11 Ways to Find Clients with Referrals

If you missed the Wealthy Web Writer Challenge in April, you missed out on more than a Challenge — or a physical prize. During the Challenge, participants committed to taking daily action toward gaining referrals and word-of-mouth business. Each business day during April, participants posted their daily action on the Wealthy Web Writer Facebook page.

If you weren’t able to participate, you missed out on lessons from your fellow web writers and the bond that came from taking daily action together every day for the month of April.

You can still read the posts from the Challenge on the Wealthy Web Writer Facebook page, but now that April is over, it’s more difficult to sort through the posts and advice.

But the April Challenge was so good that no one should miss out on the top tips and strategies revealed during that month. So, I’ve gathered the best tips from the Challenge, and you can read them all right here. You’ll find a lot of impressive, creative, and very useful ideas — most of them in the participants own words.

Here are 11 ways to find clients with referrals (brought to you by the challengers in the April Referral Challenge) …

1. Just Ask.

One of the biggest revelations of the Referral Challenge was that you can easily get referrals just by asking. Many people are more than willing to help you out — especially if they know you’ll do a good job — but most of us are afraid to ask.

When discussing the most effective ways to get referrals, Roger D. King said, “Believe it or not, by simply ‘asking,’ and the response was … YES.”

Jerry Bures added, “AWAI's theme for the year seems to be ask, ask, ask! So, I too have been simply asking people for referrals. Clients, friends, family, co-workers. That fear of rejection or failure … and of success … must be eliminated by year's end. So today, I followed up with one, and reached out to another fellow copywriter who had indicated a need to refer out project overload, and asked them to consider me when passing along assignments.”

Kendy Sproul also made a commitment to “just ask” and it paid off. Kendy said, “I emailed an old friend and business associate who works at a local television station to inquire about writing video scripts. I also called two newspapers about writing an article for them on social media marketing for local businesses. One asked me to email the article ‘on spec’ and the other asked me to email him a formal pitch so he could submit it to his boss. Both, surprisingly, said that they don't normally accept articles from freelance writers.”

2. Talk about what you do.

As web writers, we tend to live in our own world. If you’re like me, your friends and family don’t really understand what you do and they certainly couldn’t explain it to anyone else.

But, one of the best ways to get paying work is through referrals from your friends and family.

Susan Laird said, “I discovered the same thing: people didn't know what I was doing. I have downplayed my J.O.B. so much, some folks thought I was on the staff at my daughter's high school.”

Debra Hilton added, “Met some new people yesterday and we were talking about what we all do. I plucked up my courage and told them — lo and behold, I was asked for my card by three people who want to talk about some options.”

So how can you make sure people know what you do?

Tell them! Write an elevator speech just for your friends and family. Explain your business to them in words they can understand. Then, tell them who your ideal client is.

I once read that people ask for referrals by saying, “Do you know anyone who could use my services?” This works, but often people say, “I can’t think of anyone right now. Can I get back to you?”

It’s much more effective to tell someone what type of client you’re looking for. This way, they don’t have to think on the spot, but when they do come across someone that is your ideal client, they’ll remember your conversation and refer you then.

Robbin Crandall said, “While I was at the Apple store over the weekend, the young man I was working with asked if I was a writer (he was looking at some of the applications on my iPhone) and when I said yes, he thought that was ‘cool.’ :) The discussion that followed led me to giving him my business card at the end of my appointment in case he ran across anyone that needed my services, and he seemed happy to receive it.”

3. Network with Pros in Other Industries.

One of the best ways to grow your client base is to network with business owners in different, yet complementary industries.

For web writers, this might be photographers, web designers, or even web writers in a different niche than yours.

