5 Steps to Onboard Your Freelance Writing Clients 

Most freelance writers consider getting more gigs their major challenge. But the secret to solving this problem isn’t to find more leads but to properly onboard and retain the few you get.  

In this article, we’ll discuss the five steps you should take to onboard new clients so they stay loyal to your business.  

What is Client Onboarding?

Client onboarding is the process a business or service provider uses to welcome and integrate new clients into their system. It involves a series of steps aimed at familiarizing clients with the products, services, policies, and procedures of the company. This process typically begins immediately after a client decides to engage with the business and continues through the initial stages of the relationship.

During client onboarding, organizations gather essential information about their clients, establish clear communication channels, and set expectations for the future. The goal is to ensure a smooth transition into the client-provider relationship and lay the foundation for a successful partnership.

Benefits of Client Onboarding

Effective client onboarding is more than just a formality; it is a strategic process that offers numerous benefits to both clients and service providers. Here are some key advantages of implementing a robust client onboarding program:

  1. Enhanced Customer Satisfaction: A well-executed onboarding process ensures that clients feel valued and supported from the very beginning of their relationship with the company. This leads to higher levels of satisfaction and loyalty.
  2. Reduced Churn: By proactively addressing client needs and concerns during the onboarding phase, companies can significantly reduce the likelihood of clients churning or discontinuing their services.
  3. Increased Productivity: Clients who are properly onboarded are more likely to quickly understand how to use the products or services they have purchased, leading to faster adoption and higher productivity.
  4. Improved Communication: Clear communication channels established during the onboarding process facilitate ongoing communication between clients and service providers.
  5. Stronger Relationships: Building a strong foundation through effective onboarding helps establish trust and rapport between clients and service providers, laying the groundwork for long-term, mutually beneficial relationships.
  6. Upsell and Cross-Sell Opportunities: During the onboarding process, companies can identify additional needs or opportunities for upselling or cross-selling other products or services to clients, thereby increasing revenue potential.

Key Components of Client Onboarding

Information Gathering: Collecting necessary data from the client, such as contact details, preferences, goals, and any relevant documentation.

Introduction to Products/Services: Providing an overview of the products or services the client has purchased or subscribed to, including how they work and their key features.

Setting Expectations: Clarifying what the client can expect from the company in terms of communication, support, timelines, and deliverables.

Establishing Communication Channels: Determining the primary points of contact and preferred methods of communication between the client and the company.

Training and Education: Offering training sessions or resources to help clients make the most of the products or services they have acquired.

Documentation and Compliance: Ensuring that all necessary agreements, contracts, and compliance requirements are met and properly documented.

5 Steps to Onboard Freelance Writing Clients

1. Pre-Qualify Your Prospects

Most writers make the mistake of letting their joy of attracting new business distract them from pre-qualifying their prospects. So, they dive right into making every prospect a client.  

If you follow this approach, you will work with clients that are not in the niche you serve and can’t afford your rates.

Decide if a new prospect is a fit based on factors like your niche expertise, rates, and working preferences before you decide to work with them. That way, you can pick only projects you will deliver, get well paid for, and enjoy working on. 

Service-providing coach, Sabri Suby, suggests pre-qualifying prospects.

In his opinion, if you have leads coming in, you first qualify them by “seeing whether you had the best solution to help them solve the problem…and the way that you do that is you find out of all the problems that they’re experiencing…what is it they’ve tried, where is it they’re trying to go, and if it fits for you, then they are qualified.” 

You should also provide prospects with the must-haves of working with you like your availability, rates, working processes, invoicing details, and communication expectations. 

2. Get All the Project Details 

It’s time to gather all the specifics necessary to do the job effectively. Jump on a call with your prospect and get details like: 

  • Who is their target audience? What does their current content marketing strategy look like? 
  • What kind of writing do they want? How often do they want it? How is this project expected to impact their content strategy? 
  • What’s the final rate you’ll be moving forward with? How will you get paid? 

If you are not a fan of calls, you can also communicate with the prospect asynchronously. 

Freelance writer, Elise Dopson handles the majority of her client communications off calls.  

”I’m an async girl who likes to work on my own terms so I only offer calls to potential clients who desperately need one (i.e. they’re working on a big project and have lots of information to communicate). In that case, I’ll send a Calendly link to book a call.”

Also, don’t rush through this process to start an exciting project or you will end up missing out on vital information necessary to bring the project to success. 

3. Get an Approved Proposal and Signed Contract

Finalize  all the agreements you’ve made with your new prospect. Send them a proposal detailing everything you both discussed.

Getting the proposal finished might require a bit of back and forth and you might need to tinker with the project scope or deadlines until you reach an agreement with the prospect. 

After you agree on a proposal, turn that last proposal into a contract for the client to sign. You can get a contract from your accountant, use software like PandaDoc or HelloSign, or use this Google Doc template

Ensure you get a contract signed so you are protected from the inevitable woes of freelancing: project cancellation, unpaid dues, and project scope creep. 

You might also consider requesting an upfront payment of 20-50% of every project fee. While this might not be necessary for smaller projects or long-term clients, it’s a useful measure when you are working with a client for the first time–especially if the project is in the four to five-figure range.

4. Add Client to Your Project Management Tool 

To kick off the new project, get the client added to your project management tool and slot their work into your calendar. 

