Freelancers rely on a constant flow of clients and projects to earn a stable income. Yet, experienced freelancers will know that acquiring leads can be a stressful and challenging process. Finding a new opportunity could involve scouring job boards, browsing through social media and negotiating potential leads. On top of this, the current pandemic may mean fewer opportunities to attract the clients or brands that you want to work with. The good news is, acquiring referrals or word-of-mouth could let freelancers make ends meet.
Think about the last time you tried a service or brand for the first-time. You probably asked for referrals from trusted friends, relatives, and colleagues to guide your purchasing decisions. This referral process is called “word-of-mouth” but it isn’t solely confined to evaluating purchasing decisions. Freelancers can also leverage word-of-mouth or referrals to acquire clients. It may take a while but it could lead to more clients and a steady flow of income.
How to become referrable? Here are some tips to help you get started.
Outputs are the most important thing for your clients. For top-quality service, set clear expectations and make sure to fulfill what was promised. Doing so leads to improved client satisfaction and ongoing business relationships.
In the midst of working on a project, you may get leads or referrals from your clients. Since they’re confident about the quality of service which you offer, they’ll be happy to refer your business with their colleagues or network. Referred clients are easier to convert because they have a positive perception of your business due to the personal recommendation. That’s precisely why a referral is a powerful tool for growing your freelance business.
As a freelancer, be honest with what you can or cannot accomplish. Don't make promises you can’t keep and don’t commit to deadlines you can’t meet. Clients will only refer freelancers that they like to work with. If you can’t commit to a project or reach a deadline, then decline the opportunity or renegotiate the terms. Otherwise, failure to meet expectations and disappointing a client could lead to lost opportunities. Using a suitable time tracking software is a great way to manage your time and keep track of your schedule.
Make it a habit to honor your commitments to boost trust. It’s important to note that trust is the basis for referrals. When clients refer you to their network, they put their reputation on the line. No client will promote a freelance business which makes them look bad. The worst-case scenario is disappointing a friend or colleague because of a misguided referral.
How to confirm whether your services meet your clients’ expectations? Politely ask for feedback. Collecting feedback lets you accurately assess whether your clients are satisfied or dissatisfied with what you offer.
Consider client suggestions to improve your services. If clients are experiencing issues with your services, then iron them out quickly so they won’t feel disappointed. A dissatisfied customer can easily result in lost opportunities and potential referrals.
They say the customer, so continuously perform well. Eventually, news of your services will eventually reach their network via word-of-mouth.
Constant communication is the key to a good business relationship. If possible, have a conversation with your customers by inviting them for lunch or dinner. Be proactive and schedule video calls to determine their thoughts on the completed projects. If necessary, provide advice and offer feedback to each other.
No relationship is perfect so you may encounter bumps and issues amid the discussions. When this happens, be accountable for your faults and avoid a sell-and-forget attitude. To win your clients’ loyalty, stay one step ahead and be updated on your deliverables. Continuously raise the bar by exceeding expectations so clients will keep coming back for your services. Consider rewarding long-time clients with a discount or a simple gift to show your appreciation.
Building and maintaining strong client relationships leads to customer loyalty. Not only are loyal clients valuable sources for references and testimonials, but they may also refer you to potential customers. They will willingly vouch for your credibility and make you referrable. Whether or not they make a successful referral, make it a habit to show appreciation and gratitude and your business will continue to profit.
The easiest way to get a referral is to ask. You can get this done by bringing it up in a conversation or by sending an email. Make sure the timing is right for more chances to get a positive response. Asking through a referral email may feel awkward but it is the most effective way of growing your client base. Delighted clients who love your business will willingly make a referral. However, don’t appear to be pushy or desperate. Some clients may prefer not to refer to your business, and that’s completely okay. No one in their network may need your services at the moment so don’t pressure them.
Communicating with clients isn’t the only way to become referrable. Join networking events and freelance groups to build a network with freelancers that could refer to your business. You can take the lead by referring them to people in your network who may need their services. This way, they’ll be motivated to return the favor.
If people in your network need a specific client's services, then refer to them. This way, they’ll be motivated to refer your business to others too. Note that you should get to know your clients before you start to vouch for their credibility. Collaborate on a project and see how it goes before you start referring them to other people. Along the way, you’ll have a better understanding of their products, services, capabilities—and the people in your network who might need them.
Time and time again we are hearing the saying, “If you do me a favor, I'll return it.” This is true in both life and business. When you do a great job, clients will return the favor by referring to your business and giving you more opportunities. Note that becoming referral worthy so be patient. As long as you follow these suggested tips, you’ll eventually get a fully booked schedule.