The Ultimate Guide To Onboarding Freelance Clients

The goal of onboarding new clients is to make them feel comfortable with your business, as well as to provide them with the information they need. 

This doesn’t have to be difficult or time-consuming, but it makes a vast difference in the long run. 

You can start by sending out a welcome email and then following up with a call or meeting where you go over what you need from them and when you need it.

This simple process screams you are professional, and effective and immediately puts your clients at ease.

So try it as soon as you land your next freelance client!

hen doing so.

Table of contents:

Do freelancers need to onboard clients?

Onboarding clients helps to set the tone for a fantastic working relationship with clients in the future.

Onboarding is simply the standardised process of bringing new clients into your business.

Onboarding is super important because it helps make for a great working relationship with them in the future. 

The goal of onboarding is to establish communication with your clients and set their expectations at the right level.

Done well, good onboarding processes will establish you as a freelancer who cares about the details, is professional and is effective at what they do.

The benefits for you are that you’ll save time, prevent clients from bossing you around in the future, and draw clear boundaries. 

Send out your ‘welcome’ email

When you’ve got new clients to onboard, it’s exciting! They have made a commitment and taken a leap of faith in working with you – so don’t leave them without anything to show for their actions. 

It’s important to send out a ‘welcome’ email. You should send as soon it as a new client signs up – so you can immediately help them feel welcomed and settled.

This email can include:

  • A friendly introduction to yourself and your business, explaining how you work and what they can expect during the process.
  • A link to your website and social media accounts (if relevant), as well as some examples of previous work if there are any available. You might also include links to other people/companies that have worked with you if they speak positively about their experience.

Schedule a client call or meeting

In the first meeting or call, you need to set the tone. Be proactive and positive, and take charge of this process. 

You can do this in person, but is more likely to happen with a video call.

Once you’re on the call, you’ll want to gather a few pieces of information. 

Explain what you need from them and when you need it

Make sure your client understands the deadline and why it’s important. You can even explicitly state that you’ll be checking in on them to make sure they’re on track with their work, which lets them know that there’s an expectation for them to meet deadlines and also tells them you’re going to be checking up on their progress.

Use the call to find out about your new client

Here’s the outline I follow for every onboarding call I jump on with my clients:

  • Start with the basics. The call should be about needs, not wants.
  • Ask them what their business is about and how they got into it. What are their goals? What do they want to accomplish? How do they plan on working with you, and what would make them happy?
  • Don’t be afraid to ask questions! You need to know as much as possible to provide your client with quality services. Some of the most important things for you to find out during this call include how much time your client wants to spend working together; how much money they’re willing to invest in your services; whether there are any constraints (such as budget) that will affect the project.

Be clear about what it is you do (and don’t do)

The first step towards effective onboarding is to be clear about what you do and don’t do. 

You can’t expect your clients to understand how your products or services work without explaining them in concrete detail. 

Explain what you do, and what you don’t do. You may think that clients know exactly what they are getting into with your business—but if they don’t have any experience working with freelancers or agencies before, they might not have a full understanding of how things work in this industry. 

Make sure that the client understands (and agrees) how long it will take you to complete projects. 

Make sure they understand the limitations of your offerings so that they don’t expect too much from you later on. 

It’s also important to make sure they understand the scope of work. This way, both parties know exactly what to expect from the agreement.

Set client expectations

When onboarding clients, it’s important to set clear expectations. This is critical to the success of your project and your relationship with them.

Explain how often communication will happen throughout the project—and stick with it! 

If something changes later down the line because of factors beyond either party’s control (e.g. holidays), communicate those changes immediately so everyone knows what’s happening next.

Ask your client how they’d like to communicate with you

It’s also important to be clear about how you will communicate. Besides explaining your availability and expectations, let them know they can reach out to you whenever they have questions.

This doesn’t have to be complicated, just ask something like: “To make sure we’re on the same page, before we dive into specific tasks that need doing, let’s talk about how we’ll be communicating throughout the process.”

Once you’ve established this baseline information, it’s time for some Q&A! Make sure your client understands:

  • How much time you’ll devote to their account each week/month/quarter?
  • What you need from them
  • When they’ll hear back from you! It’s usually better to avoid committing to being available all the time. 

Explain how invoicing works, including payment terms and methods

Explain how your invoicing works, including payment terms. For example, if you have a deposit to be paid upfront before starting work. 

Explain how you will collect payments. How will you invoice them? Will you provide an estimate or quote before starting work? Or do they need to pay as they go?

If there is any additional payment due after completion (e.g. ongoing support), explain this upfront too and make sure the details of the package are there in black and white.

Follow up with a summary email to share your notes from the client call or meeting

Once you’re off the call, it’s a great idea to send a summary email with any notes from the meeting. 

This is a good way to recap and make sure that they know what’s next. You can also use this email as an opportunity to thank them for their time – it’s good karma!

If there was something specific that came up during your conversation, mention it briefly in your summary email. If you agreed on the next steps, state when they can expect for those tasks to be completed.

If they have questions or concerns encourage them to ask them now – leave nothing hanging!

This also helps to save your bacon if there is a disagreement down the line. Having evidence like this adds real clarity and can de-escalate potentially tense situations.

Create a project folder

Next, it’s good practice to create a project folder for each client.

This is where you will store all the information for that client, including:

  • Notes from meetings with the client, including any agreements made or questions they have asked.
  • All documents relating to the project, including contracts and invoices.


If you’re looking to take your business to the next level, then it’s important that you onboard clients effectively. 

This will help ensure that they get the best service possible, right from the very start of their relationship with you. It also smooths out any potential future problems and establishes you as someone who knows exactly what they are doing, right from the off.

So give it a try!

My very first book – The Freelance Roadmap – has hit the digital shelves!

The Freelance Roadmap is a complete guide to building your freelance business and living life on your own terms.

This book will teach you how to develop a clear vision for your business, use storytelling that makes others want to work with you, develop a rock-solid freelance mindset, build the confidence to bring your ambitions to life and more!

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