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Want More Readers? Use the Know Like Trust Principle

Award-winning writer Kathy Widenhouse has helped hundreds of nonprofits and writers produce successful content and has gained 600K+ views for her writing tutorials. She is the author of 9 books. See more of Kathy’s content here.

Updated 5.16.24

There are plenty of tactics for growing your audience of readers and your stable of freelance writing clients. But the underlying principle is this: Know Like Trust.

It’s also called the KLT Factor. And it’s a natural law in the business world.

Marketing expert and author Bob Burg coined the "Know Like Trust" phrase in his book, Endless Referrals. It goes like this: “All things being equal, people will do business with, and refer business to, those people they know, like, and trust.” 

  • If you’re a blogger, you want people to do business with you by reading and engaging with your content.
  • If you’re a freelance writer, you want people to do business with you by hiring you to write for them.
  • If you’re an author, you want publishing houses to do business with you by awarding you book contracts. 

Which means that if you’re a writer, you want people to know, like, and trust you. Because you want them to read your words – and in many cases, pay you to write those words.

Use the Know Like Trust principle to build your readership with Word Wise at Nonprofit Copywriter #WritingTips #FreelanceWriting #Marketing #TheWritingLife

Know Like Trust: you do it every day

Know Like Trust is not necessarily a writing formula. Rather, it’s an approach you take to your writing and blogging – one based on relationships. 

When you think of the healthy relationships in your life, you use the Know Like Trust approach all the time. 

For instance, let’s say you meet another parent at your son’s middle school basketball game. You say hello and in the course of conversation, find out you both work in the same building.

Next thing you know, you have lunch together and you find out how much you like your new acquaintance. Plus, you’ve got a lot in common: family, job, interests. 

Weeks and months pass. You spend more time together. One day, your friend tells you about their family challenges with her mother-in-law, who has early onset dementia. Her transparency earns your trust and allows you to feel free to share about your sister’s recent cancer diagnosis. 

The relationship grew in stages. And eventually you not only know, like, and trust this person. She becomes one of your closest confidantes. 

Create a Know Like Trust funnel with your readers

Close relationships build over time. The same is true for building relationships with your readers and prospects. Be purposeful and build those relationships by using a Know Like Trust funnel.


Years ago, Christy had been a staff member for an organization for whom I did a considerable amount of content writing. Christy never worked directly with me, but we knew each other. Now, she needed a writer for a few personal projects, so she reached out to me. 

A reader or prospect in this stage of the Know Like Trust funnel thinks …

“I’ve heard of him [I’ve met her/I know her/that name is familiar to me.] Doesn’t he write about [fill in the blank]?”


During the time I’d worked with Christy’s organization, I interacted with the entire staff – not just the communications director and creative team – and was pleasant and respectful. (It’s not hard to be nice!) I learned as much as I could about their cause. I asked Christy and others for their insights on our projects. The staff was pleased with the content I created for them. Christy liked me.

A reader or prospect in this stage of the Know Like Trust funnel thinks …

“I like him. I like his stuff. He has a handle on [topic/niche]. And his content is practical [insightful/useful].”


Christy left that organization before I did, but she subscribed to my free newsletter. Over the years she continued to receive my weekly writing tips and found value in them. When the time came that she needed writing help, she felt confident in asking me to provide it. And I was able to score a couple of quick and lucrative assignments.

A reader or prospect in this stage of the Know Like Trust funnel thinks …

“This guy knows what he’s talking about. He’s proven himself to me. I’m going to engage with him.”

Apply the Know Like Trust principle 

You may be one who makes a big splash garnering 500,000 followers on your social media page in a few short months. Hey, if you do, that’s great. But if you don’t, never fear. For most, growing your audience and finding a steady stream of clients is a long game.

It’s a game that’s rooted in relationships. And it’s simple.

  • Know: Be accessible. Get to know people and let them get to know you. Put your content online where readers are. Engage with them.
  • Like: Be likeable. Show respect for others and truly care about them.
  • Trust: Be trustworthy. Give people quality content and exceed their expectations.

“Your true worth,” says Bob Burg, “Is determined by how much more you give in value than you take in payment.”

We writers like to think our currency is words. But words are just the vehicle. Our true currency is in the relationship we build with our readers and our freelance writing clients. The real secret is the KLT Factor – the Know Like Trust factor.

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