5 Simple Steps to Effectively Onboard New Clients

Having an effective process to onboard new clients is a crucial step in your client experience. It will set the tone for the whole project. When I started out, I didn’t have any process in place, and I didn’t really know what it meant to onboard new clients.

Picture this: you reached out to your favorite brands, tapped all your connections, talked to all the local restaurants. And then one day, it finally happens. Somebody wants to hire you. You found the client, the hard part is done, right? Now what’s next? Crap. You don’t have the first idea where to start!

Believe me, I have been there. When I started, I had no idea what to do with my first client. So I did a little research (aka stayed up all night – that’s before I had a kid), and sort of figured out the next step.

For the next client, I was a little less terrified (I said a little), but I was still pretty clueless. As the years went by, I tried a lot of things, and failed a lot. But I finally put together a simple process to onboard new clients that works for me.

Simple steps to onboarding clients - Frenchly Photography

You may need to tweak and make some minor changes, but I am hoping that this post will help you come up with your own perfect onboarding process (it will take time). In the meantime, this will help you waste less time and feel a little bit more confident.

Contact Form and Welcome Packet

I started using a CRM pretty early in my business and it quickly became a critical step to onboarding new clients. I started with 17Hats, then  recently moved to Dubsado. Ii keeps all my clients’ information and documents in one place.

One thing I started recently, is to embed a contact form created in Dubsado on my website. Everytime a potential client fills the form out, its information is collected in Dubsado. This is a game changer as it allows you to create actions when a new lead comes in, but also keep track of said leads.

I set up a workflow that starts immediately after I receive a new inquiry. The workflow triggers an email answer with my welcome packet. This is the first step in my process and it creates a great first impression on potential clients. They don’t have to wait until I return to my desk to get the information they need. They get it delivered almost immediately and in a beautiful way.

The welcome packet includes all the details of my process, how I work, what to expect. It also gives my price ranges so that if we are not on the same budget, we do not waste each other’s time.

The first email also include a link to my calendar so they can book a call. This is a fabulous feature when onboarding new clients. It saves a lot of time going back and forth by email to find a time that works for both. You choose when you are available to take client calls and the clients can just book directly through the link you provide them with.

Simple steps to onboarding clients - Frenchly Photography
Talking to the client allows me to get all the details about the images they need

Talking to the client

This is an important step guys, don’t skip it! Scheduling a phone call with your potential client will allow you to ask all the questions about the project (and save you a lot of time of back and forth by email) . It will also allow you to explain in detail all the products and services you can provide, and set expectations for the project.

This is also very important as it will help you evaluate if you want to work with this particular client. I know when you are getting started, you are willing to work with anybody, but as your business grows, you will have to be more selective and say no to the clients who are not a good fit.

I am a pretty shy person, so I used to avoid talking on the phone at all cost. But I now know how important it is and I try to get on the phone with all my clients.

Sending the proposal

After the call, if it sounds like we would be a good fit, I send a proposal. I use a proposal template very similar to what wedding photographers use: it is beautifully designed and relies a lot on beautiful images.

It includes some detail about what type of images I shoot and how it can help their business, a few case studies from other businesses / brands and a mini about page.

The last page includes my pricing. I usually offer 3 different packages so they can choose based on the number of images and investment they want.

Contract and Invoice

Once we have agreed on a package, I will send a contract. I purchased a contract online from a lawyer specializing in photography when I started and had a limited budget and had it reviewed by a lawyer at a later time when I was able to afford it to make sure everything was okay.

This is an important step. The laws of copyright for photography are very specific and most clients are not familiar with them. Heck, a lot of new photographers are not familiar with them. Make sure to do your research about copyright and find a legit contract for photographers.

The Lawtog for example has some great contracts and model releases specially drafted for photographers.

Simple steps to onboarding clients - Frenchly Photography
The contract is not the most glamorous part of the job but it is absolutely necessary to protect your work

Along with the contract, I send an Invoice with 50% deposit. The client can pay directly online by clicking on a button in the email (another perk of working with a CRM).

Both contract and invoice are created in Dubsado and sent from there. If you don’t think you need a full on CRM tool, you can create your invoices directly in Paypal, or use a tool such as Freshbooks, which will also allow you to create a payment plan.

Mood board and shot list

Before I start shooting, I always do some research to find out what the client has been using in terms of pictures so I have an idea of what they like.

I also do some research about their competitors to see what they do so that -1- I see what is successful and what is not and -2- I don’t do the same thing.

I then do some research for inspiration and gather images to create a mood board for my client. The images will depict the style and feel of the images and well as the colors I will use.

After the mood board has been approved, I create a shot list that I submit to the client as well for approval. Once I have the confirmed shot list, I can start planning the shoot.

If it is a food photography client, I have a few more steps that include the grocery shopping, some test cooking, and and my exact process on shoot day. You can find more information about my Food Photography Workflow here.

Get my free Food Photography Workflow Checklist!

And there you have it, my step-by-step process for onboarding new clients. I hope you’ve found this information helpful and that you are ready to go setup your own onboarding client system. It will make you a lot more efficient and will help you feel more confident.

Furthermore, having a streamlined process creates a seamless experience for your clients and will help you build a stellar reputation in no time! Check out my instagram account to see some of the shots I created using this process and tag me in your new images!