Setting the stage for a prosperous client relationship starts with your onboarding process. To my surprise, when I started freelancing, I hadn’t considered this; of course, I just flew by the seat of my pants. I thought how hard can this be?
If you would like to enhance your client interactions, getting your onboarding process set up is critical.
You can set yourself up for a beautiful experience or one that’s — well, let’s say rough. This is why people shy away from working with freelancers; they all operate differently. Some have a process, while others jump in the pool and expect you to start swimming with them.
First, you’re a professional, if you know it or not. Professionals have systems in place that they follow each time they interview and take on a new client. Building these systems can start simple and be modified over time — the systems signal to the prospect that you know what you’re doing, thus building trust and respect.
At the same, they are red flags for you to weed out possibly toxic clients. Since you are the boss, you can work with whomever you like. No one wants to work with people who don’t respect your work or treats you badly.
Always remember that while a client is interviewing you as a potential contractor, consultant, coach, or employee, you’re interviewing them as well because you’ve always got an opening for exceptional clients.
From the client’s point-of-view, they’re about to entrust you with significant amounts of money, expecting you to deliver on your word. You need to give them every indication that you can and will produce. The steps that you walk them through will signal to them that you’re a fair person. And not someone who will ghost them.
It’s your responsibility to tell them if you don’t think you’re up for the assignment. Have a plan set up should you get in over your head to resolve it with the client.
What are the signals that you’re on the right track?
When starting, I follow these steps with potential clients:
- An exploratory call to determine if the client is a good fit.
- How easy is it to set up the call?
- Does the client show up on time?
- Has the client completed the onboarding survey?
- Where the answers to the questions complete?
- Has the client accepted the proposal?
- Is the client available to review the proposal together?
- Has the client signed the agreement?
- Don’t begin without a signed agreement.
- Has the client paid your first invoice?
- Always collect payment before working. Professionals get paid.
Before you begin work, have a special gift prepared to send to them. If you’d like to stand out from the competition, this is a great one. If you are still in negotiations with the client and would like to nail it, send them a shock and awe package.
When you’re in the running for a big contract, let the client know that you’re serious about winning their business. This may take some research, but it’s worth it. If your client or their firm has won awards that can be found in print, transform the article into stunning wall art. Your gesture will be appreciated as long as it is tastefully done.
Don’t cut corners; this is a make-or-break moment.
I added this nugget for anyone who truly values their high-ticket clients because you’ll stand out like a mountain among humans. The percentage of people who act on these approaches is very few. You will trick your competition for sure. But more importantly, you’ll leave your mark as a person who goes above and beyond to get the job done.
Exquisite gifts are always welcome. And an unexpected surprise to show you’re thinking of them.
Holidays and special occasions provide you with another moment to shower your clients with appreciation. Because we handpicked these clients after all, and we don’t want to lose them. We love them and want them to know it.
Gifts are not just for clients; consider the vendors and employees who make you look great. Vendors who make it possible for you to deliver to your clients like the rock star you are.
Take your time to find just the right gifts. I received a wonderful gift from a client that took my breath away. The company excelled at gift packaging. They made the packaging as exciting as the gift itself. I wanted to save the box, the soft fabric drawstring bag, along with the beautiful craft paper it was wrapped in. That’s the wow factor that you’re looking for when giving a gift.
I want to shout out to leatherology.com for their brilliant products and adorable gift packaging. Look at places that monogram to create a personal statement. Another impressive website is MarkandGraham.com, a division of William-Sonoma. Suppose you know that your client likes wine, check-out personalwine.com for engraved wine bottles presented in an etched wooden box. If they aren’t wine drinkers but enjoy a nice glass of Gentleman Jack (and more), they can help you out with that too.
When you’re counting all the money you’ve made from a client, your gift needs to symbolize your gratefulness. They will be looking at that gift and remembering you with a smile. Or you’ll make memories that will last long after the occasion has passed.
While I want to share onboarding systems for you to consider, I loved talking about the gifts. Take the time to make a lasting impression with your clients, with gifts. You’re depositing goodwill credits into your client’s pretend bank account. This is like planting your crop before you’re hungry because you never know something will go sideways in the wrong way. Those are the times when you’re hoping your client will understand and work with you through the situation. Let’s face it mistakes happen.
I’ll cover more of the onboarding tips and best practices in my upcoming articles.
If you’d like to chat about how to fix your onboarding systems, reach out to me at Linda@shinyobjectmarketing.com
I’m Linda James Bennett; I’m publishing every day for a year. Today is day 12.