Client Onboarding: Your Foundation to Success
Start off on the right foot. Create a standard client onboarding and work with confidence.
When I was a new freelancer, I didn’t have any sort of client onboarding process in place.
It went a bit like this: I’d reach out to a prospective client and explain what I do. I’d show them some examples of my work, and if they were interested in what I was offering, we’d discuss payment. Once we’d agreed on pricing, I’d just start working.
And that was it. There was no set protocol for client communications. No documented account outlining exactly what I did, and what I didn’t. I didn’t even have a contract!
Fortunately, I never had any legal issues, and I always got paid – though I had one client who really took their time when it came to my invoices.
Nevertheless, I struggled with certain clients because I failed to establish expectations early on.
That’s the benefit of having a formal onboarding process. You set the tone for your working relationship with a client by providing them with the guidelines and all required documentation beforehand.
Establishing a client onboarding process does a lot of things for you as a work from home business owner.
For one, it provides you, and your client, with everything needed to solidify the working relationship upfront.
It also shows that you’re a professional, which always helps when landing clients.
And it provides you with a standard protocol that you can use throughout your career. If you onboard your client effectively, there’s a good chance that the relationship will go well. Your client will know what to expect from you as well as what’s expected of them.
Every virtual business owner’s client onboarding process is going to look a little different based on their VBO niche, personal preferences, and clientele.
Still, there are a few things that every client onboarding should seek to accomplish, so I’ll key you into some standard things you’ll want to include in yours no matter what services your offering.
A prospective client contacts you for a project after viewing your website. Or, you reach out to a potential client who could benefit from your services. However you come across this potential client, you’ll need to start your onboarding process by collecting key information about the project.
You’ll want to have an inquiry form that’s brief, but direct. It could be something that you host on your website, or it could be a form you send out to prospective clients after they’ve demonstrated an interest in working with you.
Either way, there are a few foundational questions you’ll want answers to. Inquire about the client’s budget and timeline for the project. Also be sure to ask what their goals are for the project.
Knowing what the client aims to accomplish, how much money they have for the project, and the time for turnaround will help you make an informed decision about whether or not you should take the client on.
It also helps educate potential clients about your process and the information they need to provide before they can use your services.
If you and the client decide to move forward after reviewing the inquiry form response, it’s time to put together a project proposal.
You’ll want to include vital information in your proposal, while avoiding jargon and legalese. Keep it simple and get straight to the point. Include an overview of the project with the anticipated start date.
Describe the services that you will provide – it may also be a good idea to explicitly state what isn’t included in the deal to avoid scope creep.
Include your deliverables and what you’ll need from the client to get started: i.e. logos, copy, access to certain accounts, etc. Include pricing and payment expectations in the proposal. It’s also a good idea to outline client communication in the proposal.
Let your client know when and how frequently they can expect updates from you.
Communicating with the client on a prescriptive basis will keep them in the know so that they never have to wonder what’s going on. Not every job will require a formal proposal, especially when working with repeat clients.
You may just need to send a quote and that’s it.
However, proposals help lay the foundation for your contract, and they help eliminate ambiguity about the project upfront.
Client Service Agreement
Once the client accepts your proposal, you can proceed to the contract.
You need a client service agreement that outlines exactly what service(s) you’re providing and establishes exactly when and how you will be compensated.
Because you already addressed these points in your proposal, there should be no confusion about the payment terms of your agreement. Include a description of the work relationship – remember you’re a VBO, not an employee, so make it clear in the contract that you are indeed an independent contractor.
Outline a project schedule in the contract, and specify deadlines for deliverables.
Be sure to include a passage about how the working relationship ends.
There are plenty of CSA templates available online to choose from, many of which are free. Or, you could create your own. Be specific and clear to ensure that you and your client are protected.
Now that you’ve gotten the legal piece out of the way. You’ll need to put an electronic filing system in place to share necessary files with your client.
Create a folder in Google Drive, Dropbox or Box.com and set up folders according to your needs. Upload your proposal and CSA in one of your folders for reference, and share the link with your client.
Having a filing system in place will ensure the organization and accessibility of all files exchanged between you and your client.
You’ll have everything you need to tackle the project in one place.
Client onboarding helps to lay the groundwork so that you can take on new clients with confidence and clarity.
You’ll gain the required information, take care of the legal work, set standards for communication and address client concerns before you start your project. It’ll set you up for a great working relationship where both parties are clear about the project and responsibilities.
Keep in mind that your onboarding process shouldn’t be devoid of real-time communication.
I recommend that you schedule a call with your client to discuss the project proposal and pricing. That’ll give you both an opportunity to gain further understanding and to address any concerns.
Client onboarding positions you as a professional who knows what they’re doing.
If you do it right, you’ll have a happy client who will rave about your services.