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Resourceful Designer podcast: Offering tips, tricks and advice for starting and growing your graphic or web design business.

What is Client Onboarding?

Client onboarding is the process of turning potential clients into paying clients. It’s the process of introducing them to your business, addressing their questions and concerns, and ensuring they understand the services you offer and your processes while providing those services.

Onboarding is all the steps from the initial contact with the client until you start working on their design project. It’s your chance to explain to a client;

  • What they should expect from you.
  • What their part is in the relationship.
  • How communication between you should happen.
  • When and how you are to be paid.
  • And more

Over the next few episodes of the podcast, I’m going to dive into specific parts of the client onboarding process, but for today, I’m going to talk about the process as a whole.

Why is Client Onboarding important?

Let’s look at the process from two angles.

From the client's point of view:

The Onboarding process plays a vital part in building and nurturing the relationship between you and your client. It’s a way of ensuring you’re all on the same page when it comes to working together.

Clients don’t often know how partnering with a designer works. It’s nervewracking for them to trust you, someone they may not know, with this vital part of their business's future. With proper Client Onboarding, you give the client a glimpse of what it will be like working together and hopefully leave them feeling confident that they’ve made the right choice in hiring you.

For your point of view:

The Onboarding process is a way for you to grasp the scope of the project the client is presenting you with, as well as a chance to get to know the client. You learn their communication style which allows you to address any concerns you may have right at the start, so they don’t become problems later on. And it allows you to show the client your “plan of attack” for tackling their project, letting them know what you expect of them.

The onboarding process is also a great way to weed out potential bad clients. At this point, you have not agreed to anything with the client. Use this time to determine if they are someone with whom you want to work.

Finally, the onboarding process is a great opportunity for you to show the client just how awesome it will be to work with you, hopefully putting them at ease and solidifying in their mind that they’ve chosen the right designer.

To sum it up, Client Onboarding is all about keeping the client happy, because a happy client will come back for more. That’s how vital the onboarding process is.

Ignoring the process.

Client Onboarding is a process. As a process, it has a structure that over time you will become intimately familiar with and comfortable using. Once you get used to an onboarding process, you will find it much easier to land clients.

If you receive inquiries from potential clients but with very few of them converting into paying clients, then you need to evaluate your client onboarding process.

Whenever you meet a potential new client, you can’t just start throwing random information at them and expect them to come on board immediately. It’s overwhelming for them. And yet, that’s precisely the strategy many designers take. They give as much information as they can without taking the client’s point of view in mind, which is probably why they find client acquisition difficult.

Onboarding involves not only informing the potential client of what they need to know but listening to them and answering their questions and concerns. It’s about making the experience of hiring a designer as smooth as possible for them. If you don’t do it right, you’ll leave the client with the wrong impression, and the chances of them hiring you or coming back are slim. However, If you do it right, the client will come to believe that there is nobody else they want to work with but you.

Part of running a design business is being a salesperson. And as all good salespeople know, having a good onboarding process in place is half the battle to winning over clients.

When should Client Onboarding start?

The onboarding process should start as soon as a client reaches out to you. There are various steps to the onboarding process that I’ll cover in the next few episodes of the podcast. But just know that Client Onboarding is ongoing from the first contact until project start, and sometimes beyond.

Client Onboarding gives you direction.

Any time you start working with a client, both sides usually have a sense of enthusiasm towards the new project. Ideas go back and forward, people get excited and before you know it, decisions have been made without any form of direction.

Client Onboarding gives you that direction.

Part of the process is to create a schedule and a plan for the project. This allows you to set out roles by determining who will be doing what and when. How long the process should take and what is expected from all parties. This way nothing is left up in the air and there are no surprises. Design projects go so much smoother when everyone involved knows what to expect.

Managing client expectations.

I mentioned earlier how a lot of clients don’t know how partnering with a designer works. Onboarding can help alleviate this by managing client expectations.

Part of the Onboarding Process is to make sure clients know what they can expect, and also what not to expect from you when it comes to your processes and how you work. Take scope creep for example. It’s the bane of many designers. However, Most clients don’t realise the problem when they ask you to do “just one more thing.”

To prevent scope creep, outline your policies in the onboarding process and let clients know by;

  • Defining exactly what is involved with their project.
  • Explaining what is allowed and what isn’t allowed within that definition.
  • Letting them know the costs involved with additional work.
  • Making sure the client knows what they are paying for.

Setting them straight on the way you work and the processes you use is a key ingredient to a successful project and a long and prosperous relationship.

Show your clients why choosing you was the right choice.

Client Onboarding isn’t just about preventing potential problems. It’s also about showcasing what it is you can do and how much value you can bring them. This is important because, as I mentioned earlier, at this stage the client is excited to get their project started. That excitement lends well to you introducing other creative ideas and services to them. While they are most receptive take the opportunity to bring up other creative ideas or services you offer.

The results of good Client Onboarding.

When you’re successful with your client onboarding, you will not only increase the percentage of potential clients that convert to paid clients. But those clients will:

  • Stay with you longer and be more loyal.
  • Order more products and services from you.
  • Become ambassadors and advocate for your company and services. Spreading the word and helping you grow your design business.

And that’s why you should have a client onboarding process for your design business.

Do you have a client onboarding process in place?

Let me know by leaving a comment for this episode.

Questions of the Week

Submit your question to be featured in a future episode of the podcast by visiting the feedback page.

This week’s question comes from Fanis

My name is Fanis, and I am from Greece.

By reading about Graphic Design process, I always turn out to the same issue. What if I live in an island and most of my projects are about tourism, like hotel brochures, maps, rental brochures etc.? How can I define my client goals and who may be my client competition?

To find out what I told Fanis you’ll have to listen to the podcast.

Resource of the week 4-Week Marketing Boost

The Four Week Marketing Boost! is a free guide I created that will help you strengthen your marketing position, boost your brand’s awareness & social presence and ultimately ensure you are in tip-top shape to offer a best first impression to potential new clients.

This guide is divided into 20 short actions that comfortably fit into your regular day and are designed to take as little time away from your client work as possible. Although you can complete these exercises quickly, it is recommended you tackle only one per day, spending no more than 30 minutes per task. After completing this four-week plan you will be in a better position to present yourself to, and win over new clients.

You can download the Four Week Marketing Boost for free by visiting marketingboost.net. Or, if you are in the U.S.A., you can text the word MARKETINGBOOST to 44222.

Improve your business' image and create the best first impression possible to attract more clients.

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I want to help you.

Running a graphic design or web design business all by yourself isn't easy. If there are any struggles you face running your design business, please reach out to me. I'll do my best to help you by addressing your issues in a future blog post or podcast episode here at Resourceful Designer. You can reach me at feedback@resourcefuldesigner.com

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