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The 5-Step Blueprint for Perfect Client Onboarding | The Infinite Clients Series

When you're freelancing, those first steps with a brand new client are absolutely crucial to nail.
 
It's like when you're trying out a new app and everything from the welcome screen to the first few clicks just flows effortlessly. You instantly know you're going to enjoy using it.
 
That's the smooth, user-friendly vibe you want your client onboarding system to have.
 
So, why is it such a big deal?
 
For starters, it's all about building trust. We're in a world where a lot of our interactions happen over emails or messages, making it tough to really feel a connection. A smooth onboarding experience can help make your client feel like they've made the right choice in picking you.
 
It also helps avoid those awkward “that's not what I thought we agreed on” moments. Getting everyone clear on what's what from the start means less back-and-forth later on. It's choosing the right playlist before a long drive – it sets the tone and keeps the vibes good all the way.
 
But it's not just about avoiding mix-ups. An awesome onboarding process shows you're a pro who cares about your clients' experiences.
 
This can lead to more work from the same clients and even some word-of-mouth recommendations (i.e. “infinite clients”). And let's be honest, who doesn't want that?
 
Plus, a slick onboarding system can save you a ton of time on the admin stuff, giving you more time to focus on the actual work. It's about being prepared to be creative vs frantically scrambling for things.
 
So, if you're nodding along and thinking, “Yeah, I need to get my onboarding game on point,” then you'll want to check this week's podcast episode.
 
We break down a 5-part client onboarding process that's straightforward and effective. It's packed with practical tips and insights that could really make a difference in your freelancing journey. Give it a listen and let me know what you think!
 
In this episode you’ll discover:
  • How to build a great client onboarding questionnaire
  • Why bad onboarding destroys relationships
  • Organizing your data to avoid embarrassing moments
  • Creating a kickass kickoff call
  • Why it's easier to fire a client earlier rather than later
  • JUST USE A CALENDAR LINK
  • Make your kickoff calls as short as possible – while still covering everything needed
  • Setting expectations properly
  • Remember to show excitement!

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[00:00:00] Brian: Hello and welcome to the Six Figure Creative Podcast. I'm your host, Brian Hood. If this is your first time listening to the show, hi, hello, Welcome to the show. This is your first time. Cool. This podcast is for you. If you are a freelancer who offers creative services and you want to make more money from your services or your creative skills.

[00:00:14] Brian: Without selling your soul if that sounds like you you're in the right place for my returning listeners and if you're new I have to publicly apologize to Chris Doe over at the future listen this podcast, you don't know who Chris Doe is don't know what to tell you Apparently I stole something from him.

[00:00:28] Brian: was not called out. I just literally found this yesterday, Hiring or interviewing people for new coach role here at six figure creative. somehow we got onto talking about the future and we went to the site. And one of the things that we looked at was our about page. on there about page, it says something about helping creatives or freelancers or helping you earn more money without losing your soul, something like that.

[00:00:49] Brian: I thought, man, has Christo stolen this from me, my podcast intro that I've been saying for. Dozens, maybe a hundred plus episodes. that's the first thought that came to my mind. It's like someone stole that from me It [00:01:00] turns out I probably stole it from him there's a thing called a wayback machine if you're familiar what this is It's like internet archive you can look up versions of pages as long as they've existed just google wayback machine or something and I my petty self had to look and just see how long has he been doing that?

[00:01:14] Brian: When did I start saying this on the podcast and I look back as far as like November 2021 and that page has been the Same I didn't start saying this in the intro to probably like 2022 So then I looked at myself in the mirror and said Brian you thief you are a of crap I'd probably seen it before because I'm not going to pretend like I don't know who they exist.

[00:01:30] Brian: They're freaking awesome. the stuff that Chris does is amazing. But I just had to say if you ever have noticed that and thought, Man, did Brian steal that from him? Yes, I did. Will I stop saying it? I don't know. We say it a little differently. He says without losing your soul. I say without selling your soul.

[00:01:43] Brian: potato, Potato, but just had to call it myself out for that and apologize publicly for even thinking to myself that he'd stolen it from me. Chris has got way better things to do. It's still stuff from the six figure creative. Okay. What are we talking about today? Today is our continuation in the infinite client series.

[00:01:58] Brian: If you are new to this series, this is your first [00:02:00] episode or you've been skipping around or you just you happen to pick up for this episode, this is a series it'll probably last for a while on answering the question, what would it look like if every single client hired us referred at least one more client to you?

[00:02:12] Brian: If that were the case, you would have essentially infinite clients. You get like three clients. Those clients refer three more clients to you. Those clients refer three more clients to you and so on and so on. You have a viral business. It's amazing. It's not a realistic goal for pretty much anybody, but it's one that we can strive towards by having a better service, by keeping our clients happy.

[00:02:28] Brian: And so I have a whole series planned on this because it's something we don't talk about a lot, at least not from this perspective on the podcast. And we're continuing it today. Last week, we talked about the rock solid eight part client agreement that will make sure expectations are set That nobody is going into the project thinking something that doesn't actually happen is going to happen. So that's last week's episode this week. We're talking about Essentially the remaining steps on my five part ultimate client onboarding process if you're like brian I don't want to listen to you.

[00:02:53] Brian: I'd rather just read through a document Go to six figure creative.com/onboarding and you'll get a PDF. That covers pretty much all five steps that we're gonna [00:03:00] talk about the remaining four in this episode. If we have time, I've got four more. Last week was the client agreement, that's step one. And today we're gonna talk about how to create an onboarding questionnaire that gets the information you need from your clients. We're gonna talk about reviewing that questionnaire and actually creating three documents that I think are essential for making sure the project goes smoothly. We're gonna talk about a kick ass kickoff call with your client.

[00:03:18] Brian: I think There's some situations, but very few situations where you shouldn't do a kickoff call with your client before the project begins or or you can even call it day one of the project. everyone's different, but that's what I'll talk through hopefully this episode.

[00:03:28] Brian: And then the fifth and final step of the ultimate onboarding process as we call it is follow up for dear life. And I'll explain what that means because all this stuff is very important. and the whole point of all this is to make sure that every project runs smoothly. Onboarding a client is basically getting all the stuff we need to actually fulfill on the services that we're offering. And every single little thing you mess up in this onboarding process is one more little knock against you.

[00:03:49] Brian: One little ding. it can be a little small things, but it's like an RPG and you're doing like one HP damage to the little rat that you got to fight at the beginning of the, your level one in any RPG, always got to fight a rat somewhere. I don't know what that's about a [00:04:00] giant rat.

[00:04:00] Brian: Actually, it might just be one HP at a time, but that starts to really, really tick away at their HP, AKA how happy there are with you. and honestly, some of the little small ball drops you can mess up in onboarding can fester into huge, gaping, toxic, wounds, gangrene, gangrenous, gangrenous.

[00:04:16] Brian: I don't know how to say it, but that's where wounds, you have to cut it off because you have gangrene in your arm or leg. That's the kind of stuff that can happen if you mess this part up. And the whole goal again is to make every client so ecstatic, so happy, so thrilled that they work with you, that they refer at least one new client to you.

[00:04:29] Brian: And To get to that level, which is an impossible goal, we have to nail onboarding. So that's the topic of this episode and maybe one more. It just depends on how long this episode goes. I'm a talker someone was asking me about short form content they were kind of like in that weird medium between like two and three minutes where it's like On the borderline, no longer short form content and they're asking if they should bring it over to YouTube for like longer form and my thoughts to him are like, depends on how you are, you should probably tidy it up a little bit, get to the core points, you know, one to two minutes max on short form media, but that can be a huge [00:05:00] challenge for people like me where I want to elaborate on all the things and just keep talking, talking, talking. So that's why I have a podcast where I have like 30, 45 minute hour long episodes where I get to just elaborate. Because it is way more challenging for someone like me to do short form media than it is to just talk at length about topics. And hopefully you're on a podcast walk or doing the dishes or doing something where I can just talk at you and give you my thoughts on something and you're able to synthesize it into.

[00:05:24] Brian: Hopefully better your business and hopefully if he can turn it into infinite clients, you let me know. All right, so we're going to talk about first things first on here is the onboarding questionnaire. Again, last week was the client agreement. That's just making sure all parties are aligned on what's going to happen and what's not going to happen.

[00:05:37] Brian: Now we have something called the onboarding questionnaire. Every business is going to be slightly different than this, but this is generally best practice for onboarding clients. An onboarding questionnaire is essentially the next step after they sign that client agreement. What information do you need to get from your client in order to make sure the project is going to run smoothly?

[00:05:53] Brian: So I've got four categories of questions to add to this questionnaire. Or four categories of things to collect in this onboarding questionnaire because it's not just [00:06:00] questions. Sometimes it's files or things you actually need physically or digitally. And then I'm going to send you to an example one so that you can actually see an example of what this might look like.

[00:06:06] Brian: in one niche, this one's podcast production, but will translate to whatever you do. I'm sure in some way, shape, or form. So the first thing is just basic information. That's the first type of thing we're collecting on this onboarding form. It's just contact information for all parties involved, not just your clients, but anyone Collaborating with this important to your project again.

