How to Ask for Testimonials

Something that always surprises me is my students asking me how to get testimonials. When is the right time? Is it okay to ask for a testimonial from someone you don’t plan on writing for much longer? Is it okay to ask for them at all?

And my answer to all of those is: HELL YES. (Except the first one, because that was not a yes/no question, so that would be weird.)

Here’s what you need to know about asking for testimonials:

When Should You Ask for a Testimonial?

Okay, so obviously you can’t really ask for a testimonial instantly. (I mean, you can, but you might get a bemused look — or whatever the internet equivalent of that is — and a gentle ‘err, no’ in response.) You need to build a relationship with your client first, build rapport and trust. And, most importantly, you need to do good work for them. That means you need to behave professionally and deliver the goods.

If you’ve just written one article for someone, you probably should not ask for a testimonial yet. Wait until you’ve been through all the motions with them: first contact, delivery of goods, invoicing, payment, and all that.

I’d also wait a little while before asking — probably at least a couple of months if it’s an ongoing project. If it’s a once-and-done deal, such as a copywriting project, it’s okay to ask as soon as the project is completed.

Can You Ask for a Testimonial from Someone You’re Planning to Ditch Soon?

Uh, yeah. That’s the best time to ask! Because they’re more likely to give you a goodun while you’re still working for them. And hey, haven’t you done good work? If so: you deserve that testimonial.

To be fair, if you’ve built a good relationship with the client and you’ve been working them for a while, they’ll more than likely be happy to give you a testimonial even after you’ve told them your plans to part ways. But to reach that point, you’ll probably have been working with them for quite a while, and you shouldn’t wait that long to ask (see above, amigo).

What Should You Say When Asking for a Testimonial?

The thing to bear in mind here is that you want to make it as easy as possible for the client to give you the testimonial, otherwise you’ll be waiting a while. So no asking for a page-long glowing recommendation, okay? Here’s what you should do instead (I have two options for you):

1. Keep it brief and ask for something brief. You don’t need to write a long explanatory email talking about why you need a testimonial. Everyone knows what testimonials are for, guys. Here’s an actual email I sent to one of my clients:

Screenshot 2015-02-16 16.43.33

I’m not that brief with everyone, but I’d built a good relationship with Rick and I knew he was happy with my work, so this simple approach worked and he was more than happy to write a testimonial for me. For clients you haven’t gotten to know quite so well, a more formal approach is just dandy. Here’s what my emails looked like when Untamed Writing was but a tender little newborn:

Screenshot 2015-02-16 16.46.33

Here’s the other approach you can take:

2. Ask specific questions. This was a brilliant technique I heard about from one of my students (Sup Robyn!). Robyn gives her clients a specific set of questions to answer when they write her testimonials, which is awesome in two ways: 1. You get a really solid, in-depth testimonial, and b) The client doesn’t need to think very hard about what to write. They can just answer a few questions and they’re done.

Screenshot 2015-02-16 16.45.28

Other Things You Might Need to Do

Follow up
if they don’t deliver the goods after a couple of weeks. Follow the hell up, you hear me?

Give ‘em a deadline
This is optional, but you’d be surprised how well people respond to deadlines. Don’t make it too far in the future, otherwise they’ll forget. The end of the week, or a few days’ time, is fine. Since you’re asking for something simple that will only take a couple of minutes of their time, giving them a deadline means they’re likely to just bang it out straight away so they can forget about it. Also, it probably goes without saying, but you shouldn’t be pushy with this. Something like, ‘I’d love it if you could get this to me by the end of the week, as I’m planning to update my testimonials page on Friday’ will do.

Testimonials are, as we’ve recently discussed, an awesome way to boost your reputation, so I recommend getting a few up on your website as soon as possible. Don’t hang around umming and ahhing about whether the time is right. Just do it. It’s unlikely your client will say no if you follow the guidelines above, and — bonus points — having someone tell you nice things about you makes you feel good. And we like to feel good.

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    1. Sup Karen! While my specific set of questions has worked really well for me, I do like your shorter, casual approach too. I’ll be trying that with some of my longer term clients who I know will already be familiar with the importance of good quality testimonials.

    2. Good post, Karen. Since I’m still new at this, I’m currently storing up testimonials so that I can put several up at once, rather than have a period where I just have one or two.

      Conversely, one of my first clients is a Realtor who wants a website re-write, and her testimonial page is flooded with so many comments all in the same size & color font that everything blurs together. She’ll have to prune back and reformat so that the cream of the crop jumps out at the reader.

      1. Glad you enjoyed the post, Dan! If you’ve only got a testimonial or two at the moment, you could consider incorporating them into your services/hire me page for now, rather than creating an entirely new page just for testimonials!

    3. Great timing Karen, and very helpful post – Thank you! I’m just revamping my website and decided it was time to start getting some testimonials up there. I’ve been hesitant to ask until I felt I’d done enough work for my clients, but now have several I think could make an informed statement. I’ve sent them all a request, and included that list of questions you provided. They found that super helpful so a big thank you for that strategy! My next step will be follow-up. I want those testimonials!

    4. I’ve always asked for a testi (does that work as a slang/shortening for ‘testimonial’??) and they’ve always been forthcoming. My last one gave me three whole, glowing paragraphs! I felt awkward editing it to fit onto my page!
      I’ve always just asked if they minded writing one for my site and that ‘just a couple of sentences would be great’. That way, it tells them that they don’t need to spend much time on it and you also have something short and snappy for your site. Long testi’s (OK – that sounds a bit weird) are all well and good, but no one has time to wade through a few paragraphs on your website. Short and sweet is best IMHO.

      1. Hahaha sounds like TESTES. And yes, on the whole, I agree – shorter testimonials are usually better, with the possible exception of longform sales pages…

        Also, it’s totally fine to a trim a testimonial you receive, so long as the message remains the same.

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