Client Referrals For Freelancers – 10+ Strategies To Get Them + Examples


Referrals are one of the best ways for finding new clients as a freelancer. When someone you have worked with recommends your business, the chances of getting the job or project dramatically increase. However, asking for referrals can feel like begging and will often not get you the necessary results and is downright wrong most of the time. This is because referrals are like trust – they should not be asked for, but rather earned. Read on if you would like to learn more about the art of getting referrals without actually having to ask by following our three simple tips.

  1. Client acquisition – THE freelance challenge
  2. What is a client referral?
  3. Importance and advantages of client referrals
  4. 10+ strategies to get client referrals
  5. Best practices for tracking and measuring referrals
  6. Common mistakes to avoid

Client acquisition – THE freelance challenge

Client acquisition is the process of acquiring clients by attracting and persuading them to hire your freelance services. 

Our annual survey on the freelance market delves into all aspects of self-employment, including hurdles and drawbacks. The findings reveal that client and project acquisition is one of the most significant challenges faced by freelancers.

In fact, 61% of participants in the Freelancer Market Study 2023 cited it as the major obstacle, even more challenging than fluctuating income or upaid vacation!

Freelance challanges in 2023 - freelancermap freelancer study
Freelance challenges – freelancermap Study 2023

Client acquisition requires spending a lot of time searching for new projects. This means that the longer it takes to find new work, the longer freelancers go without earning anything.

There are many ways self-employed can acquire new clients, among others:

  • Personal website/portfolio
  • Cold outreach 
  • Freelancing platforms
  • Social media
  • Networking
  • Advertising
  • Events
  • Referrals

In this article, we’ll focus on referrals as one of the most effective ways for self-employed to acquire new clients.

What is a client referral?

A client referral is simply when a client you’ve worked with previously recommends you to another potential client.

In today’s hyper-competitive global market it can be easy to forget about the one thing that matters most – not your fancy website, LinkedIn profile or even your Google page rank. Word-of-mouth is more important and more effective than any of those. When a potential client gets referred to you by someone they trust, the likelihood of you getting that job or project skyrockets. Referrals are the best marketing for freelancers.

In fact, according to our freelancermap study, 64% of freelancers get projects from passive sources such as referrals.

Client acquisition for freelancers in 2023 - freelancermap freelancer study
Project acquisition – Freelancermap Study 2023

Quote: A study of independent workers discovered that a large majority (84%) of those who earned more than $100,000 annually mostly acquired their work through verbal referrals. (Source: Harvard Business Review)

Client referrals are good for all parties involved because they provide multiple benefits. 

  • For the freelancer, referrals can bring in new clients without the need for extensive marketing efforts or expensive advertising. Referrals also tend to be high-quality clients as they come from satisfied customers who have already experienced the freelancer’s work.
  • For the referring client, they can feel good about helping someone they know and trust find a reliable and skilled freelancer. It can also strengthen the relationship between the referring client and the freelancer, creating a positive business network and potentially leading to more referrals in the future.
  • Lastly, for the new client being referred, they benefit from the trust and confidence that comes with being referred by someone they know. It can make the decision to hire a freelancer less daunting and create a smoother onboarding process.

Overall, client referrals are a win-win for everyone involved and can lead to long-lasting business relationships.

Importance and advantages of client referrals 

Client referrals are a powerful tool in acquiring new clients and growing a business, and here are some reasons why:

#1 Cost-effective

Referrals are a cost-effective way to market and grow your business, and to acquire new clients. Compared to other marketing strategies, referrals require little to no investment, and the return on investment (ROI) can be significant. Strategies like social media posts can be employed to acquire these recommendations at no cost or very low cost.

#2 Higher conversion rates

Referral leads are more likely to convert into paying clients as potential clients are more likely to hire freelancers when they are recommended by someone they know. Also, when freelancers come to a client through a referral, they tend to move through the acquisition process more quickly. 

#3 Increased trust and credibility

Referrals come with a built-in level of trust and credibility. When someone recommends your business to their network, it’s a vote of confidence that can be extremely valuable in building your reputation.

#4 Greater customer loyalty

Clients who refer others to your business are likely to be more loyal and engaged with your brand. Referring others is a way for them to express their satisfaction with your services and to help others benefit from the same experience. 

#5 Valuable connections

By getting referrals from existing customers, freelancers can create connections with those clients who are likely to give a referral, as well as with new clients who have been directed to you due to a referral.

#6 Improved marketing efficiency

When you receive referrals, you can focus your marketing efforts on a smaller group of highly targeted prospects, which can improve your marketing efficiency and effectiveness.

