7 Things to Include In Your Client Onboarding Experience to Make a Great First Impression

Men trust their ears less than their eyes


Have truer words been spoken?

This is where you’re at now. You’ve talked a good game. You’ve made an irresistible offer, you’ve negotiated, you’ve got a signed contract and a deposit… but, so far, it’s all just been words.

Now, it’s time for action… to deliver on your promises.

To show them… and let them see with their eyes.

“You never get a second chance to make a first impression” also applies here. Yesterday, I told you about the YouTube video I watched where a lady described a terrible onboarding experience she’d had.

That experience had happened years earlier.

In the end, everything had worked out.

The lady she hired had helped her tremendously.

She still remembered the agony of the onboarding experience. How likely would she be to recommend that coach to a friend or colleague? At the very least, she’d have reservations or warn them.

It wouldn’t be a 100% glowing testimonial.

And it might cause those people to not hire that coach.

Onboarding is critical.

My advice? Design a welcome package that goes out to every client immediately after they make their deposit. Reinforce their decision, quell any anxiety, and get the important information you’ll need for the project.

And, this can be tweaked based on where a particular client came from: your own website, a referral from a friend, networking at a business meetup group, clients from Upwork or other freelance sites, etc.

That said, here are the seven things, at a minimum, I recommend you include:

  1. Welcome email/video
  2. Strategy call
  3. Intake form
  4. Project roadmap
  5. Roles and responsibilities
  6. Scheduling
  7. Upsells

Let’s tackle each…

1. Welcome Video/Email.

The moment they pay their deposit, you want to respond with either a welcome video or email that lays out next steps. You don’t want to leave them hanging. It can be a simple pre-recorded video you send to everybody… but, honestly, if they’re paying you thousands for the service, why not take a few minutes and record a video just for them. 

Thank them.

Tell them, you’ll be sending them a welcome package with more info and that you’re excited to work on their project. I can be super informal, recorded on your phone and just a minute or two.

Nothing complicated.

But, will create a great first impression… because nobody does that. Of course, best is an email with a link to the video and then the welcome package included.

2. Strategy Call.

In that welcome email, you want to have them schedule a strategy call with you. The point of this call is to go over the welcome package. So, you give them a day or two to get through that package and then you jump on a call and go through.

Answer any questions, address any objections…

And just make sure you’re on the same page. It’s good to cover the project roadmap and the tentative timeline, point out the information you’re going to need from them, cover any sticking points from the ground rules…

And just make sure everything is addressed.

3. Intake Form

The intake form is for getting all the information you need to get started on the project. You’ll want a questionnaire that asks for things like a brand kit or logo, color schemes, content, graphics, website examples…

This is highly specific to the kind of service you offer…

But, it’s just all the relevant stuff you need to work on their project… whatever that is for you. You’ll also want to ask for account access. So, if you do Facebook advertising, make sure and ask for that account access.

Or WordPress access.

Or FTP access.

Again, whatever that is for you, make sure to get it here. It just alleviates a ton of back and forth and ensures you can do what you need to without getting delayed asking for it later on.

4. Project Roadmap

To me, this is maybe the most important part. You want to tell clients what’s going to be done and when. This eliminates the constant questions or them asking for updates. And, if they do that stuff… you can just point back to the roadmap.

Eventually, they get it.

In the roadmap, you want to address three things at a minimum:

  • Scope
  • Timeline
  • Payment Milestones

Here’s what we’re doing (and not doing)… which is scope. Here’s the timeline when things will get done (tentatively) and when I’ll need input from you (timeline) and here’s when you’ll be expected to make future payments (milestones).

This puts them at ease because they know what to expect…

There’s not fear of the unknown.

And, it sets expectations around scope, input, and payments. This will solve 90% of the issues that can crop up from miscommunication. Especially, when they read in a welcome package then you cover it again in the strategy call.

5. Roles and Responsibilities.

This is essentially scope re-packaged. I recommend just creating a document that outlines four things:

  • Freelancer Promises
  • Client Expectations
  • Communication Guide
  • Scope Management

What you will (and won’t do) and what you expect from them. What you promise and expect in how you communicate and how you will handle conflicts over scope (hint: refer back to your contract).

