What’s the easiest way to sell anything? It’s getting others to do it for you.
Testimonials, my friend. They’re automatic trust-builders, and a great weapon against fear and resistance from potential buyers.
When you’re starting out as a freelance writer, it may seem tough to get testimonials — especially when you have zero clients. In reality, you may already have endorsements you can use, but you don’t think of them as testimonials yet. Let’s change that.
When I started freelancing, I set out to fill my website with testimonials, even before I had a single customer. You can do this too.
Turning Existing Feedback Into Testimonials
First, I searched my emails, job performance reviews, and even my social media accounts for feedback from supervisors, peers and professors on my writing and work ethic. Each time I found any compliment or “kudos” on a job well done — whether it was my writing, my character or any aspect of my work performance — I singled out that comment as a potential testimonial.
After finding a handful of comments, I emailed each of the authors with a simple request that went something like this:
“Hi, Sue. A while back you were kind enough to say this about my work:
Would you mind it if I use that comment as a testimonial for my freelance writing business? Feel free to change or add to it, if you’d like. Also feel free decline if you’re not comfortable with this.
In any case, many thanks for your time and consideration.
All the best,
Everybody said YES. A couple of people rewrote or added to their testimonials, and most were fine with me publishing their comments with no changes. In all, people were very receptive to letting me use their words.
I’ll bet that in the last few months or years, someone’s expressed delight at something you wrote, achieved, or the way you conducted yourself in the workplace. Maybe it was a professor’s comment on an assignment, a boss’ remark on your performance, a co-worker’s appreciation for your role on a project, or a blog reader who was blown away by something you wrote. (Formal performance reviews are a great source of potential testimonials.)
Even if those aren’t freelance clients, they’re genuine reactions that let your prospects know what to expect from you and your work. Why not use them?
The Kudos Folder & The Best Time to Ask For a Testimonial
Seeing that this approach worked so well, I created a folder in my email called “kudos” where I save all feedback I receive for this purpose. But I’m not shy about flat-out asking for new testimonials either. “Ask and you shall receive,” right? My recommendation is that you make a habit of doing both: collecting unsolicited feedback and asking for it.
If nothing else, when a client, professor, boss, blog reader (or whoever) raves about your writing, that’s the best time to ask if you could use their words as a testimonial. (It’s also the best time to ask for a referral, but that’s another post for another day.)
Advanced Pro Tip: The Reverse Testimonial
As you ask clients for testimonials, consider giving them some direction on what you’d like their feedback to focus on. Is it the ease of doing business with you? Is it about your grasp of their business and audience? Is it about your ability to nail the voice and tone of their brand? Clients get writer’s block too, and actually appreciate some direction on what they should write.
Business coach Jenny Shih suggests asking the following questions for killer testimonials:
- What hesitations did you have about working with me?
- What results have you achieved since we started working together?
- What did you like best about working with me?
- How else have you benefited from our work together?
- Would you recommend me and my services? If so, why and to whom?
And the mother of all testimonials? The reverse testimonial.
The idea behind the reverse testimonial is that it starts with an objection — some doubt, fear or resistance your prospect struggled with — and then transitions into an endorsement.
Here are a couple of examples:
“I was hesitant to hire another copywriter after a bad experience, but Joe nailed my messaging and doubled my free demo sign-ups.”
“I didn’t think I could afford Joe’s services, but the content he’s crafted helped me achieve X, Y and Z, returning my investment many times over.”
This approach is powerful because it speaks directly to the objections clouding your prospect’s mind as he/she considers whether to hire you.
Get to it: Search through existing feedback that may be hiding in your computer, social media accounts and email folders, that could be repurposed as testimonials. Or recall a conversation when someone complimented you on your work. This part is easy; do it today.
Then make a simple ask. As a friend once told me, you’d be shocked at what you can get out of life and people if you just ask.
And next time someone expresses pleasure at your work, don’t miss the opportunity to ask for permission to publish it.