[00:06:22] Brian: I come from a music production background So when i'm working with a band, there's always files I need to get from maybe the producer if i'm mixing or Information I need to get from the managers or the labels things like that So any anybody who's at all involved with the project? I want to get that contact information

[00:06:36] Brian: The rest can be whatever like it can be

[00:06:38] Brian: Release dates. If it's an album, it can be any sort of what you consider basic information, AKA, anything that you don't want to waste time on the call getting from the client, if they can provide it in a form, never wait till the kickoff call to get this stuff. Just get it in a form, get it done.

[00:06:51] Brian: And that way it's all in this one nice area. We'll talk about what to do with this information in a minute. Next is the second kind of category of questions to put on your onboarding form is [00:07:00] project inputs. think of your service as an assembly line. Not everyone can do this, but think of it like an assembly line.

[00:07:04] Brian: So music production, you start with songwriting and then pre production, and then you start recording the parts. And that usually starts with, We do scratch tracks over drums, and then you put bass over it, and guitars, and then vocals finally, and then additional production elements.

[00:07:18] Brian: that is essentially an assembly line. then it goes to the mixing engineer, and then the master engineer, and then from the master engineer etc, etc, etc. Every niche, every service has some sort of Process you put people through and think of that as the assembly line that people are going through in order to come out the other end with the thing that they hired you to do.

[00:07:33] Brian: So now that you have this assembly line pictured in your mind, ask yourself what information, what files, what information or accounts you need access to. Pretty much what do you need from the client? In order to actually fulfill on this assembly line, are you going to get stuck at this entire assembly line, get as much of that as you possibly can up front so that you're not scrambling for it later, the thing that will kill a project in his tracks or put things behind schedule is having to scramble for some file or for some access to some account you needed [00:08:00] or for something from the mixing engineer or something from the master engineer or whatever.

[00:08:03] Brian: insert your world into this going off and trying to collect this stuff. Okay. After the projects already started is a fool's errand and if you can prevent that from happening in this process It'll save you so much headache down the road

[00:08:13] Brian: One really good exercise is when you're in a project or it really at any point in the process you find Yourself scrambling for something forgot to get that file. You forgot to get access to that one thing You forgot to get that piece of information stop and consider the root cause of that And see if you can reduce it down to one more form field or one more input that you can gather on this questionnaire.

[00:08:32] Brian: So that's the second kind of category of questions or things to collect is project inputs or the raw materials. Number three, the third kind of category of questions you need to think through and add to this is the client's needs, desires, or goals or preferences. You can say this in a number of ways, but what does the client want?

[00:08:48] Brian: What does the client need? This is honestly what really matters when it comes to the project. If you don't give the client what they want or what they need give them the preferences that they have, if you don't do this, then you might complete the project, It won't be the [00:09:00] expectations that they wanted

[00:09:01] Brian: or even something that they don't actually need. Which would be the worst case ever so if that happens you can guarantee They're not gonna refer a client to you, which means it kills your infinite client ratio, right? So this is something we need to get from them. What preference do they have again?

[00:09:13] Brian: I'll just give you my music production example. Like What sounds do they want? What do they wanted to sound like? What sort of like vibe do they want? What sort of? Instruments or additional production elements, things like that, that's in music, the same in design, the same in video, the same in freelance copywriters.

[00:09:27] Brian: We have a bunch of those in our audience. It's like you all have those little preferences that the client have or the needs that they have to have. And if you don't have questions to capture those ahead of time, you could put the entire project and not actually give them what they want or not give them what they actually need.

[00:09:42] Brian: One benefit to this, by the way, is. It helps you weed out bad fit clients. So for example, if they are asking for something that you clearly cannot provide, then this is a good time to cut ties and move away before you've invested a bunch of time in, and they realize that they have made a mistake hiring you.

[00:09:58] Brian: it feels bad, but this is [00:10:00] in your best interest to not work on projects that are not going to actually lead to referrals. You can't give the client what they want, then they're not going to be happy. And not only will they not refer clients to you, they might actually dissuade people from working with you, not because you're bad at what you do, but because you were the wrong fit for that client.

[00:10:14] Brian: And that's a really important point is these questions help us get the things that we need to understand if we really can serve our clients. And if we can't, it is in your best interest to refund a deposit or refund a payment and just say, Hey. I now realize seeing your questionnaire filled out, I'm actually not a good fit for you.

[00:10:30] Brian: You want,

[00:10:31] Brian: ukulele and banjo. I'm a heavy metal producer. I have eight string drop triple G tuning with bass strings on a guitar. If you know, you know, if you don't know what that means, then don't worry about it. But I'm clearly not the right person for you. There are a million other producers here in Nashville who would be great for your music.

[00:10:47] Brian: I'm not your guy.

