Get a Quality Reference: How to Apply for It and What It Should Include

Have you successfully completed a project or have you been working with the same clients for a long time? If you haven’t asked for a reference yet, it’s time to fix it. Not only is this valuable feedback, but it can also be one of your most compelling arguments to convince your potential clients.

References as a decision-making facilitator

When was the last time you made a major expense without first researching the market and reading testimonials from real users? It’s not just for products that ratings are important. Even if someone is looking for a freelancer for their project, positive references are one of the most important selection parameters.

You can write superlatives about yourself on your website, portfolio, or professional profile, but only when your words are confirmed by a real client do these claims gain weight. As social creatures, we are always looking for so-called social approval from others. And it is the references that serve as proof that what you claim about yourself is also true.

When is the best time to ask for a reference?

Ideally, you will get a reference spontaneously and the client will not spare enthusiasm for it. The advantage of such feedback is that it is authentic and inspires trust. However, the downside is that such things don’t happen that often, so you’ll probably have to ask for it yourself.

If you, as an introvert, dread it and have scenarios running in your head that instead of positive feedback, your client realizes that they don’t really need your work and instead disengages working with you, ease your mind and ask for a reference, for example, after completing a project. Of course, it’s best if the work done meets expectations (or even exceeds them).

Another good timing is when renewing the contract (Do you know what such a contract actually has to contain?) and you are sure that the client is satisfied with you so much that they want to continue working with you.

If you don’t have a problem asking for feedback, you can ask for it at any time, provided you don’t owe the client work that you have long since missed. Such courage might not be rewarded with complete superlatives.

How to get a valuable reference

Not every reference is a good reference. Not even if she’s nice and positive. In order for it to serve you as a self-presentation, it should convince a potential client of your qualities, so you need to get a slightly more detailed description than “I’m satisfied with the cooperation.”

Of course, a good reference is positive, there is no need to argue here. It is also good that it is not unnecessarily long and that it conveys specific information about how and with what you helped the client. If the whole thing is spiced up with a bit of emotion, you’ve got the best reference you could.

Ideally, direct the client a little to what you would need to have in such a review. In order for the evaluation to have weight for others, it is good to develop what expectations they had from the cooperation and what the reality is. There should also be concrete benefits – if you have any measurable results, they should definitely appear there. And last but not least, it’s a good idea to end the reference with a call to action, which works as a great recommendation.

TIP: Do not leave the author of the reference anonymous – name, surname, position, company, website link and photo give much more weight to the rating. However, always ask the client for permission to disclose all the information used.

By phone or in writing?

You will probably get more information over the phone, where you can also better guide the client with prepared questions, and then prepare a reference yourself from their answers, which you can then just send for approval.

If you are uncomfortable with this form, do not be afraid to ask for a reference in writing. It certainly doesn’t hurt to make the client’s job a little easier and direct them with questions. This will also save him time, which is often the biggest obstacle.

Last but not least, it also depends on how you are used to communicating with your clients, because if you have been working on a written basis all the time, a sudden phone call asking for a reference could catch them off guard.

Can I edit the reference?

Yes and no. Permitted edits consist of correcting spelling mistakes and stylistic awkwardness. Also, you don’t have to worry about adjusting the length of the assessment. But definitely don’t change your personal style of expression and don’t delete any essential message.

If you are not satisfied with the reference, it is best to ask the client for an edit directly or leave it unpublished. Definitely don’t do any major interventions on your own.

Case study site

Have you done so well in any project that it would be a shame to summarize it in just a short reference? Prepare a case study, the authenticity of which you will support with the client’s statement.