and make more money. Here are a few techniques that freelancers use to get more referrals that generate a steady increase in business.
Build Your Personal Brand
As a freelancer, you must think of yourself as a small business that represents a certain attitude and system of values. According to brand-building coach Rajiv Nathan, it requires a deeper process of discovering who you are, what you do, and why it matters to you.
“It’s really about figuring out the core of what you believe in as a person and using that to structure how you think about yourself, talk about yourself, and the lifestyle you want to live,” says Nathan. “What is your definition of success? How do you know when you’ve made it? The pursuit of answering those big questions is what leads to the development of everything that we’re doing.”
Nathan advises thinking of your brand in terms of storytelling and constructing your own “Hero’s Journey” outline to define who you are in a way that resonates with others.
“Look at everything that people gravitate towards – it is the story,” Nathan says. “People want a hero, a villain, and a plot. That’s basically how life is constructed as well. You make yourself out to be the heroes of your own life. There are villains along the way, climaxes, and valleys. We’re telling you to architect your story. You’re playing a character in your own life – where do you want to take the story?”
The more intriguing your story, the easier it is for it to spread. If you have a clear and compelling brand, you can generate positive word of mouth and get much more mileage from social media, where concise and specific stories cut through the clutter.
Refine Your Elevator Pitch
Your elevator pitch is the distilled essence of your personal brand. It is a fifteen-second summation of the value you offer, one you could use if you met your ideal client anywhere and had only a small slice of time in which to make a memorable impression.
Michael Katz at Freelancers Union advises thinking of your elevator pitch, not in terms of being dazzling or unique, and instead in terms of filling a need that others may have. “Stop trying to impress the people you meet with fancy-pants phrases that shine brightly for a minute and then evaporate,” Katz says. “Instead, just help others understand and remember what you do.”
Taking this approach to describing yourself will make it easy for others to recommend your work to people who ask if they know someone who can fill a particular role or niche.
The easiest way to get referrals from existing customers or connections is to ask for them. When you’ve worked well with a client, you can ask that client directly – it will help their reputation to be associated with a skilled and diligent freelancer. You must be bold about soliciting referrals – when you believe in your work, you cannot be shy about making sure it’s available to anyone who wants it.
However, for such a request to be successful, it is important to pick the right time and the right circumstances in which to pose it.
“Ideal times to ask for referrals is right after they compliment you, or right before a final deal closes,” says freelance blogger Kayla Sloan. “If things are going well, build off of that momentum. Ask if they would refer you, or if they know of anyone who could benefit from your services. Knowing when to ask for referrals is just as important as asking for them.”
It may also make sense to add a referral link to your website, social media, or email signature so that anyone inclined to give you a referral finds it easy to do so.
In some cases, offer incentives for referrals that result in new business. According to USA Today, more than 50% of people are more likely to give referrals if there is a modest incentive involved, such as a gift card or some branded swag.
Whether or not you offer incentives, you should go out of your way to show your appreciation to those who give you referrals. When a client gives you a referral, give them public kudos on social media or send a private, personal email to give thanks. You may even want to invest in old-fashioned thank-you cards sent through the mail, which can really brighten a client’s day.
“I don’t ever send a thank-you message expecting something in return from a client, prospect, or contact,” says Cherese Cobb, a writer, multimedia artist, and “Thank You Marketing” evangelist. “I do it because it’s polite. It’s like spreading confetti of kindness that can have a positive impact on others. And I know it works to build relationships, get referrals, and land more freelance writing jobs.”
If you are a freelancer working hard to turn your talent into a business, Artisan Creative has many resources and connections, and we’re here to help you. Contact us today to learn more.
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