Here’s how you can do this in your own business — from Debra Hilton:

“I went into a local printer and asked if they had any clients who were thinking about upgrading their brochures/fliers, etc., and asked if I could leave some of my cards. We ended up having quite a long chat and he asked if I could drop off some samples for him to show people, and also said that he would recommend me (which was extremely kind). He also dropped the comment that in his opinion, some of his clients were wasting their money printing garbage, and they'd be better to skip a printing and update their copy if finances were tight.”

And from Susan Laird:

“Handed business cards to one of my freelance photographers, asking for referrals. :) He sees lots of business people during the course of his days, so this will be a good use of my cards — and he is a good friend. (We hope to eventually do a coffee table book together, featuring his photography and my writing!)”

Lana McConnell said, “I spoke with a friend about doing a referral exchange. I'd refer their services to others and spread the word about their business and they'd do the same for my business. They were receptive to the idea. It's a win-win. :)”

4. Meet people face-to-face.

Throughout the Referral Challenge, web writers got a lot of referrals from in-person networking events like Chamber of Commerce, Toastmasters, and Rotary Clubs.

If you’re not a member of one of these in your local area, it might be time to think about joining. Live events and networking groups give web writers an opportunity to get out of their comfort zones and meet new people.

Plus, most people there will be business owners who need web copy and I doubt there’s already a web writer in the group.

Like Kelly Schaub said, “Connected with five new potential clients at a training event — ‘Everyone is a potential client or friend of a potential client.’”

Jerry Bures said, “I signed up today to attend tomorrow's local Chamber of Commerce ‘Power Networking Breakfast’ where I get to give my 30-second elevator speech to a group of 50+ fellow business owners!”

Wendy Strain said, “Had a great weekend — two folks called to ask me about ghostwriting, two more to ask about more general copywriting, and two more to ask about editing. Met a lot of new people at the Toastmasters conference, and some of them are out there promoting me already just because they liked what I was able to do for an ad they were working on. This referral thing really works! :)”

5. Consider Taking Small Jobs to Get Big Referrals.

One thing that was clear about the referral challengers is they weren’t afraid to take on small jobs if it meant they could get access to bigger referrals.

When you’re first starting out, it can be tempting to go after the biggest companies around, but it can be easier to start small and work your way up to those clients through referrals.

Steve Roller said, “Scheduled a meeting with a fellow member at our Toastmasters meeting this morning. She needs some help updating content on her website. A small project if I get it, but might get other leads from it.”

Susan Laird added, “Met with a gentleman to discuss rewriting his wine appreciation course materials. A small job, but I got it! And he is going to share my business cards with others. He is a wine authority, so this contact is HUGE for me. I can learn so much from him about this niche market.”

6. Offer Something for Free.

One of the best ways to get referrals is to offer something for free in exchange for a referral, or to give away something to get new leads.

For example, you could offer a finder’s fee to clients who refer others to you. You could either offer them a discount on their next service with you or cash (a percentage of the fee their referral spends).

Another example is to do what Stacey Morris does and give away a consultation to get leads. Here’s what Stacey had to say: “I got two new referrals today for consultations, but I didn't ask for them directly. The way I ask is by offering a free consult on website content.”

As a web writer, you could offer consultations or critiques on their web copy, their online marketing strategy, their autoresponders, or their entire website.

7. Refer Others.

When it comes to referrals, what goes around comes around. Referring projects and clients to your peers in other niches always pays off.

Jerry Bures said, “Is it possible to do a ‘reverse-referral’? I ‘checked in’ with a potential client today, a follow-up from a few months ago. Well, he thanked me for checking in, and then asked if I had experience on a particular promotion in a niche outside my preferred? I said no and declined, but indicated I was well-networked and referred him to another copywriter.”

8. Ask Previous Clients, Colleagues, or Employees for Referrals.

I tend to look at my past as something that is over and done with. But, former clients, colleagues, and employees can all be a source of referrals — especially if you did a good job when working with them.

