How I Automate My Client Onboarding + Process

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When I first started gaining some traction with my business and getting more work, I began to see how much time small admin tasks took and that I was missing out on a lot of things by not having any automation or regular processes. I wouldn’t say my business is as automated as I’d like right now but I’m always making tweaks to streamline and automate things. 

Edited on 3/30/2019 to add: This is no longer the process I use to automate my client onboarding process. Currently I use Dubsado for all of these processes and you can read about Dubsado here.

Intake forms + intro packet

The first step in my process for taking on new clients is my intake forms. I use Ninja Forms for all my contact forms and TypeForm for surveys and questionnaires. 

In the past I had the same simple form on my contact page and for each of my services. But I found that I wasn’t getting the information I needed to start the project and sometimes resulted in too much back and forth.

So I created a new form for my services that I can tailor the questions and get the best information from the potential client. Once someone fills out the form they are immediately sent a thank you email that includes a link to my intro packet.

This is a feature already included in Ninja Forms. Just set up a new notification for your form and add the information you need.

My intro packet is a way to bridge the gap between first talking to the lead and signing them on as a client. Inside I explain my process, the best ways to contact me, and some of my most valuable content to help them get started.

You can get a taste for it by checking out my new intro packet that I send out to each new inquiry.

Want to make your own intro packet? Check out this awesome post by Erin Flynn!

After I’ve chatted with the person and discussed their project, we’ll usually move forward and I send them an invoice and contract.

Invoicing + contracts

There are so many tools out there that will let you invoice your clients, either for free or for low fees. I’ve been using Paypal since I started my business and I’ve been happy with the improvements they’ve made.

With Paypal I can send branded invoices, make different invoice templates, create “buy it now” buttons, and even set up recurring payments. The only fees you pay are the standard credit card processing fees. You can also get their free debit card so you can use your money right away!

 You could also use Wave, HelloBonsai, Freshbooks, and even Dubsado!

But now I don’t even have to send invoices manually because of the contract plugin I use: WP Online Contract.

WP Online Contract
From WP Online Contract at CodeCanyon

With this plugin I create my own contract templates with different fields (shortcodes) that I can later fill out when I get a new client. So all I need to do is pick my template and add a few details, then it gets emailed straight to the client!

But the nicest thing is that after they sign the contract they can click to pay right through Paypal. And they even offer other payment add-ons if you don’t use Paypal. The payment amount is automatically pulled from the contract fields so I have to do nothing extra!

Recommended Reading: Contract Templates + Tools for Freelancers

And if for some reason I need to manually send the invoice then I can turn off the payment features for a contract but redirect them to a different url after signing. It’s been a really nifty addition to my process, check out the plugin here!

When I first began freelancing I used a site called Docracy instead. It’s a great tool for new freelancers who probably don’t have contracts in place already. You can browse their documents and find one that fits your business and projects.

Then you can make tweaks to fit your needs and add it your document dashboard. You could send and sign contracts for free in the past but Docracy had to do away with that portion to keep their costs down.

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Onboard client

After the client signs and pays I’m sent a notice via email.

I save their contract to a new folder I create just for this client in my Clients folder (ok, sometimes I get lazy with this step). I just use a folder on my computer but you could go a step further and save all this info in Dropbox or Google Drive.

Now I get to have a little fun with automation!

Since the client is officially “onboard” now I add them to my CRM, which is Hubspot CRM. I know I’m not using this tool to its full advantage but it connects with Zapier and has a lot of flexibility.

I’ve configured my default fields for each of my contacts to be things I use and would work with my other tools. For example, each new client has their name, email, website, business name, and login details entered when I add them.

As soon as I put in all this info Zapier works its magic and processes my zaps. I’m currently only using the free version of Zapier but I think its completely worth upgrading if you use a lot of tools and want them all to play together.

I use a zap that triggers when a new client is added into Hubspot CRM; then a new project is automatically created in Asana for them. I used to also connect this with Toggl so I could track my time with that client, but I’ve since stopped billing by the hour.

