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The 5-Step Approach to Gathering and Using Client Testimonials

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We all know that as freelancers, we should get testimonials for our work - yet most of us are hesitant about doing so.

In a previous post, James Chartrand pointed out the importance of social proof in the form of reviews or testimonials. According to Chartrand, they can help lower the perceived risk for your potential clients, and help them feel safer buying from you. Given this important benefit, why aren't we all rushing to ask our clients for testimonials?

A quick look in the FreelanceSwitch forums tells us how uncertain some of us are when asking for testimonials. We may think asking for one is such a hassle. Some clients may even have poor follow-through and never send you the testimonial they promised. Or, some of us may see asking for testimonials as asking for a favor, even offering a discount in exchange for some positive words.

But it doesn't have to be like this. Here's a 5-step process you can use to remove hesitation, improve response rates, and make the most out of your client testimonials.

Step #1 - Conduct a Client Feedback Survey

There are many reasons why asking "Can you send me a testimonial?" won't be enough. First, vague questions are likely to get a vague response. You might get a generic response, such as "Jane is a good worker!". Not really useful praise, is it? Also, asking a direct request can be intimidating. You're basically asking a client to write something about you, something you'll post publicly.

Another reason why "Can I get a testimonial?" isn't enough is because you're missing an opportunity to improve how you work with clients. A testimonial is basically positive feedback about your work. Why not get additional, more comprehensive feedback while you're at it?

With that in mind, instead of asking your client to send you a testimonial, use a client feedback survey. (Here's a sample based on what I currently use). We should be asking for regular feedback anyway. Clients are also more likely to respond to you if there's something in it for THEM. In this case, they get an opportunity to request improved service.

To get "testimonial-worthy" responses, you can include the following questions:

  • What do you like the most about my services?
  • What are my most important contributions to your business?
  • Which business goals did you achieve with the help of my services?

Use different questions tailored to your field or clients, such as "Did your sales improve based on my copy/design/etc.? If so, by how much?" Just make sure they are open-ended questions that require the client to come up with specific answers.

Step #2 - Extract The Testimonial

Once your client answers your survey, you have the raw material for a testimonial. You can now email your client to thank them for their feedback, but tell them also how you're updating your professional website and you'd appreciate it if they sent in a testimonial. Let them know they can write one for you or, if they're too busy, you can write it for them. Here's what you can do in either case:

a) Your client will write their own testimonial.

If your client is writing it, send them back their answers to the very specific open-ended questions you asked earlier so that they have something concrete to start with. This means that your client doesn't have to face a blank page and come up with something new. Also, you're more likely to receive a useful testimonial that highlights specifics about how you've helped your clients.

b) Your client wants you to write the testimonial for them.

It sounds weird, but in my experience, most clients choose this. All you have to do in this case is review their answers to the feedback survey and rewrite it as a testimonial. Then, send it to them for approval before you use it.

After they've approved the testimonial text, don't forget to ask your clients if it's okay to add their avatar, logo, or picture next to the testimonial. It helps humanize the testimonial, giving it more credibility and maybe even increasing your conversions.


This example (shown above) from 37signals shows not only the faces of their customers, but also their locations.

Step #3 - Emphasize Benefits and Your USP (Unique Selling Point)

Once you've extracted a testimonial from your client's feedback or once they've sent you a draft, emphasize the specific benefits of your services ("She is reliable, always answers my emails within the day, and never misses a deadline." vs. "She's great to work with.") If you did your market research right, you probably already know the most common goals or barriers your ideal clients face. Keep those in mind when editing and formatting your testimonial.


In the above example from Freshbooks, the main benefits are in bold. If you compare these benefits with the rest of their homepage and ad copy, you know that "looking professional" and "saving time" are two of the main benefits they are always emphasizing

When you're ready with the final version, make sure to get your client's approval for the phrasing and formatting of the testimonial.

Step #4 - Ground the Testimonial

When the approved version of the testimonial is ready, add some text after it to connect it with a feeling/USP. Most freelancers and businesses miss this opportunity and just place testimonials on their site and leave it at that. It's better to ground testimonials to a specific feeling or benefit, like "Isn't it great how Robert, Kelly, and Andrea were able to sell more eBooks just by changing their sales copy? I can try to do the same for you if we work together."

This step integrates your testimonials better with the rest of your site copy, and gives visitors a concrete call to action after reading them.

Step #5 - Place it Strategically

Apart from the homepage or sales page copy of your site, include some testimonials in the "Contact Me" page or just below your contact information, for example, so that there's additional reassurance just as the potential client is about to inquire. This previous post from Adrian Try has a useful list of additional places where you can use testimonials.


The testimonials in this example from Unique Fitness Group are placed just below their newsletter sign-up form, encouraging the casual visitor to get into their sales funnel via email first, even if they're not ready to be paying customers.

With a process like this, freelancers don't need to feel averse to asking for testimonials. When you think about it, testimonials are just a small part of getting feedback from clients. Once we see testimonials this way, we'll feel more certain that they are just part of the work that we do.

Do you ask for testimonials? What's your process like?

Photo credit: Some rights reserved by gunnar3000.

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