What Is Client Onboarding And Why It Is Important For You?

Freelancers are generally pretty bad at saying “no” to clients. The reasons are different: from just being too nice to refuse to do some additional work to being afraid to lose a long-term client. Most of us have been in that annoying and awkward situation when the client asks to “make a few corrections” or “add something here and here,” making it clear you're not getting paid any extra for doing that.

The fault here, however, is not necessarily on the client's side. They ask of what they expect you're ready to do — and if you're not, that's something you should have let them know about way earlier. That's where the idea of onboarding can help.

Why onboard?

Some time ago I was contacted by a client who wanted me to write a few pieces of copy for their startup. Usually it takes a while to talk about the details but that time the work had to be started immediately, with money paid upfront.

In a while, when the deadlines weren't as pressing, I realized the client didn't think that the time spent on consulting them on Skype was something I should charge for. They paid anyway, but we ceased to work together shortly after, with some mutual dissatisfaction.

Thinking about the whole story later, I realized it would have been way easier if I didn't agree to starting the work right away and had taken just an hour or two to do some onboarding, i.e. explain the main points of how the work is going to be structured and so on.

It’s easier than you think

What I decided to do is to put together a template, which I fill with details and send to each client before getting to work. It might be a bit excessive for small one-time gigs but it's a must for longer lasting working relationships.

Here's what's in it:

Hi, {client_name}! The goal of this brief document is to explain how I'd like to structure our work, so that we both get what we want the way we want it. Please read it carefully and ask me if you have any questions.

What I do

You can generally expect me to be able to write all kinds of things: articles, news stories, blog posts, press releases, you name it. I write in English, Ukrainian and Russian. I can edit and/or improve texts written by someone else. If necessary, I can also work with you on content management strategy for your project.

What I don't do

I'm not a PR person. Making contacts with media, pushing your news releases and guest columns is something I won't be doing by any means.

I'm not a translator. In most cases, I'm not interested in doing any kind of translation jobs, although as I said before I can edit things written (or translated) by someone else.

What happens next

After you're done reading this document, we'll schedule a Skype call to talk about your project and its needs in terms of writing. That conversation will result in a plan with deadlines for each piece of writing I am to deliver. There is probably some information I'm going to require from you before starting to write. Please think about it beforehand: the earlier it's ready, the faster I can get to work.
You can expect me to update you on the progress as regularly as you want.

Prices and invoicing

For my services, I charge an hourly rate of {amount}. This includes the time I spend researching the relevant data, communicating with you by email or messengers, and the actual writing. Normally I send invoices weekly, but if you have any other preferences, we can discuss that during the call.

Please feel free to ask me any questions at any point — the more transparent is our working relationship, the better the result is going to be. You can always reach me by email {address}, phone {number} or Skype {ID}.

If you've also come to the conclusion that you need to set up an onboarding procedure for your clients, feel free to start with tweaking my template and use it for your needs.