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5 Awesome referral-generating email templates for freelancers

Table of ContentsUpdated Oct 20, 2014

Asking for referrals can be pretty nerve-wracking. The good news: If you do it right, you only have to do it once (per client).

That’s the biggest value this post has to offer you. It gives you a process that you can follow to get referrals…but it also gives your clients a process to follow to refer people to you in the future.

UPDATE: You can now download this script + 14 more proven templates for getting new clients, following up, and building your business—all for just $5.

I hate to use the word “training,” but essentially that’s what you’re doing: conditioning your clients to think of you as someone to send business to, as well as how they should do it. It’s really not as sinister as it sounds though. I swear! 🙂

In this case, the referral process you’re teaching them is:

  • Think of someone like yourself who could use my services
  • Send my website their way with a few kind words
  • Get [insert gift] for every friend who ends up hiring me

I like this route because I absolutely hate “cold calling” people – almost as much as they hate to be cold called! This process removes that insanely uncomfortable step.

The referral gets to scope you out and contact you on their terms. By the time they’ve contacted you, they’re already sold on you. After all, they checked out your portfolio, your sales message, and they liked it all enough to reach out. They’re as qualified a prospect as they come.

Makes sense, right?

That also means you have to have a good website for this to work though. If you need help with that, check out this post.

I’ve found the best time is right after you’ve knocked it out of the park with a finished project. Your client is glowing with happiness that the thing is done and beyond their expectations. They’re grateful and, like all of us, they want somewhere to channel that gratitude.

Why not channel it into a referral? Here are a few templates you can use:

1. Casual & Friendly Referral Ask

First up, I’ve got a really conversational and friendly email script to ask for referrals from clients. It doesn’t always have to be so formal all the time. If you have a good relationship with your client, then ask them a bit like you might as a friend using this script:

Hey [client name],

I’m so glad you’re happy with the latest [website / logo / brochure / etc.]. I’m extremely passionate about what I do, so knowing you’re happy made my day.

Actually, it’s because of this, that I was wondering if I could ask your help in something…

It’s my goal to help as many businesses as I can to grow and flourish through beautiful design. So I was wondering if you knew of any other businesses who could use my help?

I know how much people hate getting “cold called,” so if anyone comes to mind, do you think you could just send my website their way with a few kind words and ask them to contact me?

I’d be extremely grateful.

And of course, as your friends, they’d get the royal treatment. 😉

Also, as a more concrete way of saying thanks, I’d love to give you [insert some kind of gift here: % discount, business card design, etc.] for every person who ends up hiring me.

It’s just a small token of appreciation, as referrals are one of the biggest things that keep me afloat.

Anyways, once again I’m glad you’re so happy, and I can’t wait until our next project together.



2. Formal & Professional Referral Ask

If you have a bit more of a formal relationship with your client, maybe this more formal and professional email script is needed to get the kinds of referrals your looking for.

Dear [Client Name],

I hope this email finds you well. I wanted to take a moment to express my gratitude for the opportunity to work with you on [insert project]. I enjoyed collaborating with you and appreciate your trust in me.

As you know, referrals are an important part of my business, and I would be grateful if you could refer me to anyone in your network who could benefit from my services. I strive to provide the same high level of service to all of my clients, and I would love to work with more people like you.

If you could think of anyone who might benefit from my services, please don’t hesitate to share my contact information with them. I would be happy to answer any questions they may have or schedule a call to discuss their needs further.

Thank you again for your business and for considering this request. I look forward to the opportunity to work with more great clients like you.

Best regards,

[Your Name]


3. A Shorter Referral Ask Email

If you’ve got a client who likes to “get to the point already” then this shorter email might work better:

Hi [Client Name],

I hope you’re doing well. It was a pleasure working with you on [insert project]. I’m reaching out today to ask if you know of anyone who might need my services.

If you have any friends or colleagues who could benefit from what I offer, I would greatly appreciate it if you could refer them to me. I’m always looking to expand my network and work with more great people.

Thank you for considering my request, and please let me know if you have any questions or need anything else from me.

Best regards,

[Your Name]


4. Offering a Finder’s Fee for Each Referral

Some people need a bit of financial incentive to send you referrals. If you think you’re talking to someone who falls in that category, try adding this script that talks a bit more about a potential financial upside for anyone who sends you a referral.

Dear [Client Name],

I hope this email finds you well. I wanted to reach out today to discuss a potential opportunity for us to work together again. As you know, referrals are an important part of my business, and I’m always looking to expand my network.

If you know of anyone who could benefit from my services, I would be grateful if you could refer them to me. As a thank-you for any successful referrals, I offer a finder’s fee of [insert amount or percentage] of the project value.

I understand that referrals are a personal matter, and I appreciate any effort you make to help me grow my business. If you’re interested in this opportunity or have any questions, please let me know.

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

Best regards,

[Your Name]


5. Proposing to be Referral Partners

And finally, if you want to try setting up a network of referral partners, then this script is a good starting point. It essentially offers a trade: I’ll send you referrals if you send me referrals too.

Hi [Recipient Name],

I hope you’re doing well. I wanted to reach out today to discuss a potential referral partnership between our businesses.

As you know, referrals are a great way to grow our businesses, and I believe that we could benefit from each other’s networks. I would be happy to refer any clients who may need your services, and I’m hoping that you could do the same for me.

By working together in this way, we can help each other expand our networks and generate more business. If this is something that interests you, please let me know, and we can discuss the details further.

