Okay, I’m not a doctor. I don’t even play one on TV. But I’ll tell you what, my clients trust me. And this advice on trust could be CPR for your freelance career.
Being trustworthy isn’t just about honesty – basic human decency is a given. (But if you’re tempted to cheat with numbers, even a little, you should know that it will leave a smell that will put others off, even though you enjoy it.) It’s about earning the faith your clients place in you.
And that’s easy! If you have solid skills and you behave with integrity, you have what it takes to build long-term client relationships. When you win trust, you win everything.
Here’s what your clients really want from you:
Keep your word, even if it’s stupid
Always deliver what you promise – even if it means working way harder and without adequate compensation. If you said you’d do it, your integrity is on the line. Go back on your word and I guarantee that you will lose the client.
To avoid the situation, don’t make promises on the spot. Tell your client that you will think about it and come back with a well-considered estimate.
Resist the need to act like a “creative type”
Be on time. Meet deadlines. Act in a professional manner, without outbursts or inappropriate comments/questions/jokes. If you feel the need to express yourself, wear Star Wars undies. Showing up late or high doesn’t say you’re creative, it says you can’t be trusted.
From your demeanour to your personal hygiene, it’s all about being wonderfully predictably boringly reliable.
For god’s sake, listen
Occasionally in a meeting I get so enthusiastic that my ideas light up like firecrackers — I have to toss them out immediately, no matter who’s talking! Last time that happened I interrupted the vice president of a major retail chain, who then glared at me disapprovingly. My bad.
Listening is smarter. It’s how you get the information you need and how you build relationships. Besides, listeners appear contemplative and in control.
Mm-mm! Love that humble pie
When you’ve shared your work – or your opinion– and been shot down, back away. The more you seek approval or the more you need to be right, the needier you appear. That’s not just a hindrance to progress, it’s childish. So eat that humble pie and say, “Thank you very much.”
Your job is to make life easier for your client, who is privy to information, insight and politics that you are blissfully ignorant of. An argumentative freelancer makes everything harder.
Dance with the one that brung ya
Loyalty, man! You want it, you gotta give it. So don’t schmooze your clients’ coworkers and colleagues – especially while you’re working for them. Stay focused on the job at hand, and when it’s done, ask your client how she’d feel if you approached other prospects within the organization.
If you can’t say anything nice…
Gossip is a virus that destroys teams and teamwork. Spreading it is bad judgment and makes you a detriment to successful business. So if someone whispers something deliciously vicious in your ear and you’re tempted to pass it on, stop. That “beep…beep… beep” you hear is the sound of a transport truck about to back into your career path.
Let it go. When you get involved you take sides, and freelancers can’t afford to make enemies.
Being trustworthy means doing a good job and being a good human. Sure, show off your smarts. But you’re not promoting yourself to the fullest if you’re not taking every opportunity to demonstrate your character and professionalism.