Empowering the Freelance Economy

How freelance platform workers can land client references and testimonials

Client testimonials and referrals can be a freelancer's calling card for future work
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We look into how platform freelancers could be losing out on landing future work due to a lack of client references. What can they do about it?

The ease of getting end-client references or testimonials from freelancer platforms like Fiverr, Upwork, Toptal, and YunoJuno varies depending on several factors. In a Freelance Informer poll, no respondents said it was easy to get end-client references if you worked via freelancer platforms. Some 83% said it was difficult and 17% said it depends on whether you complete and succeed. So, what can they do to get over this hurdle?

Each platform will have its own set of policies when it comes to facilitating or giving a freelancer the opportunity to get client references or testimonials after a job is complete.

  • Fiverr: Doesn’t explicitly allow sharing contact information in reviews. You can request a client to provide a reference off-platform, but they aren’t obligated to. Fiverr however is not shy about asking freelancers to refer its services to other freelancers in return for rewards through its Fiverr Referral Program.
  • Upwork: Allows sharing contact information for references in private messages after a project is marked complete. However, clients may not be comfortable doing so. But if they want to refer you to another department within their own company but not through Upwork they need to pay an opt-out fee.
  • Toptal: Connects businesses directly with screened and highly-skilled freelancers. Toptal itself can be considered a reference due to its vetting process, and some projects involve direct client communication, potentially increasing reference accessibility.
  • YunoJuno: Similar to Upwork, allows contact information sharing after project completion, but the client’s willingness plays a crucial role.

Are clients that use platforms even bothered about giving you a reference?

Clients may hesitate to provide references for various reasons including:

  • Time constraints: Finding and providing a reference takes effort, and busy clients might not prioritise it.
  • Privacy concerns: Clients might be apprehensive about sharing contact information publicly.
  • Negative experience: If the client wasn’t satisfied with the work, they wouldn’t offer a helpful reference.

Your reputation and communication: How’s it going?

Freelancers with strong profiles, positive reviews, and excellent communication skills are more likely to get clients comfortable providing references. Building trust and exceeding expectations can motivate clients to offer their endorsement. The more positive testimonials a freelancer can make public or simply through their online portfolio should garner future testimonials to come much easier. But that’s easier said than done. What can you do in the interim to get your experience known to potential clients?

Alternatives to direct references

  • Case studies: Showcase successfully completed projects with client logos (with permission) and brief summaries of the work done.
  • Testimonials through a client feedback form: Collect short written testimonials from clients that can be displayed on your profile or portfolio. Make this as easy as possible for a client by providing two questions on a client feedback form that you can create and send after each project. The questions should elicit responses that highlight your abilities, depth of experience, flexibility and communication capabilities to work with the client’s staff and customers to get a project done successfully.
  • Create your own referral programme with special offers and discounts when a client provides a testimonial or refers you.
  • Portfolio strength: A well-curated portfolio showcasing your best work can be a strong substitute for references.
  • Platform ratings and reviews: Use the platform’s built-in review system to collect positive feedback from clients. But do not rely simply on platforms as they can change their policies leaving you out of control.

Obtaining end-client references directly from freelancing platforms can be challenging. While some platforms facilitate it, client willingness and your professional standing play a significant role. Consider alternative options like case studies, testimonials, and a strong portfolio to build trust and showcase your capabilities. You can’t afford not to!

Top tips for asking for referrals

In the video below you will learn various ways to approach a client for a referral or testimonial. That referral could be within their own organisation to another department, other non-competing companies, or the person’s personal network.

  1. Decide who to ask for a referral:
    • Make a shortlist of clients who have had a positive experience with you and who value your services.
    • Consider the following qualities when choosing who to ask:
      • Value: Do they understand the value you provide?
      • Trust: Do they trust you and your abilities?
      • Authority: Do they have the connections you need?
      • Target market: Do they know your ideal customer?
      • Solution: Do they understand how your product or service works?
      • Reputation: Do they believe you are a credible and reliable company?
      • Reciprocity: Have you helped them in the past?
  2. Ask your client for a referral:
    • Ask in person, preferably during a meeting or call.
    • Be professional and clear about your request.
    • Focus on the benefits for the client’s network, not just yourself.
    • Make it easy for them to say yes by providing them with all the information they need. The Freelance Informer suggests providing clients with a testimonial form to fill out with a max of three questions and a tick-the-box section for specific skills a future client may be looking for.
    • Follow up with an email after the conversation.
  3. Avoid common mistakes:
    • Don’t ask just anyone.
    • Don’t make it sound like you’re asking for a favour.
    • Don’t wait too long to ask.
    • Be confident in yourself and your product or service.
    • Don’t forget to thank your clients for their referrals.
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