[00:10:48] Brian: So that's the third kind of line of questions to add to this questionnaire. which is again, client needs, desires, preferences, goals, et cetera. And then the fourth and final, and probably one of my favorite to add in here is questions that [00:11:00] we'll dig up. Potential roadblocks and or red flags. Think of this as your last line of defense against red flag clients. so let's just say that the client is a good fit. They need the thing that you provide. based on their goals and needs and preferences, everything so far has been great, but something gets pulled up.

[00:11:15] Brian: That raises a red flag and that could be a number of things every niche is different Every person is different but raises a red flag and says this might be the worst client You've ever worked with this might be not worth the money. There's something called pain in the ass factor a PETA factor Some people even charge extra for this the PETA taxes They call it where if it's a client that's gonna be a PETA they will charge more for it to compensate for that actual pain that you're going to feel I prefer when you can to just weed those out right now This is your last line of defense here

[00:11:42] Brian: But this is also your last kind of line of defense of making sure that roadblocks are tackled before you get to them So I kind of break these under two categories. What are the roadblocks that they control? So again, in music production, my background, which is things like lyrics if the vocalist doesn't have the lyrics done, that's a roadblock that needs to be tackled before they come [00:12:00] to me.

[00:12:00] Brian: It might be that they don't have their parts prepped, they don't have all their songs written, whatever. It's anything that's in their control and especially if I can't control it. So those are the things I've got to figure out and suss out ahead of time. And then there's other side of things.

[00:12:10] Brian: Those are the things that they don't control. Maybe nobody involved with the project controls it. It could be something. External it could be something that they're associated with and just to give you an example So this isn't so vague in music production again record labels would set due dates release dates for the albums and largely bands and producers and nobody had any real control over this So sometimes if that's brought up at the end, that's almost a red flag for example, I actually got a record mix from somebody because The record label put release date too close to the studio time, and that producer could not finish it in time.

[00:12:41] Brian: So they had to like emergency everything to me. I had to drop everything I was doing, it was a 100 hour work week for me, with a 24 hour shift at the very end to finish it all. It was a nightmare, but I was early in my career. I was hungry for it. I just needed to prove myself.

[00:12:52] Brian: So that's fine. And everyone has a different state. I would not do that now. these are roadblocks you need to know about ahead of time to know that if you are capable of addressing those, do you [00:13:00] even want to? Is this the stage of life where you want to deal with those things? But again, those are things that the client doesn't necessarily control.

[00:13:05] Brian: Now I'm going to put an example in the show notes.

[00:13:06] Brian: That's the onboarding assessment for Good Fortune Media podcast production. If you just want to go to it in your browser right now, it's goodfortune. media slash form dash example. Again, it'll sixfigurecreative. com slash 293 that's probably an easier link to get to, this addresses all those things.

[00:13:22] Brian: There's basic information. the needs or the desires of the client, potential roadblocks, a few little red flag things in there as well. it's a really good example again of everything I covered here.

[00:13:31] Brian: So that is the onboarding questionnaire. Again, take this as a framework or a guideline and not like a strict rule set you have to follow. Again, there are multiple ways to do the same thing, but I'm trying to give you some ideas and some aha moments when it comes to creating your onboarding form as part of a really good, well dialed in onboarding process.

[00:13:47] Brian: but that is just step two of our five part ultimate onboarding process. And that brings us to now step three in this process. And that is. Questionnaire review or reviewing the questionnaire of all the answers they gave you have to actually look over this and use this information now

[00:13:59] Brian: [00:14:00] So I recommend taking time to synthesize this data and bring it into three different documents

[00:14:05] Brian: And this keeps everything well organized so that you can find what you need when you need to have it So the first is a client profile. This is basically just All the information you have on the client in one nice, tidy, neat place. This keeps you from slogging through old emails, having to refer back to this questionnaire to find one specific thing.

[00:14:20] Brian: Or even worse, it keeps you from having to bug your clients to get something that already provided to you. That's actually embarrassing. It's like you reach out to a client for a file or for some information and they're like, dude, I gave that to you three weeks ago. That's unprofessional.

[00:14:33] Brian: That's one of those little 1HP dings on your client happiness, points, HP. Ooh, I like that. And it shows a lack of professionalism and preparation. So this is the client profile. So that's the gist of what it is. And this is going to look different for everybody. But again, anything you need related to that client should be in that one nice and neat place.

[00:14:50] Brian: And there's different ways to create it. And I prefer this start small and build it over time. Do not overbuild at the very beginning. So all you need to start a good client profile is have the [00:15:00] questionnaire up. It's all the answers to their onboarding questionnaire and then have a Google Doc or an Evernote file or a Notion file up something, Easy. And just start bullet pointing these things out.

[00:15:07] Brian: Put all the contact information in one area.

[00:15:09] Brian: Summarize some of the things that they want or need.

