Trust, Now and Then

Trust is a vital component of human relationships. Without it, alliances that were once strong will wither and die, going down in a ball of flames. We make important decisions based how much trust we put in the people on the other end of the relationship.

Some web developers have been taught to always say Yes — to never reveal that they are unfamiliar with anything in their world. They have come to believe that when asked if they have done something, they should agree, even when they may not have that familiarity. These developers have heard stories of the early web from people who went on to make huge names for themselves. These stories all have a similar plotline. Sometime in the past, a client approached the developer, asking them about a certain technology. The developer assured them they “knew how to do that” and they could handle the job. The developer then learned everything they needed to know over the weekend. These personal recounts always have a happy ending for everyone involved.

The web industry is not in the same place that it was in those Protozoic years. There’s more going on now than ever before, with no signs of slowing down. Misrepresenting your skills will expose you a lot quicker than it would have ten years ago. And that’s a good thing.

Don’t misunderstand, I admire the web designers and developers who laid the groundwork for myself and millions of others. I also advocate pushing your boundaries (in this industry, it’s absolutely necessary). But the old-school practice of bluffing the client and coming through in the clutch should not be occurring today.

In the early days, there were fewer means and methods for creating web pages. It was still possible for one person to have knowledge of the web that was both broad and deep. We used to call these people webmasters. I haven’t seen anyone call themselves a webmaster in a very long time.

All things change. Nothing stays the same. The web grew quickly, and more specialized knowledge became required as the number of languages, platforms and frameworks increased. The sum of web knowledge grew exponentially as more people began working in web development.

This was good for several reasons. Knowledge became more available, for both developers and their clients. Clients became more savvy. But many developers began to struggle with the compulsion to know every language and keep up with their perception of what others in the industry were doing. Are there people who are proficient in a plethora of languages? Absolutely — and my proverbial hat is off to those individuals. That said, most web developers will have the most impact by finding a few areas that they are proficient in and passionate about, and going deeper into the rabbit hole in those.

The Point Of All This

Clients don’t want to be buffaloed. Even if you can come through and deliver everything according to your word, it feels dishonest to claim you’ve done something you really haven’t. It just sets a bad precedent for your relationship with your client to start on that note.

If you feel the need to tell white lies at the beginning of your client relationship, what does that say about who you are and how you view yourself? Does this mean that the truth makes you feel insecure? If so, why?

What’s a good alternative then? Just be honest. If someone asks you if you’ve done x, just say, “No, but I’ve worked with y, and here’s how they are similar…”. This feels genuine, because you’re being 100% transparent and honest, meaning that clients can trust you now and in the future. When you present the situation like this, they are more likely to let you tackle their problem, even if you haven’t done the exact thing they are looking for.

Client relationships are what sustain our businesses. We should be as honest and transparent with clients as we are with the other people in our lives.

Author: John Locke

SEO consultant for manufacturing and industrial companies.