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How freelance writers can ask for (and get) amazing testimonials

By January 27, 2021 2 Comments

It’s probably not going to come as a big surprise to you that one of the best ways freelance writers can secure a writing gig or new client is through having a range of amazing testimonials. Now, I don’t know about you, but for a long time I neglected gathering testimonials from editors and clients.

Why?

I never quite knew the right way for freelance writers to ask for testimonials.

I had jitters about asking – I never felt confident about the right time to approach a client or editor to ask for their feedback.

Would they be able to give me feedback that I could then use as an endorsement of my work?

I’ve found that there are several mistakes that freelance writers make when asking for testimonials (and several easy ways to fix these mistakes).

Read on to the very end for two examples that have helped me get stellar testimonials. 

Mistake number 1: Being reluctant to ask for a testimonial

I want to say straight up that I’m as guilty of this as the next person.

I can’t tell you how many editors and clients I’ve worked for over the past 11 years (easily more than 60), but how many testimonials do you think I’ve asked for?

It’s embarrassing to admit, but I think it would only be a tiny fraction.

Why?

Because it’s drummed into freelance writers that editors are busy.

Like, really busy.

Like, you’re lucky if they open your email and read it.

And doubly lucky if they respond.

So, the idea of asking for a testimonial from an omnipotent editor isn’t particularly appealing.

And it’s not particularly appealing if you’re feeling nervous about what they might say.

I once sent off a request for a testimonial to a fearsome editor I wrote for regularly and then spent the next 72 hours sweating on her reply.

This was an editor who was known to give her feedback in RED ALL CAPS so I knew she wasn’t going to beat around the bush.

Thankfully, she gave me a delightful testimonial which had me glowing for days, but despite the fact that she had commissioned me regularly, and came to me with commissions, I felt asking her for an endorsement was risky.

But let’s do a reality check about testimonials here.

If you have worked with an editor or corporate client a few times and it seems to have gone well, you can almost certainly assume that they’re happy with your work.

You can almost certainly assume that they’re not going to throw their computer against the wall if you email and ask for a testimonial.

Even if they don’t reply or their testimonial is lukewarm, rather than glowing you’ll have lots of others to choose from, right?

Right.

And if you’re wondering exactly how to ask for a testimonial – read on.

Mistake number 2: Not asking for specifics

Okay, confession time.

Guilty again.

Early on in my freelancing career I would get over my nerves and quickly shoot off a testimonial request to an editor or client that went something like:

Hi X,

I’ve loved working with you on X. Would you mind writing me a testimonial for my website/portfolio?

Some of the time they would oblige.

Sometimes they just ignored the email. 

Often they would ask me what they should write (yes really). 

When they did send me back testimonials, they were lovely. 

Lovely.

But not useful.

What do I mean?

The point of a testimonial is not to stroke our ego (although yes, I get it, that kind of stroking feels good).

The point of a testimonial is to show potential clients or editors what it’s like to work with you.

What kind of writer are you?

What outcomes have you delivered for them?

How have your skills impacted their business or readers?

What was their experience of working with you?

It’s important to note that the kind of testimonials you want differ for editors as opposed to corporate clients.

With editors you definitely want to have some testimonials that speak to how reliable, easy-going, efficient or creative you are.

One of my editors once wrote me a testimonial that said that I was her go-to freelance writer.

I put it on my website.

Years later another editor commented that that particular testimonial had influenced her decision to commission me.

So you never know the power of a testimonial.

But you have to assume it’s far reaching and it’s got a long tail.

With corporate clients, however you want your testimonials to show something extra.

You often want to show some kind of transformation.

How freelance writers can ask for amazing testimonials from their clients or editors

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve asked for a testimonial only to have the editor or client say, “What do you want me to say?”

So, if you can give them guidance, all the better.

Think about what the points you want them to emphasise.

Is it that you delivered on time, on budget and to a high standard?

Are you punctual, responsive to edits and communicate easily and promptly?

Is it that you can understand the scope of very complex projects involving multiple stakeholders?

Or that you can develop a project brief with clear project outcomes and deliverables?

Before you ask someone for a testimonial, work out what you’d like them to say.

A great way to ask a client for a testimonial is by saying something like:

Hi X,

I’m refreshing/updating the testimonials on my website and I’d love to include a short blurb from you.

As you know, I’ve really enjoyed working with you on X.

I’m wondering if you’d be happy to write three or so sentences about what it [the ‘it’ can be anything specific like the company’s blog/business/quality of content] was like before I started working with you and what it’s like now. And any other comments you have about what it’s been like working with me and why you would recommend me to other people within the X industry/space.

I’d also love to include a small image of you to sit alongside the testimonial. I can grab this from your LinkedIn profile, if that suits?

The idea of this request is that you start to create a ‘before’ and ‘after’ image that other potential clients can read and imagine those same outcomes for them.

For editors, my approach is slightly different.

I usually say something like:

Hi X,

I’m refreshing/updating the testimonials on my website and I’m wondering if you’d be happy to write a few sentences about what it’s like having me write for [publication]?

A couple of other editors have asked what I’d like them to include and I’d love your thoughts about any of the following – the quality of my work, how easy I am to work with, the impact my writing has on your readers or any of the ways that I make your job easier (if indeed I do?!)

If you’re happy with this, I’d also love to include a small image of you to sit alongside the testimonial. I can grab this from your LinkedIn profile, if that suits?

It’s easy to keep putting off asking for testimonials, but not only do they help build your brand and give you credibility, but getting compliments and considered feedback from editors and clients is one of the nicest parts of being a freelance writer. 

Don’t you think?

Do you ask for testimonials regularly? Do you have any other tips of how to ask for them?

2 Comments

  • Laura Sturza says:

    Hi Lindy,

    As always, your post is so helpful and encouraging.

    Do you suggest we ask for testimonials primarily from editors we’ve worked with on multiple occasions? For example, I worked with one editor late last year and she required a great deal of back and forth. I was extremely responsive and we had a good rapport. Is it too soon to ask for a testimonial from someone with whom I’ve only worked once?

    Many thanks,

    Laura

    • lindyalexander says:

      Hi Laura,
      Great question! I personally wouldn’t ask for one yet. It sounds like this is the start of a great relationship with this editor so I would wait until you’ve written for her a few more times before you ask for a testimonial. Because think how much better the testimonial could be when the editor can reflect on having worked with you multiple times rather than just once.
      Hope that helps?
      Lindy

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