Getting a new client is exciting, though it can quickly become stressful and overwhelming if you don’t have a client on-boarding process in place.
Let’s imagine, for a second, that a client comes to you and says they want to hire you. They want to book one of your consultation services. This is great until you realize you aren’t entirely sure how to proceed when they ask. Do you have a set list of questions you need to ask them before the initial call? Should you require payment before or after?
And what else needs to be taken care of first; do you need access to their accounts or quarterly reports?
This should all be part of the client onboarding process. Everyone will know what’s expected of them, and it will make you look like you know what you’re doing, too. This isn’t as difficult as it sounds, so let’s take a look at the 5 steps you should follow to rock your client onboarding every time.
Have a Client Onboarding Process Ahead of Time
The ideal onboarding process will be one that’s sorted out before it’s needed. You don’t want to be left scrambling to accommodate a client after they’ve come knowing; you want to be ready up front.
A few things that you should decide about your business and what the onboarding process will look like include:
- Whether you want to cover the basics through email or a call, and at what point you’d want to schedule preliminary communications.
- If you have set rates, or if you’re flexible based on the project.
- Whether or not you require things like upfront payments, contracts, or a minimum amount of work before you get started.
Your onboarding process can be adjusted as you see fit– it’s your prerogative as a freelancer, after all– though keeping it consistent will make your job easier and keep everyone on the same page from the beginning.
You can have this listed on your site if you choose, or you can keep it to yourself. As long as you know what’s coming, that’s what matters most.
Only Have Calls with Agendas
A lot of business owners and client-facing employees will realize quickly that phone calls can end up being a huge time-suck, especially if they’re “get to know you” calls where there’s no clear agenda.
When you schedule a call with a client, let them know what will be discussed on the call so that they have any information needed ready. That way when you get on the call, they don’t feel put on the spot and have had time to think through their answers.
This may mean that you need to lead the call, asking pointed questions about their goals, their pain points, and what they want to get out of the working relationship.
You should also keep calls on target. Introductory calls should be kept as pure introductory calls; don’t start doing work until project scope and payment has been agreed upon or a contract signed. This will protect you and your time, allowing you to invest more energy into the clients who actually want to work with you.
Know What You Can Offer and What You Can’t
While that freelancer flexibility is a beautiful thing, it can also result in a crippling effect on decision making. It’s hard to say no to paying clients, even if you think they may not be the right fit.
Avoid disappointment on all ends by knowing what you can and can’t offer before making commitments. This could mean that you know you only have four more hours available for the rest of the month, so you can’t say yes to a six-month project.
It could also mean that while you’re an excellent content marketer, you don’t have the experience writing PPC campaigns and you should pass that along to someone who does.
Doing paid work for clients is not the time to “take a stab at it;” be upfront about limitations during the initial communication.
Set Clear Boundaries & Expectations
Boundaries are big in a client/freelancer relationship. If you don’t establish definitive boundaries and manage expectations early on, you could be in for a nightmare working experience.
Explain exactly what you offer in clear terms. If you have a minute-count to the transcription files you do, say so. Do you need at least three days (or three weeks) between project assignment and completion? Let them know. Speak up about the limit to the number of revisions you do, or how long you’ll wait before giving their slot to someone else if they don’t pay the deposit.
By getting everyone onto the same page up front, you’re lowering the risk of disasters and resentment later on. Everyone feels that what they’re agreeing to is fair, and you’re protecting yourself.
Answer Client Questions & Overcome Objections
A natural part of the client onboarding process will be to actually get them on board. Even though someone’s gotten in touch with you, after all, it’s no guarantee they’ll actually hire you until they do.
At this stage, you should mitigate any doubts or concerns the client may have. If they’ve had negative experiences with other freelancers in the past, show them proof that you’re different; this could be a refund policy, or a number of testimonials from past clients.
Clear up miscommunications about what’s involved with your services, and showcase the value of what you offer and how it will benefit them. This won’t only get them on board, it will get them excited about working with you, too.
Being a freelancer means that some flexibility may benefit you as you see it. That being said, ensure that your onboarding process is as consistent as possible so no one feels singled out.
Having an organized and smooth client onboarding process will make a powerful first impression on everyone who wants to work with you, helping you to look more credible and more professional. It will also make your job easier; communication will be simpler, and you’ll feel confident that you’re going into the job with all of the information you need to get started.