Gifts that keep on giving: the Born Freelancer’s tips on testimonials

This series of posts by the Born Freelancer shares personal experiences and thoughts on issues relevant to freelancers. Have something to add to the conversation? Your input is welcome in the comments.

I was looking at some impressive freelancer websites the other day and noticed a common element on the sites that were the most effective at selling their particular brand.

The common element to which I refer costs nothing, has a huge impact, and is well worth a small investment of time to acquire.

Beginners frequently think they’re impossible to obtain. More seasoned pros sometimes overlook them because they think they are unnecessary after a certain point in their careers.

I’m talking testimonials.

I guess most people are naturally social creatures. No big insight there! If they see other people commenting agreeably about your work, those words can have a significant impact upon them. “Hey! Maybe I can get this person to work for me too!” It also means someone else has taken a chance on you already. Employers on the whole hate being the first to use a freelancer. They like to have the comfort of knowing you’ve already been “broken in” to the rigors of the profession. Some also seem to like to know what other folk think about your work ahead of time before they draw their own conclusions.

Some testimonials will be very general—ideal for a quick hit on your site or business card. “The Born Freelancer was born to freelance!” kind of thing. (Plus attribution, of course.) They are useful for a capsule view of your brand. Be wary of clichés, though. Even when written by someone else, testimonials are representing your brand.

Just as useful is the more thorough and thoughtful testimonial, the kind that describes in detail what
you did for them and how you helped them solve whatever creative problems they had. (Employers relate well to seeing that you’re good at solving their kind of problems.) Feel free to use only relevant extracts, although always
indicate that you have done so.

But how do I get such testimonials?

I’m now prepared to let you in on a little-known industry secret.

Just ask! Simple as that.

More tips

Perhaps this should go without saying, but writing totally bogus testimonials from made-up employers will get you nowhere. In today’s interconnected age, they can easily be cross-checked and authenticated. Once you are found out, your reputation will never really recover.

Most freelancer websites devote a unique page to testimonials. Just use the very best—you want quality not quantity. Others scatter them (with appropriate attributions) throughout their site. It depends on your layout and design. I prefer to have them all in one place, although the pithy quick-hit generalizations can be useful when scattered about judiciously.

Irony and sarcasm in a testimonial can frequently be misinterpreted. If it is used, make it clear (by context) exactly what it is all about. The same goes with the modern use of language. Your testimonials should be age, culture, and genre appropriate. If you are trying to write for a particular demographic, a testimonial saying your work is “sick” might be high praise indeed. But a quick glance from an editor at a different point in their life might easily result in a misunderstanding.

The testimonial is the freelancer’s best friend. They cost nothing and keep on giving. They help define personality, uniqueness, and character for your brand. Use them wisely, keep them up to date and strategically deployed, and they will become one of your most useful and powerful sales tools.

Posted on November 24, 2011 at 11:53 am by editor · · Tagged with: , , , , , ,

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