Thank you for considering this opportunity, and I look forward to hearing back from you.

Best regards,

[Your Name]


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Written by David Tendrich

Staff at

David Tendrich is the co-head of creative agency Unexpected Ways, as well as the co-founder of Reliable PSD: the first-ever PSD to HTML & PSD to Wordpress service run by designers, for designers. He co-runs his companies from Portland, Oregon with his lovely wife and biz partner, Lou Levit.

David's Articles

Reviewed & edited by Preston Lee, Editor at Millo.

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  1. Stephanie Fauvelle says:


  2. Hello David
    We are a photoshop Company in India how can we attract
    overseas clients.
    Best regards

  3. Debbie Carter says:

    Not so sure i’d say Hey either, but in the business we are in, Travel, maybe the greeting from where they have travelled to would be more appropriate eg Bula, Bonjour etc
    Like the letter idea, Maybe not quite so flowery, but good call.

  4. PaulJeromeNY says:

    IMO, too much text. But in general good article / recommendation.

  5. TimothyDempsey says:

    I’ll definitely implement this soon, but what do you recommend the “subject” field of the email contain? Should I include the word “referral” at that point? I’m thinking “yes”.
    Thanks for writing this… PS the link to add a comment “Leave them in the comments” is broken.

  6. The debate on formal/informal communication with clients is always an interesting one. I think it mainly comes down to knowing your client and writing acordingly.

    This template would be a good starting point for any client.

  7. I agree, I changed hey to hi and have sent off to 4 corporate company clients I have just finished websites for and have had an awesome response! I offered a free page added to their website. I did tweak some of the wording to suit each client so it sounded like me writing. But thanks, such a great way of getting referals!

    Love your newsletters!

    1. David Tendrich says:

      Hey Lauren, that is #sickawesome #radical!! lol

      Way to take fast action. That’s how it’s done 😉

  8. Sweet! I love it, totally grabbed that and saving it for later. I agree there’s nothing at all wrong with saying “Hey”. I have some clients that I’ll just email with a subject of “Yo”. How you word your emails doesn’t make you professional, being professional is about getting the job done. Thanks David!

    1. Totally agree with you too Eddie. I do the same thing with my subject lines! haha
      In fact, I think it works 10x better, because you not only establish that relaxed working relationship, but in many cases a friendship with your clients. So down the road when they hear of someone who may need your services, who are they going to refer… their friend. It’s win/win.

      1. David Tendrich says:

        Yep, been there too 😉

        Along with… “LOL”, “!?!?!?”, “HOLY cow”, and many more.

  9. That’s a really great template! Thanks so much for sharing.

  10. Stephanie says:

    This is a great idea and letter. The only thing that would not want me to pass this referral on or use this designer again, if I received this letter, is the greeting. “Hey” is no way to greet anyone except a close friend. I get this from interns and younger “professionals” all the time. It shows me the opposite of what that person is trying to project. You are not a professional when you speak to a potential client, a colleague, a supervisor or anyone whose respect you are trying to gain, with the most informal of tones.

    1. David Tendrich says:

      Hey Stephanie, with all due respect, I have to disagree. I’m a big fan of fostering warmth and friendliness with clients, and in making interactions low-pressure and easy-going.

      Professionalism comes through in how you do what you do, being on time, being responsive and communicative, over-delivering on value and your promises, and going the extra mile. It’s not a greeting in an email.

      Just my 2 cents, but this approach has been critical to me achieving my goals in business, and in life.

      I respect your approach though, and don’t think there’s one definitive right answer to this. I think we all have to lean towards our strengths. If this approach doesn’t lean towards yours, I wouldn’t suggest it.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts, I really appreciate it,

      1. I would have to agree with David on this one too. I’ve always found that businesses I’ve worked with appreciate the personal touch and friendlier tone rather than stiff ‘business speak’.
        As cliche as it may sound, I always try to work with the mindset that ‘People buy from people.’ Which I’ve always found that establishing that friendlier tone helps put your client or customer at ease and ultimately makes for a much more relaxed and productive work relationship.

        Again, just my two cents as well, as I’m sure many successful designers do things the complete opposite of me and do it well. As David mentioned though, there’s no real right or wrong answer here, more a matter of what works for your brand & business.

        1. Ryan Tomlinson says:

          I have to agree as well, at least for me. Call me crazy, but I even use smiley faces with my customers.

          I have many close relationships with my customers that are now more like good friends. That personal touch has lead to referrals and repeat business.

      2. Linda Antonietti says:

        I think that you have to know your audience personally in order to send correspondence with a “HEY.” Otherwise, a more professional greeting will be a better fit for a larger group. Did you see Mark Cuban on Shark Tank explain to someone in the tank that he would not do business with him because he said “hey” You can never go wrong with being professional, but you can turn someone off with being too informal or using slang, especially someone who is not a millennial.

    2. Desirée Mae Forgét says:

      It all depends on the client and the type of designing you’re doing. It would be a bit awkward for me to send an overly professional email to a client of a psych rock band if their tone of communication is very chill and easygoing, which is also how I brand myself. It’s all about the kind of people you want to attract! If you’re wanting to work bigger business professional clients then yes, you would most likely need to use more a more formal style of communication but that isn’t how it is for everyone. 🙂

      Thanks for sharing the template!

    3. Nicodhia Paul says:

      I agree, Stephanie.