For many party planners, hiring a performer or vendor is like finding a doctor or babysitter after moving to a new town. Just because you are new in town doesn't mean you will hire the first doctor you find in the Yellow Pages. You are going to do your research first and so will clients looking to hire entertainment.
There is very little that can build trust quicker and sell your services better than a reference from a past client. Having a satisfied client vouch for your talent and professionalism will trump nearly everything else.
So how can find someone willing to be a reference?
Turn clients into rabid fans and friends who trust you and will rave about you every chance they get.
Getting on the phone with a stranger to talk about an entertainer may seem like a lot to ask of a past client but if you went above and beyond, they will be happy to do it. Just be polite and courteous and flexible and give an amazing performance.
You were going to do all that anyway, right?
Now you probably shouldn't ask every client for referrals, only those with whom you really feel you made a connection (though you should get feedback from every client. Written feedback isn't the same as a personalized referral, but can still be quite persuasive).
Have references helped you land gigs? Let us know your tips for scoring references by leaving a comment below: