Trust is the foundation of a good client/designer relationship. It provides confidence and security to everyone involved. Without it, there is no means to achieve any sort of comfort level or positive productivity.
Just about every freelancer has a story about an untrustworthy client. Someone who promised the moon and delivered significantly less. Perhaps they weren’t truthful about their ability to pay or put you through one bad situation after another.
But trust is a two-way street. Web designers have a part to play in terms of gaining the trust of clients as well. It’s necessary for both successful project outcomes and staying in business over the long haul. If your clients don’t feel they can trust you – it’s going to be a bumpy ride.
So, how do you gain the trust of a client? Here are some tips for building a solid foundation.
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Be Yourself: Warts and All
Sometimes it can feel like you need to put on a show for certain clients. You want to prove that you know what you’re talking about. Yet, trying too hard can come off as inauthentic.
It’s understandable – especially for those of us who are a bit shy or early on in our careers. In an effort to impress someone, you might throw all sorts of technical jargon into the conversation – even if it’s relatively meaningless. Or panic to the point of making up answers when asked a tough question.
Eventually, this type of talk will catch up with you. For example, assuring someone that you can do a project within their budget and then repeatedly asking for more money. A client will start to question whether they can trust anything you say.
All told, you’re better off being your authentic self instead of trying to know all the things. Offer honest assessments and don’t be afraid to admit when you aren’t sure about something. Your personality will shine through and you’ll be more likely to be seen as an honest broker.
You’ll find that most clients don’t expect you to be perfect. Rather, they’re looking for someone they can count on.
Deliver on Promises
Remember that aforementioned client who couldn’t deliver? You’d be quite disappointed to deal with someone like that. Well, clients feel the same about untrustworthy web designers. And nothing erodes trust faster than consistently breaking promises.
While the size of the promise matters, even the tiniest ones can have negative consequences. It should go without saying that meeting agreed-upon deadlines and budgets are of great importance. But even little things, like a missed follow-up communication you promised, can also add up.
The rule here is to do what you say you’re going to do. And if you’re unable to make it happen, hold yourself accountable.
This is also a good time to bring up the subject of reality. One of the best ways to keep your promises is to make sure they’re realistic. Claiming, for example, that you can build a killer new feature in a day is going to set you up for failure.
It is far better to be honest with both your client and yourself. And it doesn’t hurt to add a healthy buffer to things like deadlines.
If you think a project will take two weeks, tell your client it could take three. Complete the project before then and you’ll look like you’re ahead of the game.
Make Yourself Available and Approachable
Imagine an emergency where you aren’t able to make satisfactory contact with the people who can help. There’s a fire, but you can only reach the fire department’s voicemail. Or you report a burglary only to be yelled at by the police dispatcher.
OK, perhaps these examples are a bit extreme. But you get the idea. There are times when we all have questions or need help.
The simple act of being there for your clients is more important than you may think. They won’t feel left in the cold when they need your expertise. Plus, knowing that they can reach out to you builds trust and confidence in your relationship.
Being a good listener and non-judgmental are also trustworthy traits. If a client can reach you but feels ignored or belittled, the communication won’t be a positive one.
You don’t have to be unbearably cheerful – just calm and polite. Make them feel reassured that you understand what they’re saying (ask questions if you need clarification) and treat them with respect. It may sound small, but can make a large impact.
Trust Takes Time
By nature, some people are more trusting than others. But just because a client shows a measure of trust in the beginning of a relationship doesn’t mean it will last. It must continue to be earned over time.
It’s not only worth working towards in a moral sense, but as a practical one as well. A client’s trust can mean not having to haggle over every last detail. And it can allow you to work on projects without an overbearing presence looking over your shoulder (virtually, of course). Not much can get done without it.
The best part of this is that earning trust doesn’t take a massive effort on your part. It may be a matter of cleaning up an unproductive habit or two. The rewards will be well worth it.