The Way We Work
June 15, 2011 by Brian McDonough

Hiring a contractor can be a scary proposition, especially for employers new to remote work. Hiring someone to build a database, provide customer service, write marketing copy or pretty much anything else, means trusting them. With proprietary information. With customer relationships. With creating or maintaining the company’s face to the world. Building trust is the most important step toward successful long-term relationships and a thriving career online.

How Trust Will Get You Hired

  • First impressions are huge. Your earliest communications will create the basis of trust with your employer. Be smart, eager and on time. Reread your emails before you send them, and use a spell-checker or have a friend proofread for you, especially if you’re not communicating in your native language.
  • Be honest about your skills. It’s painfully trendy to call yourself a “_____ Rockstar” these days, but don’t overpromise.  If you disappoint the employer when called to use one of your weaker “rockstar” skills, then you’ll never get a chance to demonstrate your real potential.
  • Think big. Ask about the employer’s business case and business goals — for your assignment and beyond.  Employers trust someone who cares about the big picture, who understands their priorities and makes them her own.

 

How Trust Will Keep You Working

  • Keep promises. Nothing’s more important than meeting deadlines, being available for communication on the agreed days and times, and delivering (at least) the quality you said you would.
  • Document your processes. Most things can be done multiple ways, and letting the employer know why you thought path A was better than B helps them understand your intentions — and if the employer says he’d rather go with B, he’ll understand that you made a logical initial choice, rather than think you just screwed up.
  • Save the employer money. Anything that brings your work in under budget — even if that means you billed a bit less time than expected — establishes your integrity and your respect for the employer’s resources.

How Trust Will Build Your Career

  • Admit your mistakes and fix them. After you’ve turned in the work, if the employer isn’t happy, go above and beyond to secure his approval of your work.
  • Follow up. Often you’ll deliver a piece of work and not hear back from the employer. You assume the employer is satisfied, but after a reasonable interval, check in with a quick email. Show that you’re concerned with client satisfaction, not just getting paid.

Every interaction you have with a current or potential employer affects his trust in you. You move that needle, for better or worse, every time. Remember that taking too long to respond to an email, or responding curtly, makes you seem less dependable. Bluffing through your skill set and delivering less than you promised, or blowing a deadline, makes you much less reliable. Being responsive, pleasant, and engaged, while meeting expectations, is your key to more and better work — who doesn’t want to work with people they know they can trust?

In the comments: What has experience taught you about building trust online?

Brian McDonough

Freelance Writer

Brian McDonough has been a writer and editor for more than 15 years, and has managed teams of in-house and freelance writers for newspapers, magazines and web sites.