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A Cheat Sheet For Onboarding New Clients

Updated: Dec 19, 2020



Perfect for Freelancer and Creatives!

I recently got hired by my very first official client since launching Let’s Taco ‘Bout Marketing and realized early on (luckily, prior to speaking with her) that I was going to need some serious checklists and questions. This was to ensure that I was putting her mind at ease for hiring me and protecting myself by placing some boundaries ahead of time. This discussion gave a bird’s eye view of the scope and nature of the project, what expectations I had of her and vice versa, as well as gave us both some touchstones to focus on during our conversation. Learning a streamlined process of onboarding a new client is extremely important.


Since she is a good friend of mine, I wanted to make sure that we stayed on topic during our new client meeting and I wanted to make sure that I didn’t forget anything important to get the project started. If you’re anything like me, chatting with others comes easily but in front of a client you want to make sure you don’t ramble on. Additionally, if you are more of a methodical speaker, having a checklist may help you focus on key points you want to make. Either way, a cheat sheet for onboarding new clients could be helpful if you are a creative or freelancer.


One of the best resources I have found for honing my new client onboarding checklist is Jenna Kutcher’s Podcast, Goaldigger. Her podcast has helped me find my footing with what questions to ask new clients, communicate expectations effectively and setting boundaries regarding work hours and communication times. Through her podcast I was able to come up with the following checklist:


1. Tell me about your story and your “why” behind what you do:

  1. How did you get into your business?

  2. What have you loved so far?

  3. What do you not enjoy about it?

  4. If you had more time to focus on one aspect of your business, what would it be?


If you only know a little bit about your client, or even a potential client, this is a great opportunity to get in their head and learn more about them and their business.


2. How can I help? What help is needed?


Maybe your new client originally hired you to do one aspect or project, but after asking this question, you may find that there is more you can do to help them.


3. How soon do you want to start?


This question may seem dumb, but I promise you, it is not. The answer to this question may wind up being too soon for you to clear your schedule, or maybe they’re looking so far ahead with their goals that they got excited and pulled the trigger on hiring you months in advance. Either way, getting on the same page with them is key to ensuring your time management is on point.


4. How long do you anticipate this help?


Perhaps when they initially hired you they may have underestimated or overestimated the time frame that they would need you. But this question opens up the opportunity for you to communicate your expertise on how long you think the project will take. Having this discussion up front is much better than scrambling towards the end of your contract.


5. What is your budget?


They may have included your services in their budget, but what about outsourcing services? If you are a marketing consultant and they require a photoshoot with a professional photographer, assisting them with finding the right vendor may be simple if you already have a few photographers in mind. But if your client cannot afford them, this brings you back to square one, especially if you were planning on using a particular one already. Additionally, if you are designing a logo or graphic for your client but you don’t do the printing, this question gives you the opportunity to act as a liaison with other vendors as well.


6. Are there any businesses you draw inspiration from? Are there any that you dislike?


Knowing exactly what your client likes or doesn’t like will help save you time and energy (and them money) if you find out ahead of time who they follow on social media, who they’ve bookmarked, or who they don’t care for.


7. What design elements, copy, specific words or phrases are must haves?


You want to make your client feel as if you are an extension of their company; elevating their business with your expertise. Staying on brand with their company is key (unless that is, you are giving them a rebrand).


8. What are your overall business goals?

  1. Is it sales?

  2. Is it brand recognition/awareness?

  3. Is it more events?

  4. Is it a product or service launch?


Getting on the same page with this one is HUGE. Maybe your client is a new business owner and isn’t 100% sure what they want, or they want all the above. Having a laid out map of what their goals are can help you form your strategy of attack.


9. Who are your direct competitors?


Obviously your client wants to stand out from the competition, but knowing who they are ahead of time may save you hours of digging. If your client is a more established business, they may have files and documents related to their competition already.


10. What are some of your expectations of me in terms of deadlines, draft reviews, KPI’s (key performance indicators), etc.?


Knowing this piece of information ahead of time will keep the lines of communication open and allow you to know how your client operates. If they are a micromanager they might ask for weekly check-ins. But knowing this ahead of time will prevent you from getting frustrated during your creative process.


After everything is asked, you now have the opportunity to discuss with your client your expectations for them. Maybe you need all their data reports from the past six months, or maybe you need all the photos they have from their most recent photoshoot. Letting them know what tools you need to do your job properly is best communicated at the beginning of your project. The more information you can provide for them, the less likely they will feel the need to fill in your blanks. If you think you’re being thorough enough, try putting yourself in their shoes and think of all the things they may want to know. If they’re feeding you too much information as you go along, then you have left too many blanks for them to fill. Be pointed, focused and thorough with all the touchstones you want to hit during your initial kickoff phone call.


With any new client or project you take on, having a cheat sheet or checklist of any kind geared towards your industry will save you time, effort and even sometimes frustration. Even if you aren’t ready to take on clients just yet, think about what questions would be helpful during the transition into a new business or side hustle.


If you prefer to save this cheat sheet as a graphic, you can save it or download it.

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