The relationships between you and your clients can make or break your business as a freelancer. Not only do harmonious relationships lead to business growth, but they can also help you work to your full potential.
Developing great client relationships is easier said than done. Fortunately, there is one way to make sure that your relationships get off to the best start: client onboarding.
What does client onboarding mean?
Client onboarding is the process that all freelancers should undertake when working with a new client. Think about what would make the relationship as effective as possible. Client onboarding should address all of this—whether that’s outlining expectations, working hours, or communication tools.
The benefits of client onboarding
Client onboarding means that you and your clients are on the same page from day one. This means that the most important part of any freelance business—the client and the freelancer—is as productive as possible. Here are six of the biggest benefits of client onboarding.
1. Improves your client relationships
By starting out with clarity on expectations around issues like communication, you will be able to get a clear image of your client, and vice versa. This clarity will also benefit your relationship in the longer term as you are both aware of your expectations of each other, reducing the likelihood of any disagreements.
It is important to communicate your availability to your clients so that they understand your core working hours and how much time you can realistically devote to them. You can also let them know well in advance when you are planning to take your holiday entitlement.
2. Gives you a competitive advantage
Not all of your competitors will have onboarding processes. By having a clear and simple system with your new clients, you will be able to show them how organized and on top of things you are—meaning that you will be more likely to get referrals, leaving your competitors behind you.
3. Helps you keep track of your responsibilities
Managing multiple clients can be difficult for any freelancer. Client onboarding will often include a clear list of your responsibilities in the relationship, making it easier for you to stay on top of these requirements.
4. Streamlines client communication
Even the best digital business card can’t transmit all of your communication preferences. As we operate in a global environment, client onboarding can be a good way to explain time zone differences as well as your preferred means of communication.
5. Encourages collaboration with clients
The best freelance relationships allow for collaboration between freelancers and collaborators. By establishing a relationship from the beginning – and pointing to resources such as collaboration software – onboarding can encourage this collaboration.
6. Gives your business a personal touch
Onboarding will create a number of touchpoints for your client – each of these is an opportunity to add a personal touch, letting your clients know more about you and your business.
Client onboarding checklist to ensure efficiency
Now that you know the benefits of client onboarding, how can you create an onboarding process that works for you and your client? By following a simple checklist, you can ensure that you build an efficient system.
✅ Get all documents signed
This might seem like an obvious part of the onboarding process, but it’s always good to make sure that you have all documents signed before you start working with your client. Below are the main documents that you should include, including the freelance contract.
- Non-disclosure agreement (NDA)
- Scope of work (SOW)
✅ Inform the client of the project start date
Remember that onboarding isn’t the beginning of the project—this is a process to streamline the actual project.
✅ Send welcome email series
Welcome emails should include an introduction to your company, contact information, expectations, and communication preferences. Think about including case studies to validate the client’s decision to work with you.
✅ Ensure the client completes the questionnaire
The client questionnaire (detailed below) is an important part of the process. Make sure that you have their contact details and arrange a way to collect this information.
✅ Set and schedule recurring check-ins
Check-ins are a great way to maintain a positive and effective working relationship.
Best practices in creating your client onboarding process
As well as following the checklist above, try to follow these best practices. While customer onboarding templates do exist, a personalized onboarding process will suit your business perfectly – and can be done easily by following this advice.
1. Create a client onboarding questionnaire
This will give you access to all the relevant information about your client in one simple form. Questions can include:
- Contact information
- Market research
- Brand guidelines
- Access to networks and social media
2. Gain your client’s trust through a great first impression
First impressions matter. If you appear professional, organized, and welcoming through your onboarding process, your client will place their trust in you from the start of your relationship.
3. Provide regular check-ins and updates
Onboarding can be the perfect time to establish regular check-ins with your client. You can use VoIP systems for small business to easily conduct online meetings, which will be crucial throughout the working relationship.
4. Respond to messages promptly
The onboarding process might seem simple to you but unfamiliar clients will need assistance at points. Try to keep yourself available in this process and respond to any messages from your client. Responding promptly will also help to build that crucial first impression.
5. Keep the onboarding process quick and simple
No client wants to spend hours and hours filling out your onboarding questionnaire. Ensure that you only include what is necessary and phrase it as simply as possible.
Client onboarding—time to add it to your freelance business!
Having an effective client onboarding process is the best way for freelancers to create a strong and congenial working relationship with their clients. By establishing boundaries and communication preferences—and ensuring that all documentation is signed—you can pave the way for a truly beneficial freelancing relationship.
As this article has shown, it is easy to establish a great onboarding system. By following our onboarding checklist and best practices, you too can make the most out of the benefits of client onboarding!
About the author
John Allen is a driven marketing professional with over 14 years of experience, an extensive background in building and optimizing digital marketing programs across SEM, SEO, paid media, mobile, social, and email, with an eye to new customer acquisition and increasing revenue.