For example, things like… that you expect them to respond promptly when you ask for input and you will do the same. That you’ll be respectful in all your communication and expect the same from them… and whatever else you think.

This becomes a kind of “hit list” that you can add to as you work with clients and encounter different issues. Add something in here to address it and nip it in the bud. It also sets the tone that the project is collaborative.

That they play a role in the success of the project.

It’s not 100% on you.

6. Scheduling

Here, you simply point out any meetings or calls that need schedule throughout the project and ask them to provide dates/times that work. For example, if you’re going to do a weekly update call…

What day, time, Zoom or phone call, etc.

Gather all that information upfront and just get it scheduled in your calendar, so you don’t forget and you’re not trying to manage it on the fly. All of this is aimed at eliminating any needless distractions so that you can focus on their project.

If you’re asking for account access and trying to schedule meetings and dealing with questions about timeline or when payments are due… it’s like a cell phone that just keeps buzzing every five seconds and you can’t get anything done.

Tackle it all in the welcome package so your plate is clean…

And you can just execute.

7. Upsells

Finally, you want to give a subtle intro to your upsell services. Wait, upsell services? What’s that? We want to go back to our offer for this. Remember we talked about offer stacking and your value-adds.

Well, there are actually three tiers of value for any kind of desired end result:

  • Information
  • Tool
  • Service

Information is where you tell them how to do something. A tool is something that does it for them (typically, a piece of software) and a service is where you just do it for them.

Generally speaking, information is the least available (because it requires a lot of time and effort on their part), then tools and the most valuable… a service. Again, generally speaking, you want your value-adds to be information or tools…

And you want your upsells to be a service.

Let’s go back to your SEO example.

If you’re a developer building websites, I mentioned that you could offer an SEO course as a value-add for your development service. Or, maybe there’s a piece of software you could give them.

But, you could also offer a full-blown SEO service as an upsell.

This gives you a way to increase the average order value of your service and it’s also a great way to handle scope creep. So, if a client asks you about getting their site to rank #1 in Google.

(Sounds silly, but happens to me all the time.)

You can say, no problem… I have a service for that and it costs XYZ. I know consultants that work with big companies like Google, Amazon, and Nike… and this is what they do. They’re called “change orders”…

But, they’re essentially upsells.

Anyway, just put together a PDF that lists any additional, relevant services you offer with a little description of each, and their price… and include that in your welcome package.

You’re not expecting them to immediately hire you for them.

It’s simply a way of introducing the concept early on.

Later, you can be more direct with it.

And, that’s it. Of course, this isn’t necessarily an exhaustive list, but it’s a damn good start. In fact, more than 99% of freelancers will do. And, I promise… will set the stage for a remarkable experience that will create word of mouth.

As long as you deliver on the project…

This first impression will go a long way toward getting you testimonials, referrals, repeat business and all the things that are going to help your business grow… quickly… and a lot more easily.

Speaking of delivery…

That’s what we’ll dig into in our next post. Obviously, I can’t tell you the specifics of how to deliver your service, but I can show you some universal tricks that will lead to those same things…

Word of mouth, testimonials, positive reviews, referrals, repeat business, etc.

So, be sure to look for that post and, as I’ve mentioned, if you want to fast-forward this training and get even more tips, tricks, and the little secrets I’ve picked up over the years, check out my Beginner’s Guide to Freelance course on Skillshare. You can get it essentially free with the 1-month free trial you get with my referral link. So, it’s one of those no-brainer offers.

That referral link is here: https://myjohn.us/bgtf



P.S. If you got value from this post, I’d appreciate it if you wouldn’t mind forwarding it to anyone you know that you think would benefit. It’ll obviously help them and also help me grow my audience and the freelancers I’m able to help. So, I would greatly appreciate it. Thanks! 🙂

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John Morris


I’m a 15-year veteran of freelance web development. I’ve worked with bestselling authors and average Joe’s next door. These days, I focus on helping other freelancers build their freelance business and their lifestyles.

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