It’s a long-known fact that word-of-mouth is one of the best ways to generate new business and sign - it makes the entire process of submitting proposal templates or scope of work templates much smoother. In fact, in 2014 an impressive 52.2% of small businesses reported that friend referrals was their most successful business tool. But what about if you’re not a mom-and-pop-shop or restaurant. Can referrals also work for your freelance business? And, if so, how to ask for referrals?
It turns out the answer is a big resounding YES. A recent survey of freelancing trends from Hubstaff reported that prospective clients coming from referrals were 30% more likely to convert to paying clients than those coming from other channels.
Acquiring new customers for your freelancing business can sometimes be the most challenging part of your day-to-day work, especially if you tend to work on one-off-projects, and referrals can be a great way to make sure you never have to worry where the next client you sign an online contract with is going to come from.
But how exactly do you get a great one, and how to ask for referrals from existing clients?
To answer those questions, read on below. You'll also discover a downloadable pack with our 5 preferred email templates to use when asking for referrals.
As a freelancer, you know how much time and effort goes into writing freelance proposals and trying to acquire new clients— in which case, it may come as no surprise that the cost of customer acquisition has gone up by a whopping 50% in the last five years.
Think of referrals as a form of free advertising. Prospective clients who come to you via referrals seem to almost drop out of nowhere, landing in your lap without any extra effort on your part. Except, of course, doing a great job in the first place.
You spend much less time trying to convince referred clients to work with you because the person who referred them has already done much of the convincing for you. As an added bonus, social proof felt by these prospective clients means you can also charge them more: they already have an idea of the value you’ll provide and so will be more willing to pay a premium for your services.
The quickest and best way to attract referrals for your business is to make your clients happy (and if you do, why not ask for testimonials?). You want to make your existing clients so pleased with the work you deliver that they want to brag about you and the work you’ve done to all their friends and colleagues.
While you’ll always want to do your best to deliver on-time and on-budget, besides using creative ways to get referrals (or thinking about how to increase referrals), look for ways to exceed your clients’ expectations whenever you can.
Constantly going above and beyond is the best way to attract referrals… but that doesn’t mean you can just do a great job and expect referrals to roll in. While some existing clients will refer you just because they’re happy with the work you’ve done, more often than not you will actually have to ask for a referral, in some cases even asking for referrals in an email.
(PS: As your business grows, you’re going to need tools to help you save time and money. Try Bonsai for free today and see the benefits of freelancing on autopilot.)
One of the most efficient ways to secure a great referral is to ask for one from your existing clients in an email. Keep in mind that this isn’t a cold email or a pitch, so your request isn’t going to require the same amount of formality you’d use in, for example, a freelance proposal.
Talk to your client in the same way you have been all throughout your working relationship, and don’t be afraid to be friendly and warm in your approach. And be sure to include your preferred contact information so they know exactly how you can be reached if they do decide to refer you to someone else.
Always follow up and thank your freelance clients for a referral, both when they make the offer (or accept your request) and if that referral ever generates new work for you. Be sincere in your thanks, mentioning what it means for you and your business. The genuinity will make them feel good about referring you, and therefore more likely to refer you again in the future.
Now that you know how to ask for referrals, you’re probably wondering... when is the best time to ask? You don’t want to jump the gun and ask too early in your relationship, but you also don’t want to leave it too late.
Put simply, if it’s a one-off project (like content for an eBook, or a brand redesign), ask for a referral after you’ve gotten final sign off from the client. Don’t wait too long— you don’t want them to forget about you and the awesome value you’ve provided— but wait just long enough for them to see actual, noticeable results. For example, you might want to ask them how many leads were generated by your eBook, or whether they saw an increase in traffic after their website was redesigned.
If it’s a long-term project or a retainer agreement (like ongoing graphic design work or regular blog contributions), ask once you know you’ve provided unparalleled value. This will mostly go by gut feeling, but you can be smart about it. Ask for stats as you go and check in with your client for constant feedback. After all, you don’t want to ask for a referral before you’ve proved your worth.
