Sometimes how you ask for referrals is even more important than who you ask.

Most people who know, like, and trust you will want to send you referrals, help you grow your freelance business, and help their friends and associates receive great services. 

If someone is willing to give you a referral, they want to do it right. 

help your referral partners do be better at giving referralsThey want to look good. They don’t want to mess it up or connect you with the wrong person. That’s just going to make them look bad. They want to know that they are taking exactly the action that’s going to make a difference for you and for the person they’re referring to you.

Here are the three steps to guide you in how to ask for (and get) referrals in your freelance creative business. 

Make your referral request specific and clear

Instead of asking for a referral by saying something like, “Hey, do you know anybody who might need a designer? Can you pass them along?”

That’s so wide open that it puts a lot of burden on the person you’re asking to try to figure out what a person who needs a designer looks like. 

They might say yeah, yeah, sure. But they probably won’t follow through because it’s too much effort, too much work for them. 

How can you simplify and make it easier for people to give you referrals?

Be more specific when you ask for referralsSet them up for success. Be very clear about and specific about the kind of referral that you’re after right now in your business. Or a specific kind of service or specific kind of problem you solve. Or a specific kind of result or outcome.

For me, I might say, “Hey, do you know any photographers or designers who are looking to earn more money, have less stress, and feel confident in their freelance business? Please connect us by email.” 

That’s a really clear request. 

It’s photographers or designers. It’s not just any creative person out there in the world. 

And it’s very clear about how my referral partner can recognize them. 

They’re ready to earn more money, so they’re scaling up their business, or they’re looking for new clients, or they’re wanting to increase their sales or increase their prices. 

They want to have less stress. They’re feeling overwhelmed. Stressed out. They need time management, they need clarity, they need help with prioritization. 

And they want to feel confident. Maybe they have imposter syndrome or they’re really struggling with feeling like a professional and they want to have more training and more confidence in running the business part of their business. 

By making a simple and clear request, it becomes much easier for people to send me a referral. 

A clear referral includes clear action steps

The second piece after a clear request is clear, step by step actions. You want to tell people exactly how to give you a referral and what’s going to happen after they make that connection for you. 

Let people know the steps to take when you ask for referralsMy favorite way of getting a referral is to have a third party introduction, or have you introduce us either in a direct message or through an email. 

That’s my favorite way to get a referral because what it means is that you are making an introduction. Your relationship with that person, their level of trust with you starts to transfer over to me. And it becomes more friendly and less transactional. My favorite way of getting a referral is to be connected through a DM or through email.

After you connect us, what’s going to happen is we’re going to get on a quick 15 minute or so phone call, I’m going to ask four simple questions and we’re going to see if we are a great fit together and if they in fact need what I offer.If I can help, I’ll invite them to a sales call. And if I can’t, I’m going to give them other resources or suggestions or tools or tips. 

I make it really clear that when you connect someone with me for a referral, I’m not going to sell to them. 

I’m not going to pitch to them. I really am going to listen, get to know them, and get to find out if it’s worthwhile for both of us to connect in a sales conversation. When you make your requests, let people know what’s going to happen after they make that connection. 

Give referral partners a script

Sometimes a referral script can help you get better referrals

So even if you’ve already said that the easiest and best way to make a referral for you is through DMs or email, some people will still struggle with what to say when they make the connection or referral. 

In some cases, you can really help your referral partners by setting them up for success with a sample referral script. 

Here’s an example of how you might approach sending your script without sounding too pushy:

Hey person,

Thanks so much for being willing to send me some referrals. I know that it can sometimes be challenging to figure out what to say and how to make those introductions. I’m going to send you a quick message that’s going to give you just a little bit of a sample outline or kind of a sample script for you to use as inspiration in making that connection. 

And then I would send them my sample script. 

If you would like my sample script, if you would like to see the outline and how I approach people and how I set them up for success and help them be super powerful in making connections and referrals for me, send me a message or comment below and ask for my referral script. 

I’d love to hear what role do referrals play in your business? Is there anything that I missed about how to ask for a referral?