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  • Writer's pictureSusan Carr

A squirrel with trust issues

Apparently, squirrels have trust issues. While they have adapted to dealing with humans in urban areas and find them unthreatening, they are still typically timid in their interactions with us as a species.


This level of mistrust is becoming increasingly evident as I try to engage with Howard. If I make one wrong move while bringing him breakfast or working outside, he bolts, stops to sniff the air, and stares at me until he deems it safe to return to his meal.


I'm not exactly sure how to earn Howard's trust. I guess I was spoiled with Bertrand's welcoming demeanor.


But, there is hope, and I've found it in another creature.


Jasper Cat is not the world's most trusting domesticated feline. In fact, in his 17 years on this planet, he's probably only had complete trust in one human being, The Husband, and even sometimes that trust can wane.


But lately Jasper Cat has been spending a bit more time with his humans. He gets up on the couch with us every evening if we happen to be sitting and watching TV or a movie. He doesn't snuggle, and he's definitely not a lap cat, but he does tend to lean against one or both of our legs and sleeps contentedly while accepting the occasional furry head rub.


Last week he decided I was trustworthy enough and apparently still and quiet enough to be graced with his presence on the futon in my office.



And then yesterday, I was very calmly doing some sewing while sitting on the futon, and he sauntered over, jumped up, and proceeded to curl up in a little ball and take a quick nap. I was both shocked and grateful that he decided I was a human worthy of his trust.



Trust is a big deal in the world of freelancing.

Your clients need to trust that you'll:

  • Meet the agreed-upon deadline

  • Provide the service you said you would

  • Give them quality in that service

  • Not ghost them before project completion

  • Listen to their feedback

In the same regard, you trust that the client will:

  • Provide you with a detailed scope of the project

  • Not completely alter the scope of the project midway through without discussing

  • Pay for your services in a timely fashion and at the agreed-upon rate

  • Be available for questions and feedback

  • Provide you with either a good review or testimonial at project completion

These interactions with a squirrel and a cat got me thinking about how a freelancer earns the trust of their clients.


After some research, I found these traits are absolutely necessary:


Authenticity

We are becoming more accustomed to seeing the world as real or fake. With so many influencer marketing strategies, hoaxes, and false realities having a bright light shone on them, individual authenticity is key to building long-term, steady client relationships.


James H. Gilmore, in his book Authenticity: What Consumers Really Want, brings up a good point about Starbucks which I find very appropriate since I am such a huge lover of coffee.


Starbucks earns several dollars for every cup of coffee, over and above the few cents the beans are worth, precisely because it has learned to stage a distinctive coffee-drinking experience centered in the ambiance of each place... That task has become harder and harder, however, as Starbucks has grown from one shop in Seattle to over 13,000 venues around the world, for nothing kills authenticity like ubiquity. The success of Starbucks no longer depends on its operational prowess or taste superiority; it lies solely in sustaining coffee drinkers' perception of the Starbucks experience as authentic.


Bottom line: Don't oversell or blow up your accomplishments. Honestly represent yourself and what you provide, and have the portfolio to back it up.


Commitment

Do you tell a client you will meet their deadline and miss it? Regardless of the reason, even though many clients are extremely understanding when emergencies happen, how about on a normal basis? Are you standing by your commitment to providing a service or a product by the promised date?


But client commitment is not just about delivering on time. It's also about how your product or service will help your client long-term. I regularly ask for feedback from my clients who I edit content for. I am consistently seeking to improve the quality of my services to them. This past week, I specifically asked one of the agencies I work for if the final pieces we were delivering met client expectations.


Once you have the commitment, you need the discipline and hard work to get you there.

Haile Gebrselassie


Communication

Lack of consistent communication can derail a client/freelancer partnership. Communication that doesn't provide needed clarification can upend a project. And questions left unanswered can delay timelines and ultimately see a contract canceled.


Maintaining open lines of communication with your clients is imperative for a mutually beneficial relationship.

  • If you sent an email 26 hours ago and need an answer to move forward in your work, send a follow-up email.

  • If you are unsure of what a person meant in an email you received, respectfully ask for clarification.

  • If you cannot meet a deadline because of a family emergency or illness, reach out sooner rather than later.

  • Don't assume your client remembers that you reached out to them. With people wearing so many different hats, it's easy for something to slip the mind.

I've had a pretty good run with the clients I have worked with as a freelancer. I try to follow my own advice and be my authentic self, commit and follow through, and keep communication flowing for optimal productivity.


Maybe one day, Howard will trust me like he trusts his new breakfast companion.


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