#7 Access to “hidden” opportunities

Referrals can get you to project opportunities that are not advertised on the internet yet, so that your chances of getting the job are quite high.

By leveraging the trust and credibility that comes with a referral, you can acquire new clients at a lower cost, improve your marketing efficiency, and build a strong reputation for your brand.

10+ strategies to get client referrals

#1 Provide excellent service

The best way to get referrals is to provide excellent service to your clients. When you go above and beyond their expectations and deliver exceptional results, clients are more likely to refer you to their colleagues, friends, and family members. For example, you can deliver a comprehensive documentation of the API you’ve built, even though the client didn’t ask for it.

You can also consider surprising your clients with an extra something or a gesture of gratitude not related to your work (a postcard or a box of chocolates). This way you’ll demonstrate to your clients that you have their business’s best interest at heart and that you are thinking of them.

Try turning every aspect of your work into a part of a cool story – one your clients will want to tell others. Having a well-designed business card with a bit of humour on it is one way to do this. The same applies to your website or almost any other thing you present to a customer. Making your time with a client count is the best guarantee for having your name mentioned next time he or she talks business with a friend or colleague.

#2 Ask clients for referrals 

After completing a project, follow up with your client to ensure they’re satisfied with your work. This provides an opportunity to ask for a referral while the project is still fresh in their mind. You can send a message or email to your client or meet them in person, expressing your gratitude for their business and asking if they could refer you to anyone who might benefit from your services.

A couple of weeks ago we ran a LinkedIn poll. The stats below are not very scientific (21 people participated), but it is still quite interesting to note that one third of freelancers are always asking their clients for referrals.

LinkedIn poll - Do freelancers ask for client referrals?
LinkedIn poll about client referrals

❗️ Asking for referrals from clients – Right timing + Examples

Timing is important when asking clients for a referral. For example, asking for it in the middle of a project doesn’t feel right and interrupts the workflow.

Here are some tips on when to ask and some templates you can use and customise:

1) After a successful milestone or project

If you’ve just completed a successful project for a client and they’re happy with your work, it’s a good time to ask for a referral. They’re more likely to be enthusiastic about referring you to others when they’ve just had a positive experience working with you.

Hi [Client Name],

I wanted to follow up with you after completing your project to see how everything turned out. I hope that you’re happy with the work that I delivered.

I’m reaching out because I’m trying to grow my business, and I’m looking for new clients who might benefit from my services. If you have any colleagues or contacts who might be interested in my work, I would really appreciate it if you could refer me to them.

Thank you for your time and consideration. It was a pleasure working with you.

Best regards,
[Your Name]

2) When the client expresses satisfaction 

If a client expresses satisfaction with your work, or if you’ve delivered extra value beyond what they expected, it’s a good opening to ask for a referral. Let them know that referrals are an important part of your business and that you’d appreciate it if they could refer you to anyone who might be interested in your services.

Dear [Client Name],

I hope this email finds you well. I wanted to reach out and say thank you for your business and the opportunity to work with you. I’m glad that I was able to deliver great results for your project.

If you know anyone who might need my services, I would be grateful if you could refer them to me. Referrals are a crucial part of my business, and I’m always looking for new opportunities to help others achieve their goals.

Thank you again for your time and consideration.

Best regards,
[Your Name]

3) When you’ve built a relationship

If you’ve been working with a client for a while and have built a good relationship with them, it’s a good time to ask for a referral. They’re more likely to feel comfortable referring you to their network when they know you well and trust your work.

Dear [Client Name],

I hope this message finds you well. I wanted to let you know that I’m currently taking on new projects, and I’m looking for clients who might need my services.

If you have any contacts who might be interested in my work, I would be grateful if you could refer me to them. I pride myself on delivering quality work and providing excellent service to my clients, and I would love the opportunity to help others achieve their goals.

Thank you for your time, and I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Best regards,
[Your Name]

4) When the client hires you again

If a client hires you again, it means they trust you and your services. This gives you the perfect opportunity to ask them for a referral. Chances are that they will then be more than happy to recommend you to their friends or colleagues.

Dear [Client’s Name],

I wanted to take a moment to thank you for your recent project with me. I had a great time working with you again and I am so pleased to see that we can build a long-term relationship.

Your satisfaction and trust mean a lot to me and I always strive to deliver high-quality work that meets your expectations. In light of this, I was wondering if you would be willing to refer me to anyone in your network who might benefit from my services.

As a returning client, you have already seen the results of my work and I hope you are happy with what I’ve delivered. It would mean a lot to me if you could share your experience with others who could benefit from my skills.

I would be grateful for any opportunity to help more people and grow my business.