Here’s some advice from the referral challengers about how to get referrals from past connections:

Steve Roller said, “Today I'm simply touching base (by email) with clients from over the past 18 months. I'm letting them know that because I had a project postponed until summer, I have an opening in my schedule the first week in May, and if they need anything done, we should talk now. If you don't have a project postponement, find another reason to get in touch with people — a new idea you want to share with them that's been working for other people, follow up on something you previously discussed, tell them about a new service you're offering, etc. Find a reason to contact them, don't just say, ‘Checking in to see if you have any work for me.’ Be proactive and offer ideas.”

Steve Roller also had some great advice for reaching deep into your past for referrals. He said, “I'm following up with a detailed proposal to a prospect I mentioned last week (a former colleague of mine from when I was in direct sales). He got back to me over the weekend and wants details on what I can do for him. This is someone I haven't talked to in person for 11 years, and haven't communicated with outside of Christmas cards for over five years. TIP: Don't be afraid to dig deep into your past to tap potential business, especially if you once had a strong connection or they respected your work.”

9. Use LinkedIn.

During the Referral Challenge, it became clear that many of the participants think LinkedIn is a great way to find potential clients. I agree. LinkedIn has proven to be a valuable tool for business people — including web writers — because it was built for the purpose of connecting with other professionals.

When asked about his best referral partner, Jerry Bures said, "Hmmm … My best referral partner. So far, it's been … LinkedIn! So, I furthered my network this morning and added 23 new connections … 4 friends, 4 family, 1 copywriter, 5 acquaintances, and 9 potential clients!"

You can also use LinkedIn to connect with people you know or knew — but might have lost touch with — to ask about referrals.

Lisa Schell was able to reconnect with a former colleague through LinkedIn. She said, "Reconnected with a former colleague via LinkedIn and suggested we exchange recommendations. We're also planning to meet for coffee in a couple of weeks!"

For help optimizing your LinkedIn strategy, check out this Roving Report: LinkedIn for Beginners.

10. Don’t Forget Other Social Media Sites.

Even though LinkedIn seemed to be the best source of referrals and clients for the Challenge participants, don’t forget about other social networks.

Susan Laird had great success with Facebook. She said, “I tried something a bit different. I ‘re-branded’ the Facebook page for my writing business. It sat dormant for nearly three years. Yesterday, I updated the page and actually PROMOTED it for the first time. I went from 23 Likes to 110 in a few hours! I've had several people contact me … referrals are coming! Yay!”

But, don’t get so involved in social media that you forget to network with real people face-to-face. Steve Roller said, “As great as social media is, I find that my in-person, real-life connections are often more valuable, so I schedule at least one or two coffee meetings a week with people who are ‘movers and shakers’ (or getting there, like I am!).”

11. Do Something Consistently.

So what’s the biggest tip to get referrals? I think it is to take consistent, daily action. It doesn’t matter what your technique is. What matters is your commitment and whether you stick with it or not.

As Referral Challenge Coordinator Michele Peterson pointed out, “Everything counts when building strong relationships with your connections. Even a small action like sending an ‘I thought of you when I saw this’ email can help build a strong relationship, and strong relationships are the foundations of solid referrals!”

Debra Hilton said, “Yes. I think the real take-away from this is that it doesn't take much to keep seeding for the future of your business. It does, however, take perseverance and a willingness to keep going when not much is happening on the surface.”

And, Susan Laird added, “Just planting that seed every day will take you far. True confession: I was my own worst enemy when it comes to promoting my web-writing business. I ‘knew’ what I needed to be doing, but until I attended Bootcamp, I was too scared to take the actions I knew I needed to take. ‘Hang out’ with this group of writers … they are great sources of encouragement and ideas for growing your business!”

If you’d like to connect with the web writers from the Referral Challenge, head over to the Wealthy Web Writer Facebook page today.

What about you? What are your tips for getting referrals?

This article, 11 Ways to Find Clients With Referrals, was originally published by Wealthy Web Writer.

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Published: September 5, 2012

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