Onboarding You

We’re recording an episode about Client Onboarding on Secret Kai Davis Podcast Project #1. (Fan club members, mark the appropriate spot(s) on the 2020 secret-project bingo card you received in the mail. (Level 5 fan club members: you also received a frperg qrpbqre evat.))

Anyway, client onboarding

Onboarding is important because it lets you set the stage for your working relationship and answer common questions both you and your client have.

Like any relationship, your first few meetings do a lot of the heavy lifting in setting the tone and tenor for your relationship, sharing expectations, and setting boundaries. If you spend the time, effort, and attention on optimizing your first few interactions (e.g., kickoff meeting, information request, initial check-in meeting), you will have better relationships with your clients.

I think of these optimizations like getting a haircut or watching a funny episode of Seinfeld[1] before a date. These are steps that will help you start on a good foot with your client. But no optimizations on earth will save you if you routinely find yourself in an adversarial relationship with your clients. If that’s the situation you find yourself in, dear reader, get thyself to a therapist.

That said, onboarding is where you can calmly point to the wrought iron fence of boundaries you’ve built between ‘your business’ and ‘yourself’ (e.g., “I’m relentless about deep work and only check my email once a day at 3pm”, “I work from 9 am – 4 pm, Mon – Thursday. I take Friday and the weekend to myself to recharge and spend time with my loved ones.”)

$ize of Engagement Kinda Doesn’t Matter

In terms of your onboarding experience, there’s a world of difference between a $500 project and a $500k project:

  • The $500 project is getting an automatic email (e.g., “I’m looking forward to working together and…”) along with a nicely-designed PDF of next steps + what information to share with me.
  • The $500k project is getting the consulting team flown in for the on-site kickoff meeting and information exchange.

But, no matter the $ize of your engagement, you’re aiming to meet the same objectives:

  • Explain how you’ll work together
  • Answer + ask common questions
  • Share information
  • Confirm the timeline and next steps
  • Build a strong(er) relationship

Onboarding for Indie Consultants

If you’re reading this, chances are you’re the owner-slash-marketer for a small boutique consultancy: an Indie Consultancy. That means you’re looking to generate a polished, professional experience, with minimal ongoing time commitments for you. That means automation, templates, and Standard Operating Procedures (https://kaidavis.com/standard-operating-procedures/) are your friend.

Start by writing down your current onboarding process (as robust or brand new as it might be) as a standard operating procedure. Write it down so you can remember it later. That way, next time you onboard a new client, you can reference the SOP, follow the steps, and know that you’re tackling the right things.

Then, over time, progressively iterate on your SOP. Update what you do, what you ask, and how you move the client from payment through kickoff. Keep what works, and discard the rest.

Here are the essentials I focus on:

  • Your onboarding starts immediately after they pay. What’s the experience like right after they pay? It should serve to transition them into expectation setting and information sharing for the engagement. For 4-figure and under engagements that I sell through my website, I point people to an onboarding page that sets expectations and confirms what they should do next and sends them an email with similar information.
  • Your onboarding should last through the first project check-in meeting. You’re not done after the kickoff meeting. Think through the points of contact, interactions, and meetings you’ll have with your client over Month 1/Month 2.
  • Always have a kickoff meeting. Seeing faces makes a night-and-day difference in the quality of your relationship. You want to be more than just an avatar in Slack and a voice on a Zoom call.
  • Take the lead with onboarding. You’ve worked with lots of clients; this is your client’s first time working with you. Spell out how to best work with you, what your boundaries are, what types of questions you can help them answer, and what the next steps look like for your project.

Start simple and add more flare with time. I like:

  • Zoom for calls
  • Calendly so they can book a kickoff meeting
  • A page on your site that you direct them to after they pay
  • A nicely designed PDF that you email to them that outlines next-steps
  • A well-written agenda for the kickoff meeting

If you have any top of mind questions about Client Onboarding, tap reply and send them my way.



[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Marine_Biologist