This process took me some time to perfect, but once I figured out the flow of business, creating an effective client workflow made everything so much faster and easier. I’ve laid out the general steps I take from the very beginning of a project, to the very end. Don’t forget to download the checklist at the end of this post to make sure you’re not forgetting any important steps in the process!
How to Get Organized and Create an Effective Client Workflow
The very first step to your client workflow will obviously be the initial contact, or the inquiry your potential client has sent you. In this message they might outline what they’re looking for or they may just send you an email asking for your pricing / details on your services. In your response, it’s important that you are personable, and make the client feel comfortable. (Even if they sent an inquiry through the wrong contact form.) People want to work with other people who understand them, not robots or large companies who see them as a number. They may or may not be familiar with your work, even if they are, give them a small introduction into who you are and why you love what you do. This will definitely leave an impression on them if they’re shopping around for someone to work with.
Leading off of your response to the original inquiry you have received, you need to learn exactly what the client is looking for so you can send them an appropriate time and rate estimate. This also sets your project up for success as you can learn exactly what the project will entail. Instead of emailing all of your potential clients back a bunch of different questions, make it easy on yourself by creating a fillable questionnaire. Be sure to include areas for your clients to give you specific details as to who they are and what they’re looking to hire you for. You may decide to create a PDF questionnaire that they can fill out online or print at home, or you can create a more elaborate contact form. (As an example, you can view my Web Design Questionnaire here.) Creating a questionnaire clearly outlines the details in a very organized manner, eliminating frustration and confusion on you and your client.
After you have responded to your potential client with the questionnaire, and you have received their response, you can begin creating your proposal. Your proposal should include an outline of the project scope, which details everything that you will be delivering, your timeline, and your rate for the entire project. Essentially you will be going over the items the client defined in their questionnaire response, organizing them in an easy to understand list of items which you will complete, defining the goals of the project, setting a reasonable timeline, and giving them the project rate. This part of the Client Workflow is extremely important as it allows you to clearly define what you will be offering for X amount and it removes the uncertainty of what the project involves. It also provides a sort of roadmap that you will be following and prevents the project from unexpectedly expanding beyond the vision you have set out. This is also known as “scope creep” and it is something you want to avoid at all costs.
The best way to avoid “scope creep” is to create a contract. After the client has accepted your proposal and has agreed to the scope and rate you have set out, it’s time for you to send them your Contract of Agreement. This is not an optional part of business. This is something every service based business owner needs to include in their workflow. Not only does it ensure that you will get paid for your work accordingly, but it also helps cover yourself in the case of an emergency as well. Instead of writing up your own contract, which may or may not hold up in a court of law, it’s best to get in touch with a lawyer to help you set out terms best for your business. The Contract Shop offers great contracts written by real lawyers and all you need to do is plug in your details, and you’re good to go. Be sure to send your finalized contract electronically to get it signed quickly and securely instead of fax or through snail mail.
After your new client has signed the contract, send over the invoice for your retainer / deposit. I like to attach a copy of the signed contract to the invoice as well to make sure the contract terms of agreement are tied to the payment in the case of a discrepancy. For invoicing, I’ve recently switched to Square after reading many horror stories of PayPal clients wrongly charging back service payments, which resulted in PayPal rewarding the client their funds back even if a contract was signed. I actually really love Square versus PayPal as you can better brand your invoices, you can easily set up recurring payments, there are no international currency conversion fees, and they also have their own card reader.
6. Start Work
Now that your client’s payment has cleared and you have deposited the funds into your bank account, you can start your work! Be sure to regularly communicate with your client throughout the process to keep them updated on how progress is going. Also be sure to answer all emails in a timely matter (within your set hours of business of course.) If you ever run into something that you are unsure of, don’t be afraid to ask for further clarification. It’s better to have the information reiterated instead of guessing and doing something wrong.
Once work is complete, send your invoice for the remaining payment. Only after the remaining payment is received should you release the work to the client. I repeat, do not, send the completed work to the client until the final payment has been received and cleared. This ensures that the client doesn’t take the finished work and run without paying you. Do not let them bully you into releasing your finalized work prior to this. I’ve seen so many stories of freelancers who have sent their work before payment and their client sadly ghosted them shortly afterwards. Be strong and be proactive. You are running a business and should be paid accordingly.
Once your final payment has been received, you are ready to hand-off the work that you have completed. I like to send my clients a PDF Good-bye Packet that I have created. In this packet I include: information about their finalized project, helpful tips + links if needed, a link to their files, my contact information + business hours, and a “Thank you” page which links to where they can leave reviews for my business. This last part is very important because not everyone thinks about leaving a review for a business, even if their experience was great! It’s always a good idea to mention it and make it as easy as possible for your client by giving them direct links to review on either your Yelp, Google, or Facebook Business Pages.
If you’re still overwhelmed with the different steps you need to take to better organize your client projects, I highly recommend checking out Dubsado to make your workflow even easier. They are an awesome all-in-one Client Relationship Management System (CRM.) With this amazing system you can manage your client inquiries, questionnaires, contracts, invoices, and communication all in one place and avoid confusion on yourself! You can even set up your workflow to be automated to save you a great amount of time as you no longer have to create the same contract, questionnaires or invoices again.
Have you started working on optimizing your own client workflow? I’d love to chat more in the comments below!
Download the Client Workflow Checklist to keep you on top of your projects & stay organized:
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