For the freelancer, entrepreneur, or small business owner, nothing guarantees a steady income like consistent client referrals.
One of the hardest parts of running a client-focused business is finding those clients in the first place. Even the most successful endeavors still need to hunt down new leads from time to time.
But with client referrals, the work of chasing down prospective leads practically does itself!
So why don’t more freelancers and entrepreneurs focus on increasing their client referral rates? Usually, it’s because they don’t know the true value of a referral or aren’t sure how to request one in the first place.
Let’s change that.
Why You Should Care About Client Referrals
Chances are, you’re reading this because you’re already interested in boosting your client referral rates. But if you’ve yet to give referrals any serious thought, there are several reasons to start doing so right away:
- Client referrals cost very little (if anything)
- Referred clients trust your business from the start
- Referred clients require less pitching
- Client referrals tend to spend more on services
- Referred clients are likely to make more referrals down the line
These are just a few reasons why pursuing client referrals is worth the time and effort. Sounds great, right?
But how do you actually approach existing clients about referring their colleagues and friends?
10 Ways to Increase Your Client Referrals Today
Whether you already have some client referrals under your belt or are just testing the water, increasing your referral rate is probably a lot easier than you think.
Of course, no referral technique is 100 percent effective. But by following these tips, you’ll be amazed how quickly your referral rate improves:
1. Be direct
When it comes time to bring up a referral request, tell your existing clients exactly the type of projects you’re seeking.
If you leave everything in your clients’ hands, they might have a hard time coming up with suitable prospects when put on the spot. But by being direct with your request, you can better hone in on referral opportunities that your client previously overlooked.
Depending on your services and the industry you work within, the type of referrals you’re looking for can vary. Here are just a few examples to get you started:
- Non-profit organizations
- Tech-focused companies
If your existing clients know exactly what type of clients you want to take on in the future, they’ll know who to refer to you when the opportunity arises.
2. Create shareable content
Nothing is quite as effective as a 100 percent organic referral. One of the best ways to achieve this type of referral is by creating and distributing useful content.
By creating content that benefits those in your target industry — such as a newsletter, video series, or ebook — existing clients will naturally share this information with their peers.
Prospective clients will read or watch your content for their own benefit. But when they’re done, they’ll know your name and that you have a valuable set of skills to offer.
Even a social media account that shares news or fun content about your niche can draw in new clients.
Of course, this content needs to be professional, useful, and well-researched. Sending out subpar content will have the opposite effect on your referral rate, so don’t cut corners.
3. Look for connections
You can make your referring clients’ lives a little bit easier by finding potential leads yourself.
If you know a company or individual that runs in the same circle as an existing client, don’t be afraid to bring up your desire to work with them.
Worst case scenario, your client says they’re not comfortable approaching your desired lead. But best case scenario, you just landed a dream client with minimal effort.
4. Request a testimonial
Even if a client isn’t comfortable giving a direct referral, having their good word backup your services can bring in other connections.
If a client is hesitant or flat-out refuses to provide a direct referral, you might still be able to get a testimonial from them.
Testimonials are an easy favor to ask from your clients. And when you share testimonials from local industry leaders, you can indirectly gain referrals who see their review and trust their word.
5. Refer your clients
Referral can go both ways. If you’re able to refer your clients’ services or products to other business connections, they’ll feel like they’re getting a fair deal out of the exchange.
For example, maybe you handle bookkeeping for a local restaurant. In your request for a referral from this client, you can offer to put in a good word about their restaurant to your other clients around town.
6. Give referral perks
Consider offering discounted services or other perks to clients who refer new leads to you.
If you mostly work with clients on a recurring basis, this could mean a discount on their next invoice. Or you could offer an additional service for free if they point a peer in your direction. Ultimately, the referral perks you offer are entirely up to you.
You can even offer outside perks, like gift cards to a local business, if you feel it’s appropriate.
7. Draft a referral contract
On a similar note, make sure you protect both yourself and the referring client if you choose to offer tangible rewards. Your clients will feel more confident in moving forward with referrals if you put their compensation in writing.
All you need is a simple contract outlining your agreement and the terms the referring client must meet to receive their reward.
This might seem like overkill at first. However, your clients will appreciate knowing you won’t go back on your word.
8. Pick the right time
Choosing the right time to ask for a referral can make all the difference when it comes to your client’s response.
Many freelancers and business owners think that their invoice message is the best time to ask for general referrals. But your clients are most likely focused on paying you rather than finding your next lead.
Instead, try to find organic opportunities to request a referral.
If you complete a one-time project, consider reaching out shortly after completion to see how everything has gone and if your client needs anything else. At the same time, if they state their satisfaction, you can inquire about them making a referral.
If you work with clients on a recurring basis, a casual meeting to touch base and discuss future goals is a great time to bring up a referral request.
Try out different times to see which produces the best results.
9. Offer complementary services
Referral perks aren’t just a great incentive for referring clients. You can also offer small complementary services that existing clients can share with their friends, family, and professional peers.
Ideally, these complementary services will lead directly into your core offerings, incentivizing new clients to further invest in your work.
10. Advertise new offerings
As a freelancer or entrepreneur, your services won’t always stay the same. Whenever you roll out new services, let past and existing clients know through a newsletter or other form of communication.
Even if a client couldn’t come up with a prospective lead in the past, that doesn’t necessarily mean that your new offerings won’t pique their interest.
And even if you don’t get any brand new leads from your announcement, you might get some previous clients returning for more. Either way, it’s a win-win scenario.
The Best Way to Increase Your Client Referrals
Believe it or not, the absolute best way to land more client referrals isn’t featured in the list above. Why? Because it’s so obvious.
The best way to guarantee not only client referrals but also repeat business from existing clients, is to offer the highest level of customer service possible.
But that doesn’t mean you need to be at your clients’ beck and call. Instead, it means offering quality services, strong communication skills, and a friendly, helpful face that your client can turn to with questions or concerns.
If a client feels good about working with you, both professionally and personally, they’re much more likely to tell their colleagues and friends about your services.
Part of providing excellent customer services means putting forward a cohesive, curated business identity to your clients. This means ditching amateur, disorganized invoices and payment practices.
With invoicely, you can make pro-quality invoices in a matter of minutes, giving you more time to focus on your projects and client relationships.
Learn more about how invoicely can take your business to the next level — instantly.