The Value of a Good Reference

Last time I talked about freelancing income and how it is potentially limited because there's only so much you can do in a day. This time around, I'm going to tell you about another important potential income limitation - not having positive, credible references to show prospective clients.

What is a reference?

Remember the last time you thought about making a purchase but needed further assurance that you were making the right choice? If so, you probably handled that situation one of two ways. You either carefully studied the return policy so you knew what to do if you weren't satisfied after making a purchase. Or, if you were purchasing a service such as computer repair or dog sitting, you may have asked the service provider for some references.

References are the names and (sometimes) the contact information that a business owner provides upon request to prospective customers. The purpose is to allow prospective clients an opportunity to hear or read about past clients' experiences working with the business. Depending on where and how the list of references originates, prospective clients will hopefully get some valuable feedback.

When prospective clients are satisfied with what they read or hear from a "third-party" they often feel more confident about doing business with the person who made the references available. That's because having other people "vouch" for the quality of service they received removes a bit of the uncertainty involved with hiring someone you don't know personally.

Why should I care?

Once you hang out the "Open for Business" sign, you'll likely start soliciting business from individuals you don't know on a personal level. If you can manage to grab a prospective client's attention, one of the first things that prospective client will want to know is why he or she should trust that you're capable of doing what you claim. What will you say to that?

Well, one of the easiest, most reliable ways of easing a prospective client's fears of hiring you, a mostly "unknown" individual, is to show the prospective client that you're worthy. And you'll do this by making references available.

But I'm just starting out!

And that can be somewhat of a Catch-22 situation because in order to get new clients, it helps to have existing clients. So what should you do? You have to go out and find someone who is willing to take a chance on you. This might be a friend who needs a web site built or a distant cousin who needs content written for an existing web site.

Once you find that person, put on your most professional demeanor and over-deliver. Then once you finish the project, ask your client for a written reference that you can include with your marketing materials.

Repeat this process a few more times - over-delivering every step of the way - and before you know it, even you will be impressed with what your clients have to say about your work!

You know the saying that the cobbler's children have no shoes? Well lots of coders don't have web sites! In my next article, find out why you need web site - now!




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