There are many things a freelancer can do in order to make the process of completing projects for clients as smooth as possible. One of the first things we can do is to have a streamlined process for client onboarding, which will set the tone for the entire project and help you look professional and efficient. Even though each project is unique, you can create a general process that will give each of your clients necessary information about working with you and enable you to gather important information from them. A solid onboard process and package can help save you time because you won’t be creating new material for each client before their project starts; it can also help you screen out projects that do not fit within your business parameters. The materials needed for your onboard process can be tailored for your specific business; whether you’re a coder, a designer or a writer there are some simple steps we can all build on to improve freelancer-client relationships.
Step 1 - First Contact:
The most important 3 points of the initial communication phase are: to thank them for their business, to introduce yourself, and to find out some necessary information about the project from them. At this stage you do not need to go into too many details about how you work, your overall process or timeline for this type of project - that will come once you get more details from them - but you do want to give them a hint of what’s to come next. It is good to give your clients some general information about working with you, such as how and when to contact you and how and when you will provide them with further details about the project process. Before you can start hammering out the nitty-gritty of the project details, you are going to need some information about what they are looking for. This is where having a universal intake form that you can give to all prospective clients comes in handy, it will get you the information you need and weed-out the people who might “just be looking” for services so that you do not waste your time making new materials for everyone.
You can tailor the client intake form to fit your business, however most will have places to gather the following information from your prospective clients:
- Company Website
- Email/Contact information
- Project Goals
If you’re a web page designer, you might have a slot for “examples of websites you are inspired by or hate”, if you offer service packages you could include a section asking “what package are you interested in”, or instead of asking for project goals you could ask the client to “detail your requirements”. What type of questions are included on your intake form should reflect the information that you need to know before you start working on any project, as well as establish the project parameters so neither you, nor your prospective clients, waste any time trying to start off a project-relationship that might not be a good fit. You can create your own intake forms using services like: Typeform, Gravity Forms, or Wufoo.
Step 2 - The Set-up:
Now that you have gathered some information about the client’s needs you might think you are ready to start on their project, but wait! There are a couple things that you can do to further solidify your freelancer-client relationship and make sure the project gets off to the best start possible. Before you fire off your proposal and contract, consider providing the client with a welcome package in the form of premade PDFs that you can use or adapt for all projects that you work on. This welcome package could include:
- Information about working with you: such as your work style, working hours, how long it usually takes you to respond to emails, a more detailed overview of the project and expected start date
- An outline of your basic policies and practices
- A checklist of what is required from the client to get started on the project
- An more in-depth planning guide or questionnaire than was given at first contact, if necessary to save emails back and forth
- A google doc mini-proposal to that clients can edit or comment on to show that you understand the project and ensure that you’re both on the same page
Depending on your vocation and the type of information you need to get started on projects your welcome package may include just one or two from the above list, more, or other things entirely. The point of making a standard welcome package is to help you provide all the information clients need to know about you and set them up to provide you with all the information you need to get off to a productive start on their project. Taking the time to create a standard welcome package for your business can save you a lot of time emailing back and forth with each and every client in order to establish the basic project parameters that you need in order to draw up proposals and contracts.
Step 3 - The Contract:
Thanks to your awesome welcome package, the client has provided you with all the necessary information you need to draw up a professional contract; if a particular client or project needs a proposal before you get hired, you are ready for that too. A good proposal or contract should include:
- How many revisions are included in the project price
- Typical working hours and response time to emails
- Client responsibilities
- Rights of ownership
- What happens if add-ons are added mid-project
- What the client is provided with at the end of the project
- Non-disclosure agreement
- Invoice and payment timeline
- Termination Details
No matter who you’re working for, a contract is necessary. It protects you and your client and firmly establishes expectations, method of payment, and deadlines. For more information about contracts, check out our post all about contracts. If you’re not too confident about making up your own proposals and contracts from scratch, And Co by fiverr is really helpful and easy to use.
Step 4 - Do the Work:
This is the most important stage - here’s where you get to do the work that you do best. The number one complaint from clients about freelancers is that they are unreliable, so you have a chance to stand out from the pack just by being a responsible worker. You must provide quality work that meets or exceeds the expectations laid out in the proposal and contract and you must do it on time. During this stage be sure to respond to all client communication in a timely and professional manner. Keep your clients happy and they will hire you again.
Step 5 - The Wrap-up:
Even though this post is mainly about starting off the freelancer-client relationship, here at Sagegroupy, we want you to establish great long-term working relationships with clients so we're including this helpful tip on how to end projects and keep those clients coming back. Here is where another customizable PDF document might come in handy, in your thank you package, you can include:
- A project summary
- A gracious thank you for the opportunity
- How any ongoing services are handled after project handoff
- A feedback form
You can also include documents that provide any necessary information such as: links and/or passwords, tutorials for ongoing management of the project, branding info like logos, color palette, fonts used, or anything else pertinent to your services and the project.
In order to have a smooth working relationship with clients, while saving time, freelancers can establish a their own unique client onboarding process and materials to get projects off to the right start and end them on a positive note. Clients are taking a big risk when they start working with a new freelancer, so having a stellar welcome package can put their mind at ease and ensure that you are both on the same page. Sometimes clients are not always sure exactly what they might need from your range of services, so as part of your welcoming process you might want to consider offering service packages - especially if you’re finding that most of your clients want similar things even if they don’t know it as the start of each project. You can establish baseline package prices and can charge extra for add-ons, but be sure to include those extra charges in the proposal and contract.
Sagegroupy has built an innovative new platform to provide freelancers like you and clients the ability to work together at no cost and we want your relationships to thrive. From first contact to project wrap-up, with some preparation ahead of time, freelancers can pave the way for good business-relationships and successful project completion.