Taking on new business by asking for referrals

One of the biggest challenges for freelancers and business owners is finding the right mix of activities to bring on new clients. So what if I told you that the best way to take on great clients that you love working with is to ask your current clients for referrals?

I grew my freelance business into an agency through LinkedIn, but today, a lot of our best clients come from referrals that my current clients send my way. Some of this is organic, but some of it comes from asking for referrals. Let me explain.

Oftentimes, people don’t know that you’re looking for new business – or even think about going out of their way to send you business – unless it’s right in front of them. Sure, if someone asks for a referral, they’ll send one your way – but what about the people who don’t even realize they need your services?

The best way to start this conversation is by phone, video chat or coffee. I recommend starting with why you love your existing relationship:

“I’ve had such a great experience in working with you, and I know we’re getting you great results. If you know another [business owner, photographer, realtor, sales rep, etc.] who could use my services, I would love an introduction!”

Or another option would be to share that you have an opening for x number of clients in the fall, and you’re giving priority to referrals from your existing clients:

“I am excited to share that I have two openings for client starts in September for [your service]. I’m giving priority for those spots to referrals from my existing clients, so if you know someone who could use my services, I’d love to chat with them!”

If you’re just not comfortable asking for a referral, consider sending an email asking for a LinkedIn recommendation and linking to your LinkedIn page, or a Google review and (you guessed it) linking to your Google page. You can put those types of testimonials into a Canva design, then share them everywhere, and reshare them multiple times over the coming year on your social channels.

Another tactic that I’ve seen some success with is asking for referrals in an email signature. This can really depend on the industry you serve- for some it’s not appropriate. But if it’s something you can do and feels appropriate with the type of clients you work with, I wouldn’t hesitate to add this to your email signature.

If you work more project-based with clients (so not as part of an ongoing retainer), consider making a referral ask part of your project closing process. You can use similar language to what I added above, or you could just say something simple like: “doy ou know someone else would could use my help? I would love to be connected to them!”

The more relationship-focused your business is, the more effective this will be.

Finally, be sure you’re making your ask regularly through your social media. At least once a month, you should be asking your sphere who they can refer your way. Again, this is why it’s so important to have regular, balanced content that goes out on your social channels every week. By keeping your value visible consistently, your sphere will be more open to referring business your way – because you’re already showing how you help, not just pushing a sales message.