You’re great at what you do, and you love helping others with your skills – that’s just one of the reasons why you became a freelancer.
You’ve just got a potential new client – congratulations!
But wait a minute, what about your onboarding process?
Ah! This is the tricky part that many freelancers dread, probably because it’s a bit nerve-wracking, not unlike a first date. All the processes that need to be in place to ensure a smooth onboarding experience can cause overwhelm.
But it doesn’t have to be that way.
An onboarding process is (or should be) the ‘welcome journey’ your client experiences when discovering your services and is their initial experience of working with you.
It can cover everything from the initial contact to sending the deposit invoice.
Putting a good onboarding experience in place can make for the start of a great freelancer-client relationship.
Here are 6 things to consider for your freelance business to ensure your clients have a smooth (and impressive) onboarding experience.
1. Screen your clients before the call
You don’t want to be going back and forth playing email ping pong between you and your client in the early stages when contact has first been made, so you need to streamline this at the very beginning.
A good way to achieve this is to have a pre-call questionnaire you can send to anyone who inquires about working with you. This doesn’t need to be long or fancy, just a short request for a few basic details so you know what they are looking for before you get on the client call and how you can help.
It can also filter out time wasters or those who are not the right fit. It also gives you a chance to do some research on the client before the call.
The call, after all, is not just about your client finding out more about you but also about making sure they are the right fit for you. It’s a two-way street.
2. Set the right tone
The discovery call, or whatever you like to call it, is your opportunity to set the right tone, find out a little more about them, actively listen to what they want, and if you can help them get the outcome they are looking for, briefly tell them about your process, i.e. what happens next after the call, when you will get back to them with your proposal, when they can expect to receive your deposit invoice, etc.
Take note of the language they use when talking, as it can be put to good use later when you send them your written proposal.
If you are feeling a little anxious, remember: You are helping. Focus 100% on what they are saying rather than on how you are feeling internally.
3. Send them your proposal and quote
Get your proposal out to them on time, and definitely when you promised.
While you might be fretting about sending it, the client isn’t. They are waiting to receive it.
Your proposal should summarize what was discussed on your call. As mentioned above, use their language in the proposal and, equally importantly, ensure you get all their details right, e.g., correct company name, etc.
This is where you set out your objectives, what you’ll do for them and what they’ll get in return, plus time frames. Here, you also provide them with their investment details (i.e., how much it will cost). If you frame it as an investment, they better see the value they get in return for the payment.
It can also be helpful to both parties to add an expiry date to the proposal so they know there’s a deadline as to when to respond.
4. Get a written agreement
Once they’ve accepted the proposal, put in place a written agreement or signed contract.
This is important as it will set out all the legal bits such as confidentiality, copyright, cancellation and other terms and conditions, as well as your fees, invoice payment dates and other key deliverables such as project start dates.
A written agreement sets out expectations on both sides. It lays down the foundation for the ongoing relationship – and you can turn to it if anything is unclear or expectations aren’t met on either side.
5. Send your professional freelance deposit invoice
But not just any old invoice. Gone are the days when a quick few lines hurriedly scribbled down on a piece of paper or typed on a Word document would suffice.
Clients expect and deserve more when it comes to professional invoices and invoice software.
A smart, responsive invoice system with customizable templates and helpful features is key for any professional freelance business. After all, if you don’t get paid, then you haven’t got a business. A slick invoice system is a neat way to introduce your new clients to your way of working and indicates the type of service they can expect going forward.
At Invoice Ninja, we’ve got you covered. Not only do we have customizable templates, invoice reminders, auto-payment and heaps of other freelance-friendly features, but clients get their own portal where they can pay invoices and view their invoice history.
Invoice Ninja is a leading free invoicing software for small business invoicing, online payments, tracking expenses and billable tasks.
So you can focus on doing what you love, we’ll do what we love: helping you with the invoicing!
6. Issue a welcome pack
As an added bonus, depending on your business (and budget), once the initial invoice is paid, you could forward them a welcome pack.
This might be some company swag or simply a nice onboarding message with your branded processes, best practices and contact details.
Whatever you do, when it comes to onboarding clients, the old adage that first impressions count really is true!
- Put in place a pre-call questionnaire
- Get on a call to go over your process
- Send them a quote
- Get a written agreement/signed contract
- Issue professional deposit invoice
- Send a welcome pack