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What is client onboarding?


It's simply the process of bringing new clients into your business workflows to work on their projects or to collaborate together.

In other words, client onboarding is the necessary foundation for a successful working relationship with a new client.

Here's what we cover:

  • Client onboarding process for freelancers

  • How to create an effective client onboarding process

  • Client onboarding examples

  • Creating a client onboarding checklist

  • How to onboard new clients


Let’s get into it. 

Client Onboarding For Freelancers

All you need to know about onboarding new clients and building a productive working relationship.

The Client Onboarding Process In 5 Steps

Having a well-defined process allows you to remove all the guesswork and improvisation.

So let's help you stop wasting time and get more efficient 🙂

Here's a simple 5-step customer onboarding process: 

  1. Proposal & Contract

  2. Payment

  3. Project Requirements

  4. Onboarding Questionnaire

  5. Assign & Start Project


Step 1: Proposal & Contract

When a client expresses interest in your services or asks for a quote, they’ve kicked off the client onboarding process.

1.)  Send A Proposal

The first task from your side is to send a proposal with pricing options and to outline the project scope.

Have a proposal template ready to go that you can customize for the new client.

If you need a web design proposal, you can download this free template here:


With a basic idea of the client’s needs, you can make the necessary tweaks to customize your proposal & pricing options.

2.)  Contract

You should send your client a legal service agreement (contract) to sign before you start the project.


It should cover:

  • The services you will provide

  • Terms and conditions

  • Deliverables, including digital and physical products

  • Timeframe and phases

  • Payment details


We paid a lawyer for this, so if you're a freelancer or agency, you can download our free service contract here.

And as a shameless plug, we have these as default templates in ClientManager - ready to add digital signatures and send to your clients:


Step 2: Payment

When the client has signed the contract, it’s time to send an invoice.


Make sure to include a link where they can easily pay you by credit / debit card – it’s worth the fees to create a seamless experience for clients.

Bonus points for allowing Stripe / PayPal payments within the invoice:


Step 3: Determine the Project Requirements

Once you have a clear roadmap of what you’re delivering for the client, you need to determine exactly what you need from them to start the project.

This might include things like:​

  • Company details

  • Branding kit

  • Passwords or permissions

  • Key contacts

  • Digital images

  • Web copy

  • Etc.

Step 4: Send a Client Onboarding Questionnaire

Now that you know what you need from the client, you’ll use a client onboarding questionnaire or client intake form to collect all the necessary info for the project.


You could do this over email or create a custom Google form.

Or we have a very clean onboarding form you can create in a few minutes:


What Makes A New Client Onboarding Process Effective?

An effective client onboarding process is one that puts your client at ease, sets clear expectations, and makes them feel like they’ve made the right choice in deciding to work with you.   

Here are 5 practical tips for an effective client onboarding process:

1.  Clear Workflow Process

Clients will pick up on it if your process is crap.


So clearly map out your process that allows you to properly manage the project to avoid frustration and constant follow-ups.


2. Dedicated Contact(s)

Keep communication straightforward by having a single contact point for your client, whether that’s you, a team member, or a dedicated client portal.


3. Customizable Documents And Templates

Using proposal, contract and client intake templates tailored to your services keeps things professional and efficient, so you don’t waste your time or your clients’.  

This approach also helps you see where you can keep making minor improvements in the process, rather than reinventing the wheel every time.


4. Proactive Communication

A professional client onboarding process shows clients you’re always two steps ahead.

It anticipates their questions, sets clear expectations early on, and prevents unwelcome surprises (for both of you) down the road.


5. Personalized Experience

While your onboarding process needs to be consistent and repeatable, it shouldn’t feel like a cold, automated process.  

Think about ways you can add a personal touch or add value for your client.

Example: Create a quick personalized welcome video or send a small client gift to thank them for using your services.

Each client comes with different needs and levels of understanding when it comes to your services, and your onboarding process should accommodate that.


Clients who need a bit of extra hand-holding at the start will reward you with loyalty and referrals down the track if you’re prepared to put a bit of extra effort into the relationship.


Client Onboarding Examples

Here are a few client onboarding examples to consider:

General Information Form:

Collects client's name, contact details, business name, staff, industry, clients, and competitors to understand their background and goals.

Project Scope Form:

Defines project's scope, objectives, desired features, functionality, budget, timeline, and technical preferences to estimate timelines and costs accurately.

Design Preferences Form:

Gathers client's design preferences including elements, color schemes, typography, and brand guidelines to align the final project with their aesthetic vision.

Content Gathering Form:

Captures necessary content details like page titles, headings, body text, media, and ads for effective website planning and structuring.

Technical Requirements Form:

Collects information on hosting, domain preferences, and third-party integrations to facilitate smooth development.

Contract Agreement Form:

Outlines terms, project scope, payment terms, intellectual property rights, and disclaimers to clarify responsibilities and protect interests.


How Do You Create A Client Onboarding Checklist?

Once you’ve got the process down, creating a client onboarding checklist is a must to make sure you don't miss anything and it helps for new onboarding clients.

