How One Freelance Writer Got $1000s in New Projects…By Asking for Help

Carol Tice

Woman with help signBy Ben Gran

I’ve been a full-time freelance writer for almost two years, and last year I made more money than I’ve ever made in my life, primarily through Elance.

Yes, it is possible to find great freelance writing projects on Elance.

But I had this nagging feeling that I was growing complacent, that I wasn’t doing enough to proactively reach for opportunities.

I wanted to invest some time in identifying the kinds of clients and the types of work that I wanted to do most.

So back in February, I decided to hire Carol Tice to be my freelance writing business mentor. This was one of the things I wanted to do in 2012 — get some mentoring and coaching to help take my freelance writing business to the next level.

Here’s what she said

One of Carol’s first pieces of advice was to add client testimonials to my freelance writer website.

So here’s what I did: I brainstormed a list of some of my favorite clients.

I started reaching out to these clients via LinkedIn and email, and I asked them: “Would you be willing to give me a testimonial quote that I could use on my website?”

The response was OVERWHELMING

Every single client said they’d be happy to give me a testimonial quote.

Most of them asked me to draft a quote for their edits and approval – so I basically got to write my own testimonials.

The work of drafting and collecting these client testimonial quotes was a powerful experience.

3 Benefits of Testimonials:

  1. Re-energized attitude: Just by asking my clients for testimonials, it reacquainted me with some of the many wonderful people I’ve worked with as a freelance writer. The process of collecting testimonials reminded me of the value I deliver as a freelance writer.  “Oh yeah,” I thought to myself, “I do really good work. And I’ve been able to work on some really fun stuff.”
  2. Re-connecting with clients: Some of the clients I contacted hadn’t been in touch with me for several months – and just by asking them for a testimonial, I reminded them that I was still here, still working as a freelancer, and still available to help them when needed. Getting testimonials is also a great way to deepen your relationships with existing clients. Even if you just finished a project for a client last week, asking for a testimonial helps remind your client of why they love to hire you and work with you.
  3. Making more money: Just from the simple step of sending a few quick e-mails to my existing/former clients and asking for their help in providing testimonials, I immediately landed over $3,000 worth of new freelance writing projects. Several of these are likely to be long-term projects. Some of the clients are Elance clients, but others are clients I met outside of Elance, or clients that I no longer required to work with only within Elance.

I hired Carol to help me find new clients, but little did I know that there were some exciting opportunities waiting with my current clients.

3 Testimonial Tips:

  • Keep it simple. Remember that your clients are busy, and even if they’d love to help you, you need to make it as easy for them as possible. So don’t overwhelm them with a long-winded e-mail. Keep it short and sweet: “I’ve really enjoyed working with you on prior projects. Would you be willing to give me a testimonial quote that I can use on my website? I can draft a quote for you and send it to you for approval.”
  • Think strategically about which clients and which quotes to use. On my testimonial page, I tried to create a good mix of clients – different industries, sizes of companies, etc. I tried to tell a specific story with each quote, illustrating the different kinds of value I added for the various types of projects. Make sure your testimonial quotes show the breadth and depth of your expertise.
  • Make it personal. Hopefully my clients’ testimonial quotes give prospective clients an idea of what it would be like to work with me – and hopefully I sound like a fun, energetic, fast-thinking, hard-working person. Testimonial quotes don’t have to be dry and “corporate.” Give your clients a chance to help you tell your story.

Getting client testimonials is another reminder of how the freelance writing business is ultimately about building relationships with people. Treat your clients right and they’ll reward you with loyalty, repeat business, referrals and testimonials.

Ben Gran is a freelance writer in Des Moines, Iowa and is a one-on-one mentoring client of Make a Living Writing’s Carol Tice. He writes blog articles, web content, marketing copy, technical writing, ghostwriting and other business writing projects for clients around the world.

P.S. Want a mentor? As it happens, Carol’s mentoring prices are going up (a lot!) at the end of this summer — and she’s booking the final few August slots at her current price now. Her 1-on-1 students get a whole year free in Freelance Writers Den…which is what makes the current price an insane value.


  1. Anne

    This is a great article. I’ll steal the idea and ask my clients I’ve edited for to write me some testimonials. 🙂 I’ve seen testimonials on other sites, but didn’t quite understand how it helped you (apart from filling up space). I know now, of course!

    As an aside: There must be some formula for getting jobs on Elance. I joined up at the beginning of last year and applied for several jobs there. I didn’t even get considered once. Naturally, I gave up and never visit the site any more.

  2. NgPillai

    Great post and this is sure inspirational for most of the new writers out there figuring out on how to make money online with their talented writing skills. Hope this post will be very useful for them.

    Great post!!

  3. Andrew Kardon

    Great piece. I’ve been meaning to bug my clients for testimonials for awhile now. I have sent out requests via LinkedIn and got a few emails from folks saying they’ll get to it, but still haven’t. This post will give me the kick in the butt to follow up with everyone through email for a quick testimonial. Thanks!

  4. Walker Thornton

    Hey Ben,
    Very cool. I’ve asked for testimonials before but this is a great reminder to keep on doing that. I work through Elance occasionally and have begun to use the references there on my bids. I plan to send out a few requests this week!
    Great to hear your success stories.

  5. Ro

    This is one of the best ideas I’ve gotten from my time with Carol as well. Nothing beats having happy clients praise you to reaffirm that you’re doing something right?

    But is there a time limit on when it’s appropriate to ask for a testimonial? For example, I did some work for a company last year – is it too late to go back to them and ask for a quick testimonial? If it’s not too late, how should I approach them? I have to admit, I’m a little nervous they won’t even remember me.

