The contract has been signed and you’re finally ready to start the website project with your new client. What now?
You’ve entered the onboarding phase: the short but critical period before the design and development work officially begins.
This is your chance to impress the client with your professionalism and set the tone for the whole project. Here are a few tips to start off on the right foot:
But before we dive into those steps, let’s start with client onboarding 101.
Client onboarding 101
During the onboarding phase, there are two main goals: to seamlessly shift from sales to project management, and to properly welcome and impress your new client.
The first goal is especially important if you have a long sales process. In this case, your client may have developed a strong relationship with the salesperson. One of the best ways to bridge this gap is for the salesperson to help the client establish a rapport with the design and development team. If this doesn’t go well or if there’s any confusion, you may end up with a client who directs their questions back to the sales team instead of towards the project team.
If you are a freelancer, this may not be an issue. But no matter what, you will be faced with the second goal: welcoming your client into the website project phase. This is your opportunity to show off your professionalism and set the tone for a successful collaboration.
Define your onboarding process
The most common problem during the onboarding phase is confusion. Who is responsible for what? And, what do you need from the client to get started?
Regardless of the size of your website projects, create an onboarding process that you can reference every time. Onboarding a new client typically includes:
- Processing billing information
- Gathering necessary information from the client to start the project
- Introducing the project team
- Scheduling a kick-off call or first project call
Transitions are notorious for things falling through the cracks – it’s so easy during these times for coworkers to assume someone else is responsible for a task. Whether you have two people, or six people involved in a project, define who is responsible for which tasks ahead of time.
If you have an assistant on your team, delegate administrative tasks to them, such as setting up internal folders and systems, processing billing, and creating documents. This will help the designer, developer, and other project team members spend the onboarding time familiarizing themselves with the client and scope.
Additionally, create email templates for the most important emails you send out during the onboarding phase. This will help you display a consistently high level of service to each and every client.
Kick off the project with flair
Most clients expect a kick-off call or meeting at the start of a website project. This is an extremely important meeting because it’s the client’s first impression of your management skills.
Make sure you have a rough agenda planned for the kick-off meeting, which may include:
- Introducing the team
- Reviewing the project timeline and milestones
- Addressing any project scope questions
- Diving into questions about the client’s company, website goals, etc.
The first meeting is a great opportunity for the salesperson to introduce the team and share their confidence in them. It is also the best time to identify the client-side project manager who will be providing approvals and coordinating meetings with the client’s team.
Another way to impress clients is to create a well-designed project plan or timeline document. It can include specific goal dates based on the project start date and biographies of each project team member.
And finally, bring some panache to every document you give your client. Include a nice header graphic, custom footer, and some of your branding colors. While the client is probably hiring you for your web design skills and not your print skills, everything that you present to the client will be judged.
Create personal touches to welcome clients
The onboarding phase and first project call are both important because clients often remember the beginning and end of a project. Use this to your advantage, and bookend your website projects with memorable experiences.
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As much as possible, create personal touches to welcome each client and make them feel special. If you can afford it, consider sending the client a thank you card right after the contract is signed, thanking them for choosing your team.
If you have any team members interact with the client after the initial kick-off call, make sure to introduce them in a formal and professional manner. Lastly, if you are working on a website redesign, send a formal congratulations email to the client when the new website launches.
Make sure each person involved in the project also congratulates the client and adds their own unique note.
These extra steps go a long way to ensuring your client leaves the project on a happy note, ready to recommend you to other clients.
Creating a positive client onboarding experience for every client that comes through the door will ensure that you’re starting every relationship in a great and consistent way. This can lead to a great client relationship, and may even spark future business or referrals to your agency.
Free web design client interview PDF
Onboard each and every client in the best way possible with this free web design client interview PDF. Download it below.