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When working as an independent contractor or freelancer, you don't always work with the same person for an extended period of time. This leads to a lot of new faces, new relationships, and new concerns.
Chief among these concerns, from the buyer’s perspective, is trust. How can I, as someone hiring you to complete my project, trust that you know what you’re doing and will do it well?
For us, this question is the first and largest hurdle to cross. It is the one that you must pass in order to even get a foot in the door. Luckily there are many ways that you can earn a client’s, or potential client’s, trust even before meeting with them.
A resume is how we demonstrate to potential employers our qualifications and experience, so why not to potential clients. When first starting out, a resume may be all that you have available to you. There are plenty of guides out there on how to write an effective resume, I encourage you to go look at them. The benefit of showing a resume is that you are able to quickly adjust and tailor a resume to its recipient. The resume demonstrates that you have experience in your field, though you may not be able to share as much detail about the work you have completed.
A good portfolio is a great way to demonstrate expertise and gain client trust. Showing potential clients that you have provided others with the same services they are in need of is one of the easiest and most beneficial tools.
But you must take care when creating the portfolio. It must be carefully curated to send the proper message. If you want to promote yourself as an excellent painter, you don’t want to include all of your sculptures in your portfolio. You need to hone your portfolio to target the specific services you want to offer. A portfolio can be created without having any clients, all you need is the time and ability to create and complete a project on your own.
Unfortunately not all services are easily translated into a portfolio. An accountant is not going to post their ledgers on a portfolio, and no one is looking for them to do that. Even if you can create a portfolio it is only a single piece in the puzzle.
Once you have a client or two it is imperative to request a testimonial. Testimonials show that someone has put their trust in you and, hopefully, they have been rewarded by your excellent work. A testimonial allows you clients to, in their own words, describe the experience and results of working with you. No matter what your service is, a positive testimonial is an invaluable tool in the effort to gain trust.
Certifications and Licenses
Last on my list, but of course not least in importance, are Certifications and Licenses. Professional certifications, from well known and respected sources, demonstrate knowledge and know-how. Key to this is that the source of the certification must be well known and respected in the field that the certification is offered. A certification requires no clients, no projects, only mastery a skillset or body of knowledge. A certification proves to potential clients that they are dealing with a person who has taken the time and effort to master their craft and have been recognized by the subject matter experts as having mastered it. This proof provides peace of mind for the potential client in the knowledge that you have the ability to accomplish the requirements of their project.
Similarly, a license offered by the appropriate governing board illustrates that you are able to execute the operations required by law. You have an understanding of the implications of your work, the regulations attached to the work, and the continuing improvement in that field required to keep that license.
Micromanagement and other forms of heavy client oversight are symptoms of a lack of trust in you to perform your duties. Earning a client’s trust will lead to a much more successful relationship between you and your clients. There are many ways to build their trust, the most beneficial of which is through successful completion of projects together. Before you can get to that point, you have to gain an initial level of trust that will persuade them to work with you.
Gaining that initial trust is most commonly done by providing historical context to your work through resumes, portfolios, testimonials, and certifications or licenses.
Chris is a Mechanical Engineer and Designer. He is one of four owners of Design Build Consulting LLC, an independent design firm in Raleigh NC.