[00:15:12] Brian: Keep track of what they've paid and what they owe. you can build this however you want, again, I want to have as much information as one nice, neat place as possible. and I've built this up to something. A lot more elaborate now. So I started Evernote because I've been using it for years and I've got organized very nicely from the kind of getting things done by David Allen, that kind of method of filing things and organizing things into. It's a whole other thing. I'm not going to get into that today, but I started there, and I switched to a software based approach, something specific that allows me to set up this a little more customized to my needs.

[00:15:39] Brian: So there are softwares that do this for you. And there's some things I think HoneyBook, for example, has a client portal area. So does Dubsado. CRMs have this sort of stuff, but I don't love them to be honest with you. They're better than nothing. you could use that if you already have it.

[00:15:53] Brian: But I don't recommend starting there. But I moved everything into ClickUp. ClickUp I moved to beginning of 2022. [00:16:00] Yeah, January 2022 was when I shifted everything to ClickUp. that has so much in it. But that's where I keep all my client information.

[00:16:06] Brian: Whatever you use, just make sure it's all centralized. But the thing I like about ClickUp is not only can you store client information and attach files and Word documents like the other two documents I'm going to talk about here today and leave comments and collaborate with your team if you have a team.

[00:16:18] Brian: Not only can you do all that, You can also email your clients directly from, they're like client record. So ClickUp's moving towards kind of like a database and not just a project management software. A database is just where you store data. so we kind of have a list of clients and every task in that list is a specific client and you can attach a bunch of stuff and a bunch of subtasks.

[00:16:36] Brian: really elaborate. It's way beyond what most people will need right now and do not move their first thing. If you just start small, think through nice and neat Google doc, eventually build out some like little tables and things to store things more properly, make a template of eventually.

[00:16:49] Brian: And then once you have a really well doubted process, think through what tool matches the process I've created the best,

[00:16:55] Brian: but that's the first document you're going through the onboarding questionnaire and you're creating that client profile that gets all the information you [00:17:00] need

[00:17:00] Brian: in one nice centralized place. The second document you create from this onboarding questionnaire is your kickoff call talking points.

[00:17:06] Brian: So just basically as you're reading through things, just bring up anything you want to discuss on the call for your project needs. There's obvious things like when they talk about their goals or their desires or their needs for the project, you probably want to make sure you clarify all the things in there

[00:17:18] Brian: and just make sure you're on the same page, questions around expectations or things like that. Again. Just make a document. You're a smart person. I don't have to like hold your hands with this specific document. It's just like, what do you want to talk about it on the call? But then there's some not so obvious things that you need to make sure you have prepped.

[00:17:30] Brian: First is roadblocks. What are those roadblocks that are going to be a challenge? the release date of the record is too close, Maybe it's, if you're a copywriter, they have a launch coming up that's too soon and you need way more time than that. That's a roadblock. Maybe there's some red flags you want to poke at a little bit, right? Maybe they said something that's just a little off putting and you want to really, tear that apart and just figure out, is that truly a red flag or is it just a orange or gray flag?

[00:17:51] Brian: Maybe it was a false alarm. anything that you can use to get out of a nightmare project before it begins, it is not worth whatever you're getting paid to have a nightmare client that can ruin your day, [00:18:00] week, month, or year. And the third thing I can keep a running list for on the kickoff call document is, potential superpowers. Here's what I mean. Some clients in some projects have certain advantages that will make the project run smoother, easier, faster, better, whatever They might have, connections or friends that might have access to some resources that you need.

[00:18:19] Brian: I wanna make sure that these are brought up ahead of time so that we can discuss them to see if it truly is something that's a superpower or a distraction.

[00:18:25] Brian: So that's the second document. Again, first is a client profile. The second is. kickoff call kind of discussion points. And the third document is clarifications and to dos.

[00:18:34] Brian: The goal with this third document is to just keep a list of anything that needs to be addressed or clarified before the call. Again, the kickoff call or the kickoff date depends on how you do things. For some clients, you have a big kickoff call that marks the beginning of your time together.

[00:18:47] Brian: For some niches, the first date, like in the studio, we don't have a kickoff call. We just have a kickoff date. Although it would make sense to have a kickoff call before they get there to make sure everything's prepped and ready before the recording dates, but again, semantics here.

[00:18:58] Brian: Just anything that needs to be done [00:19:00] before this kickoff call, anything that needs to be addressed or clarified before this kickoff call, so that you're not wasting your time clarifying things on the call. some things will have to be clarified on this kickoff call. It's inevitable. But sometimes those things can be addressed ahead of time in order to spend more time on the call.

[00:19:13] Brian: Talking about the things that matter.

