It can be difficult to market your freelance services for a number of reasons. Making headway against established companies and freelancers can take time, and actually trying to market yourself can result in hitting emotional barriers.
Referrals have been the number one way of gaining high quality business. Since I went freelance, offering a referral fee has resulted in most of my new clients coming from recommendations from existing clients. Referrals act as a vote of confidence and the potential new client will usually be aware of the freelance work you did for the person who referred you.
This has a secondary benefit, as contacts of existing clients tend to be of similar success and attitude. If someone is good to work with then the chances are their contacts will be too. On the flip side, low quality clients tend to refer other low quality clients!
Sources of referrals
Your friends and family might be able to put you forward for jobs, as well as your existing clients or professional contacts. You can also approach businesses that deal with your target clients (accountants and other business services are good) to work out a deal for freelance referrals.
Tips for successful referrals
I have found the cost of paying the referral fees is a great investment. Be clear about how much the referral fee will be and when it will be paid to keep things running smoothly. If you do staged payments for larger jobs, tying the referral fees to the payment stages can help everyone’s cashflow.
The amount and type of referral fee may depend on the nature of your services. For a large project you may offer a percentage of the project cost, or a flat fee. For ongoing work you might offer a cut of the ongoing fee or a flat “finder’s fee”. You may offer a combination of the two.
Tracking referrals is easy using a Google Sheet where you can list the projects referred, the status and details of the fees payable and whether they have been paid or not.
We’ve described how referrals are a great way of developing your freelance career, along with some ideas on who to approach to refer you and how to manage referrals when they happen.