Yes, we want referrals. We want a plethora of referrals.  A veritableparade of referrals.

We want our phones to ring, two or three times a week, with calls like this:

“Hi, I’m Ruth Martin. I got your name from Ted Baker who says you’re something of a genius with copy. We are revamping our website and I was wondering if I could talk to you about it?”

Even if they don’t actually say ‘genius’ (which I tend to hear whether they say it or not) a referral is always a stroke to the ego. It’s a validation of your choice of career, a confirmation of your brilliance and your worth to humanity.  At least for that day, anyway

Referrals are also money. With a referral you jump past all the pain of chasing, courting, and talking about yourself. Someone has already verified that you are not a lunatic or a crook or a bumbler. You start on third base with an 82% chance of scoring.

And better still, a referral can beget another client who can in turn beget another referral .  It creates a biblical chain of begetting: A snowballing, critical-mass, cascading thing that can keep you busy for years.

It means that one ripe referral is worth five random inquries from your web site.  Or even ten.

So how do you boost the odds of one client recommending you to another? Without nagging or being an ass about it, that is.  (Yes, you need to do good work and not screw up. But you are doing that already.)

Here’s the only thing that ever worked for me and the freelancers I know:

Make it so the client likes to pass your name along.

Make it so they get a friendly little buzz, a happy stroke to theirego from sending someone to you.

First, ask

Oddly enough, clients are usually glad to refer others to you, but simply don’t think of it. They aren’t spending their days looking for opportunities for you.

I was also aghast to hear many clients say “I didn’t give him your name because I wasn’t sure  if you were taking on new clients. I thought maybe you were too busy.”

That was a WTF moment for me. Now I set everyone straight with an email or phone call:


Really enjoyed working on the new identity and packaging with you. And you were definitely right about showing the team different font options. (Much as I hate to admit it.)  I’m liking the way it turned out.

Thanks for the opportunity.

And if you ever have a colleague who’s considering a design project, I’d be more than happy to talk to them and discuss a few ideas. Any time. Really. They mention your name, they get a-list attention.

The point is, of course, is that you’re eager for referrals because you just love doing this stuff.  You liked working with that client so much that you’d be willing to talk to a friend of hers any day of the week.  (It’s never, never because you’re hard up for work.)

And you’re assuring her that if she does send someone your way, you will respond and be helpful and enthusiastic. There is nothing worse than for a client to hear:  “Hey, I called that guy you recommended. Never got back to me.” That kills future referrals dead.

The exact same tactic works or people who aren’t clients. Maybe people you meet socially.  Or people who don’t buy your services directly, but may have contact with people who do.


Enjoyed talking with you the other night. I must apologize for bending your ear so much about web site design.  I tend to get on a soapbox about such things.  Can’t help myself sometimes. Anyway, thanks for listening. Next time, you can do the talking.

Oh, and if you ever know of someone who’s wrestling with a web site, send them my way. I’d be more than happy to chat with them. And I promise not to go on so much.


Say thanks

Always, always.


I want thank you for referring Ted Hagen to me. We had an interesting discussion about his new site. Ted seems like a bright guy. And he has an uncommonly good understanding of his market.

I’ll be sending him a formal proposal next week.  I’ll let you know what happens.
And again, thanks for mentioning me to Ted.

Even if it doesn’t work out.


Thank you for sending Don Baker to see me. I think he’s onto something with his new restaurant concept.  Very intriguing.  But based on his budget, I thought another designer might be a better match for him. He seemed to appreciate that. I suggested a few names to him.  He’ll be contacting them shortly.

I was actually quite flattered you thought to recommend me. Very kind of you.  Feel free, any time.

Follow up

I used to be lax about this. Which was a mistake. Clients seem to likehearing they did a good thing.


Good stuff!  Just wanted let you know it looks like Ted Hagen and I will be moving ahead with his new web content. He seems eager to get going.  And I’m looking forward to working on it. This could really be good.

Thanks again for thinking to send Ted to see me. Worked out swell all around.  And I’m glad I could live up to your recommendation.

Lunch is on me next time.

Even if it doesn’t work out.


I just wanted to follow up about Ted Hagen’s project. It seems he’s going with another writer this time around. But we parted friends, and it was certainly fun to be in the running.  I learned a thing or two in the process, too.

And thanks again for thinking to recommend me. I appreciate the opportunity.

Does this seem like too much work?  Good. Then maybe your competitor won’t do it.  Does it sound like too much thanking?  No such thing.