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Client Onboarding for Web Agencies: How to Improve the Process

Mar 27, 2019

Congratulations! A new client has just accepted your proposal. You’re ready to get to work.

Or are you?

It’s not like you can just immediately get started designing the client’s website from scratch or coding a new WordPress theme to meet their needs.

First, you’ll need a signed contract from the client making the agreement official. Then you’ll need their data, logos, written content, and a whole set of other details that will make the finish products uniquely theirs. On top of that, you need to send the client an invoice – if not for the full amount, then for whatever fraction of it you agreed upon.

You need to set up client access to your project dashboard so they can keep themselves updated on the projects’ progress. Otherwise, you’ll have to deal with a new email every couple days asking for news.

In short, there’s a ton of work you need to do before actually starting work on the project, and it all falls under the client onboarding process. The more streamlined this process is, the more confidence your client will have in your abilities.

Start From the Client’s Point of View

It’s a fact that every web developer has a unique workflow. It’s true that every project has its own set of requirements and conditions. But this doesn’t mean that client onboarding has to be a messy, ad-hoc affair consisting of multiple back-and-forth email threads. It remains a fundamentally simple process that you can – and should – optimize.

Many web agencies make the mistake of seeing things exclusively from their own perspective. If your workflow begins with a wireframe design, you might ask the client for some reference designs. Then, when you have something ready, you ask for a high-resolution image of client’s logo so you can incorporate it into the wireframe – and so on.

This approach may not lose you any clients, but it seriously tries their patience and it costs you both time and energy. It leads to a disorganized workflow that will make life hard for you and your clients over time, especially if you have more than one project going on at the same time.

But if you establish the client onboarding process with the client’s perspective in mind from the beginning, you can cut out a great deal of disorganized communication and keep your project deliverables on-schedule.

Clients want results. If there is any information that they have to hand over in order for you to do your job, they’d like to do it all at once. That means that your contract, project files, invoice, and worksheets should all be part of one package, completed and returned to you once, at the beginning of the project.

From the client’s point of view, this makes you look like a knowledgeable and experienced professional. If you do a good job, this will make a significant difference when that client tells their friends and coworkers who made their website for them. It allows you to gradually raise your rates as your services earn greater demand.

What Makes an Onboarding Package Feel Professional?

There are two basic schools of thought when it comes to designing an onboarding package. The fact that you put any thought into it at all already puts you ahead of the freelancer web developer game, but you’ll want to choose between two general options:

  • Custom Documents. You run a web agency. You can design and develop an in-house solution for invoices, proposals, project files, and contracts. This offers the advantage of aligning with your brand (making your agency look bigger and more established), while saving you on monthly fees. You will have to dedicate time and resources to operating and maintaining custom documents, however.
  • SaaS Products. There are tons of products and services out there that can help you improve the onboarding experience. Unlimited WP has no affiliate relationship with Proposify or Asana, but plenty of agencies use these tools successfully for exactly this purpose – if you don’t have the time to set up and run a customized onboarding package, these services can be a huge help.

Both options can successfully make the onboarding process cater to clients’ expectations. The key to success is making sure the onboarding package is comprehensive and complete. The goal is to minimize the number of times you have to go back and ask the client to send you something new.

For a less expensive (although admittedly less professional) approach, you can simply create a series of Google Docs that cover almost everything you need at the beginning of a project. Sending an onboarding email with links to each of those documents will help keep each clients’ important information in one place.

The Third Option: White Label Onboarding

There is a third option available to web agencies that need to streamline the onboarding process. Instead of spending a great deal of time and energy creating custom documents, or navigating a complex marketplace of SaaS products, you can use a purpose-built onboarding tool developed by a professional white label web developer.

White label development give you the ability to boost your agency’s image with authentic, on-brand custom web app without having to expend the time, money, and resources it takes to build your own. This approach gives you the custom functionality of your own in-house onboarding tool, but without the subsequent maintenance and operation costs.

Unlimited WP is currently developing an onboarding FREE tool for web agencies and freelancers. Sign up for our mailing list and be the first to know when it’s ready!

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