Client onboarding is one of the most important systems that you can create as a service provider! It’s one of the foundational systems that really sets your business up for success and is extremely helpful if you want to save time.
A lot of the steps in the client onboarding process are repeated every time you bring on a new client. This makes them easily automated or delegated to your team.
In this post, I’m going to go over some of the important information you need to know about client onboarding including what it is, why it’s important, and what it includes. Consider this your go-to guide on everything related to client onboarding.
You may also want to check out this post on client onboarding automation.
What is Client Onboarding?
A lot of people are confused about what client onboarding actually is. It’s basically a short period of time that happens right AFTER someone decides to work with you and right BEFORE you start delivering that service.
It may seem like a minuscule thing but, in reality, this is a crucial aspect of your work with clients and it’s so important to get this right. When done correctly, client onboarding can set the stage for a healthy long-term relationship between you and your clients. If not done correctly (or not done at all), it can lead to a lot of confusion, miscommunication, and scope creep.
The onboarding process I use in my business usually takes about a week. That time is used to get the client seamlessly integrated into our business, with a really professional and smooth experience for them. It’s also used to get things ready on our end as we gear up for the service delivery process.
Why is Client Onboarding Important?
Client acquisition is a big focus of a lot of service providers. And it’s important! In fact, I actually have a lot of resources on this.
But something that is often overlooked is that keeping your clients for a longer period of time is even more important. It was hard for me to keep this in perspective when I first started. I couldn’t see that the END GOAL is eventually to have your client load filled with enough long-term consistent clients that you no longer have to look for or even accept new work (unless you want to).
It Helps with Client Retention
A big mistake that a lot of stressed-out service providers make is that they put all (or most) of their effort towards generating NEW clients. But then they don’t put enough effort towards KEEPING the ones they already have. This actually puts you in an imbalance that results in this never-ending cycle of bringing in clients and losing clients, like a revolving door. If you stay in this imbalance, you will never be able to achieve the end goal. You’ll always feel like you’re running on a treadmill in your business that you can’t get off of.
Nobody wants to live like that! I was able to experience a HUGE amount of relief (and felt way more financially secure) once I realized that instead of putting so much attention into generating new clients, I should focus on establishing amazing relationships with the ones I already had.
Focusing on client retention allows you to get off the treadmill. It pulls you out of that constant, frenzied focus on client acquisition. You’ll have more security and peace of mind with your business.
In my experience, keeping your clients for a long period of time has a lot to do with ONE thing: setting expectations. This is truly the key. If there is an imbalance in this area, it will affect the entire relationship. This could lead to both you and the client being unhappy.
Setting expectations is an important thing to focus on. And the best time to set those expectations is right from the very beginning. That’s why your client onboarding process is SO important.
What Else Does Onboarding Do?
Client onboarding also does other things, including:
- Creates a smooth transition from prospective client to active client
- Gives them a professional experience right from the start
- Allows you to seamlessly mesh together for a successful working relationship
- “Wows” them and confirms that hiring you was a good decision
Onboarding is typically one of the rockiest parts of working with a client, because it requires you to get a LOT of information from them in a short amount of time. All while getting used to meshing your personalities together and forming this brand-new working relationship.
PLUS you really want to wow them and show them what a good decision it was to hire you. Having a smooth onboarding process shows them that you’re ultra-professional. It starts off the relationship with both of you feeling amazing — which goes a LONG way.
I’ve actually had several clients refer me to a friend during the onboarding process (before we even started delivering the service) because they were THAT impressed with the onboarding process. It’s kind of like “Wow, if the onboarding is this good, she MUST be amazing.”
You do (of course) always want to follow up your onboarding with excellent service, but having an amazing onboarding process goes a long, long way.
If things get rough down the road, that really good onboarding experience can help clients trust you to navigate rough waters and shows them that you’re someone they can count on. It provides a really firm foundation for anything that might happen during the service delivery process.
What’s Included in the Client Onboarding Process?
You might be wondering what you should actually do during the onboarding process…so I’m going to tell you!
I mentioned this earlier, but I’m just going to repeat it… Client onboarding is the short period of time that happens right AFTER someone decides to work with you and right BEFORE you start delivering that service.
It’s important to note that client onboarding includes both front-facing elements and back-end elements. The front-facing elements are things that your clients will have some type of interaction with, while the back-end elements are things that you and/or your team does to prepare for the service delivery process that your client will not be involved in. Both sides are important to make sure the onboarding process and later service delivery goes smoothly.
When building out the workflow for your onboarding process, make sure to include everything.
Here are some things that you might want to include in your client onboarding process:
- Receiving payment or sending an invoice
- Sending the client a welcome email
- Getting your contract signed
- Sending over a client welcome kit
- Sending over an intake form
- Booking and completing a kick-off call
- Collecting and reviewing the intake form responses
- Adding the client to your bookkeeping software
- Adding client info to any records/databases (like an address book or client list)
- Sending a welcome note or gift
- Tagging them appropriately in your CRM or ESP
- Providing the client with educational materials or resources
- Receiving, adding and/or setting up access with tools/software
- Taking note of any important metrics/analytics
That’s a lot! Client onboarding involves a lot of information — both asking your client for info and sending your client info. While you are asking about their business and brand, you’ll be telling them about how you work and the tools you use.
Streamlining this exchange with an established process that includes everything (you don’t want to contact them later asking for their brand files or another crucial piece of info!) will help you come off as professional and impress your new client. This will set your working relationship up for success!
If you don’t have a client onboarding process (or only have some of these pieces in place), now is the time to solidify it. Get started on the right foot with all your clients!