Eleazar Ruiz
Eleazar Ruiz. Graphic Designer Based in Seattle, WA.


My Clients’ Onboarding Process: From Inquiry to Delivery

There is hardly anything more cumbersome to your creativity than mounds and mounds of paperwork. Do whatever you can to maintain everything digital.

If there’s one thing that I could tell every freelance artist, about onboarding clients, it’d be this: GO PAPERLESS.

There is hardly anything more cumbersome to your creativity than mounds and mounds of paperwork. Do whatever you can to maintain everything digital. Avoid faxing, printing, and mailing. Literally every part of my process is now completed digitally or electronically (save particular, extenuating circumstances).

Here are my recommendations to create a paperless freelance business:

1. Getting an Inquiry

I have a form on my contact page that enables people to reach out to me. I include all the key questions that will prepare them for how my services work. I make sure I get back to people within 48 hours via email. If that’s just not possible, I contact and give an acceptable, approximate contact date.

Tip: On your form, ask multiple choice questions.
For example,
“What is your budget?
$1500 and above.”
“What is your timeline?
2–4 weeks
4–6 weeks
6–8 weeks
The potential client then knows that the lowest quote they’d receive for any project is $500 and the quickest product delivery timeline is 2 weeks.

2. Getting Detailed Info

After I receive the email with the inquiry, I review it and answer any questions they may have asked. If I see enough interest to move forward, I direct them to an additional online form that provides more specific information about the project. You can check out all my forms here.

Some designers like to ask all key questions face to face because filling out forms can be tedious for their clients. I however prefer giving my clients enough time to think about their responses in their own time and not feel on the spot. I’m flexible on this, but my preferences still remain.

Tip: Give the client multiple days to return your questionnaire so they have time to put thought into their answers.

3. Getting Informed

Once I’ve received enough information, I set up a phone call, google hangout, or FaceTime appointment. This is a vital step since most of your interactions with the client will be through email or even text. Allowing the client to establish a tone of voice and making a connection on a human level will help them understand you.

Tip: Show your humanity and start your conversation with small talk. Be yourself but also remember to keep it professional.

4. Getting it in Writing

Next I create a project contract for the client using Quoteroller, a digital tool that allows the client to sign off on the project without using paper. It also allows me to templetize my contracts and revise them based on the project.

Tip: Keep your contract short and concise.

5. Getting Payment

To be safe, I request 50% of the total contract cost upfront. I recommend you do the same. After the contract has been signed, you need should request payment. Collect their information, update your budgeting software (I use Freshbooks), and send them their invoice for the agreed amount.

Tip: In the invoice, include the date(s) for which you are expecting the payment(s), and add penalties incurred for late payment.

6. Getting Organized

After the client has signed the contract and submitted payment, I invite them to Basecamp (online project management tool) which allows the client and myself to communicate, track progress, observe deadlines, etc. It keeps track of all the different pieces in one central place.

Tip: Provide instructions to any first-time users on how the software works. Some people want training, and you should be willing and able to offer it.

7. Getting Feedback

After completing the project, I invoice the client for the final payment. Lastly, I ask them to submit a review. It’s important for me to know what I did well and what needs improvement, so I can make sure the next client has an even better experience. Create a simple, online form for this evaluation/review.

Tip: Make the evaluation simple yet detailed and specific to each client.

Take a step today toward going completely paperless. I am convinced it’s one of the best things you can do for your freelance business.

To see all the tools I use on a weekly basis, check out this post.

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