Glowing testimonials are the coin of the realm among freelance professionals and self-employed entrepreneurs. Without large-scale corporate backing, or an established brand to fall back on, new clients can be skittish about signing a contract with you unless they can read about your past clients’ experiences. Of course, if you’re just starting out, testimonials from past clients can be hard to come by.
This can be even more of a problem if you’ve been in business for a while, but you’re new to social media marketing. Either way, if you’re approaching prospective clients without a portfolio full of glowing references, it can be difficult to build trust and land the job you’re chasing.
Fortunately, there are ways to build trust even with a lack of customer testimonials:
1. Talk about the process, rather than the person
The purpose of a testimonial is to reassure new clients that you know what you’re doing. One of the most effective workarounds when you lack such assurances is to talk about your process instead. Holding an intelligent and informative consultation with a new client is a great way to show that you know your stuff and that they’re right to trust you.
Sometimes, it’s worth the effort to produce a video, or to publish a series of short blog articles, that describe the way you work and walk new clients through the steps of a typical collaboration. My business’ servicespage, for example, ends with a step-by-step breakdown of the process we usually follow for video production, from storyboard to final sound editing.
This is a simple, effective method for showing new partners that we know what we’re doing that is in many ways better than a simple testimonial.
2. Point out some of the places you’ve been featured
Not every testimonial comes directly from past clients. Press notices are another way of establishing credibility with a new client. Showing your clients a few of the places you’ve been featured works as a kind of testimonial that’s made all the more credible because of the source.
Let’s take Channel 10’s Shark Tank as an example. Some of you may recall an unorthodox business by the name of Three65 Underwear which promises to deliver new underwear to your house every three months. They’ve capitalised on their appearance on the show by making it evident on the home page of their website.
Even when press outlets and past clients have nothing in particular to say about you, it never hurts to brag about your contributions. My profile on my business website lists some of the places I’ve contributed articles and think pieces over the years. The fact that such prestigious outlets have asked me to contribute to them carries a cache of its own and this can often go above and beyond the recommendation of an anonymous past client.
3. Awards speak for themselves
Awards, and other kinds of formal recognition, are even more effective than press notices. Your “North Queensland Web Developer of the Year, 2008” certificate sends the message that, not only do you know what you’re doing professionally, you do your job well enough to be recognised for it by others in your field. In an online world, letting your future clients know about the various honours and distinctions you’ve earned is as simple as posting the related badges on your home page.
New solopreneurs are often in the awkward position of being asked for references by clients before building up the work history necessary to have an impressive list of testimonials on hand. Fortunately, all is not lost if you’re just striking out on your own.
Industry awards and press notices act as a kind of testimonial, one that even has some advantages over personal stories from past clients. Breaking down what you do for your client in an informative infographic or web tutorial gets across the message that you know your field, and that you’re somebody to be taken seriously.
Ultimately, however, the client’s final decision whether to trust you with a big project comes down to how you handle yourself. Experience breeds confidence, after all, and quietly projecting that confidence during the early stages of your relationship with new clients is how you show new partners what you think of your own abilities.
In this sense, the only testimonial you really need is your own.