The Art of Being Trustworthy

trust meSeveral recent mini-projects that have come my way through referrals who see my About page or seeing my profile listed on a recommended list have come to the same conclusion and they’ve asked for a call to verify their initial impression.

Are you trustworthy?

Each person wants to confirm my claims of keeping clients, preferring long-term relationships with clients, and giving a straight answer. Do you make any claims about yourself or your services on any open channels? What would happen if someone tweeted the world asking what they think of your services?

Over the years I’ve been supporting people using WordPress in various roles, hardly a month goes by that someone doesn’t request help after [insert sob story here]. I’ve had claims that a developer took their money TWICE and they still didn’t get what they asked for. Sometimes it’s just been some organization that gets you to send money and shuts down communication and others are people you’d think would care about their reputation.

So before we continue, ask yourself if you are trustworthy enough for someone to send you a couple thousand dollars, do the work that’s been asked of you, do it to the best of your ability (even if that means calling the cavalry if you’re stuck), and do it in a timely manner?

It should be stated that at the time of this writing, I only know of one or two developers in my circle or whom I’ve noted from incoming projects that it was odd that so-and-so did this to the person I’m talking to. I have also been known to contact said developers to get them to come clean and do the work right or, if I know them, ask them their side of the story.

How to convey your trustworthiness

One case was a particularly jumpy client because she was the one who had been taken to the cleaners twice. Thousands of dollars gone and the site was a wreck. It’d been migrated to WordPress from Blogger and all of her SEO juice was gone. None of the permalinks were right. It wasn’t responsive because it wasn’t done in Genesis – as invoiced and discussed – and was barely “done” at all. It was more like a Blogger dump in a crap theme.

Then came the question, though it wasn’t explicitly asked because she was too polite: “The other person was a WordPress “guru” so how do I know you are who you say you are?”

That really is the question, isn’t it?

Let’s look at some clues about how you can start vetting developers you’re looking at hiring:

  • When did they register their domain? If it was last month, ask them about it.
  • How long have they used WordPress? How long have they been in business?
  • Do they have any plugins/themes? Do they contribute to WordPress core?
  • Check their social stats. Do any of them indicate a following and a real interest in WordPress and coding or just cats?
  • Do they server WordPress only or are they jacks of all trades and also do Magento, SquareSpace, Drupal, Joomla, and Expression Engine? They can’t be great at all of them.
  • Do they write about WordPress for the community. Blog, hello!
  • Do they have any speaking experience at WordCamps or other blogging or development conferences?
  • Are they listed on any recommended lists?
  • Can they produce links to any sites they’ve done that look great on all devices? Look for their info in the footer or stylesheet.

If all else fails, or sometimes a first step for my extroverted friends out there, would be a call to let the voice and cadence convey your intentions and abilities. But beware! If you’re not confident on a call, you won’t be doing yourself any favors. You’d best be unavailable by voice if you don’t exude a great ability and attitude on a call.

How about it? Are you hearing more and more about shysters ripping people off or do you have some additional clues to help someone trying to feel out a developer? Comment away!

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  1. says

    I found Jesse on the Genesis recommended list and loved his presentation, especially the part about building long-term relationships. He was my first choice on the list, and I was pleasantly surprised when he answered my e-mail within a short amount of time. He’s everything he says he is, and I trust him completely. I love working with the best!

  2. Andrea Whitmer says

    I could write a book on this topic – I get a LOT of clients who have been burned in the past and it makes me sad. The worst part is that they usually aren’t sure what questions to ask, and even if they did, they wouldn’t know whether the answers make sense. (Otherwise they would build their own websites.) There is definitely a level of trust involved since the scammers say the same things a reputable dev would… Their sites never say “Hey, I’m going to take your money and disappear!”

    A blogger I know has recently started offering “web design and development” despite having zero skills and only the most basic level of knowledge about WordPress. I’ve really struggled with whether to approach him (or how to approach him) because he is DEFINITELY taking advantage of people. I’ve already rescued one person who received a stock Genesis child theme installation from this guy billed out as design/dev work – it’s horrible! And it makes it hard for people like us to differentiate ourselves and show that we aren’t like that.

    Lately I’ve been doing phone calls with all potential clients before sending out a proposal. That seems to work well in establishing a level of comfort on both sides, as well as letting the client know that I’m a real person who knows what she’s talking about. I just wish WordPress and/or StudioPress would create some kind of minimum standard or certification process so people would know for sure that the person they hire is trustworthy and capable. Okay, I’m going to stop now since my comment is almost longer than your post.

    • says


      I almost put up a photo of the Spike show Catch a Contractor. It’s the same dealio. The reputable people have to be sifted out from the jerks and novices, but it’s not that it makes things hard for me (it doesn’t – I landed a project last week after 5 minutes on Skype… after he spoke to another unnamed to me “Genesis expert”), but that it makes it hard for the people who don’t know what they don’t know.

    • says

      Even though WordPress is DIY, there are still plenty of people who don’t have the time or skills to do even basic stuff. I don’t have any problem charging for the use of a wordpress theme which I set up and style for someone, but I don’t pretend I invented it. I’m a designer, not a developer, and I build trust by being very responsive and by providing what I think are good visual choices — and for the good technical choices, I consult Jesse.

  3. AndjelahBurek says

    My big clue that a developer isn’t all they say they are when it comes to WordPress is just that. If they don’t know enough about WordPress to know it’s capital P, then they are lazy or ignorant. Or both. Some folks who know WordPress inside and out haven’t ever presented at a WordCamp, have never written a plugin, and don’t contribute to the WP core. But it’s a great observation about how long they’ve had their business domain. I’ve been on the WP support forums since 2004, first asking questions, and then contributing. I’ve gotten extremely burned out on the forum, though, so I haven’t been on there recently. But I attend WordCamps when I can and also am involved in my local WP meetup group. Thumbs up on this great article.

    • says

      Ha, you made me check my join date on the forums. Looks like mine was Jan 2007, though I know I was reading the forums in early 2006 and my first blog posts were in Nov 2005. Thanks for stopping by for a comment.