Thank you again for your trust and support.

Best regards,
[Your Name]

5) Referral request for a specific client

If your client has a connection to a specific client that you’ve been eager to work with, you may ask them for an introduction and a referral.

Dear [Client’s Name],

It has been a pleasure collaborating with you on this project and I am eager to discuss potential future projects. I am aware that you have a positive relationship with [BRAND] and I would greatly appreciate it if you could introduce me to them. I am confident that I can offer them excellent [SERVICE]. Should you not feel comfortable doing so, I completely understand. 

Thank you for your time.

[Your Name]

6) Simple and straight referral request

If you’ve been working for a client for a long time, you can skip past dancing around and ask them straight for a referral. Your client will appreciate the simple request and be happy to refer you.

Hello [Client’s Name], 

It has been a pleasure working with you on this project and I would love to discuss any potential future opportunities. I would be grateful if you could kindly refer me to any other brands who may benefit from my services. 

[Your Name]

Overall, it’s important to make sure that you’ve delivered quality work and built a good relationship with the client before asking for a referral. If you time it right and approach it in the right way, asking for a referral can be a natural part of the client relationship and a valuable source of new business for freelancers.

#3 Offer incentives (with a referral program)

You can offer incentives to clients who refer new business to you. For example, you could offer a discount on your services or a free trial or consultation to clients who refer new business to you. If they’re impressed, they may be more likely to refer others to you.

You can also create a formal referral program that incentivizes clients to refer new business to you, offering rewards for referrals.

#4 Keep in touch

Follow up and keep in touch with your clients after the project is complete, ask them if they know of anyone who might benefit from your services or let them know that you’re still available to work. Make sure to thank them for their time and consideration. This can help to keep you top of mind and stay connected with the client building strong relationships.

#5 Network with other freelancers and mutual referrals

Referrals can come not only from clients, but also from other freelancers. It’s important to recognize that not every client will be a good fit for you, maybe because you don’t have the skills or expertise they need. This is an opportunity for you to step in and refer the client to other freelancers who are better suited to their project.

There are two ways to make this type of referral work to your advantage:

  1. Actively cultivate and expand a network of freelancers with complementary skill sets. For example, designers often need writers or developers, while marketers may require the expertise of email marketing consultants or SEO specialists: All can refer to each other for appropriate projects.
  1. Passively expand your network by attending conferences, workshops, local events, and online groups to increase your visibility. The more people who know about your services, the greater the likelihood of receiving referrals.

Join our IT freelancer community today! Create your freelance profile in just 2 minutes.  

By helping to connect the client with a better fit, you’re demonstrating your professionalism and commitment to the client’s success. This approach can also lead to referrals in the future, as clients appreciate your willingness to go above and beyond to help them find the right freelancer for their needs.

Also, the referred freelancer might be willing to return the favour and refer your services to another client. 

#6 Partner with other businesses

Consider attending industry events and partnering with other businesses. Building relationships with these professionals can expand your network and potentially lead to more referrals and opportunities. You may also gain access to new opportunities and projects that you may not have otherwise been aware of. 

In addition, networking can help you build a reputation amongst these other businesses and establish yourself as an expert in your field.

#7 Build a strong reputation

The more experience you gain as a freelancer, the easier it will be to establish a reputation and a strong personal brand within your niche. Generating case studies for successful projects is a great way to showcase your capabilities and obtain client feedback through interviews.

This not only provides ample evidence of your abilities, but clients may also share these case studies with their networks. Consequently, you’ll reach potential clients who are in need of similar services.

#8 Use social media

You can ask for referrals on social media platforms like LinkedIn, Twitter, or Facebook or any other professional platforms you are using. Publish updates about your services, and ask your followers to share them with their network. You can also use the hashtag #opentowork in your profile or posts and spread the voice you are looking for new opportunities.

Example Of A LinkedIn Post Of A Freelancer Looking For New Opportunities
Example of a LinkedIn post of a freelancer looking for new opportunities

#9 Encourage online reviews

Encourage your clients to leave online reviews on sites like Google, Yelp, LinkedIn, or even on freelancermap

Example Of Positive Clients Recommendations On A Freelance Profile On Freelancermap
Example Of Positive Clients Recommendations On A Freelance Profile On Freelancermap

Positive reviews can help to increase your visibility and credibility, and can lead to more referrals. You can use testimonials from satisfied clients on your website and in your marketing materials to showcase the value you offer. This can encourage others to refer you to their contacts.

#10 Include a referral request in your communication

One way to expand your freelance business is to incorporate a referral request in your communication with clients. Whether it’s through an email signature, an invoice, email updates or a newsletter, make it a habit to include a referral request in your communications and see your client base grow. 

