by I quit Medium

Getting hired as a freelancer comes down to one thing: trust.

When I ask freelancers what they think is the most important factor in landing a client project, they usually respond:

  • having a lot of experience
  • having a great portfolio
  • being familiar with the latest tools

But those considerations are secondary. It really just comes down to one thing: trust.

When a client decides to hire you, trust is all that matters. Can you be trusted to deliver high-quality work, meet deadlines — and above all — not run off with their money?

That’s what they’re really asking themselves every time they ask you a question.

Think back to the last time you bought a pair of shoes, ordered at a restaurant, or made any type of decision with your hard-earned cash.

You looked for the best option. You looked for clues to help you feel good about your decision.

To establish trust, you have to understand the client’s fears deeply.

Just like when you bought your last pair of Nike’s, your client also wants to know that they made the right decision.

It’s your job to help convince them that they did.

Clients are afraid they’ll pick an incompetent freelancer. That the person they hire will be wrong for the job. Or heck, that they’ll get outright scammed.

Make these fears go away completely, and you make getting the job a lot easier for yourself.

Once trust is there, the rest feels natural.

That first mockup you submitted suddenly has potential. Your process suddenly exhibits an air of expertise. Even your missed deadlines will go over a lot smoother, because they’ll trust that you know what you’re doing and that you’re working as fast as possible.

Put as much effort into demonstrating your trustworthiness as you put into demonstrating your skills and past work.

When I look at freelance portfolios, very few of them are optimized to show trustworthiness.

From what I can tell, every designer and developer obsesses over their design and code — but not even one tenth of them spend time considering how trustworthy their portfolio makes them appear to clients.

If you spend more time thinking about how to best show clients that they can trust you, you’ll get a lot more calls back from prospects, and ultimately more referrals.

So how do you communicate trust? Here are some key approaches.

Highlight the names of past clients that are most recognizable, which best signal you can handle important projects.

Your work itself is the first step toward demonstrating you can be trusted. It shows that other companies have trusted you in the past, and that they were right to do so.

Don’t make the mistake of organizing your portfolio by type of work. Instead, organize it by client, and highlight the company name.

Example:

Brad Smith of Codeless Interactive highlights a recent Hilton project at the bottom of his emails. This makes clients think, “Wow, Brad’s working with Hilton? I’m sure he can handle my project.”

Use real testimonials from past clients instead of forgettable taglines.

When I browse through freelancer portfolios, I only find a few of them where they chose to feature client quotes prominently. This is a mistake.

If your past clients were happy with your work, make sure you highlight them saying so on your site.

Don’t be scared to ask for a testimonial. No client is going to say you made them a crappy logo, because that would involve admitting that their logo is crappy. Most clients will be happy to provide a glowing testimonial.

Instead of using a vague generic tagline like “I make beautiful and usable sites that blah blah blah,” it’s much more powerful to display a real quote from a satisfied customer.

Example:

Nick Disabato’s Draft Revise is a great example of using text and testimonials of satisfied customers to build trust.

Create educational guides to establish yourself as an expert.

Beyond just the code or design work you provide, a client is paying for your ideas.

Share those ideas with clients via educational content that clients can consume on their own time. If they implement something of yours and it provides real results, it will only make your services that much more trustworthy. It also shows you’re an active member of your industry.

Example:

Eric Davis of LittleStreamSoftware uses educational content to make you come back to his site and recognize him as an expert.

Last but not least, include a photo or video of your trustworthy face.

The best way to reassure clients that you’re trustworthy is to meet with them in person. But what if you’re working remotely, and can’t justify the travel expenses (or get a visa).

You can overcome this limitation by providing clients with a chance to meet you over Skype, Hangouts, or another video chat platform. Show them a smile!

Before you make it that far in the relationship, though, you’ll want to include your photo and a short bio — or even better a video — to give your clients the impression that they’re in good hands.

Example:

Steve Bristol of LessEverything uses a casual, yet informative video to “meet” potential clients virtually.

More examples of freelancer websites that build trust.

I’ve compiled a list of the 20+ best examples of trust-building freelancer websites I’ve found online.

Curious to see what they look like?

Click here and I’ll send you the entire list totally free.

You’ll also periodically get articles like this one on improving your business.

Thanks to Sacha Greif for helping me write this.