How to Set Up Your Signature Client Process
Do you ever feel like you’re figuring out your process from scratch with each new client?
Do you feel like your on-boarding process for new clients isn’t setting the right tone – it’s not reinforcing their decision to invest in your services and getting them excited for what’s to come?
Do you spend valuable time writing the same emails over and over again, going back and forth with clients to schedule meetings and answer common questions?
Yes? You’re suffering from a lack of Client Process. Thoughtfully designing your client experience is one of my favorite topics – because every interaction your client (or potential client) has with you is your brand. Setting the right tone and creating an unforgettable experience is so important.
In this guide, I’ll walk you through how I’ve set up my own client process, and ways you can get started shaping your own.
1. Streamline Your Offerings
The most important thing I did to help streamline my process was to clarify my packages (and narrow down what I was offering).
Juggling multiple types of projects – each with their own unique set of steps – made my schedule chaotic and very hard to organize or predict.
I resisted narrowing down my offerings for a while because I was afraid of losing out on potential projects that fell outside the scope of my packages. But once I forced myself to sit down and think through the types of projects I was regularly working on, it was easy to identify the ones that were the most profitable and successful for me and my team.
Defining your packages will do wonders for your schedule and make it much easier to develop your signature client process. Don’t be tempted to skip this step – it’s so important! And if you’re still not convinced that you can make a limited number of packages work for your business, I encourage you to at least test it out by designing a single primary/signature package in combination with your current service offerings.
2. Define Your Client Intake Process
Next up: setting your projects up for success by outlining a clear intake process.
Before a client signs on for your services, you can set expectations and give them a preview of your signature client process.
Personally, I outlined the following in-take steps:
website + sales material
I made sure my client process was clearly outlined on my website’s services page, and I also talk about it in blog posts and marketing collateral. Explaining my process publicly accomplishes two great things: first, it means client’s know what to expect when they reach out to me and they have an idea on whether or not my approach is a good fit for them.
Secondly, a clear and thoughtful process is a big selling point. Being clear about what I offer through my client process is often one of the biggest reasons a new potential client reaches out in the first place.
I have an outline I use for each consultation call so I can keep the conversation on track and make sure I communicate all the important information a potential client needs to know.
I explain my client process once again on this call and answer any questions my prospective client has about our work together.
After a consultation, the next step in my process is to prepare and send a project proposal. Depending on the type of service you offer, you might not create proposals for your clients.
If that’s the case, I highly recommend you replace the “proposal” with your own version of follow up. Maybe you simply send an email that recaps what you talked about during your phone call or meeting, reminding your prospect of the major benefits you discussed and reminding them how to get started.
If the prospective client accepts my proposal and books their project, I move into my booking process. This includes sending the deposit invoice, project contract, and a welcome guide.
I automate the invoice/contract portion through Dubsado and my welcome guide is a PDF that ensures my new client has all of the information they need to navigate our project successfully (more on this later!).
3. Outline Your Process from Start to Finish
No matter how many times you’ve worked on a particular kind of project, it’s still a good idea to write down your process step by step. Having your process written down will save brain-space, so you don’t always have to be mentally tracking your progress. It also means that you’ll never forget a step when your schedule is busy and you’re juggling dozens of things at once.
You can use just about anything you’d like to record your process, but I personally use Asana. It makes it easy for me to copy my process outline to new projects and check things off as I go.
In my process outline, I include every single step I take with clients – even the steps that seem obvious. It includes everything from the onboarding steps I mentioned earlier to the thank-you gift I send after a project is complete.
Here’s a snapshot of what my process outline looks like in Asana:
If you offer more than one service package, be sure to create a process outline for each one.
4. Put the Predictable Details on Autopilot
Doing everything from scratch has two big downsides: first, it sucks up a lot of time that you could be spending on more impactful activities. Secondly, it decreases consistency.
It might feel like a big time investment up front, but making templates, swipe files, and collateral that will streamline the small activities you do over and over will make a big difference in your client process.
