My Process: Onboarding

I don’t know why I waited so long to write this, but I am super excited to finally be sharing with you a look, not a peek, behind the curtain of what time spent together would look like. I’m making this a three part series and breaking it down as follows. Part 1 is all about onboarding. Part 2 covers our time spent together, working on your brand. Part 3 is about what happens once the work is done. Join me for this three part series and let’s dive in!

I’ve written before about the power of an onboarding process, and frankly, I practice what I preach. My onboarding process has been five years in the making and was established to make my client’s decision to work with me an educated and calculated one. I won’t yammer on, but here is where it all starts.

I’ve written before about the power of an onboarding process, and frankly, I practice what I preach. My onboarding process has been five years in the making and was established to make my client’s decision to work with me an educated and calculated one. I won’t yammer on, but here is where it all starts. Also, I’m using one of my target market names (Fiona)  for the example because saying “the client” feels really cold and icky and that’s not how I speak about the people I work with.

Step 1: Initial Communication

Whether Fiona reaches out to me or I reach out to her, the entire process begins with a conversation. Sometimes this can look like an email, an Instagram DM, or even a message on Facebook, but it always start with the basics of “Hi!” I love that first communication. It’s kind of like getting asked for you number ; )

But I try to get something on the books as soon as possible to meet. Now this can be a coffee date for local people, but more often than not, it’s a Skype conversation. I like putting a face to a name and I like that Fiona can see I’m a human person too. This is the 15 minute discovery call. In this call, we talk about what Fiona really needs. I take this chance to get to know her and her business a little and see what she is actually looking for. And I give feedback here too. If Fiona has set a goal that is not SMART, I share my knowledge and educate her on how to develop something more specific or even change it around altogether. We can get a lot of talking done in 15 minutes.

I’m a HUGE believer in the follow up. If I don’t follow up within the day, it is typically the next. I want Fiona to feel comfortable with what we discussed and find out where she is in the decision making process. If she wants to meet again, I typically am on board and if she is feeling sound, we move into step two of my onboarding process.

Step 2: The Book

I know that a lot of people in this industry have what they refer to as a “welcome packet,” but as ominous as The Book sounds, it is built to be Fiona’s best resource for working together. I’m getting a bit ahead of myself, so let me explain what the book is.

The Book is a 20 page educational resource for not only Fiona, but for me as well. This is where our collaboration truly begins. It contains:

  • 10 pages of educational material for Fiona, explaining my process, what schedules look like, what she can expect at the end of the project and what my expectations of her are.

  • 10 pages of questions that are built to discover her goals for our time working together, what her design preferences are, a deeper look into her company, and what her goals for her website are.

The Book isn’t made to be completed in a day. I know that working with me is a decision that has weight and I want her to feel comfortable knowing that if I am working for her, I am all in.

I am available to walk and talk Fiona through the book, answer questions she might have, and of course explain anything that is unclear (I love getting feedback on The Book.) If everyone involved is ready to move forward, we move into step 3.

Step 3: The Nitty Gritty

Before reaching this step, Fiona doesn’t have to do anything with the second half of The Book. In fact, I encourage her to hold off and just use the educational half. I don’t believe in wasting anyone’s time, so I would never ask her to fill out questions before her engagement is reserved in my calendar.

Step three, though not optional, feels like the least personal to me and it’s really because it’s paperwork and deposits.

If Fiona is ready to commit to working together, I send out a plain english contract that very clearly states what is to be expected from both of us, a timeline of this, and of course protection for us both. I am a firm believer in protecting both parties in a contract. We are going to be working together, not trying to screw each other over. However, I will say, my contract, while written in plain english, is still a binding contract and I do not work without one.

So here is the nitty gritty.

  • Once we have a written or verbal agreement to continue, Fiona is sent a contract, which I encourage her to read very thoroughly, talk to me about, and if she so desires, bring to a lawyer for review.

  • Once the contract is hammered out and signed by both parties and everyone has their copy, I send Fiona an invoice for a 50% nonrefundable deposit to secure her place in my calendar. I only work with one client at a time to provide the best work that I can and reserve a specific space. This deposit reserves that time in my calendar, and it reassures me that Fiona is taking this seriously.

  • After the deposit is received, I block out Fiona’s time, schedule meetings, and review due dates for materials needed as outlined in our contract.

At this point, I like to do something for Fiona. I send a Starbuck gift card or some small gift or card to express my excitement to work with her and stay in touch regularly before the start of the project. I couldn’t imagine placing a deposit and not hearing from that person for what could be months, so I try to check in, let them know I’m still in, and seeing how they are coming on The Book, ready to answer any questions they might have.

Part 2: Our Time Together

So now that you’ve seen behind the curtain in my onboarding process, I can’t wait to share with you what our time actually will look like spent together.

I’d love to hear from you about this first part, so please let me know if you do anything differently or if you have feedback about this process in the comments below.