Winning new clients takes a lot of time and effort. The last thing you want is for that relationship to fall flat and all of your work to be wasted because of a simple – and avoidable – miscommunication.
No matter what kind of business you have, you want to make sure that the relationship is set up to succeed. That’s where onboarding comes in. This process formalizes your relationships with your clients and helps you to set goals and expectations for both you and your client.
A solid onboarding process has big benefits, but that doesn’t mean it has to be complicated. All you need are a few simple steps that will help to set you up for success.
Whether you’re looking to refine an existing strategy or if you’re starting from scratch, we’re here to help you figure out the best onboarding process for your business.
What Is Client Onboarding?
Client onboarding is the process of beginning your working relationship with a new client. It involves providing them with relevant information about your business and gathering the key insights that you need in order to provide them with the best service.
Of course, a potential client likely knows plenty about your business by the time they decide to work with you. However, the onboarding process is the time to formalize your working relationship and make sure that everyone is on the same page.
The onboarding process gives you an opportunity to clarify important details about the project, including what needs to be done, how long it will take, and how much it will cost.
Why Is It Important to Have a Good Client Onboarding Process?
A good client onboarding process will set the tone for a great working relationship. Don’t think of it as a nice-to-have, but rather a must-have component of your business strategy.
Relationships are dynamic and even the most well-laid plan might eventually require changes, but setting expectations during the onboarding process can save you headaches later on.
Formalizing your working relationship is an opportunity to define the parameters to ensure that you and your customer know exactly what to expect.
Here’s how a strong client onboarding process can help your business:
- Longevity: A working relationship with clear expectations from both sides is much more likely to last than an ill-defined one. If the beginning of the partnership is rocky or chaotic, clients are much more likely to look elsewhere.
- Efficiency: By gathering all of the information you need about the client up front, you’ll be ready to get to work immediately and won’t need to keep going back to them to ask more questions. You’ll know exactly what you need to do and how to do it.
- Customer satisfaction: Seeing an action plan and understanding the working strategy you intend to use will give your clients peace of mind that you know what you’re doing and will be able to meet their needs.
- Convenience: Once you refine your onboarding process, it will be easy to replicate and adjust as necessary when you find new clients to work with. This will save you tons of time – which you can then spend acquiring even more paying customers.
- Compliance: Depending on the industry you’re in, there may be legal regulations that you must comply with. Including all the necessary legal documentation in your onboarding process will help to ensure that you’re fully compliant from the get-go.
5 Steps to Onboard a New Client
Client onboarding is all about building a happy working relationship. The best way to start that kind of partnership is with a smooth process.
Although every business will need something slightly different to ensure the best experience for their clients, there are 5 steps that should be included in every onboarding process.
1. Gather Information
To give your client the best service, you need to have a good understanding of what they need. The most effective way to get to know their needs, wants, and expectations? Ask questions!
Think about the most important information you need to get to work and create a questionnaire to send to your client. Include basics like contact details as well as more in-depth questions about the timeline, goals, and other information relevant to your type of business.
Let’s look at some practical examples. If you are an accountant, you’ll need to understand how your client’s business is structured, the assets it owns, and the accounting approach they’ve used in the past. As a copywriter, on the other hand, you’d want to know about the company’s messaging goals and how they envision their brand voice.
2. Send a Welcome Pack
A welcome pack is an excellent way to provide a potential client with information about your business, increase their confidence in your expertise, and encourage them to use your services.
Once you’ve gathered information about the client, their business, and the outcomes they’re looking to achieve, you can use this to personalize their welcome pack. There are a few assets that you can use to do this:
- Case studies: Include examples of projects you’ve executed for similar businesses in the past, highlighting the results that you helped those clients achieve.
- Resources: Sharing articles that you’ve written about best practices and broad approaches to the types of work you’ll be undertaking will help them to increase their confidence in your abilities.
- Projections: Mapping the expected outcomes for a project – based on previous results you’ve achieved – using visual tools like charts, graphs, and tables, can go a long way to helping a client understand how you can help their business.
You’ll also want to include all of your basic business information in your welcome pack. A simple document that outlines your business hours, contact details, location, and frequently asked questions is all you need here.