[00:19:15] Brian: think through anything that will make that kickoff call more productive. What tasks need to be done? Do you need to get some payments from them? Do you need to get files from the client, from a third party? For example,

[00:19:25] Brian: maybe you are a colorist, That's a niche we serve in community. videographer, you're a colorist, and you need to get the files from the videographer for your client before the project starts. anything that needs to be done that can be done before the project starts, all this stuff needs to be on there and tackled.

[00:19:40] Brian: Create a task list of things that you need to do before the call, and then anything that your team might need to do if you do have a team.

[00:19:45] Brian: So that is step three in the ultimate client onboarding processes. A questionnaire review. So reviewing the questionnaire, making those three key documents. Now the fourth step is a kick ass kickoff call.

[00:19:55] Brian: And this is where you, try your best to impress your clients with your professionalism and preparation, [00:20:00] which is a surprisingly low bar. Many clients have never really worked with a true professional, somebody who has their act together. So showing your preparation that you've done up to this point, great time to wow them or give that first early impression in the project.

[00:20:11] Brian: The second goal with this call is make sure the client is fully prepared for your time together so that you're not wasting time and then answer any lingering questions or concerns that they might have.

[00:20:19] Brian: Projects almost always have this. There's somebody who's maybe not as involved with the Early discussions. So they they're not clear on something. Maybe they don't specifically if there's multiple parties involved They don't have the expectation set properly Maybe they have concerns about you or the project or some external thing that needs to be Discussed so that they feel more at ease This is the time to do that

[00:20:37] Brian: the third point of this call is for you to alleviate any of your own concerns because again Sometimes there's that weird gut feeling that this is a, bad client and this is your time to really suss that out. Is this a bad fit client or is there just some false alarms that kind of like presented themselves once you've discussed it, it's not that bad, right?

[00:20:55] Brian: and the fourth kind of thing you can get from this call is you can use this time to fire the client. [00:21:00] Before you get deeper in the project it's like any relationship, right? those first few dates easy to break things off You start dating for a while and now it's a little harder to break up if things aren't feeling right year or two in you can still break up not a whole lot of fall out from that It's not going to feel great for either party and there can be some weird things going on.

[00:21:16] Brian: Maybe some Lose some friends, but it's still doable, but then you get engaged breaking off an engagement. That's even harder Now you've got the families involved people are rooting for you, right? even worse is you lose money on that wedding if you break these off now and you can't break these off that way and then you get married right I know 50 percent of marriages in a divorce but like It's messy, right?

[00:21:34] Brian: Especially if you've got kids, it makes it even harder, and then you've got the house you've got to divvy up, and then you've got other assets, it can be a brutal, long, drawn out divorce. You see how this gets progressively more and more difficult to cut things off? And if you would've just cut it off on the second or third date when you knew it wasn't right in your gut, you would've saved yourself so much heartache, pain, and Nightmare fuel.

[00:21:53] Brian: So think about it the exact same way here. This feels like a point where like man they've probably paid a deposit or even the full amount [00:22:00] they have reviewed and signed our client agreement. They have filled out this long questionnaire. I've now reviewed this i've spent time on my end reviewing all this and creating these documents and we're an hour into this kickoff call And I'm going to fire them now.

[00:22:12] Brian: I promise you it is easier to do it now than when you start the project. It is way, way less painful now than when you start the project. So just cut it off here. This is one of your last chances for clean cut before you've really invested a lot of work into this. This is your last chance.

[00:22:26] Brian: So take this seriously.

[00:22:28] Brian: So those are kind of the main goals for this call. But there's a couple other things that are important to note for this call. First is never play calendar tag with your client. When you're booking this kickoff call, the last thing, God, cannot stand people who do this. It's 2024 now. January 2024.

[00:22:42] Brian: and I still see people saying can you do next Tuesday at 2 p. m. What about Wednesday at 3? Oh, I can't do that. What about let's just push it to Friday. You have Friday at 1? No? Okay. Well, gosh, let me just call you and we'll just have a discussion.

[00:22:53] Brian: Oh, I missed your call. Well, let's uh You see how annoying this is? Just use a calendar link. a calendar link to the client. They can [00:23:00] review what dates are available. You can set your own availabilities. It will automatically check your calendar. If you have something on there, it will block the time off.

[00:23:06] Brian: super easy. You just pick the time. It will integrate with things like Zoom. So it will automatically create the link. Super easy peasy. Easy Funnels does this. Easyfunnels. io Easyfunnels. io Calendly does this, calendly. com, pretty much any app that is collaborative, Dubsado, I believe HoneyBook has this now, most CRMs have something like this now.

[00:23:25] Brian: Like There's no excuse these days to not use a scheduling. tool for them to choose a date and time that works for them. So don't play calendar text. Super annoying.