Never ask for a referral as part of your freelance invoice. You always want to wait until after the project is wrapped up and payment has successfully gone through.
If you got a successful referral, you're ready for the next step, which is submitting a proposal. Did you know how easy it is to send amazing proposal templates using Bonsai?
From your dashboard, all you have to do is click on "send a proposal".
Immediately after you'll be ready to set up your proposal, and choose or create a client and project. Once done, simply click on "create proposal" to move on to the next step.
Once the proposal editor is loaded, you will be able to fully customize your proposal starting from personal and client details, to more personalized changes such as adding a custom background or your company logo to the proposal.
After you've set all of this up, just scroll down to the various proposal sections. This is where the magic happens: you can adjust all these blocks to your needs, which means updating them, moving them around, to even deleting them and adding fresh new sections to the proposal.
When you're all good to go, simply scroll back up and click on "send proposal". Fingers crossed!
Did you like Bonsai's workflow? If you did, we encourage you to sign up for a free trial and explore proposals and the many other integrated features such as contracts, invoicing and time tracking, to name a few.
Ask for a testimonial instead. That way you still have something you can use on your website or in your marketing materials… plus you’ll get your client thinking about what a great job you did.
They might even offer a referral on their own!
Let your existing clients know that you’ll offer them something if they refer you to someone else, like a discount for future work or a project add-on. This won’t work for all business models but are especially valuable if you offer digital products.
For example, if you’re a graphic designer who works with other creative entrepreneurs, refer their services to your other clients. Or, if you previously did work for a content writer, think about recommending their services to your next blogger client. Most freelancers would be happy to return the favor.
Wondering just how to ask for referrals in an email? Here’s one sample email template to follow— just be sure to personalize it for each client.
And right below it, you'll be able to download the pack with our 5 favorite referral emails.
I hope things are well with you. (Insert a personal anecdote here)
I’m really glad that you were so pleased with my work on (project details). I wanted to reach out to you to ask if you might know anyone else who might be interested in similar services.
I’m always looking for new referrals and ways to grow my business and (add a note about your availability, particularly if limited).
Let me know if anyone comes to mind, and feel free to direct them to (your website or wherever they can find out more about what you do).
Asking for a referral can be nerve-wracking, especially if you’re just getting started. Here are some things to remember that might soften the blow when it’s time to ask for referrals:
The more often you ask for referrals, the easier it will get… and before long, your business will be growing exponentially. Just keep in mind that your friends at Bonsai are here to help you sort everything out - from your freelance contracts to your time tracking. Check out our free trial and see how much easier running your freelance business can be.
A verbal contract (formally called an oral contract) refers to an agreement between two parties that's made —you guessed it— verbally.
Formal contracts, like those between an employee and an employer, are typically written down. However, some professional transactions take place based on verbally agreed terms.
Freelancers are a good example of this. Often, freelancers will take on projects having agreed on the terms and payment via the phone, or an email. Unfortunately, sometimes clients don't pull through on their agreements, and hardworking freelancers can find themselves out of pocket and wondering whether a legal battle is worth all the hassle.
The main differences between written and oral contracts are that the former is signed and documented, whereas the latter is solely attributed to verbal communication.
Verbal contracts are a bit of a gray area for most people unfamiliar with contract law —which is most of us, right?— due to the fact that there's no physical evidence to support the claims made by the implemented parties.
For any contract (written or verbal) to be binding, there are four major elements which need to be in place. The crucial elements of a contract are as follows:
Therefore, an oral agreement has legal validity if all of these elements are present. However, verbal contracts can be difficult to enforce in a court of law. In the next section, we take a look at how oral agreements hold up in court.
Most business professionals are wary of entering into contracts orally because they can difficult to enforce in the face of the law.
