I’ve been reflecting recently on what trust means to me and I am realising it is one of the core foundations that make me the freelancer that I am today. Whether it’s delivering for clients or managing a team to deliver a project. I pride myself on my loyalty and treating everyone well. Trust is at the heart of my freelancing relationships. It’s one of my brand values.
I’ll generally be working remotely so on a basic level I am trusted to do the work commissioned. But more deeply than that I am trusted to deliver to a high standard. And I’m trusted to deliver on time. On time may sound like a small point but I’ve picked up many extra commissions of work over the years when a client finds themselves in a hole and the phone call comes in, “Alison, any chance you could ….?” and in the most part the answer is yes. I’ll appear to float serenely on the surface, whilst underneath I’m already visualising the furious amount of paddling I’m going to have to do deliver. But deliver I will. Because I’ve said I will. And my client trusts me to do this.
I have an innate desire to trust people. As I reflect further on where this profound sense of trust comes from, I have begun to realise that it’s part of my DNA. It’s part of me. Part of what it means to be a ‘Grade’. It’s ingrained in my family stories, told round the dinner table. Most powerful of all these are those surrounding my great uncle Lew (Lord Grade).
The Independent obituary from 1998 describes him thus:
“GRADE’S WHOLE LIFE WAS A SERIES OF “RELATIONSHIPS”, USUALLY WITH DIFFICULT PEOPLE, IN WHICH HE WAS PROUD THAT HIS WORD WAS ACCEPTED, HIS HANDSHAKE MORE SECURE THAN A CONTRACT.”
And that phrase – his handshake more secure than a contract – that is at the heart of trust for me. If I’ve said I’ll do something for someone. I’ll do it. It hurts me when I can’t do it.
So, what happens when the trust breaks down? Whether it’s with a freelancer or a client. It mostly happens gradually. It’s not always obvious at first. There might be little signs along the way, but often they are just that, little and I dust them off with an alternate explanation.
But then there comes a moment – a tipping point. It’s like a brick wall crumbling before my eyes. And the trust has been undone. It’s gone. And I’m left with a void. It’s incredibly uncomfortable. My foundations are rocked to their core. What next? What now? How do I move forwards?
I know I must take time to process what’s happened and work out how I will respond to the situation in my way and in my time frame. I work hard to react with logic and objectivity rather than emotion.
The one thing I know instinctively is that for me once the brick wall has crumbled it’s going to be very hard to put it back together. Not only do both of us have to want to make it happen we both need to demonstrate this with our actions consistently over a period of time.