    • Carol Tice

      Oh, definitely not too late, Ro. I just say ‘Hey, I’m updating my site and realized I don’t have a testimonial from you…” Great opportunity to reconnect and maybe get another gig. I had gigs I did before LinkedIn was invented, where I later asked the editors for testimonials on LI, and they gave me great ones.

      • Cathie Ericson

        Agree that’s a great way to reconnect. When I joined LinkedIn a couple of years ago, I reached out in the same way and by letting former colleagues know I was embarking on a freelance career (after a kid-raising hiatus), it put me back on their radar and resulted in a number of projects.

  6. Page Huyette

    Very timely post. Just this week I was brainstorming on ways to take my work to the next level, and realized that I mentor a lot myself, but really don’t have my own mentor. Using testimonial requests might be a good way to sniff out some options.

  7. Barbara

    THIS is fantastic! I have bookmarked it for future reference. I need to do this – badly!

  8. Cathie Ericson

    Not only are testimonials helpful for marketing, but they keep you going too! I started a doc called “kudos” years ago and I copy and paste all those unsolicited comments I get from clients to review when I need a boost.

    Of course I have glowing “real” testimonials on my LinkedIn page, but sometimes it’s those little comments for your eyes only that bring a smile to your face.

    Here’s what I woke up to today, from a real estate client for whom I wrote an article for an industry pub:

    . “I am impressed. You’re good at making me look good. I can’t thank you enough for your help.”

    Also a good reminder to provide that kind of positive feedback to people with whom you cross paths…make THEIR day!

    • Carol Tice

      2 things — anytime you get one of those unsolicited testimonials, always respond with, “May I use this as a testimonial on my writer site?” And boom, you’re done — another testimonial in the bag.

      Also, take those ‘real’ testimonials on LI and copy them onto your writer site, too. I used to make the mistake of just having a link to those on my writer site — don’t make people go hunt for them! Sprinkle them on every page of your site.

      • Cathie Ericson

        Great ideas!

  9. J. Delancy

    Asking for testimonials is something that I’m still a little shy about. From the other comments it would seem that the problem is that freelance writers know they should do it but need help screwing up the courage to actually do it.

    • Carol Tice

      If you know you did a good job, why do you need courage? You’re just documenting the wins…pros do that. And clients understand that. Really, reach out and try it and you’ll probably see it’s just not a big problem.

  10. Ben Gran

    Thanks for the great comments, everyone! I think for me, it wasn’t that I was afraid to ask for testimonials so much as I never bothered to get around to doing it. That’s another reason why it was such a great idea to hire Carol Tice to be my mentor/coach. She helped hold me accountable for actually DOING so many of these “low-hanging fruit” marketing activities. Marketing is not rocket science, it’s often just a matter of cultivating the right energy and holding yourself accountable to get it done.

    • Carol Tice

      So happy to see how you’ve taken the mentoring advice and gone out and DONE it, Ben! The execution part is always where the difference is between earning more and not. I can help people create a marketing plan all day and identify great markets…then the people with the drive to make it happen get out there and do it. And when you tell me you made more money off my advice, honestly I’m happier than if I got a new client myself. It’s really a thrill to help people feed their families, especially in this economy.

  11. Colleen Conger

    This post couldn’t have come at a better time Ben. This past week has had me embroiled into a VERY unpleasant situation with a client that I will end up letting go. In the midst of this battle though, there was the shimmering light of another client that was over-the-top tickled pink with my work that she couldn’t wait to tell me about it over the phone. Frankly, her words of encouragement were the very thing that put the confidence back in my bones. In addition to her glowing testimonial, she even shared with me the mini elevator pitch she used with a friend of hers to showcase my talent. Be bold people. Ask for those testimonials because Ben is right, people ARE overjoyed to give them (and they will think it’s cool that their name is on your website.)

    • Carol Tice

      And, of course, a link to their website, in many cases. Often a real incentive by the clients to give testimonials…good link-building for them.

      • Colleen Conger

        You’re absolutely right Carol.

  12. LindaH

    I’ve got a tab for testimonials on my website and refer people to them all the time. I’ve also got several recommendations from clients and people I’ve mentored on my Linked In profile. Both have gotten me clients. Testimonials are the perfect marketing tool and when people come back to you, as some of my clients have, it’s even better.

    Personally, I’m starting to focus one aspect of my writing on referrals. I receive referrals from former clients, business colleagues, and people I know through personal circles. When someone likes your services enough to refer another to you that’s huge!

    Great article, Ben. You make excellent points on the importance of reconnecting with past clients and getting your name in front of people occasionally to regain exposure. Word of mouth advertising has always been the best. You’re guest blog proves it. Thanks for sharing.

  13. Rob Schneider

    You’re the first person besides myself who has something good to say about Elance. I haven’t been there for a year and a half, but owe the service a debt of gratitude for getting my career off the ground. The client testimonials I got there were a big bonus because there’s no way you can fake them.

  14. Klara

    Really useful tips and it is actually what I had been searching for. I’ve just started my new blog, and I have heard so much about the importance of linking to other freelancers. I think I should give your method a try and ask my friends for some testimonials. I unfortunately haven’t done anything like this before, so your useful tips could be very helpful for me. Thanks for sharing them!

    • Carol Tice

      Yeah, not your friends…your clients, Klara. You want testimonials from your clients, who you’ve done writing work for.

  15. Darin Spears

    This is a brilliant idea! It was a great idea to reconnect with all your old clients and they also remembered that you had done a great job for them and delivered quality, so they immediately ordered for more work!

    I have personally noted that Elance & PPH have lot better quality of work available as compared to other..

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