• Advice

Want to work better? Let your clients see what you're cooking up

In my experience, I’ve found that really getting to know my editors and readers makes me write more honestly and genuinely. When I’m familiar with who’s dealing with my work, I make better stuff. Turns out it’s universal: new research reveals that transparency between customer and maker not only improves the relationship, but improves the product itself.

And yes, I literally mean transparency.

According to research recently covered in the Harvard Business Review, cooks make tastier food when they can see their customers. Researchers set up different kitchen environments with differing levels of transparency between chef and customer. An observer sat inside the kitchen, taking notes on food quality and service. And lo and behold: when the cooks were able to see their customers, their cooking got better.

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This effect was pronounced even though the cooks could only see their customers via iPad. It was small changes -- making eggs to order instead of leaving them on the grill, and faster service -- but subtle changes add up. Similarly, customers in an additional study rated service higher when they could see their sandwiches being made, even though it meant standing in line.

“Being appreciated makes work meaningful. People feel what they do matters. Human connections seem to trigger that,” says Ryan Buell, one of the study’s main researchers.

And the effect isn’t just in food service -- previous research shows that websites that show the work they do to improve their users’ experience are valued more than ones that don’t. (Of course, if you’re a freelancer who does cook for work, come hang out in the Health and Wellness Hive!)

Clearly, it’s best for freelancers to take an active approach when communicating with clients. Here are a few ways:

  • Use an app like Toggl, which allows you to show exactly how much time you spent doing what
  • Have regular videochat check-ins
  • Or, send along updates with process shots of what you’re doing.

What do you think? How do you create transparency with your clients? Or are you more the kind who likes to be left alone? Come talk about it the Freelance Lifestyle: Best Practices Hive!

Larissa Pham is an artist and writer based in Brooklyn, New York.