Recently in a live interview with Neenah Paper I was asked, “What advice would you give to those trying to promote their business and gain more work?” My response – “Build trust and relationships and the rest will follow.” During and following the interview I received an excessive amount of positive feedback and ‘What do you mean?’ questions regarding this statement, so I thought it would be best to expand on this statement.
Two main reasons individuals choose any business, product, service, etc. to spend their money: We either really like what we are spending our money on or we enjoy where we are spending it because they have trust and faith in what we are purchasing – both of which can be applied in one way, shape or form to a design business, or any business for that matter.
While the first, ‘we like what we are spending our money on’, is obvious – the client has to enjoy the work in our portfolios – but the second, trust, in my opinion is the most important and valuable to a business. Forming relationships is essential to growth. Below are 10 ways to build trust and form relationships, online and off, that will keep design work coming your way.
1. Offer help
Social media is a great opportunity for helping others. With people following hundreds and thousands of people on sites like Twitter and Facebook there are tons of questions to be answered, resources to be shared, etc. Helping out not only showcases your talents and dedication to your field, but it helps build trust and relationships through shared knowledge – you become viewed as a resource and trusted as the ‘go-to’ person.
2. Explain why, not how
Explain to your clients WHY you are making the choices and doing the things you are doing (ie: I choose this font because it is legible and sophisticated, so your Investor readers will not suffer from eye fatigue). Your clients will trust your judgment more because they will have a better understanding of your work and decision making.
Especially in a field that can be viewed as completely subjective to “good” design, offering and explaining reasoning is key.
3. Be accessible
Answer emails promptly, return phone calls quickly, etc. Think about it from their perspective – you just gave someone a thousand dollars and haven’t heard from them in a few weeks. Even I would start to worry!
I try to keep my clients in the loop as much as possible by email / phone and letting them know how things are progressing. I find when I do this clients are much more lenient and trust your professional judgment.
4. Get testimonials
Testimonials are a great addition to a designers website/portfolio. It allows other clients to view how people, like them, view your services. Even some of my clients have allowed me to hand out their phone number or email if I needed future recommendations – now that’s building relationships!
Another great addition to your website, portfolio or blog is a documented creative processes. It showcases how you work and what a potential client is investing their money and time in.
On this site you will find a few of my logo design processes, where I showcase sketches, concepts, briefs and more.
6. Under promise, over deliver
Let’s say you just landed a new website project and estimate that it will take you 4–6 weeks to complete… Don’t quote your clients four weeks only because it sounds better.
It’s always best to under promise and over deliver – even though it might only take four weeks, instead of the quoted six, you’re client will be much happier because you exceeded their expectations.
7. Put on your best face
In an online world where everything is becoming less personal, putting a face to your site or blog brings back the human personality. Spend extra time perfecting your About Me page and add a photo or two of yourself. Those reading your site will feel more connected to your work and you, thus feeling more connected and trusted.
If nothing else, people trust results and love to see actual data. Get in touch with old clients and ask them if their business has increased since the re-brand you developed for them.
Document the results and ask if you can share with others or through a testimonial.
9. Establish your credentials
Like the saying, or Jeff Fisher says, “you have to toot your own horn from time to time because no one else will.” Having a list of your achievements, credentials and accomplishments is a great way to establish yourself as an expert in your industry without sounding self-centered.
10. Be upbeat and personable
Having a great personality online and off is a must have. When speaking with someone or meeting them in person be upbeat and positive and carry this over to your online social media. People enjoy engaging with those who are approachable and will certainly come to you if they need work. Be a pleasure to work with and the rest will follow.