Working as a solopreneur can be extremely rewarding, but only if you can consistently find enough work to keep your business afloat. Luckily, every client gets you one step closer to ongoing sustainability in your freelance business, and not just because of the money you’ll make from that one client or project. The number one resource solopreneurs have for getting new customers is usually their current or former customers.
84% of high-earning soloprenuers list word of mouth as a top source for getting new work. The solopreneurs who turn their solo businesses into successful ventures do it, at least in part, by utilizing current clients to help them find new clients.
You don’t have too much power over what your clients will say to their friends and colleagues on their own time, but you can use the power of word of mouth through online reviews and testimonials on your own website.
Getting clients to provide reviews and testimonials doesn’t have to be hard, but it can feel a little awkward at first. Here are a few steps you can take to help increase the number of testimonials and reviews you have to help you promote your solopreneur business.
1. Include a link to review sites in your email signature.
Any website you’re on that includes a review section is an opportunity for you to get more feedback and reviews from customers. So promote them. Add a link to the site in your email signature with a note asking recipients to give you a review. That way, every person you correspond with will learn the site exists and see a CTA to go give you a review every time you interact over email.
This is a fairly passive form of asking for a review or testimonial, so if you’re trying to work up to being more comfortable soliciting testimonials, it’s a good place to start.
2. Include links to review sites on your website as well.
This is really the same idea as number one. Add links and a note encouraging visitors to review you on these review sites. This way, potential customers trying to decide whether or not to hire you can see what others have thought of you, and current customers know where to add their review once they have some experience working with you.
3. Provide a survey after projects.
At some point, you need to graduate from the more passive methods described in steps one and two and start being more direct in soliciting feedback. Sending a quick survey over to your clients after a project’s complete or once you’ve been working with them for a certain amount of time can accomplish two things at once:
- It gives you a chance to collect customer feedback that you can use to improve your services.
- You can use open-ended questions as a way to collect potential testimonials.
If you include a question about how satisfied the client is with your services and they say something positive, that tells you that they’re a good person to follow up with to see if they’ll provide a testimonial for your website. If they write a glowing sentence or two in the space provided in the survey, then all you have to do is confirm that they’re ok with you publishing it.
You can use either Instant Survey or Survey Monkey to create and send surveys for free. Make sure you keep your customer surveys short, so people are more likely to actually do them – you should be able to get good information from a survey that takes less than 10 minutes.
4. Keep an eye out for positive comments on social media.
Sometimes people turn to social media to voice their opinions of a business they’ve worked with. If you’re not making a point to pay attention to what people are saying about your work on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter, you may be missing out on some great comments that could make website testimonials.
Go beyond just checking your mentions now and then and start practicing a wider scale of social listening. That way, if you encounter criticism, you have the chance to step in and work to make things right. And when you encounter compliments, you can ask the client about turning them into a testimonial for your website.
5. When you receive positive feedback, ask for permission to repurpose it as a testimonial.
You know how now and then a client will send you an email saying something kind and complimentary about your work? It might not happen all the time, but it sure feels nice when it does.
Instead of simply enjoying that nice feeling and sending back a “thanks,” next time go a step further and ask if they’d be ok with you using what they’ve said as a testimonial on your website. There’s a very high likelihood in a situation like this that they’ll say yes, since they’ve already made it clear they like you and have taken the time to write something to that effect.
6. If you’re just starting out, ask non-client contacts to provide you relevant testimonials.
If everything on this list sounds completely out of reach because you’re still in that early stage of looking for your very first clients, that’s ok – you can use testimonials from other people in your life.
If you’re a writer that has helped friends or an organization you volunteer for with your writing skills, they can be your early testimonials. If you’re a graphic designer that learned your skill in school, the professors who know your work well can serve as your first testimonials. If you’re branching out from full-time employment to freelancing, your former employer could make a great testimonial.
Make sure you only ask people who know your work. You want the testimonials to be genuine and accurate. But don’t feel disheartened about turning to other people who know your skills and work ethic to start, you can build up your testimonials from actual clients as you go.
7. Just ask!
A lot of these come down to the same thing, but you don’t always need the types of starting prompts described in the steps above to collect testimonials. Any time you’ve done work for a client you’re proud of, it’s ok to simply send an email asking if they’d be willing to write a few words about their experience with you for the website.
It doesn’t take them long, and if they’re satisfied with your work, many clients will be happy to do it. And you’ll be able to add the honest opinion of a third-party to your website, which immediately makes a stronger persuasive case to most visitors than anything you can say about your own work will.
Soliciting customer testimonials may be a bit awkward and require you to work up some courage, but the end results are worth it.
Kristen Hicks is an Austin-based freelance content writer and lifelong learner with an ongoing curiosity to learn new things. She uses that curiosity, combined with her experience as a freelance business owner, to write about subjects valuable to small business owners on the HostGator blog. You can find her on Twitter at @atxcopywriter.