Research shows that word-of-mouth referrals are the most trusted form of marketing, yet many freelancers don’t make the most of them. One reason is that we tend to leave them to chance, simply hoping that our best customers will rave about us to others.
Seasoned solo professionals know that they will get more word-of-mouth referrals if they actively encourage them. That may mean doing things like making appearances at industry events or simply asking for them. In our latest post for the AARP’s Work Reimagined site, “Grow your business by putting customers to work,” seasoned business owners offer their advice.
You don’t have to have a sales-y personality to get word-of-mouth referrals. The freelancers I know who receive the most business this way are great at execution: They deliver high quality work on time, every time. And they’re consistently professional and personable.
What if you are not getting any word-of-mouth referrals, after several years in business? Now is a good time of year to take honest inventory of how you do business to make sure you are not discouraging referrals inadvertently. No freelancer or business owner is perfect, and we can all improve.
Here are some questions to consider: Do you deliver excellent service to your customers every time–or have you cut some corners lately, in a rush to get things done? Do you give every customer, no matter how small, the same high level of service, or do some get short shrift? Do you say yes to projects that you really shouldn’t take on–and later resent to the point that your feelings are evident to customers? Do you meet deadlines? How do you respond if clients ask for changes to a project or you’ve made a mistake? Are you easily reachable? And how are your relationships with customers? Would they feel comfortable referring you to prized contacts at the highest levels of their field? If you’re having problems in any of these areas, it may be a good time to put an action plan for improvement in place (even if it’s as simple as adding more email reminders to your calendar). If you don’t know how to get better, turning to a trusted colleague or business coach may be a good idea.
The good news: If you’re getting work at all, you know there’s a demand for your services. A nice flow of word-of-mouth referrals will help you build on that demand to take your business to a whole other level–and make the work of marketing yourself a lot easier.