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Everything is harder without trust

Do you trust your clients?  Do they trust you?

There is no reason to work with people you don’t trust. If you suspect they will not pay you or treat you badly, you shouldn’t be working with them.

Some Indy Coders act like this is inevitable, that many customers will be untrustworthy and they are stuck. I disagree. In my more than 9 years of being independent, I have never worked with a client who I didn’t trust to treat me fairly. And their behavior suggests that they trusted me, too.

I spoke with a colleague recent who is struggling with a trust problem with their vendor. The vendor has repeatedly behaved in an untrustworthy manner – missed deadlines, poor communication, bad implementation. Now that the project is nearing completion, the customer fears they won’t get all the source code as promised and that they will be held hostage for future changes. That’s a bad situation for everyone.

Software development is hard enough. The last thing anyone needs is a relationship where each side suspects the other is trying to mess with them.

How can you tell if your customers trust you? Here are the ways my customers demonstrate trust:

  • They ask for my opinion. They may ultimately go a different direction, but asking shows they value my input.
  • They regularly pay on time.There may be an occasional snafu, but this is the exception not the rule.
  • They don’t try to renegotiate the price. They may ask questions about the price, but they don’t ask for a “special deal”.

If your customers don’t trust you, you are doing something wrong. Here are some of the things that I do to build trust with my customers:

  • I make some small changes for free. I always let the customer know I would normally charge for them, but that I want to be reasonable and fair.
  • I deliver source code with every build. My agreements say they are entitled to the source. Yes, they could take the code to someone else. I’m not afraid of that.
  • I communicate clearly and in a timely manner. I don’t let issues pile up. Even bad news (like a problem with an upcoming deadline) is better to communicate immediately.
  • I am professional. I treat customers how I want to be treated.

If you are reasonable, most clients will be reasonable too. If this isn’t happening for you, then you are working with the wrong clients!

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