Any great relationship begins with a solid foundation.

In 2007 when I started my first agency, it took me a while to get an onboarding system down pat that was both easy to manage and effective for both me and my clients. 16 years later and I’m using the same system for Marketing On a Mission. It continues to pay dividends, saving me time and energy while also providing a streamlined process for new clients.

The evolution began with a simple checklist of items I require to be effective and morphed into a set of documents that I can customize for each situation. Not only did these documents help me stay on top of my client projects, but they also allowed me to work faster and more efficiently.

Some of the documents are for my operational use only. Some are checklists that save me tons of time and ensure nothing falls through the cracks; others are sent to my clients for their use, and some require their signatures.

Here were my considerations:

  1. Housekeeping items such as contact info – When I’m dealing with clients, I always ask for their preferences in terms of communication. Some clients prefer email, some prefer text, and some prefer phone calls. It’s important to respect your client’s preferences, as communication is key to building a good working relationship. By asking up front, I make sure that my messages are received and that the client is kept up-to-date on all aspects of the project. This way, everyone is on the same page and all parties are satisfied with the outcome.
  2. Onboarding document – Just as I use a syllabus for the courses I teach, I crafted an eight-page onboarding document that covers (I think?) every possible situation. At least those I’ve encountered so far. This document includes scope of work, fees, and payment considerations.
  3. Invoicing – At the start of each retainer arrangement, I create the invoices ahead of time and then schedule sending them. This saves so much hassle and I get paid faster.
  4. Set relationship expectations – I found that as an early adopter of work-from-home consulting, oftentimes boundaries needed to be set. For example, I am never available on Sundays. When necessary, I am always happy to accommodate Saturdays by appointment at no extra charge.
  5. Timing – Projects that sit too long, never produce great results so, I now include stop/start language as well as the timely requirement of approvals on art, copy, etc.
  6. Access to the owner/president/CEO who signs the checks – I learned the hard way, that my team and I must always have direct access to this person. I’m happy to work with a client’s team or third-party vendor, but the responsibility for final approvals and the like rest with the person who hired me and my team.

Ultimately, a little work upfront saves me time and energy for the duration of a client project. And, for solopreneurs like me, having a system in place gains immediate respect from new clients as it makes for a great first impression, and gives clients the confidence they need to know they’ll be well taken care of.