Do those swell testimonials on your website do any good?

I have no idea.

Do clients even read them? Do clients know what they say even before they read them?

Does it help if testimonials have many exclamation points?

I don’t know.

I know it gives us a warm feeling to have those customer comments up there. And everyone says you need social proof, so . . .

But do testimonials sway clients? Do they allay fears? Make you seem more competent?

Does it help a client to know that Mary G calls you skillful and responsive?

And what if every other designer/coder/ translator has testimonials calling them responsive and skillful, too?

Oh boy, I don’t know.

My jaded view is, testimonials can help — maybe, sorta — if they show a client how you’re different, what you do better than the next freelancer on the list, whether or not you can fix their problem, and maybe what it’s like to work with you. 

Which means they need to be specific and concrete. Not just vague happy talk. And they have to speak to what’s on a client’s mind when looking at a freelancer.

As I see it, testimonials should sound exactly as if someone collared your client in the hallway and asked, “So what’s the deal with this guy, anyway?”

Here’s what I mean. 

(Not that you will see anything like this any time soon.)


“I hate the idea of using a coach. It feels weak. Like I need help or something. And Christine asks too many of those damn coachy questions. But I notice I’m making more money since I started. So I’m sticking for now. Still don’t like the idea, though.”

“He wanted like 1500 bucks just for some verbage on the home page. I tried to chisel him down every which way but he wouldn’t budge. So I said forget it (1500? WTF), but I figure that since he held out, he must be pretty good. If you have money.”

“His work is always dead-on. Everybody okays it right away. You won’t find tighter, cleaner work. But one thing: If you need it Friday, tell him you need it Wednesday. And don’t count on getting any work after Miller Time, which comes a little early sometimes.”

“Brigitte is a pure delight to work with. Cheerful, always willing to help, never complains about all those corrections and revisions and re-dos, and oh boy if you get her going, she can be quite the hoot. We think that’s better than talent or ability any day.”

“If you can stomach getting Word documents in 16pt Georgia font instead of Calibri, which we prefer, and if you don’t mind resetting everything to 1.5 line spacing, and  correcting inconsistent Oxford commas all over the place, then I suppose he is okay, provided your boss is inexplicably enamored with him for no reason you can see.”

“My creative director has been known to bite writers to death, but hasn’t fired her yet. Or me, either. But check back in a week.”

“We had to translate a pile of technical and engineering materials into Italian for a big installation we were doing in Milan. We talked to several translators, and of all them, Luca had the most impressive Italian accent. That clinched it for me.”

“We started calling her because she was the cheapest, which is what we care about, so she has worked out fine. I don’t know much about her work. I mostly look at her invoices.”

“The first time Katherine did an assignment for me, I got rave reviews from the entire team, which I never get around here. Second time, the cheapskates actually coughed up a raise. The third time I got promoted, finally, so I am definitely not giving Katherine’s name to that sneaky backbiting weasel across the hall.”

“Let him find his own damn Katherine.”


Sort of like that.