5 Must-Haves For Perfect Client Onboarding

How kicking things off right can fast-track your success

What does your client onboarding process look like?

For many new and even experienced copywriters, it looks something like this:

  1. Client signs contract. 
  2. Looooong wait.
  3. Project begins.

Lather, rinse, repeat.

If that’s working for you, that’s great!

But you’re missing out on some BIG opportunities.

Because having the right onboarding process will set your project up for success on day one.

With the right process, you’ll be in the driver’s seat of your client relationship.

I’m talking about setting clear expectations, having firm boundaries, and calling all the shots like the expert you are (and not just a hired gun at your client’s beck and call.)

Perfecting your onboarding process will also help your project stay on track so you can get your client what they need, when they need it, and deliver exceptional service.

Long story short?

Onboarding is massively important to the success of your project and your client relationship. 

So if you’re still winging it after you get your client’s signature, this video is for you. 

I’m gonna show you the 5 must-haves in your client onboarding process for a smooth & successful project. 

Get ready, we’re about to dive deep.

Tired of reading? Give your brain a break and watch me cover this same topic in my YouTube video. Just click the link below to give it a watch.

1. The Welcome Packet

The first and arguably most important thing you need for a smooth onboarding process is a welcome packet.

And this is something that not only helps you prepare for a large project but also makes you look legit in the eyes of a premium client.

The welcome packet is the document or PDF that clients get when they first sign a contract or kick off a project.

And it’s really there to give them an overview of the project, set expectations, lay out your boundaries, and provide clear communication on day one. 

So what’s inside this handy little document?

There are a few things you can include to set yourself up for success.

Number one is communication guidelines.

We all know that miscommunication can derail even the strongest of relationships — whether it’s with a client, friend, or significant other.

So it’s really important to nip any communication issues in the bud before they happen.

Let your client know how they’re meant to communicate with you so they know what platform to use, who to contact, and when to expect responses.

I tell my clients that they need to communicate with me in HoneyBook so that my whole team can see it. I give them my office hours so they know what days and hours they can expect to hear back from the team.

I tell them they are going to be communicating with my client success manager — so they understand that he will be responding to their requests & helping them hit milestones throughout the project.

The welcome kit is also a great place to give clients key milestones and dates for the project. I like to give them meeting dates, times, and deadlines upfront so that my clients know when to expect them.

Because here’s the thing:

My clients are busy CEOs. They’re not just sitting around waiting for me to email them. More often than not, their schedules are booked out months in advance.

So the more advance notice we can give them, the better.

We let our clients know when a heavy deadline week is coming — so they can block out that time to edit something and keep our project on track.

Now, of course, things are going to come up that impact our project calendar. And when they do, we can move things around and be flexible.

But it’s really helpful to set project dates in stone in the calendars. 

And along those same lines, we also let them know what happens if the project gets off track.

What are the consequences if they don’t follow the schedule you’ve set up? Is there an extra fee to schedule more meetings or continue the project past the scope? 

Get really clear on this. So that there are no nasty surprises for your client later.

Another item we include in the welcome kit is HOW we deliver the deliverables.

For example, all of the copy we write gets turned in via a Google Doc in a client’s Google folder.

It’s not because Google Doc is a free and easy tool (okay, it’s not JUST that).

It’s because Google Docs become living, breathing documents that we can comment on, exchange feedback, and keep our project moving along.

So we like to let clients know how to expect deliverables, make edits, and what that looks like. I encourage you to do the same.

And the last thing we like to include in our welcome kit is an overview of how to use our tools. We give them a couple of pointers on using things that are unique to our client process.

Again, we use HoneyBook for communication for all of our client projects.

But clients rarely have experience using this platform. So in our welcome packet, there’s a mini-tutorial that lets the client know where to find everything they need and how to communicate in HoneyBook.

(Psst…Here’s a link to Honeybook in case you want to use it for your own client projects.)

You don’t want miscommunications to ruin your project or your client relationship. By using the welcome packet to your advantage, you can limit confusion and set clear expectations right from the jump. 

2. Onboarding Intake Form

There’s nothing like the pain of staring at a blank screen.

And when you start a project without all the information you need about your client, it’s really easy to get stuck.

Because without all of that crucial background info from your client, writing copy kinda feels like writing a book report on a book you’ve never read.

But since there are no SparkNotes for the real world, it’s your job to collect all that important information from your client upfront.

So the second thing you need in a detailed onboarding process is an intake form.

The client’s job is to fill out the intake form and give you the information you need for an overarching project brief. You can use it to get some starting points, ask questions, and drastically cut down on back-and-forth communication. 

Plus, if multiple people on your team are doing client work, it becomes the holy grail of documents that everyone can use to brief themselves on a project.

The first thing to consider when creating your intake form is what you need from your client. 

What do you not have from them yet? You can ask them what their goals are for the project, what success looks like for them, or what things they need to walk away with when this project is done.

What things do we need to include in this project? What things do we need to be careful NOT to include? 

Maybe you’ve already talked some things through in your sales call, but it’s easier to have it in writing. 

You also want to get a feel for their expectations — and how their past experiences have shaped those expectations. Because what you value the most might not be what THEY value.

Once you understand what’s valuable to them, you can emphasize that and deliver that promise. 

If you have any calls during your project, you can use the intake form to help you crush those calls.

So consider getting some background information and finding a couple of threads you can pull at during your calls. You can ask some questions that create a starting point for some of those big-picture strategy conversations.

