The Beginner’s Guide to Client Onboarding

If you work for yourself, landing a new client is cause for celebration. However, elation can quickly fade when you realise that the hard part hasn’t even begun. You now not only need to plan and actually do the work, but keep your client on side while you do it.

Two people meeting in a cafe

Client onboarding is the process by which you welcome new clients and ensure that everything regarding your project is laid out in black-and-white. By having timeframes, ground rules, and contracts planned and agreed upon in advance, you can keep misunderstandings and communication issues to a minimum.

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In this article, we’ll talk about what client onboarding is in more detail. We’ll also discuss how it can help your business and offer a few tips for setting up your own system. Let’s get going!

What Client Onboarding Is (And How It Can Help Your Business)

Onboarding a client is a process that effectively prepares you both for the project you’re working on. It’s during this process where you make introductions, assess requirements, set parameters and address any questions your client may have. A solid onboarding process ensures that good business-to-client communication is maintained from the moment you’re hired for a job, until the moment your work is completed. It also makes it easier for you to work efficiently throughout.

Your onboarding procedure can include many different steps, such as straightforward introductory emails and progress updates to the bespoke contracts, schedules and working practices you wish to maintain. Not only will this make expectations clear for all parties involved, it will also help you preserve your work/life balance, while meeting the brief on time. It also ensures that your client knows exactly what they’re paying for, and how much you’re getting once the work is finished.

Taking the time to properly update and look after your clients is likely to pay dividends – and will help develop your reputation for professionalism and reliability. According to a recent Forbes article on client onboarding, “the businesses with the happiest clients never stop selling and driving value” through onboarding and support.

However, such work can be time consuming, and client-facing organizations of all stripes can struggle with the task. The 2018 Marketing Agency Growth Report  showed that 43% of agency businesses simply don’t have the time for onboarding, and 23% fail to meet their clients’ expectations as a result.

So, if you want to do your best work, retain your clients, and generally outperform your competitors, setting aside time for onboarding is important. It will also help your business in a wider sense, such as by providing you with legal protection. Having your contracts and other legal documents signed and fully up-to-date as part of your onboarding process can help ensure that if any conflicts arise, you’re covered.

How to Create Your Own Client Onboarding Process (In 3 Steps)

As we’ve covered, properly onboarding your clients will ensure that you’re able to dedicate yourself more fully to your work. Let’s now take a look at the practical aspects of creating your onboarding process.

Step 1: Research and Gather Information From Your Client

You’ll need to start by getting to the bottom of who your client is, what they do, and what they’re looking to get out of the project. One way of doing this is by providing them with form early on, where you can ask them specific questions even before you’ve officially partnered up.

There are many tools available for this purpose, such as Typeform. Not only do their beautiful, customisable online forms look great, they are particularly user-friendly for both questioner and questionee.

When creating the form itself, think about all of the questions you need answering. You’ll want to gather project-specific information, and also gain some context about the client. This information can be invaluable both when deciding whether to take on the project at hand, and when work has begun.

Step 2: Plan Your Project Management and Communication

Next, you’ll want to plan the task at hand. You should’ve gained some insight into your client from your research, and this is where you can start putting it to use.

You can do this by inviting your clients to join the project management tool Dropmark, where you can ‘wow’ them with aesthetically-pleasing, easily-organized moodboards. Dropmark enables you and your client to share your ideas throughout the project and visualise what success will look like.

This ensures you’re on the same page, and gives the client an insight into your progress. It also enables you to address and prioritize both the administrative parts of the job, such as deadlines, and the more creative aspects. You can add clippings, links, and images easily – and organise them seamlessly.

It’s also worth thinking about communicating via other mediums, such as emails and calls. You can tailor your plan to your client’s timetable, and set yourself reminders to reach out at certain intervals on your calendar. If you use Gmail, you can automate email communication via Streak, but it’s a good idea to communicate in person as well. A phone call or Skype conversation is more friendly, and often more useful.

Step 3: Consider Your Paperwork for Client Onboarding

Once you have your work processes ironed out and agreed upon, you’re almost ready to start work. However, first it’s time to get contracts signed and payments made. When it comes to legally binding e-signatures, you can use HelloSign, which also provides useful functionality for multiple requests and follow-ups.

You’ll then need to think about deposit payments, and for that Hiveage is the perfect choice. It includes integrated invoicing and payment options, and also enables you to create estimates and track your billable hours and expenses down to the smallest detail – covering everything from mileage to business lunches. Sending your invoices with Hiveage is the perfect endpoint to a successful onboarding procedure.

Conclusion: Client Onboarding in 3 Steps

Miscommunication and disorganization can cost your business dearly, so good planning and client coordination is essential. Creating a client onboarding system will help you to keep both you and your client happy throughout a project.

In this article, we’ve discussed how you can create a client onboarding procedure for your business. To do so, you’ll need to:

  1. Research your client.
  2. Plan your work.
  3. Consider your paperwork.

Do you have any questions about onboarding a client? Get in touch in the comments section below!

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