Reputation Counts – Part 6

“It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you'll do things differently.”

— Warren Buffet

This week, a fellow copywriter drew my attention to that quote — thanks, Tom! It reminds me that right action builds a reputation, and wrong action breaks a reputation.

I’ve been talking for the past few weeks about building our reputations through acts that build relationships. If I don’t act rightly, I won’t build good relationships or a good reputation.

As freelancers, we live on relationships. We’re not selling widgets to people we don’t know. We’re establishing connections, delivering services, and making the lives of our clients, and our clients’ customers, better.

I don’t want to be a vendor. I want to become known as a partner, a trusted advisor, and a reliable source of help.

And by staying engaged, I have a better chance of getting there.

Here’s an example of what I mean …

For the past 10 days, I’ve been cranking through a rush project, and met a Tuesday deadline.

On Wednesday, I checked in with the client to make sure all was well. That’s when I found out that an executive needed radical, immediate, out-of-scope changes to my work.

My contact was embarrassed. She and I had been managing the project well, getting everything done that was expected, and then suddenly she was blindsided by what amounted to a complete rewrite.

It wasn’t her fault, or mine. Messaging and emphasis had changed — with no warning. (That happens!)

She also knew I was busy. And she thought the request was so unreasonable, she wasn’t even going to come to me for another revision because it wouldn’t be fair to me. She was going to sit down late at night and make all the changes herself.

I didn’t let her.

I turned those changes in 18 hours — by dropping everything else — and sent back the deliverable this morning.

I made a conscious choice. My client needed help, and I bent over backwards to help her. That’s what we do when we are building good relationships, personal or professional.

When you are talking to prospects, and fostering new clients, it makes sense to do everything you can to show them you will work hard to accomplish anything, just like I did this week. That’s a key trait I need to build strong, lasting professional relationships.

And because dedication is part of my mindset, it’s natural to market myself as capable, successful, and strong.

You want to begin building a relationship by focusing on how your strengths address the prospect’s needs. But once you have a relationship with a client — a connection and a rapport — you can be honest about your needs also. And that’s when you can ask a client for help.

Perhaps I’m optimistic, but I think 99% of people like doing favors. I know I do. If someone asks me for a favor, I’m automatically likely to help.

So why can’t you ask your clients for help that builds your reputation? I do, and I get strong results.

Some examples of help include:

  • Referrals — If your client has colleagues, ask for a referral. I did this recently and got a few new prospects.
  • LinkedIn Testimonials — Ask for a testimonial on LinkedIn that you can leverage for your website. I did this too and got glowing testimonials.
  • Case Studies — Ask your client to participate in a case study you write about your services. For me, this is a new idea I’m going to test this week.
  • More work — Does it feel awkward to ask for more work? It does to me — but it doesn’t feel awkward to say, “I’m mapping out the next three months, is there anything on your radar that might need my attention? I want to make sure I build in room for your needs.”

Obviously I’m just scratching the surface here. Does anyone else have good ways to ask for help or build your reputation?

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Published: August 23, 2012

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