For freelance writer Rochi Zalani that uses Trello, this looks something like this:

  • Fill out client details (e.g., their website, any editor notes, overarching style guides).
  • Add the promised deadlines for all versions. (She always adds a buffer of 1-2 days.)
  • Enter the links of all docs like your brief, outline, and Google Drive folder.
  • Have a ‘notes’ section to write anything you might forget or track any SME interviews.
  • Put the invoice link and the publish link when they’re available.
  • Keep moving the cards in different columns as you progress for each project.

5. Start the Project

After you’ve secured the new client, get started on their project as soon as possible. 

Send a questionnaire for the website project or that content brief for the blog post now rather than later. Don’t delay starting the project because that might lead to a bad first impression that sticks with the client. 

According to freelance writer Bani Kaur, going above and beyond for the first project is her biggest client retention secret. 

“A great first experience is hard to shake. That way, even if you stumble somewhere down the line, your clients will have faith in you to turn it around. If you read my testimonials, this is the one thing all my clients acknowledge.” 

Haley Slade, CEO and founder of the digital copywriting agency Slade Copy House, also believes that writers getting new clients should focus on their onboarding process and the client journey as a whole. 

‘’If the clients feel like the onboarding process is high-touch and they’ve been taken care of, that alone will help you with referrals and make them 10x more likely to book with you again.”

Example: Client Onboarding for a Freelance Writer

Note: This example assumes that the freelance writer offers various writing services, such as blog posts, articles, website content, and marketing copy, to clients across different industries.

Step 1: Initial Contact and Inquiry

The client, let’s call them “ABC Company,” reaches out to the freelance writer expressing interest in their writing services. The writer responds promptly, acknowledging receipt of the inquiry, and schedules an initial consultation to discuss the project details further.

Step 2: Initial Consultation

During the consultation, the freelance writer takes the time to understand ABC Company’s specific needs, goals, and preferences. They ask probing questions to gather essential information, such as the target audience, tone of voice, desired word count, and any existing brand guidelines. The writer also provides insights and suggestions based on their expertise to help refine the project scope.

Step 3: Proposal and Agreement

Following the consultation, the freelance writer prepares a detailed proposal outlining the project scope, deliverables, timeline, pricing, and payment terms. The proposal also includes a contract that specifies the rights and responsibilities of both parties, confidentiality agreements, and any other pertinent terms. ABC Company reviews the proposal and contract, seeking clarification on any points before signing off on the agreement.

Step 4: Onboarding Kickoff

Once the contract is signed and the initial payment (if applicable) is received, the freelance writer initiates the onboarding process. They send a personalized welcome email to ABC Company, expressing excitement about the collaboration and providing an overview of what to expect during the onboarding phase. The email includes a detailed onboarding checklist outlining the upcoming steps and requirements.

Step 5: Information Gathering

ABC Company completes a client intake form provided by the freelance writer, providing essential details such as their brand identity, target audience demographics, preferred writing style, and any specific topics or keywords they want to focus on. The freelance writer carefully reviews this information to ensure a thorough understanding of ABC Company’s brand and messaging.

Step 6: Setting Expectations

The freelance writer schedules a follow-up call with ABC Company to discuss project logistics and set clear expectations. They outline communication protocols, including preferred channels (email, phone, video calls), response times, and scheduled check-ins. Additionally, they confirm project milestones and deadlines to ensure alignment between both parties.

Step 7: Content Strategy Development

Based on the information gathered and discussions with ABC Company, the freelance writer develops a comprehensive content strategy tailored to their needs and objectives. This strategy includes topics, content formats, keyword research (if applicable), SEO considerations, and an editorial calendar outlining planned content delivery dates.

Step 8: Initial Content Creation

The freelance writer begins crafting the first piece of content according to the agreed-upon specifications and timeline. They maintain open communication with ABC Company throughout the writing process, providing regular updates, seeking feedback, and making revisions as necessary to ensure the content meets or exceeds expectations.

Step 9: Review and Feedback

Once the initial content draft is complete, the freelance writer submits it to ABC Company for review. They encourage thorough feedback and revisions to ensure the content aligns perfectly with ABC Company’s brand voice and messaging. The writer incorporates any requested changes promptly, striving to deliver high-quality content that meets ABC Company’s standards.

Step 10: Finalization and Delivery

After incorporating all feedback and revisions, the freelance writer finalizes the content and delivers it to ABC Company in the specified format and within the agreed-upon deadline. They provide any additional assets or resources necessary for implementing the content, such as meta descriptions, images, or calls to action, to ensure a seamless integration into ABC Company’s platforms.

Step 11: Ongoing Support and Relationship Management

Following the successful delivery of the first piece of content, the freelance writer continues to provide ongoing support and communication to ABC Company. They proactively seek opportunities for additional projects or collaborations, offer recommendations for optimizing content performance, and remain accessible for any questions or concerns that may arise.

Create Your Client Onboarding Process  

To onboard every new client without distress, follow this five-step onboarding process with every prospect and watch as you not only set the stage for a blossoming work experience with all your clients but also get to work only on projects you find exciting. 

About the Author 

Aishat Abdulfatah is a freelance writer for B2B SaaS E-commerce, Martech, and Sales Companies. She has written high-quality, long-form content for brands like Writesonic, Videowise, and PrimoStats. Connect with her on LinkedIn or Twitter where she shares her journey in marketing and freelancing.