ALL ABOARD! Peek my Client Onboarding Process

Here’s a fun pic from Croatia to make this less boring

Here’s a fun pic from Croatia to make this less boring

Approaching my 5th year in the brand design biz, it’s safe to say that I’ve trial-ed and error-ed my way around and through my new client on-boarding process. Based on the polls for what you all wanted covered on #desIGnLIVE this week, I’m sharing how a new client goes from total stranger to new client of MKW’s.

Here’s the lowdown on how it goes down, step-by-step:

  1. Start with the Contact Form

Let’s get real granular with this: Step 1 submit your project via my contact form. This is an important step because I ask a LOT more Qs in my contact form that someone typically elaborates in a general email. In there, you’ll see Q’s like:

  • Timeline

  • Budget

  • Your Mission Statement

  • Your Vision Statement

  • Your Ideal Client

I ask these for a reason. Someone who comes to me for a brand design WITHOUT having those criteria outlined, needs to start with Small Biz Start Up Guide, FIRST. For those who don’t know, the Small Biz Start Up Guide is the 5 Phase, no-fuss, e(work)book that walks new entrepreneurs through the small biz planning, legal and branding process. Branding comes as step 3 because in order to design a brand EFFECTIVELY, we need to know who we are designing for and what the mission/vision (and usually goals) are of the small business you’re trying to create. The Small Biz Start Up Guide is a FANTASTIC resource for someone who wants to launch a biz, but has no idea how to do so or what is involved in that process. We even have a Master Timeline available for FREE DOWNLOAD on the site so you can see where you are on the roadmap to entrepreneurship.


2. We schedule a Call/Video Chat

I just recently started to include this in part of my on-boarding process. Although we basically recap what is submitted to me in the initial contact form, talking over the phone or on Google Hangouts gives me an opportunity to really listen to what someone’s asking for, then parrot it back to be sure I comprehend what it is that we need.

I find that I can also pick up on someone’s energy, personality style, and passion MUCH better when I can hear them as opposed to over email, which always gives me the warm fuzzies! Talking about a project also gives me the chance to ask questions like:

  • Where are you in the process of starting your biz?

  • Why did you decide to start your business?

  • What got you to where you are?

  • Where do you see your biz going in 3, 5, 10 years?

Again, all of these kinds of Qs help me design BETTER and more specific to my clients and their businesses.


3. I send an Explainer Email

Based on our conversation, I will recap all that we talked about for the brand direction in an explainer email. I use the same format for ALL my explainer emails, which saves me time, but also gives me the chance to add in information that is relevant to their projects. I always include:

  • Recap of what we discussed

  • Links to relevant sites or free downloads that can help them

  • Explanation of Services

  • Specific work examples that are similar to their biz that I already have on my site

  • END WITH (in bold): Plan of attack + “if all looks good, go ahead and reply to this email and I can walk you through how we would get started!”

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I just made my tried and true explainer email into a PDF DOWNLOAD that you can get fo’ free. I have been using this structure for my explainer emails for just about a year now, and it has helped me sign MORE of my ideal clients on for my services, while also giving me the chance to educate them about why I charge what I charge.


4. Send Estimate

Based on which service my client would like to move forward with, I send them a formal estimate through my accounting and invoicing software, Harvest. I loooooove Harvest because I can do all my estimates, invoices, expenses, and time tracking within the app, as well as annual and quarterly reporting. It costs $12/month, which is so worth it in my opinion.


5. Set Errythang up in Basecamp

You can get a more detailed version of the programs and softwares I use in this blog: Allll the Tools I Use for my Freelance Business + Discount Links, but here’s a recap on why I love basecamp:

  • it keeps things out of email - emails get so complicated when there are multiple topics being covered at once, nevertheless when there are attachments involved. Keeping all communications in Basecamp is much more streamlined

  • images display niiiice and large - this is so helpful for displaying my work to my client

  • timestamps - I love that we can see a running timestamp of when each person has responded to threads

Here’s what I am adding to the Basecamp folder BEFORE I invite my client:

  1. Service Agreement - thank youuuu Braden Drake Law. Which I will have them sign and re-upload to basecamp for safe keepings

  2. Invoice - I will add a link to an Invoice from Harvest for the first installment of their project… The next blog I have in my drafts pile is WHY IT IS SO IMPORTANT TO GET PAID UP FRONT AS A CREATIVE (which I will link back here once I write it)

  3. Brand Questionnaire - I create a google doc questionnaire for each of my clients that gives me more context about who their audience is, what their goals are, who their competitors are, and how they envision their brand to look


6. Aaaand we’re off!

That’s the whole onboarding process as it stands for now! Once the invoice is paid, service agreement is signed, and brand questionnarie is completed, we start to design the actual brand, then website, which goes a little like this:

The website design process I have explained here, although it could probably use a refresher as well: Web Design Process: What to Expect + Getting Started


SO that’s kind of it, folks! By no means do you HAVE TO onboard clients in this way, but if this little blogg-o helped you at all, would you leave a comment below? I would love to hear about how your onboarding process is similar or different or how you think I might be able to improve mine! Let’s chat about it!


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