[00:23:32] Brian: that's how you get the call book. Next, have a clear agenda on the call. I give you kind of like the overview of the goals for the call, but you can set up the discussion points based on that first document you created a couple of steps ago where you have your kickoff call, talking points.

[00:23:44] Brian: So organize this in a logical order, have a clear agenda of what you're going to talk through with a client.

[00:23:48] Brian: And this will all depend on your specific needs for your project and how you run things. My one piece of advice to you is make the call as long as it needs to be and no longer. and that's the only advice I can give on the length of the call. Respect your client's time. If you've done [00:24:00] all your work, you should be able to knock this stuff out relatively quickly. But take the time to do this right. So it could be an hour. It could be two hours. It could be half a day. Again, every niche is different.

[00:24:09] Brian: Every project's different, but make it as long as you need it to be, again, need, but no longer. And then finally, the last thing on here. For the kickoff call, you cannot do this enough. There's no such thing as too much here. Set expectations again. You set it, probably in your clarity call or your discovery call, your sales call, whatever.

[00:24:25] Brian: You set expectations there. You set it again in the client agreement, in plain English.

[00:24:30] Brian: This is another time to properly set and align expectations. It's best to do this at the end, so talk through what they can expect for response times from you, what you need or expect from them for response times or reviewing things, what the preferred communication channels are. So email, phone, do you use like a Slack or a third party kind of app to where you collaborate in there asynchronously, the overall timeline for the project.

[00:24:51] Brian: Again, this is one of the big points that people mess up is they don't communicate this enough. What's the project schedule? What are the deliverables? What important or notable dates are there throughout this entire thing?[00:25:00]

[00:25:00] Brian: This, again, will alleviate so much issues. You will have less people reaching out to you, asking for things, or asking for clarification, or asking when you'll get something, if you just set the dates and stones ahead of time. And now it's all out there. so that is the framework for a kick ass kick off call.

[00:25:13] Brian: And now we get to the fifth and final part of this, ultimate five step client onboarding process. Number five is follow up for dear life. we don't want to let anything slip through the cracks. the first part of following up for dear life is follow up with a post call summary. This is directly after the kickoff call. This is just you probably already had this prepped ahead of time, and maybe you have to fill a few things in, but this is generally a template you kind of have ready to go and you fill in the details.

[00:25:36] Brian: So it's not going to take forever to do, but it is. Giving the client action items with due dates, and I cannot stress this enough, if the client has due dates, with consequences if those due dates don't get hit, then this is how you keep up momentum. And this is especially when they have little or no skin in the game.

[00:25:50] Brian: I actually got an email right before I started recording this. This came in like Five minutes before I hit record, a shout out to Matt. He says one area of the client journey I have the most trouble with is getting the [00:26:00] client, to start their project. So they have some things they need to do on their end to send him files for him to do things.

[00:26:06] Brian: he says, I have a lot of clients who finish things on time and have a lot of clients who take their sweet time because life got in the way and they didn't prioritize.

[00:26:12] Brian: And he says, most of this seems to come down to them getting busy and not prioritizing their project. I make sure I'm always ready for the next step, but I wonder how to get them to move forward while respecting their pace.

[00:26:22] Brian: Curious your takes on again, there's more to this than I'm going to address here, but this is one of those things that I'm talking about when it talks about giving them action items with due dates. On the kickoff call beforehand when you take a deposit from the client, anytime you need something from the client, they need a due date on that.

[00:26:37] Brian: And there has to be consequences. When we talk again, go back to last week's episode where I talked about the eight part client agreement, where you talk about due dates and consequences. If they don't do things by the due date, what's the consequence? It could be financial. It could be date related.

[00:26:49] Brian: It could be that they forfeit a deposit. There's a number of things you can do it however you want. But this ensures that you keep up momentum with the client.

[00:26:55] Brian: And if they don't have skin in the game, which it sounds like Matt's case, the client doesn't have any [00:27:00] skin in the game, they have nothing to lose. So there's nothing to spur them forward. Do something to make sure they have skin in the game. Take a non refundable deposit is my favorite way to do this.

[00:27:08] Brian: But again, this is all. What you do after the kickoff call, you're clarifying this in that post call email. You're following up with this information. This a surprise. This is not the first time this comes up. This has been discussed in the, client agreement. This has been discussed on the kickoff call itself.

[00:27:22] Brian: And now it's discussed again in the post call follow up. It gets sent to everybody involved with the project.

[00:27:26] Brian: and then you want to set expectations again. This is like the fifth time you've set expectations, but you cannot do this enough. I promise you, someone will miss this, or they will miss some part of this. And the more you drill this into their head, the more they're going to understand the expectations.

