The people who don’t hire me don’t trust me

I started my own firm in 2009. I think I mentioned that didn’t I? Anyway…. 2009 was not the best year to start a business, or to invest in real estate, or to buy groceries for your kids. But, I started my company anyway, mainly because of the “lack of anywhere else to work” thing, and because I’m awesome, mostly the former.
So, as a new business owner, my first order of business was, of course, to find some kind of business to do in my new business.I tried almost everything. I cold called (so totally didn’t do that), I met people for coffee, I advertised, I tweeted, and facebooked, and emailed all my friends and past colleagues and clients, and worked hard to promote myself. I told my story. I illustrated my strengths and underscored my talents and highlighted my past successes and waited for the new potential clients to flow into my office all bright-eyed and hopeful, check book in hand.

In fact, after a few years (yes, I said years) of trying this approach I began to think nothing was working. It didn’t seem to matter how clearly and loudly I announced my qualifications for potential work, potential work just didn’t seem to arrive at my door.

But, I did get work. I picked up odds and ends from people I worked with before, I picked up jobs from leads from friends and former co-workers, I picked up new work based on work I had finished in the past. I got new work, the way most architects always get new work.

By word of mouth.

Someone who worked with me before, mentioned me to someone who wants to work with me now. Then I do an awesome job, and that person recommends me to their friends who hire me to do something in the future. That’s the way it works.

And this is why architects, typically, do nothing to market themselves. Because the work simple appears before us because we did an awesome job on the last thing we worked on.
But, I have a suspicion that this is short-sighted. Because people don’t hire us because of the awesome job we did in the past. Nope. I think they hire us because they trust us. And if they don’t know us? then they trust their neighbor, or coworker, or father-in-law, or best friend who said they should really trust us because we did a good job for a friend of theirs.

We are never hired because of our work. We are always hired because the potential client feels like we are able to take care of them. They feel like our experience and talents are well suited for the project that they want us to do, and they know us, or they know someone who knows us, and they trust that person who knows us, so they are willing to transfer that trust to us.

That’s what we really need to do to get new work. We need to make people trust us.

It only took me 4 years to realize this.

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