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How to Onboard Clients the Right Way


January 25, 2022


January 25, 2022

You did it. You just landed a really great new client and are excited to dive into a new project. Congratulations! But as eager as you may be to get started, you need to pause for a moment. Before you begin working, it’s important to understand client onboarding best practices. Having a reliable onboarding process can help you smooth out the kinks that naturally come with working with a new client and can make the engagement more successful.

Keep reading for insight into why onboarding matters and how to onboard clients successfully.

Identify Past Onboarding Pain Points

Before you begin to create your onboarding process, it’s helpful to reflect back on past client engagements. Spend some time thinking about what went right and what went wrong with each client, but especially what went wrong. Ask yourself the following questions to pinpoint what steps you can take now to avoid the pain points experienced in the past.

  • Which engagements ran smoothly and which were unnecessarily challenging?
  • What challenges did you encounter?
  • What caused workflow issues and delays?
  • What issues could you have resolved before starting the project?
  • What would you do differently if you could go back and do it all over again?

By pain points, we’re referring to the issues that can arise during a client engagement that can cause delays, stress, and a less positive experience for both the consultant and the client. For example, if you forgot to ask for a brand’s style guide before beginning a project, you may have used the wrong colors or fonts when designing marketing materials or used the wrong tone and voice when creating copy for the client’s website. A small misstep like this can lead to hours of redoing work, which isn’t fun for the consultant or the client.

Set Up an Intro Call

One of the first steps of your onboarding process should be to have an intro call with the client to nail down the scope of the project and what your next steps should be. This is also a great time to express to your client how excited you are to be working with them.

An intro call can help you identify the following things:

  • Project scope of work
  • Points of contact
  • Timelines
  • What resources you need to get started
  • Preferred communication methods and frequency
  • What tools and accounts you’ll need to gain access to (such as Google Analytics) 
  • Any blackout dates or times that you’ll be unavailable

During this call, you can ask any questions you have about the client’s brand, how they like to work, and what you can do to meet their expectations. You can also use this call to set clear expectations and goals right from the get-go. During your intro call, make sure you address:

  • The goals of the project
  • What they’re looking for in a contractor 
  • What their measurements of success are
  • Any client fears and concerns, including their own pain points
  • Encouragement to provide candid feedback along the way
  • A roadmap of early deliverables or next steps

For Nicholas Francis, a marketing consultant at Right Side Up, one of the main benefits of his client onboarding process surrounds setting expectations. He outlines when he is available (based on his contract with the client), what platforms he’s using (if it's a company email, Slack, Notion, etc.) and what constitutes a real emergency. 

Creating Templates for Onboarding Materials

Nicholas has clients who rave about his onboarding process. The key to his success? Creating templates. Once you’ve finished your kick off call and have a better idea of what you need to get started, you can customize onboarding templates you’ve already created to make the onboarding process as organized and simple as possible.

"I've systemized my entire onboarding process with templates, guidelines, and emails that leave little room for error,” Nicholas explained. “Every time I onboard a new client, I review my process to see how it can be improved for the next client. I also edit the process before I onboard a new client because every client has slightly different needs, but this process takes care of 90% of the work without me even thinking about it.”

Reviewing each client onboarding can help improve the process for the next client.

Examples of templates you can create to speed up the onboarding process include:

  • Email template to set up an intro call or other types of calls you regularly need
  • Questionnaire with common questions you have for clients
  • Client profile template where you include information about points of contact, project rate, and links to their digital resources
  • Project timeline that outlines smaller due dates leading up to the completion of the project

Develop a Fact Sheet

To make sure expectations are clear, you can create an onboarding “fact sheet” to give to new clients. By providing important details about what it’s like to work with you in writing, you’ll be able to set boundaries and get everyone on the same page quickly.   

Helpful things you can include on a fact sheet include:

  • How to best reach you (Slack, email, phone, etc.) and your contact information
  • When you’re generally online and what your working hours are
  • How long you need to respond to communications (such as one business day) 
  • How long it typically takes you to turn around projects
  • How much advance notice you need to start a project
  • Payment remittance details (for clients outside of Right Side Up)
Include the right information in your client onboarding fact sheet.

Right Side Up handles the billing for our consultants so they can focus on their client engagements, but you’ll need to make sure you share your payment remittance details with your clients outside of Right Side Up and set expectations around how long they have to pay invoices. Want to simplify your billing process? Join the Right Side Up team!

In his onboarding process, Nicholas covers everything his client needs to know about the early stages of working together. 

“I'm incredibly clear about communication preferences, delivery deadlines, how to get a hold of me, payments, calendar invites—everything,” Nicholas said, “It seems like a lot, but I've made sure the welcome series is easy to digest wherever possible.” 

Use a Client Onboarding Checklist

After your intro call, you should have a pretty good idea of what tools, accounts, and resources you will need to access. Follow up after the intro call with a checklist of what you need so it’s easy for the client to remember to give you access to anything that you need to be successful in your role. 

Here are a few examples of resources and accounts you may want to add to your client onboarding checklist:

  • Client style guide
  • Introduction to key teammates
  • Login credentials for their website or email system
  • Brand assets
  • Signed contract (Right Side Up consultants get to skip this step)
  • Google Drive or Dropbox access
  • Task management platform access (Trello, Asana, Monday.com)
Want to learn more about becoming a consultant with Right Side Up? Get in touch at talent@rightsideup.co—we'll help you find interesting problems to solve, and give you the freedom to choose the challenges that light you up.

Jacqueline DeMarco is a freelance writer based in Southern California who graduated from the University of California Irvine with a degree in Literary Journalism. She writes about a wide range of topics including finance, travel, and wellness for both brands and publications. From blog posts, to landing pages, to product copy, there's no content project Jacqueline doesn't enjoy tackling.

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