[00:27:39] Brian: So outline major steps, milestones, include dates wherever possible, whatever dates you're going to send. Deliverables for review or feedback

[00:27:46] Brian: and the point of this is it reduces anxiety and keeps clients from bugging you But then finally in this follow up email This is something people forget about a lot of times is they're all business There's a lot of irons in the fire doing a lot of things and you forget to express your excitement About working together.

[00:27:58] Brian: This is a client that is [00:28:00] paying you money Which is what you want as a freelancer a client you want to work with Hopefully they're paying you money for your creative skills. You're hopefully not selling your soul And you need to be excited to work with them. This is why you do this instead of a day job, right?

[00:28:11] Brian: You go get a day job somewhere. I'm not saying all day jobs are soulless. You could be doing a lot of other things. Why are you doing this? Well, If you were doing this because you love it, because this is what you're passionate about, then you need to express that excitement and that enthusiasm and that, thankfulness in the email itself, especially at this point.

[00:28:25] Brian: Be as excited as they are. Usually, the client is really excited at this point.

[00:28:28] Brian: So, That's the first follow up. right after the kick off call. Preferably, An hour or less after the kickoff call, but definitely by end of day of it. And then we have the ongoing thing that I just call keep following up. You just keep following up over and over and over and over again with the client until you have every single thing you need from them to fulfill on your end

[00:28:47] Brian: and every single thing you need from third parties to fulfill on their end. if they hit a due date. And they didn't send something in, keep following up until you get a commitment, keep following up, letting them know that the consequence of that action, now the whole project's off timeline.

[00:28:59] Brian: if you don't [00:29:00] get dates made up, then we're going to have to reschedule, right? Clients don't want that to happen. So if you keep following up to collect all the things that you need, it will make the project run way smoother. This is part of project management that's difficult.

[00:29:10] Brian: So something like a CRM where all the. client conversations are in one area can be helpful, I actually think ClickUp might make more sense for a lot of people. ClickUp is a project management software. You can have lists of tasks for all your clients. You can create templates so that whenever you start a new project, it'll just pre populate a bunch of things with due dates.

[00:29:27] Brian: And then when something pops up in there that's due or a follow up that's due, you can literally email your client from within ClickUp. again, use the tool that makes the most sense for you. Sometimes it's easy enough to just keep using your CRM, and sometimes when you move from the closed client, you need to move them from the CRM into the project management software.

[00:29:44] Brian: Again, I'll talk about project management later on, but whatever you do, whatever you use, turn this into a daily routine. You check your inbox. You check your project management. You check your CRM. and you address whatever thing has popped up at the top of the list as far as action items that you need to do.

[00:29:56] Brian: And also the whole point of a CRM and or a project management [00:30:00] software is an external brain. You're not remembering these things. You're not the one remembering to follow up for this thing. You just put the due date in there. I need to follow up with this person in three days. Is that file here? Cool. three days from now. Do I have that file? No, I don't. I'm going to follow up with them. And I'm going to set a reminder in three days again to follow up again because I need this in order to get the project done. So that is the final thing. Just follow up for dear life. Get all the files you need.

[00:30:18] Brian: And that is the entire onboarding process. The five step. Ultimate client onboarding process. just to summarize it again it is first that client agreement you want to be legally protected But most importantly you want to make sure you're setting clear expectations to your clients so that there aren't any budding of heads or Bigger fallouts down the road that could lead to things like legal repercussions getting sued.

[00:30:35] Brian: Nobody wants that I can guarantee if a client sues you, they are not going to refer a client to you. So that kills your infinite client goal. The second step is onboarding questionnaire. Get whatever you need from them. The third step is reviewing that questionnaire, creating those three documents that you need from the onboarding questionnaire.

[00:30:50] Brian: Number four is a kick ass kickoff call to prep everyone and everything for the project moving forward. And then fifth is just follow up for dear life. So you have everything you need to actually fulfill on the [00:31:00] project. That is the five step ultimate client onboarding process. Again, you can get the whole PDF for this.

[00:31:04] Brian: Just go to sixfigurecreative. com slash onboarding. And if there's any other topics you want to hear from me, Reply to the email you get from me promoting this episode, or you can just email podcast at six number six figure creative.

[00:31:14] Brian: com. Thank you so much for listening this week. We will continue our. Infinite client series next week. And we'll finally move out of onboarding. It's a big topic. I know. And to some of the more hopefully sexy, fun things. And even if they're not sexy or fun, smooth projects, making clients happy, giving them what they want, giving them what they need.

[00:31:31] Brian: That's pretty sexy. Making more money because clients refer you to other people. reviews to case studies again This is all sexy, even if the actual topic isn't that sexy to discuss. So that's it for this week Thank you so much for listening. See you all next week on the six figure creative podcast.

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