For example, creating a swipe file for client project emails could save you tons of time and make sure that your clients always receive all the details they need. You could create swipe copy for inquiry response emails, client on-boarding emails, project update/milestone emails, post-project referral or review request emails, etc.
The template will make sending these emails quick + easy – all you have to do is personalize and fill in the details (and add extra notes wherever needed). The framework is already in place and you can be sure that you’re not leaving anything out or wasting hours re-typing the same emails over and over again.
Other great things to streamline: contracts, invoices, client discovery forms/questionnaires, onboarding (this is a great opportunity to create a client welcome guide or another set of collateral that gives your new client everything they need to know about the project and sets expectations), and testimonial/review collection.
These things add structure to your process, which is helpful for clients, and creating templates ahead of time will reduce your workload and ensure consistent quality every time.
5. Put Your Project on a Timeline with Scheduled Milestones
One of the biggest complaints I hear from clients when working with service providers: they don’t know how much progress their project has made or when it will be done. A vague timeline can be frustrating for a client and inefficient for you.
If you created packages for your services, placing a firm timeline around them should be easy. If you haven’t created packages, you can still design a timeline by listing out the steps involved in your most common project and estimating how much time each step will take. You can then confidently set a start and finish date for projects.
If your services are on-going, this concept still has a place in your process. While you might not set a start and end date, you can outline what happens each week/month/quarter and what deliverables or milestones the client can expect to hit throughout your work together.
Of course, there are services that can’t operate under specific timelines. I worked with a birth doula who – for obvious reasons – couldn’t put specific dates on the calendar, but she could set expectations and infuse timeliness into her services by following up with her clients on a schedule, letting them know when and how to get in touch and what would happen after they did, etc.
6. Create a Welcome Packet for Clients
In the section about putting predictable details on autopilot, I mentioned the idea of creating a client welcome guide. The on-boarding process for a new client is a critical opportunity to set expectations and reinforce your new client’s decision to hire you, so I want to explore the client welcome packet idea in more detail here.
There’s often a lot of excitement around kick-starting a new project or working with a new service professional – but that can wear off quickly after the investment has been made and the sales process ends. In my own business, I noticed a drastic drop-off in client interaction that happened right after a new client came onboard and lasted until their project kick-off (there’s typically a gap of up to a few weeks between booking a project and starting a project).
While that gap wasn’t bad necessarily, and clients were expecting it since they knew their project timeline, it didn’t feel like a good representation of the brand experience I wanted to build. So I created a client welcome kit to keep the excitement going while they waited for their project to begin.
My client welcome kit includes just two things:
1 – A Starbucks gift card, so they can treat themselves while they work on their prep work.
2 – A detailed welcome guide PDF that outlines what they can look forward to in our work together and provides all the details they need to feel confident in the service they are going to receive.
The welcome guide PDF is the big component here, so I’ll focus on that. Here’s what I cover in my welcome guide:
Contact info and office hours, and a note to set expectations on how and when we’ll communicate, plus how they can get in touch if they ever feel something’s off track or have a question. (By the way, setting communication expectations upfront has been so helpful for me and my clients. Knowing when and how we’ll be in touch streamlines the process and saves time, as well as making my clients feel taken care of).
Project Timeline. At this point, the project timeline has already been discussed, but I like to include it in the welcome guide as a refresher and so they can access it easily any time they have a question about the schedule.
Prep work instructions. My clients complete some “homework” before our project starts, so I include step-by-step instructions and helpful hints to make sure they feel confident in completing those tasks on time.
A “what to expect” section. Every project has its own nuances, and in my line of work, there are some techy tasks involved in projects like buying domain names, choosing a website host, and working with a printing company to print collateral items. My clients always have questions about these things, so I use this section as an FAQ-type overview.
Goals & Outcomes. I want to reestablish the value my clients can expect to get out of our work together and keep the excitement going. I use this part of the guide to remind my client what we’re working towards and the goals we hope to achieve by the end of our project.
Ready to Put your own Signature Client Experience into motion?
Having a signature client process in place elevates your brand, streamlines your process, and saves you a lot of time. You can use this guide as a starting point and then customize a client experience that matches your brand and meets your own client’s needs.
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