7 Ways to Get More Referrals for Your Web Design Business

7 Ways to Get More Referrals for Your Web Design Business

A long time ago, I heard one businessman ask another, "What can I do to help you out?"

The man thought for a moment, and then said, "The best thing you can do for me is refer someone else my way."

He was probably right. Because customers value the advice of people they know, referrals are often the best leads a business can get.

What’s the best way to get more referrals for your web design business? Here are seven strategies that have worked for me in the past.

1. Produce Better Work

It might sound simplistic and you might think that you’re already doing great work, but I can guarantee that if you actually spend some time today and dedicate yourself to getting better, then you will.

Better work means better results, and better results mean better clients.

If you want clients to rave about your work and spread the message far and wide, then you need to do work worth raving about.

2. Ask for Referrals

You would be surprised how often we miss opportunities simply because we don’t ask for them.

One solution that I have found to work well is to schedule "the ask" just like you would any other business activity. Develop a checklist of items that you complete for each project. These are important things that should occur with every project you take on — scheduling milestones, invoicing, etc. — and then add "asking for referrals" to the list.

Don’t make referrals a one-off task that you do when the mood is right. Always ask for them in an appropriate manner, and you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the results.

3. Look for Buying Symptoms

One reason many people don’t get as many referrals as they would like is that they don’t know that they should be asking for them.

Knowing how to get referrals for your business starts with understanding how your potential customers talk.

For example, what do people say when they go to the chiropractor? "My back hurts" or "I have lower back pain," right? Those are the symptoms of someone who might buy from the chiropractor.

What are the symptoms of someone who might buy from you, a web designer? If you specialize in a certain type of client, what are those people saying before they get ready to buy?

Use the same phrases and words your clients will use, not industry jargon. If you know what potential clients say before they buy and how they say it, then you’ll be in a better position to find those people and ask for referrals.

4. Ask for Introductions, Not for Business

If there’s one thing that customers are cautious of, it’s desperation. If you seem desperate for business and willing to take on anyone, then the message you’re sending is that you must not be in high demand and/or aren’t very good at what you do.

You might be saying, "But wait, I thought you were supposed to ask for referrals?"

Yes, you are — and the best way to ask is to request for an introduction to someone new, not for someone who would buy from you right away.

5. Work in Exchange for Referrals

This may sound strange, but hear me out on this one.

Working for free and then getting a couple of excellent referrals out of the job can be a savvy move if you want to improve the type of clientele you work with. This is especially true if you are trying to get larger clients and you know one or two people who might be able to get you access to them.

There are two critical points to this strategy.

First, you can’t work for referrals all the time. Do it with well-connected clients once or twice, and you’ll be set. Referrals, after all, don’t pay the bills.

Secondly, there should be a clear understanding from the beginning that they are working with you in this capacity. They should know that they are expected to put you in touch with potential clients for the work you are doing.

6. Reframe Your Message and Enter New Areas of Business

Sometimes we focus so much on a specific niche that it feels like we know everyone in the industry and there just aren’t many more referrals to go around. If that’s the case, then it’s time to reach out to different customers.

For example, I just landed a referral recently because I branched out into a community that I hadn’t sampled before — freelance writers.

Don’t be afraid to stretch outside of your typical client base and ask if there are people you can help. It might be the perfect way to find another market that needs your services and generate a new stream of referrals.

7. Refer Other People Who Do Great Work

The strategy here is to build a network of professionals who refer each other’s services. For example, maybe you’re a UI designer and you know someone who’s great at Ruby on Rails and someone who’s great at PHP and someone who’s great at iOS app development.

Whenever it’s a good fit, you can refer a customer of yours to the appropriate person. In turn, a customer of theirs looking for a UI designer will be referred to you.

The result is that you extend your reach and have several people searching for new business instead of just one.

What about you? What are your best ways to get a referral? Share it with us in the comments.

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About the Author

James Clear is the founder of Passive Panda, a site about earning more money, more time, and more freedom. Join Passive Panda’s Free Newsletter on Earning More to receive the 7-part Freelancing 101 Course and proven tips for earning more. Connect with Passive Panda on Facebook.

This was published on Aug 5, 2011


great tips james thanks! Just to touch base on your first point of “produce better work” it could also help if you produce better customer service skills. Being nice, polite, and helpful goes a long way for some people again thanks for the great tips

chris Aug 05 2011

this is a great post! I am constantly looking for new and exciting work. Being the designer, developer, and salesman for myself, I have come to learn a lot of tips to get great clients and sign them up. These add to the list of methods to win new work, Thanks!

Joel Emberson Aug 05 2011

great article – thanks for this!

krishan arora Aug 05 2011

always keep me mailing these kind of thoughts

Daquan Wright Aug 05 2011

It’s definitely a good idea to ask. I did a music ecom website for my friend and he referred a business person he knew to me, so hopefully that pulls through. :)

Doing good work and asking for referrals are key, if you’re providing value then it’ll show through (in everything you do and get).

Jack C. Aug 07 2011

It really is all about referrals. It’s time to hit up the well-connected folks in my Rolodex!

Bruce Aug 08 2011

I would not do #5, it’s asking to get screwed

Icreon Tech Aug 09 2011

Satisfying a client and providing them the services on time is also a great source of referral. Client Referral is a great source to get work for the new business as well as for the established one. The more satisfied clients you have the more you will get positive response from them. You can give your clients’ contact for reference to the new prospective client. If your old client is satisfied with your work, (s)he will definitely refer and say praise of words for you to your future client.

Henry Louis Aug 09 2011

I think Points 2 & 4 are contradicting. My personal experience says that Points 4,5 & & work out the most.

Jerome Iveson Aug 09 2011

Joining local business networking groups who have breakfast clubs and other events can lead to new leads. Over here in the UK we have BNI, The Chamber of Commerce and other organisations which can be good for referrals.

The best way is to deliver good work and offer a friendly service. Referrals will then take care of themselves.

On another note any freelancers out there try Solo if you need an all-in-one project management tool.

sadesigns Aug 09 2011

i’m pretty sure working in Exchange for Referrals is a good technique for startups.

Jenn Staz Aug 09 2011

This is a great article. I personally have a hard time with referrals, but I can really stand to learn from the “ask for introductions” tip as well as the “work in exchange for referrals” tip.

Eric Itzhak Aug 10 2011

As much as those tips ARE helpfull, i belive that the future of refferaing and SEO in general, is Google+. because google is allready controling the internet, it will even be easy for them. google latest algorythem changes are just a beginning to a new future in the World Wide Web.
If you ask me, look for a way to increase your reputation in Google+

Pawel Poturalski Aug 10 2011

1. Make it easier to recommend you further (prepare business cards, brochures, banners etc.)
2. Keep good relations with your clients (satisfied client is defiantly more likely to recommend you)

veztek Aug 12 2011

new and exciting work and thankyou for the amazing tips.

payal setiya Aug 29 2011

Thanks a lot for the tips. Those will really help:)

Steve @ Nutwork Sep 26 2011

The most important thing to remember is be good at what you do. If you do a great job, then people will naturally refer you. People like to give advice and if you are on top of their minds then they will most likely refer you.

Justin Seidl Aug 31 2012

I’m the Lead Designer of a new startup website called Passing Leads, A great web/mobile application that allows you to generate, track and manage leads for your business. Rewarding users for passing along new leads to your business.

Please check it out and offer us any suggestions or feedback!

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