A crystal clear onboarding process can be the BIG difference between landing your DREAM client…
Versus ending up with one of those nightmare clients… You know—the ones that literally take weeks to respond to an email, ask for a gazillion revisions, or worse—ghost you completely when it comes time to make payment…
Keep reading for my tried-and-true 5-step process to onboarding new clients like a pro.
Hey Posse! What’s up? It’s Alex.
If you’re new to the crew, welcome! This blog is here to bring you the latest in marketing, copywriting, and freelancing tips… So for more articles like this one, go ahead and subscribe to my newsletter below.
Now, I’m super excited for this video because it seems to be something on everyone’s mind recently. In just the last couple of weeks alone I’ve gotten so many requests to shed some light on the client onboarding process.
Like this one from Chris… where he asks me to share an overview of my entire client process…
And this one from Clara who asked for a video on how I negotiate with clients…
And I get it, when you’re a fresh-on-the-scene freelancer it can feel a bit intimidating when you approach a potential client. I mean… they’re paying you, right?! You need them!!! Right?
Hold the phone right there. And let me remind you of something when it comes to power dynamics. THEY NEED YOU TOO!
That’s right. You have something they need.
The beautiful thing about freelancer-client relationships is that they are MUTUALLY BENEFICIAL. Meaning both parties bring something to the table that the other needs.
Now, with that said—there are a few steps that you, as the freelancer, can take that will help you land your dream clients with ease.
While looking confident, professional, and organized. And rest assured because I’m here to make the process super straightforward for you, with these 5 steps that I’ve been using for my own onboarding process for the last decade.
Now, let’s get started with step #1…
1. Have A Discovery Call
The goal of this is to simply to get to know more about them and their unique business needs—that is it. You’re getting on the call to see if you guys are a good fit for each other.
Think of it as your opportunity to vet them. See what type of client and brand they are, if you want to be associated with them, if they’re a hot mess, or if they would be fun or enjoyable to work with!
Trust me, you want to work with brands aligned with your values.
TIP: Remember to take charge of this process. You want to show up as an equal, not as someone desperate for work. So take charge of setting up the call and make it clear that you’re the one who wants to get to know more about them. Not vice versa.
But of course, don’t be rude or arrogant. Remember this call is about the client and only the client
You’re only getting a good idea of who they are, what they stand for, and what they need if you can help them. And most importantly—IF you want to work with them at all.
This is also a great time to offer value upfront, if you can give them some good advice or insight on an obstacle they are facing. Use this opportunity to showcase your knowledge & expertise.
This is also a good time to ask about their budget. If it’s way off-base from what you charge, then they might not be the right choice for you & you’ve just saved yourself tons of time.
And as an added bonus, this will also help you from sticker-shocking them with an unrealistic quote.
Always record the call, with permission of course (you’ll want to rewatch the recording for the next step).
2. Follow Up With A Personalized Email
If things go well after step one and you want to move forward, then follow up to express your interest in moving forward & let them know that you can help!
TIP: Rewatch the Discovery Call before writing your email and make sure to include specific details about their business and things they mentioned. This shows that you’re very attentive and detail-oriented.
After your discovery call, you should have a good idea on if this is a client you want to work with or not.
If they are someone you want to work with, your email should:
- Thank them for their time and outline some specific details you enjoyed learning about their business (where recording the call comes in handy!)
- Recap some of the key business needs that were mentioned
- Include some samples of your work that directly reflect how you can help them achieve those business needs. For example, if it was clear they need an indoctrination sequence, include a previous indoctrination sequence you’ve written to help them really envision how you could help them.
- State that you’d love to go forward with helping them achieve their goals and if they’d like to move forward as well.
Then you move on to the proposal…
3. Draft the Proposal
Here, your goal is to outline your pricing & timeline for the deliverables requested. If possible I would review your proposal with them on another call.
This is where you map out a specific Project Scope or roadmap that includes a list of all the deliverables you can help them with.
BROWNIE POINTS: If you put this in a clean & styled PDF document. It doesn’t have to be super fancy—I use Canva. But this little extra step can go a long way to impress your clients.
Be very specific in terms of both deliverables and timing. You don’t want to leave room for any questions or misunderstandings.
Once you go through everything you can do to help them achieve their goals, you go through your project pricing—as well as a payment schedule.
For example 50% upfront, with the rest upon job completion. I highly recommend this if it is a brand new client until you have built a long-term trusting relationship.
Or if you’re negotiating for a retainer you would outline the day your invoice will be sent to them and how many days they have to complete payment, etc.
TIP: Always specify the currency you expect payment in! I’ve made this mistake before and completely shot myself in the foot, especially with clients in other countries.
Now, EXPECT negotiations to happen.
Hopefully, the budget they gave you during your discovery call gave you a good starting point, but remember—negotiations are normal. Don’t be discouraged if a client says no to your rates. And don’t feel like you to accept any amount that a client is willing to pay.
Use this as an opportunity to educate them about your experience and the amount of work that goes into writing good copy.
If you really want to work with them, figure out a reasonable way to meet in the middle where both parties will be happy. Change the scope, change the timeline—there are ways to lower your prices without devaluing your work or time.
Don’t just offer them a discount right away. Maybe start with just one part of the project first, then move on from there.
No is just a stepping stone to a new opportunity.
If they’ve gotten this far, they need you. They don’t want to say no! They just need the right starting point for the project, which might be a smaller option in the beginning.
Assuming they want to move forward, move onto…
4. Send the Contract (or Statement of Work)
Next, the goal is to clearly outline the key terms of your agreement.
TIP: You can find free examples of freelancer contracts on sites like And.Co, HoneyBook, and Freelancers Union.
At a bare minimum, you should include:
- Agreed-upon deliverables
- Payment method
For really a big or long-term project you could consider hiring a lawyer to draft up a more thorough contract that includes details about ownership, copyright, cancellation terms, legal rights, etc.
If you’re looking to keep it basic and just include the minimum, I do have a free Statement of Work template you can download.
Once the contract is signed and your first payment is received (if you’re asking for any money upfront)… you can move forward with…
5. Plan a Branding Call
Now, the goal here is to understand their brand voice and messaging.
TIP: don’t start writing until you’ve had the branding call!!
Ask about the brand vision, mission, and goals.
Questions to Ask on a Branding Call:
- How do they see themselves?
- How do they like to communicate?
- Are they friendly and quirky?
- Matter-of-fact and practical?
This is a HUGE step in making sure your copy hits the mark and will help you minimize—or avoid—revisions.
This is also a good time to get more info on the specific product you’re writing for AND for the target audience.
Get any data your client might have about customer avatar pains, desires, etc.
Free Statement of Work Template
And now, congratulations are in order because you can FINALLY start your writing process! As promised, you can download your FREE Statement of Work Template right here.
Until next time, I’m Alex. Ciao for now!
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