Make a great impression when onboarding clients.

You only have one chance for a first impression.

You have invested time and effort into prospecting a new client but it doesn’t end there. What really matters is getting them to sign on the dotted line of an agreement that will define your working relationship.

Developing an onboarding process for new clients not only sets the stage for expectations and returns but also reduces administrative workload. Freeing you from managing the client to instead putting in creative effort and headspace on the project. And, once you have that in place it is great to review it from time to time with your existing clients.

I don’t know about you, but I got into the creative business for the creative part. The business part can be a drag. Sure getting the client to say ‘yes’ is a thrill, but when you don’t have a process in place then you are always starting from the beginning, again.

An onboarding workflow should include the following:

Contract. A contract defines your working relationship. The more that is outlined in the beginning, the less miscommunication can occur. Things your contract can include are:

  • Terms for payment: This can include dates, milestones, late fees, how you accept payments (check, ACH, PayPal…)
  • Changes on the work: Your contract should include how many concepts and how many revisions the client will receive. Here you outline what additional changes might cost and if the project scope changes, and what you will do in those circumstances.
  • Rights granted: Who owns the rights to the work you create? If you are buying images, videos, or fonts you should state clearly how the rights for these will be passed on.
  • Cancellation: If things do not work out, or something out of the ordinary happens, you should outline how the job will end. Who will own the work created to date, and how much needs to be paid to settle up.
  • Liability: Ruzow Graphics states “The CLIENT agrees that it shall not hold Ruzow Graphics liable for any incidental or consequential damages that arise from Ruzow Graphics failure to perform the contracted work within the agreed-upon timeline unless the circumstances are beyond Ruzow Graphics’ control.”

Client Vetting. Your process should include a consultation to discuss the project as well as walk through any questions they might have. Scheduling the meeting can be a hiccup, but using an online scheduler is a simple way of simplifying the process.

Pricing. Creative work is usually unique to each client/project, but having a pricing guideline that you can easily reference or package pricing that makes sense to advertise online is one less question you would need to ponder at the beginning.

  • Choose if you want to work on a per-project basis or by the hour. Sometimes the job is per project but excessive edits are per hour.
  • Setting up a retainer could also help with cash flow for ongoing work.

Expectations. Outside of how the contract outlines the working relationship, what it doesn’t do is flush out a creative brief. Making sure you have all the details you need for a successful design from the beginning.

Creatives Roundtable member and creative web designer extraordinaire, Jill Lynn Design, has compiled an onboarding toolkit that is based on her years of experience. Check it out.

Looking to join the conversation about running an independent creative business? Check out the Creatives Roundtable membership!

Written by Crystal Reynolds

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