To create your onboarding checklist, start by looking at past projects, and make a list of all the key steps and key information that was shared between you and the client, from the first point of contact, to the point where you had everything you needed to be able to start working on the project.

Next, take everything you’ve written down and organize it into:

Things I need from the client

Things the client needs from me

For each of those lists, create a column for ‘Info’ and another column for specific documents, forms, links or meetings that you used to share/get that info.

Example checklist below.


What To Include In Your Client Onboarding Checklist

Your client onboarding checklist needs to cover all the steps it takes to smoothly onboard your client, from the first point of contact, to the point of project kick-off.


Here's a recommendation:

Client Discovery Call & Questions

Project Proposal

Project Quote

Project Quote

Deposit Invoice

Client Intake Form

Client Resource List

Project Timeline & Milestones

Team Assignments / Team Profile

Internal Team Briefing

Kick-off Call

Next Action Steps

Access & Permissions List

Project Requirements List

Welcome Message / Team Introductions


How To Onboard New Clients As A Freelancer

If onboarding new clients is new to you, don’t overcomplicate things or expect to get it perfect right off the bat.

Start with a simple client intake form that’s easy to implement, and improve it once you’ve done it a few times and got some feedback.

Here’s a plan for getting started:

1) Create a simple client onboarding checklist using the process we outlined above.

2) Collect or create the documents and templates you need, including:

  • Proposal template 

  • Contract template 

  • Email template

  • Invoice

  • Client intake form

3. Map out your client onboarding process. Use our 5-step process, and expand on or adapt it to your business:

  1. Proposal & Contract

  2. Payment

  3. Project Requirements

  4. Client Onboarding Questionnaire

  5. Assign the Client and Start the Project

4. Once you have a basic client onboarding process that works for you, look for places to automate, streamline or improve

Keep refining, and soon you’ll have an effective client onboarding process that will impress your clients, get you repeat business, and have you closer to the business and lifestyle you’ve always wanted.  


Cheers to your client onboarding success 😊

We'd love if you tried ClientManager free for 7 days.

Most of our users love the interface, user experience, and simplicity.

Thanks again,

Kyle & CM Team

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

  • For most freelancers, you’ll likely handle the entire onboarding process yourself.

    For agencies, it’s a good idea to appoint one person that’s responsible for facilitating a smooth onboarding process – your customer onboarding champion.

    Whether it’s an account manager, a project manager, client manager, or you as the solopreneur, your clients or customers will appreciate having a single point of contact.


    They’ll know who to ask if they have questions along the way, and it ensures they have everything they need at each stage of the process.  

  • Your onboarding process doesn’t have to be daunting or complicated. In fact, it should be as simple as possible.

    Here is a simple customer onboarding process that can easily be adapted to most service-based freelancing businesses and agencies:

    1) Send Proposal & Contract
    Based on the client’s initial request, send your custom proposal and quote on the project, followed by a professional legal service agreement (contract). 

    2) Get Payment
    Once the contract is signed, invoice the client for the project deposit. Provide an easy payment option, like a credit card payment link. Also include relevant tax forms the client may need from you.

    3) Determine Project Requirements
    Determine what information and materials you need from the client to be able to start work on the project. 

    4) Send Client Onboarding Questionnaire
    Based on the project requirements, create and send a client onboarding questionnaire/intake form where the client can easily and safely share the information.

    5) Assign the Client and Start the Project
    Once you have all the necessary info, assign the client to your team or project board, and set up a kick-off call to make introductions, clarify any questions and agree on next steps.  

    Once the onboarding process moves into project implementation, keep providing regular updates and consistent communication and support to your clients and customers.  

  • Having a clear and consistent client onboarding process has lots of crucial benefits for your business:

    • Lets you find out quickly if a client is a good fit - an effective onboarding process enables you to screen clients early on and quickly reveal any red flags for clients that might be a problem to work with. 

    • Gets projects up and running faster – client onboarding actively engages your clients from the start of the process, which avoids delays in getting their input and helps you both hit the ground running. 

    • Creates clear expectations – a good onboarding process ensures you and the client are on the same page about expectations for the project deliverables, timelines, and responsibilities, which prevents scope creep and other awkward miscommunications.

    • Prevents client churn – hands-on client onboarding ensures you are nurturing client relationships early on and cementing a good relationship. Clients that have a great experience with you from the start are more likely to bring repeat business.

    • Frees up your business bandwidth – when you have a well-oiled client onboarding process in place, it frees up a lot of mental and business bandwidth. You can focus more of your time and creativity on the work itself, and on pursuing opportunities to grow and improve your business.

Step 5: Assign the Client and Start the Project

You should now have all the basics in place to kick off the project. 

It’s time to assign the client, and introduce them to any relevant team members.


Depending on the project size, and your team and work style, you might want to set up a kick-off call with the client. It’s a good opportunity to create a good vibe with the client and give them the space to ask questions, run through initial ideas, and get some initial momentum going. 

 Make sure you end the onboarding process with clear next steps for you, your team, and the client.

Onboard & manage your clients with ease.

Take control of your business. Save time and money - and actually enjoy the process, with ClientManager.


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