When I first started freelance copywriting, getting started with new clients required a lot of time and energy. I didn’t have a good process in place, so there’d be lots of back and forth emailing and calling between clients and I—just so that we were both on the same page before jumping into the project.
As time went on, I realized I was throwing away hours and hours of unnecessary time, and sometimes for no reason. Clients would go another direction or get tied up with something else, and then all that precious time went POOF! Gone.
Having an efficient onboarding process changed the way I do business. So I wanted to share how you can do it, too.
Step One: Create an Intake Survey
A simple intake survey is fundamental to getting the onboarding process started quickly. In the space of four or five general questions, you get important answers that help you determine if the client is a good fit for your services, if their goals are realistic, and a basic understanding of the project scope.
This survey lives on my website, but some freelancers like to use external tools like Typeform to gather the information. Your call. For my intake survey, I ask the following questions:
- What type of copywriting do you need assistance with?
- What are your goals for this copy (in order of importance?)
- Who is your target audience for this copy?
- What type of writing styles do you admire? Provide a few examples.
- What is your projected budget for this project?
Question one helps me understand what the client specifically wants help with—blog content, website copy, email marketing, etc. Question two tells me what their objectives are—product sales, brand awareness, industry authority, etc. Question three tells me about the client’s ideal customer (i.e. who I should be writing to when creating copy.) Question four tells me what type of voice they’re going for (formal, quirky, fun, etc.) Question five tells me what I can deliver based on the financial resources they have available.
With these five answers, I eliminate the need to schedule an initial phone call where I’d typically gather all of this information and can weed out the clients who just want a quick, low-cost copywriting solution.
Step Two: Schedule a Call to Talk Details
Using a tool like WhenIsGood or Doodle, the new client and I find a time that works for both of our schedules to have a phone call in which we go over the project in greater detail. These tools eliminate the need to go back and forth over several emails trying to find a time that works for both of us.
Once we find a time that works, I make it very clear that our call should last no longer than 20 minutes to ensure we keep the conversation focused and don’t get wrapped up in tangents.
Then, shortly before our call, I create a working document that has all of the questions I need to ask—as well as space for writing down my notes. This helps me make sure I remember to ask all of the questions I need and gives me a reference point to work from if the client accepts my quote. Typically, my working document looks like this:
- Tell me about your organization and your product/service.
- Tell me about your ideal customer and his or her major pain points.
- Tell me about this new project in detail.
- What would you like to see happen as a result of this project?
- What don’t you like about the existing solution you have?
- How quickly do you need this turned around?
After our call wraps up, I start on the next step—preparing the project quote.
Step Three: Quoting the Project
Based on the conversation the client and I had about the project, I’ll work up a quote outlining the different services requested and their corresponding costs. I use Wave to create my quotes (as it’s then easy for me to transform the quote into an invoice if needed.)
When preparing the quote, I make sure to break each different service into its own line item, as the client may ask to pick and choose different items instead of going with the full project all at once. Then, with every quote, I make sure to include an email that explains the value behind each of the services I can provide.
Why? Because it’s not enough to say, “Here’s what it’s going to cost. Want to go for it?”
I want to be sure the client has a strong grasp on the ROI I’ll be providing, so I take the time to spell out what I plan to do, why I plan to do it that way, and what similar results I’ve been able to deliver to past clients. This simple step goes a long way, and lets your potential partner know that the investment in your work is a wise one.
Once I started adding this step into the onboarding process, I saw follow through jump from about 50% to 80%. Not bad, right?
Step Four: Quote Delivery and Follow-up
Finally, I send the quote over and wait for the client’s response. If I haven’t heard anything in four business days, I follow up and see if there are any additional questions I can answer. Boomerang is a great tool for automating these follow-up reminders.
With no response after seven business days, I move on to the next project quote.
Smarter Onboarding for New Clients in Four Simple Steps
Having a more streamlined process in place for onboarding means you can spend less time chasing new clients and more time working on their projects. For many freelancers, time is money—so don’t let a sloppy process eat away at your bottom line. Not only will a new process save you headaches, but it will show your clients you have your business in order.