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Trust. The cornerstone of freelancing life.

There I was, in a back alley in Agra, with a blade at my throat.

Mrs. W. had pootled back to the hotel. “No way I’m going down there. If you want to risk your life, that’s your business (mutter, mutter, mutter)…”

“Fair enough”, I thought. Mrs. W, is more risk-averse than me, but this was my 5th trip to India, and I knew I was invincible. OK, there was ‘that time’ in Kashmir, but I hadn’t even had so much as a mild case of bum gravy* on any of my visits.

So, I’d meandered, going deeper and deeper, tickling Agra’s nether regions.

It was hot, and smelly, and sweaty. I fancied a haircut. So off I went, not meandering anymore. I had a mission. A cut-throat shave from cranium to Adam’s apple (hopefully avoiding the eyebrows). And if there was ever a place to get one, it had to be here.

‘Oh Jonathan, what have you done?’

Eventually I found a backstreet barber’s. Three grinning men in their twenties welcomed me with open arms. We went through all the traditional unnecessaries – mini head massage, hot towels and banter (for some reason they were keen on teaching me Hindi swear words).

Then, we got to the main course. A flamboyant sharpening of blade on leather strop from barber one, a luxuriant lathering from barber two, and a chilling, emotionless stare in the mirror from barber three.

Head back. Razor hovering over jugular. All of a sudden, a wave of ‘oh Jonathan, what have you done?’, shuddered through my body.

Within seconds, I’d be gushing blood all over the plastic cape they’d conveniently draped around me. The sign on the door would be flipped to CLOSED, they’d have my wallet, and my twitching corpse would be fed to the pigs out back.

Mrs. W. would be moaning about how long I was taking, then she’d be panicking, about 5,000 miles out of her comfort zone.

Then, I remembered to breathe, said my little mantra and closed my eyes.

Shyyyyykkk, shyyyykk, shyyk… A bit more Hindi banter and 10 minutes later – thank my lucky stars, it had all gone nice and smoothly (literally and metaphorically).

I came out shiny and glowing, a few rupees and pints of perspiration lighter. But very much alive.

Trust. Maybe a little naive, possibly even blind, but it’s got me to where I am today.

(*Krakatoa made its presence known in no uncertain terms, just 7 days later)

Trust and the freelance copywriting life

Every client, every project, is an exercise in trust.

They trust that I’ll come up with the goods. I trust they’ll pay me for my time.

Without it, the job’s tainted.

I’m guessing most freelance copywriters have been there at least once.

A client dithers over paying a deposit. Insists on having three getting-to-know-you calls before giving the go-ahead. Wants ‘cast iron guarantees’. Checks in on you a dozen times before the first agreed deadline.

I get it. It takes guts to hand over a brief and a chunk of your marketing budget to a stranger. But we have to have trust on both sides for the project to be a success.

How do you know you can trust your freelance copywriter?

Blind trust may get you a haircut – or it could get you an early grave.

So my recommendation is to check the Copywriter out:

– Meet and greet call or Zoom. Ask all the questions, answer all the questions, get a feel for each other.

– Check out their website. Look at the work, read the blog and the testimonials.

– Have a nosy around their socials.

– If needs be, ask for a couple of references, so you can check what others think about them.

– Make sure everyone knows the scope of the job and delivery dates.

– Get those NDAs signed.

– Trust your gut and go for it.

If you’ve done your due diligence and your spidey sense hasn’t kicked in, then that’s about as strong an assurance as you’ll get. So pay that deposit, sit back and wait for the work to come in.

What if you’re not happy with the results?

Just because there’s trust and respect there, that’s no shoo-in that the work will be spot on first time, every time. Things get lost in translation. We’re dealing just as much with subjectivity as we are objectivity.

This is where trust comes in again. The client trusts that the freelancer can take criticism. The freelancer trusts that the client can give timely, constructive feedback. If the latter is a struggle, have a read here – How to tell a creative copywriter their work sucks.

How do I know I can trust my client?

The human nervous system is an incredible thing. If you tune into it, you pick up the vibes pretty quickly. Most people are decent. They do what they say they will, and like the vast majority of us, want a friction-free existence.

I go into every initial conversation assuming I’m dealing with decent folk. I present the best side of myself and listen attentively to what the client is looking for. I make it clear how I work, what they can expect from me and what I need from them.

If alarm bells start ringing, there are a few things I can do to double-check things:

– Ask around the freelance gang if anyone’s dealt with the client before.

– Check them out on Companies House.

– Have a rummage through Trustpilot and Google Reviews.

– Go through their website with a nit comb.

– Get the deposit in the bank before committing to any writing.

If the old gut isn’t doing backflips. Trust. Trust. Trust.

I mean, what’s the worst that could happen?

Love and patience

Jonathan xx

Jonathan Wilcock (that’s me) is a Senior Freelance Copywriter.
You can drop me a line here, or email