If an oral contract is brought in front of a court of law, there is increased risk of one party (or both!) lying about the initial terms of the agreement. This is problematic for the court, as there's no unbiased way to conclude the case; often, this will result in the case being disregarded. Moreover, it can be difficult to outline contract defects if it's not in writing.
That being said, there are plenty of situations where enforceable contracts do not need to be written or spoken, they're simply implied. For instance, when you buy milk from a store, you give something in exchange for something else and enter into an implied contract, in this case - money is exchanged for goods.
There are some types of contracts which must be in writing.
The Statute of Frauds is a legal statute which states that certain kinds of contracts must be executed in writing and signed by the parties involved. The Statute of Frauds has been adopted in almost all U.S states, and requires a written contract for the following purposes:
Typically, a court of law won't enforce an oral agreement in any of these circumstances under the statute. Instead, a written document is required to make the contract enforceable.
Contract law is generally doesn't favor contracts agreed upon verbally. A verbal agreement is difficult to prove, and can be used by those intent on committing fraud. For that reason, it's always best to put any agreements in writing and ensure all parties have fully understood and consented to signing.
Verbal agreements can be proven with actions in the absence of physical documentation. Any oral promise to provide the sale of goods or perform a service that you agreed to counts as a valid contract. So, when facing a court of law, what evidence can you provide to enforce a verbal agreement?
Unfortunately, without solid proof, it may be difficult to convince a court of the legality of an oral contract. Without witnesses to testify to the oral agreement taking place or other forms of evidence, oral contracts won't stand up in court. Instead, it becomes a matter of "he-said-she-said" - which legal professionals definitely don't have time for!
If you were to enter into a verbal contract, it's recommended to follow up with an email or a letter confirming the offer, the terms of the agreement , and payment conditions. The more you can document the elements of a contract, the better your chances of legally enforcing a oral contract.
Another option is to make a recording of the conversation where the agreement is verbalized. This can be used to support your claims in the absence of a written agreement. However, it's always best to gain the permission of the other involved parties before hitting record.
Fundamentally, most verbal agreements are legally valid as long as they meet all the requirements for a contract. However, if you were to go to court over one party not fulfilling the terms of the contract, proving that the interaction took place can be extremely taxing.
So, ultimately, the question is: written or verbal agreements?
Any good lawyer, contract law firm, or legal professional would advise you to make sure you formalize any professional agreement with a written agreement. Written contracts provide a secure testament to the conditions that were agreed and signed by the two parties involved. If it comes to it, a physical contract is much easier to eviden in legal circumstances.
Freelancers, in particular, should be aware of the extra security that digital contracts may provide. Many people choose to stick to executing contracts verbally because they're not sure how to write a contract, or they think writing out the contract terms is too complicated or requires expensive legal advice. However, this is no longer the case.
Today, we have a world of resources available at our fingertips. The internet is a treasure trove of invaluable information, platforms, and software that simplifies our lives. Creating, signing, and sending contracts has never been easier. What's more, you don't have to rely on a hiring a lawyer to explain all that legal jargon anymore.
There are plenty of tools available online for freelancers to use for guidance when drafting digital contracts. Tools like Bonsai provide a range of customizable, vetted contract templates for all kinds of freelance professionals. No matter what industry you're operating in, Bonsai has a professional template to offer.
A written contract makes the agreement much easier to prove the terms of the agreement in case something were to go awry. The two parties involved can rest assured that they're legal rights are protected, and the terms of the contract are sufficiently documented. Plus, it provides both parties with peace of mind to focus on the tasks at hand.
Bonsai's product suite for freelancers allows users to make contracts from scratch, or using professional templates, and sign them using an online signature maker.
With Bonsai, you can streamline and automate all of the boring back-office tasks that come with being a freelancer. From creating proposals that clients can't say no to, to sealing the deal with a professional contract - Bonsai will revolutionize the way you do business as a freelancer.
Why not secure your business today and sign up for a free trial?