When you are a new freelancer, your website can look like a ghost town – even the most beautiful programming and design cannot overcome a lack of reviews or user engagement.

What do you do if you are in this position? You know you have a lot to offer customers, but you don’t have the social credibility and testimonials to back you up. Here are some crucial tips:

Do Not Lie

Most importantly, do not post fake reviews or pay for fake reviews. These testimonials are easy to spot and you will most likely get called out. Do not say that you have been working in the field for longer than you actually have been, and don’t fabricate customer experiences.

Building your business on dishonesty is extremely unstable. The reviews will come, but it will take time as you gradually accrue new, happy customers.

On the other hand, don’t advertise the fact that you are new.

You do not have to announce that you are brand new on the scene. Even if your website looks bare without reviews, testimonials, and interaction, you can still create an aura of experience with the careful (and honest) use of language.

Express your expertise. Write blog posts on topics that you understand extremely well. Create free content. Be clear on your message and method, and do your best to sound like an experienced expert without infringing on your integrity.

Then, share your content with friends and family so that you can start to build your social media following and e-mail list.

Even though you will eventually want to focus primarily on organic leads and referrals, asking your friends and family to support your business by following it on social media and sharing your blog posts can go a long way to create an organic following.

Even if it’s your aunt commenting on your blog post, not everyone knows that. A comment is a comment!

Offer your services to friends free or at a steep discount, in exchange for referrals.

This allows you to create social credibility, puts your work out there, and helps you to possibly gain referrals. Remember, doing work for friends will put you “out there,” and others who see your work will not know that you did it for free!

Providing professional services for friends (within certain reasonable limits) can help you to gain confidence and expertise in your field, so that you are an even more capable professional when you work with real clients. If your friends are happy with your services, they can post a review, but remember to ask for this with sensitivity and tact.

Initially set your price lower.

At the beginning of your freelance career, it may be worth it to value your work at a lower rate initially, in order to get the customer reviews and credibility that you need. Then ask for more.

Is it likely that you will work with a less-committed, lower quality of client? Absolutely. However, a client is a client, and as soon as you have enough experience, you can upgrade your services and charge more to reflect your experience.

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William Lipovsky owns the personal finance website First Quarter Finance. His most embarrassing moment was telling a Microsoft executive, "I'll just Google it."

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