“She is without a doubt one of the most hard working, most organized, and thoughtful persons with whom I have worked in my 30 years of working.” That’s one of the testimonials listed on my website. It’s from my former supervisor and undergraduate professor.
Testimonials are an asset for any freelancer, whether you freelance full-time or have a business that supplements your day job. Why? In someone else’s words — someone who has worked directly with you — they tell potential clients exactly why they should hire you. Are you particularly skilled at SEO? Have you grown a client’s social media channels by 10,000 followers? With a testimonial, you can subtly incorporate details like this into your website, social media, LinkedIn, media kit, and more.
So how do you find testimonials, decide which ones are worth using, and include them on your website and other prominent places?
Asking for testimonials
It’s possible to ask for testimonials from past clients as well as current clients. I recommend first reaching out to clients who you have a positive relationship with — clients you have loved working with and who have given you a sense that they’ve loved working with you. They’re most likely to enjoy hearing from you and will probably give you the strongest testimonials.
As strange as it sounds, you can also draft testimonials for people and ask for their permission to share. Offer them a draft via email and ask them to modify it. If that feels too strange, you can give them examples of other testimonials you’ve received that might inspire them, or ask a few questions to get them started in the line of thinking that will give you a great testimonial. Some questions you might ask to get the ball rolling: What was the best part of working together? In what ways did our project solve a problem for your organization? What did you learn from working with me on this?
If you have former clients you haven’t worked with in a few years, you might be thinking, “I missed my chance to get a testimonial!” Not necessarily. It can actually open up a conversation and opportunity to reconnect. Send them an email, and keep it simple like asking how they are, and offering a relevant compliment about what they’re doing currently. That’s when you can ask them for a simple testimonial from your time working together (it might not hurt to remind them of the timeframe and the project you worked on, especially if it’s been some time), and thank them in advance for considering it.
You can also find ways to get testimonials in the natural ebb and flow of working together. If a client says something kind about you, especially in writing, in conversation, you can also ask about using that as a testimonial. Some of the testimonials on my website actually came about organically this way. A client sent the feedback in an email after we wrapped on a project, and I emailed back, asking if I could use the testimonial. Asking offers your client an opportunity to adjust what they said if there’s anything they would add or change, and it’s an easy way to get great testimonials from people who might not otherwise be persuaded to take the time to write them.
Find ways to get testimonials in the natural ebb and flow of working together.
Similarly, if you already have a process for asking clients for feedback after a project wraps up (or at a specific time for ongoing clients), you can ask them if it’s okay to use their adapted feedback as a testimonial. Most happy clients will say yes, and this saves you the trouble of asking!
It might also benefit you to ask for reviews and testimonials on external sites such as LinkedIn, Facebook, or Google, depending on where you’re most actively marketing yourself and your freelance business. In some fields, such as photography, public reviews are a major draw for prospective clients, while in other fields, this may be a ‘nice to have’ and not a ‘need to have.’
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Deciding which testimonials to use
Once you have a healthy selection of testimonials it’s time to figure out how to use them. I’d recommend storing them all somewhere, wherever is preferable to you. You could make an unpublished page on your website, create a text document, or lay them out in a spreadsheet. Keep all of the testimonials you receive, even if you don’t think you’ll use them.
Now that you have them gathered in one central place, you can pull the ones you feel are the strongest for various places. You might want to use testimonials on your website, but you might also feature them on your social media channels, on your LinkedIn profile, and in a media kit.
Since you have a variety of testimonials saved, you have the option of using different testimonials for different usages. Comb through what you have with an eye to which testimonials you want permanently displayed on your website versus which ones you’d prefer to share on Instagram.
How to use testimonials
I mentioned earlier that testimonials can have different usages. Testimonials that are short and to-the-point might make excellent social media graphics or snippets in a media kit, while longer and more in-depth testimonials can add detail and specifics to your website (especially if displayed not only on a dedicated testimonial page but throughout your entire site).
Many people use testimonials on their website and that’s an excellent place to start. However, you can go further than this by creating a media kit for your website and to share with potential clients. Testimonials can add flavor and color to your media kit, which is generally focused on the specifics: What you’ve accomplished, your services, and what you bring to a project.
You may also share testimonials on social media, especially if you have social media pages for your business or you use your accounts in a professional way to market your freelance work. Testimonials make great graphics and on Instagram, you can collect them all in a Highlight that prospective clients will see when they first look at your account.
Testimonials carry power. If a prospective client is torn between you and another option, a really convincing testimonials could tip things in your favor. They remind clients that not only do you know what you’re doing, but the people you’ve worked with really enjoyed your work too. Ask for testimonials on a regular basis and it will stop feeling awkward and begin feeling as natural as sending a new client a W9.