Enjoy this great guest blog from Business Operations Consultant Melissa Morris.

If you’re a service-based business owner than you’ve surely heard the term client onboarding (if you haven’t, that’s ok because I’m going to tell you all about it!). Client onboarding is that crucial time when a prospect becomes a client. Onboarding typically starts with the delivery of your contract and invoice but may start with a proposal depending on how your business works.

There’s a lot of talk surrounding client onboarding and for good reason. When client onboarding is set up correctly, not only can it save you time during the actual onboarding process (think automation for contracts and invoices), it can save you literally hours every week during your entire relationship with a client!

One of the biggest drains on our time as service-based business owners is our clients. Responding to emails, last minute deadlines and waiting (and waiting) on feedback or items from our clients is what leaves us feeling like a hamster on a wheel. Running constantly but getting nowhere.

The good news is, these client woes can be significantly reduced if not eliminated completely! I know what you’re thinking.

“You don’t know my clients.”
“My business is different.”
“But it has to be this way because of xyz.”

No, no and nope.

I hate to break it to you but your business isn’t that different and neither are your clients. You see, the reason your time is gobbled up by clients is because clear expectations have not been set. This is the piece of the onboarding puzzle that many miss and the piece that allows you to reap the long term, time-saving benefits of a properly executed client onboarding process.

Now for the really good news. Laying out these clear expectations, and creating boundaries in the process, isn’t as hard as you think. It all starts with a simple email that becomes the cornerstone of your client onboarding process. An email I like to call, your Expectations Email.

Your Expectations Email should be the very first email your client gets from you AFTER they have signed your contract and paid the first invoice (assuming you request some degree payment up front – which you should).

There are four key components of an Expectations Email. Each of the following four items MUST be addressed if you want this email to save you time for the long haul.

Process Overview and Deliverables

Your clients ask you lots of questions or start asking you to complete tasks outside your scope of work (scope creep) because you haven’t clearly explained what working with you looks like. Lay it out up front. You don’t need to get into the nitty gritty (that will make automating your email difficult) but give the high-level.

For example, let’s say you’re a copywriter. Perhaps you have 3 phases to your work – brainstorming, outline then writing the copy. Break this down for your client and let them know how long each phase is. Maybe brainstorming takes two weeks and then you’ll have an outline produced. If you let them know up front they won’t be hearing from you for the first couple weeks of the project because you’re working internally on brainstorming, they’ll be far less inclined to send you emails. They KNOW what’s happening.

Preferred Method of Communication

Let your clients know how you would like to be reached and what your response time looks like. If email works best, let your clients know this is how you they can reach out with questions. Or maybe you want them to add questions to a Trello board. Whatever the case may be, pick one place where your clients will communicate with you and stick to it. If your client sends you a voxer or text message, simply state that you want to make sure you give each task/question/comment your full attention and ask that they {insert how you want to be reached}.

Meeting Details

Make sure to include meeting or call details in your Expectations Email. How frequently you’ll meet and what will happen during those calls are great details to include. Other things worth mentioning are how clients can reschedule a call if needed and anything you may need from them in order for the call to be successful.

What You Need From Them

Finally, let your clients know up front what you’ll expect from them while working together. Providing you with requested information in a timely manner, scheduling calls in advance and timely approval of projects are all key items to mention. If the service you offer requires a lot of information from your client, especially information that may be techy or out of their comfort zone, consider scheduling a kickoff call where you can walk them through the items. Trust me, in the end it will take you WAY less time to hop on a call then go back and forth via email with their questions.

Melissa Morris is a Business Operations Consultant. She helps service-based business owners streamline and automate their client processes so they have more time to work ON their business, not just IN their business.

You can learn more about her at www.melissavmorris.com or on Facebook @followmelissavmorris.