3. Hold an Onboarding Meeting
Once you’ve gathered the information you need, you’ll want to have a face-to-face consultation with the client. This is an opportunity to establish a friendly working relationship and pave the way for open communication in the future, and can happen either in person or via video call.
As with all other aspects of the onboarding process, the structure of the initial meeting will vary depending on you, your business, and your client. However, there are a few items you’ll probably want to have on your agenda:
- Clarify the scope of work and agree on goals: Revisit your the information that you client shared during the research phase to ensure you’re in agreement about what needs to be done. Be specific about what’s included in your services and the outcomes you plan to achieve, aligning this with what the client needs.
- Set the cadence for communication: Discuss the methods of communication that work best for each of you. It’s important to agree on how updates will be provided (e.g. regular meetings, emails, or even text messages) as well as how often they’ll be shared. Regular, scheduled updates will help you keep your client informed and feeling confident in their choice to work with you.
- Finalize payment terms and details: Give the client information about how you charge for your services (e.g. a milestone-based payment plan or an up-front project fee) as well as all of the options you have for them to pay. Pay.com lets you accept a wide range of payment methods – click here to create your account now!
However you choose to structure your meeting, what’s most important at this stage is that you take detailed notes. If you’re hosting a video call, it might be a good idea to record it. This will ensure you have all the information you need to draw up your work plan.
4. Finalize the Contract
Once you have an idea of what the client wants – and how you are able to help them – you’ll want to formalize your relationship with a contract.
It’s crucial to do this early; you definitely don’t want to waste time going through the whole onboarding process only for them to then say they’ve changed their minds.
You may choose to make a long-term commitment (like a freelancer retainer agreement) or something less permanent (e.g. a project-based agreement). Either way, you don’t necessarily need a long contract filled with legalese, but you should have at least a basic agreement that you and the client both sign.
Include details that you gathered during the research stage and onboarding meeting as well as the project cost, and payment terms. If you’re not quite sure what this agreement should look like, you can find plenty of templates online.
5. Assess and Refine the Process
With each new client that you onboard, you should take some time to reflect on how the process went. This will help you to decide what elements of your system work well and what might need improvement.
Here are a few questions you can ask yourself when assessing your onboarding process:
- Did the client skip any questions in the onboarding questionnaire? If so, why?
- Has the client been given all of the information they needed about the project or do they still have a lot of questions?
- Were there any major delays during the onboarding process?
- Is there any information that I still need from the client?
You can also ask the client for feedback on the process. Don’t just ask broad questions like, “What did you like and not like about the process?” Rather, try to gather much more specific feedback such as asking them to rate certain aspects of the process on a scale of 1 to 10.
Your goal in getting this feedback is to make the process better going forward, so the more actionable information you can gather, the better.
How to Provide Your Clients with the Best Payment Experience
Finalizing payment terms and details is one of the most important steps of the onboarding process. To avoid any nasty surprises when it comes time to settle up, you want your clients to know exactly what you’re charging and how they can pay you.
Pay.com’s full-service payment infrastructure offers you a variety of ways to get paid. Share Pay Links directly with your clients via email or SMS and send them to a personalized payment page where they can enter their details. Or use Pay Checkout to do the same using an invoice.
Another great option is our delayed capture. With this feature, Pay.com allows you to collect your client’s payment details and ensure that they have sufficient funds in their account to honor your agreement, but charge them only once the project is complete.
The Bottom Line: It's All About Your Client
The relationship-building work doesn’t stop as soon as you win a new client. Once a new customer has agreed to work with you, you’ll want to ensure that you secure a long-term link that will help your business to flourish.
Ensuring that you and your new clients are on the same page is a great way to build a strong foundation for your working relationship. Both of you will need to communicate your goals and expectations at the outset of the partnership. You’ll also need to understand each other's roles and responsibilities, and how these will move your project forward.
Giving your clients a frictionless way to pay you is also important to maintaining a good working relationship. When you work with Pay.com, your clients have the convenience of being able to choose the payment method they want to use, while you can have the benefit of managing all your payments in one place.