Automate business tasks with Zapier

There are some drawbacks to Zapier that I’ve found. When I first started using it I couldn’t get a Zap to work at all! What I was trying to do was too complicated or there wasn’t a trigger/action for what I wanted to do.

Luckily, there is usually some kind of workaround or other service that you can try. And they’ve recently added multi-step Zaps and even some dynamically generated fields!

If you’re already keeping your clients in a Google Sheet or use another service, you can easily connect that with Zapier and automate some of your process (like making new projects, sending emails through Gmail, or posting messages on Slack). 

Want to use Asana and Toggl together? Get the Toggl browser add-on and you can quickly start tracking your time for your Asana tasks right in the task itself!

Canned email responses

I’m one of those unicorns who doesn’t use Gmail.

Gasp, I know!

I actually use Outlook because I have a few different email accounts and I want to check them all in the same place. I’ve also never been a fan of webmail platforms.

But if I were someone who uses Gmail I would probably use Streak as a CRM. There are also SO many great add-ons for Gmail that can save you time and help run your biz. 

One of those things are canned email responses. What is that? Basically an email template of something you find yourself writing over and over again.

These are easy to setup in Gmail but you can also do it in Outlook as well.

Canned email responses in Outlook

So you may have a canned response for a new project inquiry response, answering certain questions, or following up after the project is over. 

I never had a good system for getting feedback or testimonials after working with a client. And even when I did remember to ask the results weren’t so good.

Now I’ve created an email template that tells the client I enjoyed working with them, sends them a link to my feedback form, and even allows them to leave a tip if they want! You could also configure Gmail or Zapier to send this email out on a certain trigger to save even more time.

Final Thoughts

Previously, I tried using Dubsado but just feel it wasn’t a good fit for my business. Some entrepreneurs swear by it and I think it can work for some businesses, but it didn’t for me. “Jack of all trades but master of none” is how I feel about most all-in-one business tools.

If Dubsado doesn’t float your boat then check out 17Hats which many use. It’s a bit more expensive and they charge invoicing fees but they recently added a free option which is great if you want to test it out. I’ve also found Táve which looks like a really solid contender to the market.

If you don’t have any kind of process or idea in place then I hope this post helps you to get an idea of things you can do to save some time. My friend, Miranda Nahmias, also has a post on how you can automate your onboarding process for free, read her post here.

Maybe you’re not sure what your process is yet or how you can automate things.

In that case, next time you get a new lead write down every step you take with them from start to finish. If you notice yourself writing the same messages or sending the same information each time, then take note of that.

Use this information to find ways you can consolidate your tools, setup workflows, and create templates to save time. Let me know in the comments what your workflow looks like and what tools you use.

Don’t forget to download your free biz tools list below!

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How I Automate My Client Onboarding + Process
Heya, I'm Shaylee!

Heya, I'm Shaylee!

When I'm not stuffing my face with sushi or being forced into dog pets I help bloggers and business owners tackle the tech and make WordPress less confusing.

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5 thoughts on “How I Automate My Client Onboarding + Process”

  1. Hi Shaylee,
    I use 17Hats for all my invoicing, and I was kind of trying to use them as a project manager/CRM too. But, it’s not really very flexible (at least not for how my brain works). But I love it for invoicing and accounting. I just checked out Streak and I’m installing the extension now. I never even think to look for something that would work with my existing email. >.< Thank you for sharing your process and all these tools, super helpful!

  2. Your content upgrade boxes and signup forms are awesome. Are you using the ninja forms to make those? Are they connected to mailerlite or did you switch to a different server? I’m still trying to figure out how those specifics, mine look so clunky and its such a pain in the ass to get together!

  3. Love this article as it was very helpful when I started out. Keep writing great content. I am curious as to the Ultimate List of Business Tools ad placed on this page. Is there not a link for this resource? When I click it doesn’t link anywhere. Can you help? I would love to check it out.

    • Hey Tammy! Thanks the kind words and letting me know about the issue with the free list of tools. The sign up form should be working now! If you have any issues just let me know 🙂


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