Of course, you can add questions to your intake forms later. We’re always coming up with new ideas from things we’ve learned from other projects.

So just start with the things you know you need to get a full overview of the project and the client’s expectations.

Ask them what they want and need out of this project. This will set in motion the future strategy and steps you need to take to set the project up for success.

3. Project Plan

The next important thing I’ve learned to include in onboarding is a project plan.


This is something that I REALLY struggled to implement in my business.

Just the thought of coming up with a project plan was enough to send me spiraling into an anxious mess.

When I first started my business, I didn’t know the first thing about planning a project.

I thought I’d tell the client the project would take six weeks, they’d sign the contract, and six weeks later I would emerge with my glorious new creation.

Sorry, nope. That’s not how it works.

Even if you’ve never done a project before, you need to map out the different steps. 

Because without mapping out the steps you need to take to deliver the outcome, it’s really, really easy to fall behind.

When you do create a project plan, you have a calendar to follow. So you and your client know what’s happening in the project.

If you do get off schedule, you don’t have to go into panic mode.

^Real footage of Team BMcB headquarters after our first project schedule ran behind.

Because instead of just pushing your project back or putting things in limbo, you can have tangible next steps.

So whether it’s your fault or your client’s fault, you can adjust the timeline and have a clear picture of how pushing something back will impact your project.

My advice?

Create a rough project plan with meetings, deliverables, milestones, internal deadlines, external deadlines, and all of the things you feel will help to have mapped out.

Believe me, it doesn’t have to be perfect. If you feel like you’re guessing the first time, that’s okay.

As long as you put it on paper and stick to the project plan as best as you can, I promise you can hit your deadlines (and adjust it the next time to make it even better.)

4. Project Management Setup

The fourth thing you need in your onboarding process is a project management setup.

And this is a big one, people. 

I highly, highly, highly (that’s three highlys!) recommend that you use project management tools to keep yourself organized.

My team uses two tools: one is internal and one is external.

Our external project management is the client communication that happens in our CRM in HoneyBook.

This is where all the communication happens.

It’s where we send deliverables, where questionnaires are filed, and even where we handle payment.

The second we get an inquiry from a potential client, we have an automated process where HoneyBook will set up the project for us. So everything is there and ready to go.

Just as critical to our success is our internal project management.

We have 12 to 15 week projects.

And holy crap, there are a LOT of moving parts.

There are so many tasks, steps, stages, and deliverables that it would absolutely blow my clients’ minds to see everything.

So we do all our internal project management and collaboration in ClickUp.

That’s where my team sends in a first draft, I can add edits, and turn it back around to them. We can find our deadlines, links, and anything and everything related to the project.

But that’s not all, folks.

We also auto-populate a Google Drive folder for our clients. That’s where they can put the documents and information we need for research for the drafts we’re working on in ClickUp. And we’ll also store the deliverables in there for easy access.

So yes, I really recommend using project management tools for both internal and external communication. It’s an easy way to keep everything organized and avoid those massive migraines that appear during a project.

Because we all know where to go to find what we need, when we need it.

5. Kickoff Call

I can’t tell you how valuable adding kickoff calls has been to my onboarding process.

If you’re afraid you don’t know just what the hell to talk about, don’t worry:

It doesn’t have to be complicated.

This can be a short, simple 30-minute call that provides you an opportunity to look your client in the face and start things off with a bang.

Put yourself in your client’s shoes for a minute.

They’ve made an investment in you. They’ve put a deposit down. And they’ve been waiting for weeks to get excited.

What do you think they’ll appreciate more:

A generic “let’s get started” email that gets lost in the massive sea of emails in their inbox?

Or a one-on-one chat where you tell them how excited you are to work with them, clearly communicate expectations, and make your project feel official?

I know from experience that it’s option B.

I use my kickoff calls with clients to clarify objectives. I ask them if anything has changed in the weeks between our sales call.

There have been so many times when clients have come up with a whole new strategy, or they’ve forgotten to tell me about something because they thought it didn’t matter.

So I ALWAYS ask what’s going on in their world and if they’ve had any big “aha” moments since our last chat.

I also go through the welcome packet, reiterate the key points, and ask if they have any questions for me.

It’s an opportunity to proactively address all of those potentially uncomfortable things to avoid problems down the road. Let your clients ask questions and steer the conversation.

I promise you it will cut down on the back and forth, prevent miscommunication, and keep everything on schedule.

And it’s going to let your client know that you value them and you’re here to create the best process possible

Alright, take a deep breath.

That’s a lot of info. But it’s not really that complicated.

If you’re doing large client projects at a premium price, there are five things you NEED to include in onboarding for a successful project that stays on deadline and keeps everyone happy.

1. A welcome packet that clearly communicates project expectations, guidelines, and boundaries.

2. An onboarding intake form to collect important details from your client.

3. A project plan that lets everybody know what is happening each week of the project and when to expect meetings and deliverables.

4. A project management setup to streamline communication and stay organized.

5. A kickoff call to have a face-to-face conversation and give your client an opportunity to ask questions.

I’ll be honest:

It took us a long time to nail down all the different steps in our onboarding process.

If this feels overwhelming, that’s okay. Make a to-do list and pick one thing to start optimizing now. Once that one thing feels really good, add in the next thing….and the next. 


While you’re down here, get 9 tips to write more better copy

(promise, no incessant emails, mostly ’cos it’s annoying… but mostly because I have no time for that.)