Even Though You’re Remote… Remember The Human Factor

A few weeks ago, I introduced a potential client to a freelancer in the Graphic Design Experts database.


The job was relatively simple and this freelancer had been doing similar jobs for Fidelity Investments over the past six months. He was more than qualified for the job, and sure enough, the client liked his portfolio. They initiated the project soon afterwards.


Just as I thought the whole episode was ‘in the bag’, I got a message from the client. She was unhappy with my freelancer’s work, and she wanted to terminate the project.


How could this have happened?


I knew that technical skills weren’t the issue. With a great portfolio and a long list of ‘big name’ clients, I knew the freelancer was up to the job.


Was the interpersonal relationship hurt at any point during the project? This seemed the only logical reason.


When I spoke to the freelancer, the reason the project failed became instantly clear.


The interpersonal relationship was the problem. BUT it hadn’t been damaged at any point throughout the project….



It never existed in the first place!


A few typed lines via email encompassed the full extent of communication between the graphic designer and the client. They were engaging in a highly creative project, but had never spoken on the phone or had a face-to-face Skype conversation.


When you feel no connection to the people who work for you, a proclivity towards distrust is natural. When you haven’t even spoken with someone you are supposed to trust it is all to easy to see mistakes as more severe than they actually are, or, even as antagonistic!


I had spoken on the phone with this client before the project, and so she reached out to me when there was a problem. Even though she was doing the project with the freelancer, it never occurred to her to reach out to him with feedback. He was a just a black box that produced photoshop documents.


Even when you’re working remote, no, especially when you’re working remote, human-human connection is vitally important to project success.


In his book, The Speed Of Trust, Stephen Covey discusses the idea of a ‘trust tax’. The concept is simple. When trust is absent, an invisible tax is added to all business transactions. The tax can take the form of increased costs of monitoring employees, decreased moral among workers, and, as in our situation, project failure due to minor communication errors.


The GDE freelancer hadn’t built up a personal connection with his client, and we were levied with a ‘tax’ because of it. The client was also taxed as she needs to spend time finding a new freelancer!


In order to avoid Covey’s ‘trust tax’, we should have built a personal relationship between the freelancer and the client as soon as possible. We didn’t, and we took a hit because of it.


As you build your location independent business, remember this story and avoid this simple mistake. Put human relationships first… or lose them!