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Getting Client References and Feedback

By: Beth Morrisey MLIS - Updated: 25 Oct 2010 | comments*Discuss
Feedback Communicate Clients References

Getting references and feedback from clients is important. References let freelancers build their reputations and advertise successful projects while feedback allows freelancers to hear exactly what their clients think of their work and ways that they can improve it. A smart freelancer will solicit feedback from all projects, and references from those that went well.

A smart freelancer will also view feedback as constructive criticism, which is integral to trying to improve their work, rather than as something negative.

Asking For Client References

Many freelancers find it hard to ask clients for references, even when they know that they’ve done a good jobs and that their clients are happy with their work. To avoid an awkward conversation, or feeling as though they are begging, freelancers should consider waiting until after a client has given them a compliment.

If they are in conversation with the client, freelancers can simply say “Thank you. Would you mind if I used that compliment as a reference in the future?” If the compliment came via email then freelancers can just respond and say “Thank you very much. I would love to use your nice compliment as a reference, if that is alright with you?” Some clients may not want their exact words used as a reference, but once they know that a freelancer is looking for a reference most are happy to supply one.

Using Client References

Client references are most often used to communicate to potential clients how happy others are with a freelancer’s work. In fact, references are usually short sound-bites, more like testimonials, than full, formal references. Many freelancers use particularly good references on their websites, blogs, business cards, leaflets, flyers and postcards.

Some freelancers, particularly those just beginning their careers, may think it’s alright to solicit references from friends, family members or even to make them up. Obviously freelancers are free to do what they want, but all it takes is one person finding out that one reference isn’t true and that freelancer’s reputation will be destroyed.

Asking For Client Feedback

Client feedback is distinct from references. While references are positive comment about a freelancer’s work, feedback is a truthful analysis of that work – both the good parts and the bad. Most freelancers who communicate with their clients consistently will already know generally how that client feels about the project, but soliciting feedback will give the client a chance to review, in depth, everything that they appreciated, or not, about a particular project.

Very often freelancers will have one generic survey that they post or email to clients following a project. Another way to solicit feedback is simply to send an email asking for it. However, freelancers should ask their clients specifically what they think the freelancer could improve in the future in order to truly grow from the experience.

Using Client Feedback

Client feedback is only helpful if a freelancer is willing to review it and treat it as important. A freelancer may decide not to make the changes a client recommends, but (s)he should know exactly why (s)he won’t make these changes. For example, budget or time constraints may keep freelancers from implementing specific changes and that’s fine. But freelancers who ignore all suggestions without justification may just find that they lose repeat business from that particular client.

Asking for client reference and feedback is important for all freelancers. Using these references and feedback is even more important as they can help a freelancer shape his or her future business, not to mention a relationship with individual clients.

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