Ever had a client you were just sure was going to hire you… never pull the trigger? Or, bid on a job on a freelance site and the client disappears without hiring anyone? Or, worse, you never even get those “bites” to begin with?
I had an almost client once that did this.
We went back and forth for almost a month. He asked me, genuinely, close to 50 or 60 different questions about my services. I got very frustrated. And, ultimately, he ended up NOT hiring me.
It was incredibly annoying.
But, it did make me take a hard look at what I was doing.
And think hard about this question:
What is it that causes clients to say NO?
In a word, it’s fear.
I used to use this analogy. It’s a bit mundane, but it illustrates the problem clearly. Imagine you have kids. Imagine you’re going to hire a babysitter and you’re going to do it virtually.
So, you go on Care.com or some other site.
You start looking through all the profiles of babysitters.
And every one you look at, there’s something just not quite right. Something just feels off. When it comes to your baby — someone you’d lay down your own life for — are you just going to say “Eff it. Let’s try this one.”
THIS is the problem for most clients.
To THEM, their project IS their baby.
So, they’re not just going to hire anybody.
They’re only going to hire someone if everything feels right. If they’re 100% sure. Anything short of that and they’re just not going to do it. So, “good enough” when it comes to your marketing (profiles, website, etc) simply isn’t good enough.
This is where I see most freelancers get stuck.
They underestimate the gravity of the transaction.
Many end up floundering and getting frustrated. Some give up completely and go back to their 9 to 5 — left wondering “what if”. Some just struggle along that way scratching and clawing for every client.
But, there is a better way.
Again, not some uber-secksy gimmick or “technique”, but it is a tried and true fundamental. When you understand how to cultivate trust SPECIFICALLY in a virtual world, suddenly everything opens up.
Now, suddenly all your marketing just works.
Clients just start showing up at YOUR virtual door…
Instead of you having to chase them down.
You gain greater control of the interaction. You dictate the terms. You charge what you want. You get the respect and appreciation you deserve. And, freelancing ceases to be a struggle and instead the reality you imagined when you first started.
Sounds a bit far-fetched, I know.
And yes, everything isn’t suddenly perfect.
But, when you make that flip… it’s night and day.
The pressure is gone.
But, like I said, cultivating trust, with people you’ve never met, in a virtual environment… it’s not a given. It has to be done consciously and precisely. People online are skeptical and skittish.
You have to nail it just right.
So, the question becomes… how?
How do you cultivate trust in a virtual environment?
As you might expect, it’s been studied. And psychologists have identified eight elements that factor into how and why people do and do not trust one another. It’s based on what the leading psychologists on trust, Ken Rottenberg, calls the BDT Framework.
BDT stands for:
- Basis. How do we define trust? What does it mean to BE trustworthy?
- Domain. How trust operates in our day-to-day life.
- Target. Who are the targets of this trust?
It takes a minute because the terms are new, but once you get this science “creating trust” becomes a lot less complex. You have a path forward. Plus, I’ll help you synthesize this into action steps a little bit later.
So, let’s talk about Basis.
What IS trust?
According to Rottenberg, we subconsciously “define” trust as the following:
- Reliability or promise-fulfillment.
- Emotional trust involving refraining from causing emotion harm.
- Honesty. Telling the truth AND having good intentions.
In a nutshell, trustworthy people do what they say they’re going to, they don’t try to make people feel bad and they’re honest. When a person demonstrates (key word here) these three things to us, we’ll feel as if they are a trustworthy person.
Down to the smallest details. Showing up for meetings on time. Emailing a client back when you say you’re going to. Telling the truth even if it might hurt you in some way. Being easy to work with and respectful.
It all sound simple.
But, you’d be surprised how many freelancers fail at this basic stuff. In fact, I bet if you looked at your interactions with clients, you could find areas where you’ve undermined one or more of these principles.
Even more, think about how you “sell yourself” to potential clients — whether on your website, in a freelance profile or in person. In what ways are you demonstrating (not telling) these key trust traits, if at all.
If it’s not obvious and clear to YOU, chance are clients aren’t getting it, either. And, it may just be why you’re not getting as many clients as you’d like to. Or, getting hired is harder than it needs to be.
We’ll talk more about specifics on this here in a minute.
How does trust function in day-to-day life?
Again, going back to Rottenberg, we related to trust in the following ways:
- Cognitive and Affective. Thinking and feeling someone is trustworthy.
- Behavior-Dependent. Trusting others.
- Behavior-Enactment. Being trustworthy ourselves.
The important point here is understanding how skepticism affects behavior-dependence (them trusting YOU). You have to realize that, in sales-related transactions, people start at no.
They start skeptical.
They don’t trust you. So, you have to move them from that to both thinking and feeling you are trustworthy. That doesn’t happen simply by you saying “I’m trustworthy”. A client’s immediate response will be: “Prove it.”
And, that’s why demonstrating trustworthiness is so important. Again, more on that in a minute.
Finally, we have…
Who are the targets of trust?
Relying on Rottenberg one last time, he identifies two “dimensions” in which trust primarily operates:
- Specificity. Specific individuals vs groups of people.
- Familiarity. Familiar or unfamiliar.
This is the good stuff. Here you can see clearly why potential clients are skeptical and will default to saying no. Plus, what you need to do to flip the script and cultivate that trust.
That’s because you start off as unfamiliar and among a group. The worst possible place you could be. A face in the crowd. Even worse if your “group” has a bad reputation.
Think lawyer, salesperson… in many cases… developer.
When a client first becomes aware of you, that’s how they identify you — as a “developer” or “graphic designer” or “writer”, etc. They have no other context about you. And with how most freelancers present themselves, the only context they can gain about you comes from a freelance profile or a sales page on your website.
Is that how you get to know, like and trust people in real life?
Of course not.
Your job is to move yourself, in their mind, from unfamiliar group member to familiar individual. THIS is what people like Gary Vaynerchuk mean when they say “create context”.
The more they know about you, the more familiar they’ll be.
And, the more they’ll see as an individual, not just “a developer”.
And, if you do it right WHAT they come to know about you will be that you’re someone who will… “do what they say they’re going to, you don’t try to make people feel bad and you’re honest.”
Going back to the Basis of trust.
That’s the game.
Creating context and familiarity and demonstrating your trustworthiness BEFORE they hire you. And, doing it in a systematic way that doesn’t require you spending 17 hours a day on Instagram.
Or, chasing clients around the internet.
Instead getting them to come TO YOU, funneled into a process that systematically builds that familiarity and trust and pushes them over the edge of hiring you — all without little to no input on your part.
Sounds a little far-fetched, I know.
But, that’s how I’ve run my business for over 10 years now.
And, it’s not as complicated as you think.
In any case, I teach a method for doing this step-by-step in a precision manner that not only methodically builds trust, but also brings the clients TO you. You can learn that method in my course, Turn Content Into Clients.
You can get free access to the course here: https://skl.sh/2X3qbwe