I’ve been running my own copywriting and communication consultancy for a little over four years, and these days, I’m often booked six to 12 months in advance.
People often look at the length of my client “waiting list” with shock and confusion, and then ask me: “How the heck did you do that? What’s the secret to filling my client docket, like that?”
My answer is simple: Do a really good job.
Like, so good, that people literally can’t stop themselves from gushing about you to their friends, colleagues, hairdresser, barista—anyone who will listen. The new client referrals will come to you.
Create miracles for people. Create a reputation as somebody who is completely—and consistently—amazing, and then, generally, you won’t have to ask your current clients to “help spread the word.” They’ll already be talking about you—and people will be lining up around the block, ecstatic to work with you.
When I give people that answer, they usually make a frowny face and look at me like I must be hiding some kind of “marketing secret” that I’m unwilling to divulge. Or maybe I’m a member of the Illuminati.
“Do a really good job? There has to be some other explanation! It just sounds too obvious.”
That’s the point in the conversation where they usually say: “Well, surely you ask your clients for referrals?”
“Nope. Not really.”
More frowny faces. “Well—if I wanted to ask my clients for referrals, what should I say?”
OK. To be fair, there are definitely times when asking clients for referrals makes perfect sense.
Say, when you’re just starting a brand new business—or debuting a new service. Or when you’re changing the focus of your work, and want to let people know that now, you’re seeking out a different type of client. Or when you’re swinging back into freelancing after taking a break, and people need a happy reminder about the fact that you’re back!
In all of those cases, the key is to emphasize how much you love your work, not how much you need more work. It’s not just about what you say, but how you say it. It’s all about your emotion and tone.
After all, love is attractive. Desperation is not.
So, if you want to ask a client for a referral (nothin’ wrong with that!), here’s an upbeat, positive email script that you can use:
Hi [Name of Client],
I’m so glad you enjoyed working with me, and I really appreciate the kind words in your last email. (With your permission, I’d love to quote you in the “testimonials” section of my website. Let me know if that’s OK. No pressure, and no rush.)
And while we’re on the subject of good work and nice words, I wanted to mention that I’m currently booking clients for [month], and I have room for about [number] more people on my schedule.
I love working with people who care about [subject] and are excited to [insert action here]—you know, people like you!
If there’s somebody in your orbit who might benefit from the work that I do, feel free to send them my way.
You can give them my email address, or point them to my website.
My services are listed here: [webpage]
My story is right over here: [webpage]
My client testimonial page is here: [webpage]
And that’s about it!
PS. I’m old-school when it comes to gratitude, so keep your eyes peeled for a hand-written “thank you” note (and a small gift) coming your way, via snail mail. Thanks again!
There you go! A confident request for referrals that’s packed with gratitude—not groveling desperation.
Whether you choose to actively seek out referrals—with an email like this one—or not, remember that doing your best work is always the best form of “marketing” there is.
Build a reputation as someone who’s a life-changing rock star, and in time, your clients will spread the good word about you without even needing to be asked. (Just like you’ll happily gush about your new favorite album, TV show, book, restaurant, or yoga studio—without always needing a specific “request” from the creator to do it.)
Here’s to doing work—that’s worth talking about.