Editor’s note: This is a contributed post by Wes McDowell, a web designer at The Deep End in Los Angeles. In addition to client work, he has authored several books for freelance designers, and co-hosts a popular graphic design podcast called ‘The Deeply Graphic DesignCast.’ Follow Wes on Google+
If there is any one component that factors into a good working relationship, it is trust. A boss wants to be able to trust his employees, and vice versa. This holds especially true for freelancers. If you can get your clients to trust you, the road will much easier to navigate.
They will be more receptive to your creative ideas; they will be less likely to question your invoices; they will be much more likely to hire you again for their next project. Building trust is something that takes time, but by taking the following steps, you can be on the fast track on the ‘highway of trust.’
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To trust someone is to know someone. While it can be difficult to truly get to know your clients, and let them to get to know you, this can be simulated pretty effectively. By allowing them into your space to see how and where you work, you are stepping out of the shadows, so to speak.
You can do this in-person if you work in an actual office space. Invite them over for the initial consultation, or for the kickoff meeting before beginning the project. You can show them around, and they will get a sense of what it is you do there.
Working From Home
If you are like most freelancers and you happen to work from home, then I would not recommend having clients over in person. However, there is another way of letting clients get a peek behind the curtain: make a video.
Read Also: 30 Video Editing Software And Online Tools
I have several videos sprinkled around my portfolio site, and they all work toward the same end — to let clients see where I work and what I do there. The video on my homepage serves as a warm welcome for all visitors to my site. It could be the middle of the night, but I am still there to greet them.
Tell Your Story
On my portfolio pages, I have a series of videos featuring ‘success stories’ depicting the process of different projects from start to finish. These videos all give a sense of place, (so clients know I’m not working in a storage locker somewhere), and show not only what I do, but how I have helped other clients just like them.
After watching a few of these videos, prospective clients feel as if they have met me, which is a great start to building trust.
Take an Interest in Their Business
Before beginning a new project, you probably ask a lot of questions about your client’s business. This is standard practice, and you need this information to make informed decisions. But why not take it a step further and actually visit your client’s business?
Ask to be shown around. Meet some of the employees.
In doing so, you will have a much clearer picture of the business, and where your client is coming from. And in almost all cases, they will appreciate you going the extra mile. And the best part is, while you are there getting to know them, they are getting to know you at the same time.
All For One, One For All
One of the most important ways you can build trust with a client is to adopt the mindset that you and they are in this together. Make sure they know that your success is theirs, and their failure is yours. Getting this point across can actually be quite simple: just use the words ‘we’ and ‘our.’
- "If we add the main call-to-action on the left just under the logo, we will see a much higher click-through rate."
- "I would love to hear your feedback on this phase of our project."
Involving the client, and showing such an ownership of the project will show your client that you are working from the inside, rather than just as a contractor that will come and go once the project is over.
Watch Their Money
No client wants to be taken advantage of financially, and it is this fear that can really get in the way of trust between two parties. Once your client knows that you can be trusted to provide great service for the agreed-upon price, trust begins to form.
The obvious message here is to always stick within the set budget for the project. If the scope changes because of a client request, always let them know how the scope change will affect the final price before going through with the additional work. You want them to see that you are being responsible with their money.
Don’t Need It, Would You Like To Skip It?
Another way of showing this is to always be honest with your client about needless expenses. For instance, maybe a web design client is asking for a functionality that is expensive, but unnecessary. The easy (and tempting) response would be to just go with their request. After all, it’s more money in your pocket, and they request it.
But if you want to earn some extra trust, you would want to be direct. Tell them that the expense would not likely be worth the cost in terms of results. Even if they want it anyway, the fact that you were willing to take less money to save them some will make them take notice that you are keeping their bottom line in mind.
Ask For a Testimonial
Once the project is complete, hopefully you have already earned your client’s trust. But there is still one more thing you can do to reaffirm their positive feelings: ask them for a testimonial. Actually, I am getting ahead of myself here. Rather than asking for a testimonial, ask your client to fill out a feedback survey.
This survey should ask specific questions about how they think the project went. Each question should cover a different aspect of the project, and should elicit a positive response. Remembering how well the process went and how much they enjoyed working with you, and putting it on paper will only cement the experience in their mind, making it much more likely that they will call you the next time they need anything.
And asking for their opinion suggests that you value it. Another big checkmark in your favor.
Once the survey is filled out, thank your client for taking the time, and then ask if they mind if you use it as a testimonial on your website. In my experience, they are always flattered, and always say yes to the request.
So now you have one satisfied client who trusts you, and a testimonial that you can put on your site in order to gain the trust of your next client. And the circle of trust continues.