Establishing Solid Processes for Client Onboarding
So, now that we’ve talked about proposals, let’s move onto the next phase in the typical freelance process: onboarding.
Why You Need Effective Onboarding
Onboarding processes are important for two reasons:
1. They pre-qualify clients before you put your own time and effort into a new project.
Potential clients should see your project rates, exactly which services you do and don’t provide, and how the project will unfold, step by step. Then they fill in a project planner, which demonstrates how they communicate in writing (and if you understand what they’re trying to say) and whether their goals match up with your expertise.
2. The onboarding process shows you whether a potential client can follow directions.
It seems like a silly test, but we’ve found that if someone can’t read instructions and provide clear answers to questions, the project is destined for failure. For example, if you ask them to share one favorite website and you get 27 examples, warning bells should start to ring.
At a high level, your onboarding process should include things like:
• templated emails that outline deadlines and feedback expectations
• getting started documents (your process, payment terms, due dates, etc.)
• important business information (tax info, proposal and contract to be signed, etc.)
How to Make Onboarding Effective: Key Tips
Here are important things to keep in mind about your onboarding processes:
1. They need to be in writing.
Even if costs are discussed in a call and you’ve talked about what services you’re providing, how much it will cost, and how long it will take to finish, it needs to be documented.
Legally, it’s good to have everything in writing, but it’s even better to ensure both parties understand and accept the project terms so you never reach the point where lawyers are screaming at a judge about witness badgering (like in a scene from Law & Order).
It’s also a good idea in case the client starts pushing for more work: You can easily refer back to the signed agreement and project terms.
2. They need to be replicable.
It’s a good idea to build out templates and replicable processes around your onboarding work to help you save time.
Rather than re-writing a process document for each new client, think about creating a document you can quickly customize for each new client. Ask yourself: Are there pieces of the onboarding emails you send that you can reuse over and over? If so, use them to build out templates that make the onboarding process more efficient.
3. They need to include key information.
Onboarding is all about getting the client up to speed, so the information you send to a client should include your:
• rates and availability
• expectations around deliverables
• payment process
This ensures that you’re both on the same page about expectations for the process—and it shows you’ve got your ducks in a row.
So, is onboarding the most exciting part of freelancing? No, but it’s ultimately what sets your project up for success.
While it might seem smart to quickly accept money for a new project (especially when you’ve got an eager, paying client), it’s definitely in your best interest to set clear expectations about deliverables, costs, and timelines before the work begins. That way, there are no alarms and no surprises down the road.
In the next lesson, we’ll talk about establishing clear payment processes.
‘Till next time,
Paul and Kaleigh
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