You can also create a regular newsletter to keep in touch with clients and promote your services and highlight your latest work and services. This can help to keep you top of mind and encourage clients to refer you to others.

#11 Host an event

Hosting an event such as a webinar, seminar, or networking event can be an excellent way to connect with potential clients and generate referrals.

Events such as these are also great for meeting other freelancers which, as stated above, helps you get more referrals, and gain practical advice and support. 

#12 Join industry groups or associations

Industry and professional associations are not only a great place to access ongoing training and education, they are also a great way to connect with professionals in your field.

Make it a point to attend industry groups events and network with other professionals in order to secure client referrals. 

How to get client referrals [CHECKLIST]

By using a combination of these strategies, you can build a strong referral network that will help you grow your business.

Regardless of the strategy you choose, it’s important to:

  • Make the process easy
  • Provide clear instructions
  • Be polite and professional
  • Personalise your request
  • Offer incentives, if possible
  • Send it at the right time
  • Express gratitude

All of this will increase the likelihood of receiving a positive response and earning new business through referrals.

Checklist How To Get Client Referrals
How To Get Client Referrals – Checklist

Best practices for tracking and measuring referrals

To ensure the success of your referrals, it’s important to track and measure the results you get from them. Here are some best practices to keep in mind:

✔️Set up a referral tracking system

To effectively track and measure referrals, it’s important to have a system in place. This can be as simple as a spreadsheet or as complex as referral tracking software. The system should allow you to track the source of the referral, the date received, and the outcome (e.g., closed deal, ongoing conversation).

✔️Assign a unique identifier to each referral

To avoid confusion and ensure accurate tracking, it’s a good practice to assign a unique identifier to each referral. This can be as simple as a sequential number or as complex as a unique code.

✔️Set referral goals

To motivate yourself to actively seek referrals, set goals for the number of referrals you want to receive each month or quarter. This can help you stay focused and make it easier to track your progress.

✔️Measure the quality of referrals

It’s not just about the quantity of referrals you receive, but also the quality. When tracking referrals, it’s important to measure the quality of the lead and the likelihood of converting them into a paying client.

✔️Follow up with referred leads

Once you receive a referral, it’s important to follow up with the lead promptly. Make sure to keep the referring client in the loop and provide updates on the progress of the referral.

✔️Analyse your referral data

Regularly review your referral data to identify trends and patterns. This can help you adjust your referral strategy and improve your overall approach.

By implementing these best practices, you can effectively track and measure your client referrals. This can help you improve your strategy and increase the chances of success.

Common mistakes to avoid when asking for referrals

Asking clients for referrals is a powerful way to grow your business, but it’s important to approach this strategy with care. If not executed properly, it can come across as pushy or even damage your relationship with existing clients. 

Here are some common mistakes to avoid when requesting referrals from clients:

❌ Not asking for client referrals directly

One of the biggest mistakes freelancers make is not asking for referrals directly. Clients may be willing to refer others to your services. However, they may not think to do so unless you specifically ask.

❌ Asking at the wrong time

Timing is important when it comes to asking for referrals. Avoid asking for referrals at the end of a project when the client is overwhelmed with other tasks. Instead, consider asking when the client is most satisfied with your work. This could be after completing a successful milestone or project.

❌ Not making it easy for clients to refer others

Make it as easy as possible for clients to refer others to your services. Provide clear instructions and tools for sharing your services, such as referral links, templates, or social media posts.

❌ Not following up with referred leads

When a client refers someone to your services, it’s important to follow up with that lead promptly. Failing to follow up in a timely manner can result in a lost opportunity. It can also damage your relationship with the referring client.

❌ Focusing too much on the referral and not enough on the client

Remember to keep the focus on the client and their needs, not just the referral. Make sure you’re providing value and meeting their expectations, so they are more likely to refer you to others.

By avoiding these common mistakes, freelancers can improve the effectiveness of their referral process. They can also increase their chances of receiving high-quality referrals from satisfied clients.

💡 Katrina Cobb – Business Coach & Consultant – held an insightful section at the Freelance Business Week last year about the importance of referrals for freelancers. We hope you’ll enjoy it!

These articles might be interesting too:

Stefania Volpe

Stefania joined the international team at freelancermap in 2020. She loves marketing, the digital world, foreign languages and meeting different cultures. She moved from Italy to Germany thanks to an exchange program at the university and worked as marketing manager for several startups. Now she focuses on helping freelancers and IT professionals to find jobs and clients worldwide at

By Stefania Volpe

Recent Posts