When is the right time to ask for a testimonial? Is it okay to ask for a testimonial from someone you don’t intend to work with again, or 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.
Wait until you’ve been through all the motions with them: first contact, delivery of goods, invoicing, payment, and all that. And then you should wait a bit longer. The sooner you ask, the less chance whatever you did for your client will have taken effect. The best testimonials are those that show results – not just that you were a pleasure to work with.
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.
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:
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:
Here’s the other approach you can take:
2. Ask specific questions. This was a brilliant technique I heard about from someone who took my freelance writing course (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.
Other Things You Might Need to Do
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 in a few days, 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 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.