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How to Build Trust at Work: Freelance Edition

Nov 5, 2020
(updated: Dec 6, 2022)
Max 5 min read

With how easy it is working remotely and the push towards embracing the side-hustle, more and more professionals are seeking out ways to flex their muscles in a freelance setting. Who doesn’t enjoy being their own boss and focus on work what they’re excited about?  

One of the biggest challenges in working freelance is building trust in the workplace. Oftentimes you’re only working with your client for a short while, so you don’t have much time for building up a solid rapport. As you’re not a traditional face-to-face business, it can also feel like you’re some sort of ephemeral phantom hiding behind a screen somewhere- can they really rely on you? 

It’s for these reasons you need to go the extra mile and show that you’re deserving of their trust (and business!) 

Adding Personal Touch

Smaller businesses have great opportunities to develop personal connections with your clients and bring more thoughtful touches to your work. You’re the one having that initial conversation with them, putting in the hours, and presenting them with their final product. If they need to tweak something or they want to set up meetings, they know exactly who they need to call. Their project won’t get passed between countless employees, who don’t really understand their needs. Emphasize that you’re going to give them 100% every step of the way and that you’re available to them. Knowing that you’re on the case will build up their confidence in you and your service. 

Power of References

In today’s world, it’s been built into us to seek out reviews before any sort of commitment. Want some pad thai? What’s rated well on Yelp? Want a good movie? What’s got a solid score on Rotten Tomatoes? The same principles apply within business.  

Don’t be afraid of asking satisfied clients for feedback. Did you connect with them? Do they trust the quality of your work? These are the experiences you want to highlight for prospective clients. They will be more likely to take the leap into a partnership with you, knowing that your previous clients walked away satisfied. Once you have built trust at work, it’s also easier to ask for referrals.

Share Your Portfolio

For customers who feel that actions are louder than words - your website should include a portfolio. You want them to see the quality of your work and how well you can adapt to each client’s unique needs (including their own).  

Have your portfolio include projects that highlight success metrics like timeliness, creativity, flexibility, and dedication. You don’t want them to scour the internet for breadcrumbs to understand what they’re paying for. The sooner you can get them to build trust in your brand, the sooner you can lock in a new partnership. 

Reduce Your Risk 

Every professional partnership you enter entails some level of risk. The best way of mitigating that risk, and foster a trusting work environment is by providing some level of protection for your client. Maybe you provide your client with a low-risk payment plan: half-now/half-later, payment upon completion, or payment at particular milestones. Another option could be enlisting a middle-man to handle the financial exchange, who can be an advocate for both parties. 

A non-disclosure agreement (NDA), is a great way to give your clients added security and illustrate your legitimacy. Knowing that important information will be kept safe is a fantastic way to gain their trust. By being open-minded and providing solutions, you may win over a wavering client.  

Communication and Transparency

Perhaps the most important way for building a trusting workplace relationship is communicating often and embracing transparency. In your initial conversations with the client, set up a plan for how often you’ll check-in with each other. Do they need a weekly check-in or do they want concise and limited communications? Not every client will have the same communication patterns, and by adjusting your style, they’ll feel more prepared to let you take the lead. 

Call when you say you will, respond in a timely manner, and get the project done in a reasonable timeframe - this inspires confidence in your reliability. You might also consider using project management software, like Trello, to give clients a visual representation of your progress. This will reduce the need for unnecessary check-ins and give them a way to track your progress. 

A Trustworthy Working Relationship

With the unstructured nature of freelancing, you need to go the extra mile to foster a trustworthy work environment and your own credibility. Embrace opportunities to engage on a more personal level with your clients and build up those relationships through communication and transparency. Strategize ways that set a level playing field and reduce the perception of risk in your business dealings. Highlight the type of work you’ll provide through concrete examples and feedback. With these tools, your clients can be confident you’re coming from a place of integrity and that they can rely on your business. 

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