Instagram marketing

The 12-Step Social Media Client Onboarding Process for Freelancers and Marketing Agencies 

  • 15 Minutes
All aboooooooard!

You’ve pitched your services, sent your proposal, and won yourself a new client. Congratulations!

You’re excited, nervous, and ready to get started. 

What now? 

Make it official!

Most social media managers and marketing agencies know that landing a new client is just the beginning. 

The next phase is onboarding them to make your new working relationship official.

The key to a smooth client onboarding process is planning and asking a lot of relevant questions. The goal is to fully understand your client’s brand, needs, and expectations before you launch any campaigns or start posting on their social media accounts.

Here are 12 steps to help you ensure a smooth client onboarding process.

What is client onboarding?

Client onboarding is simply welcoming new clients into your business. This is the client’s first impression of what it’s like to work with you. How you begin this relationship will determine how things will go long-term. 

The onboarding process is an avenue for you and your client to get to know each other better before jumping into the actual work. It allows you to address their questions and concerns and set expectations. It also helps streamline the workflow for when you start working.

Why do you need a client onboarding process? 

Onboarding new clients with a proper process in place gives you a chance to better understand your client’s specific wants and needs and improve the likelihood of providing a high-level experience. 

While you may have discussed the scope of service during your pitch, you may not have set exact expectations. The onboarding process allows you and the client to set clear expectations and ensure you’re both on the same page before work officially begins. 

Onboarding enables you to get all the answers you need in one swoop and avoid constantly going back and forth with the clients about things you should have known and asked upfront. There’s no better way to impress your brand new clients right from the get-go and build lasting relationships with them than this! 

The client onboarding templates you will need

To make the onboarding process faster and more effective, it’s good practice to have a couple of templates for each onboarding document. 

A template is a pre-formatted sample document containing the most important layout and design elements. They’re helpful whenever a specific type of document is needed repeatedly, as you don’t have to create the layout from scratch every time. 

Not only does this save you time when you sign new clients, but it also helps your clients see you as the professional you are. 

Here are a few documents that will come in handy as you onboard new clients. 

Client proposal template

A social media proposal template outlines your ideas for making their accounts more successful. It should contain the scope of the work, the social media goals you intend to hit, an overview of the project timeline, and the budget. This template is essential because it allows the client to verify if your ideas align with their goals.  

Client contract

A client contract is a crucial document you must sign before starting any work. You don’t want to work yourself to the bone only for a client to walk out of the deal without notice. 

A contract should specify the services you’ll provide and at what cost, who pays for expenses, who owns the work you create, the termination details for both parties, and when payment is due.

Get a lawyer to help write a standard contract template. You can then customize it for each client to review and sign. Then sign it yourself, and you’ll be good to go!

Onboarding questionnaire

You want to capture as much information as possible to develop your social media strategy. An onboarding questionnaire is a list of questions to find out more details on what clients expect from you and how you can deliver. Think about the best questions to help you fully understand their goals, target market, competitors, and past social media efforts.

In this section, we’ll go over some of the best questions to include in your questionnaire. 

Payment details for invoicing form

This straightforward form collects clients’ billing information, contact information, credit card, or other payment details you need when invoicing them. Doing this administrative work beforehand prepares you to get paid on time. You can also use this form to provide them with your preferred payment platform.

Social media strategy template

A social media strategy is essential for any social media freelancer or agency after a client contract. This template outlines the work you plan to implement for your client and what you hope to achieve. It clearly outlines your goals, the tactics you will use to achieve them, the metrics you will track to measure success, and the specific platforms you’ll use. 

Social media audit

A social media audit analyzes the current state and performance of your client’s social media profiles. It outlines what’s doing well and what needs to be improved to make social media more effective for your client’s business.

Content calendar template

A content calendar template is a proposed publishing schedule. It shows when you intend to publish upcoming social media posts as well as the photos or videos required for each post. It helps keep you and your entire team organized. 

Style guide

A style guide is an integral component of any marketing strategy. This document offers guidelines for presenting the client’s brand from both a visual and language perspective. 

Some clients may already have their style guides—which you can request they share with you—while others may need help creating one. Your template will help you create one for those clients who don’t have one yet.

How to onboard a new client in 12 steps

It’s vital to have a systemized process in place to onboard your social media clients. The more efficient your social media onboarding process is, the smoother an experience you and the client will have throughout your working relationship.

Below, we’ve outlined 12 steps you can use as a baseline for creating your unique onboarding checklist.

1. Get the contract signed

As mentioned, your contract is the most critical document. So first, send that contract template to your client or request the client’s preferred contract. The contract should include details such as:

  • Pricing information (If payment is dependent upon deliverables or milestones)
  • Payment terms such as upfront at the beginning of each month, 50% upfront and 50% on delivery, 100% on delivery, etc. 
  • Termination details for both you and the client
  • An NDA on how to handle business information and resources.

Both parties should review the terms of the contract and sign if in agreement. 

2. Send an onboarding questionnaire

Next, send your client onboarding questionnaire to fill in the gaps in your understanding of the client and help you develop a proper social media marketing strategy. We have more advice below on what to include in your questionnaire.

A free tool like Survey Monkey or TypeForm is a fantastic way to create your questionnaire. Better yet, use your CRM—if you’re already using one—and have the answers sync directly to your client’s account in the CRM.

3. Request their style guide 

Ask your client for their style guide. This will guide you on how to represent their brand on social media. If the client doesn’t have an existing guide, creating one may be very handy for your marketing efforts.

The style guide will help you understand the company’s relationship with its clients or customers. The guide should explain the company’s intended style and tone of voice on social media. For example, your client may wish to appear friendly but professional, or another may prefer casual, down-to-earth language. The style guide should also include essential brand assets such as logos, fonts, colors, images, etc. 

Following your client’s style guide will ensure that you maintain a consistent presence on all social media platforms and establish a unified presence for anyone who engages with the business.

4. Assign team members

This step is for the marketing agencies, so freelancers skip over it!

Depending on the nature of the social media marketing services you’ll be providing, you may be working with a team of video producers, analytics specialists, PR strategists, copywriters, graphic designers, and more. Assign the relevant team members to your client.

Choose your account manager wisely, as they’ll play the most critical role, especially in taking the client through the onboarding process. 

Brief the team on the client’s brand look and feel. Ensure that they understand their goals and what role everyone needs to play to achieve this goal. This brief ensures that everyone is on the same page.

5. Welcome them to your business

Now that you’ve gone through most of the formalities, it’s time to give your client a hearty welcome to your business. 

This step aims to let your client know that you’re both on to the start of something great and to establish the tone and cadence of your working relationship. 

You can create a stylish, branded welcome package using a free tool like Canva. Your welcome packet should include: 

  • Details (contact info and role) of the team you assigned to work on the client’s account.
  • A recap of the client’s goals and target audience
  • A summary of the services you’ll provide on an ongoing basis. 
  • An outline of the different milestones and phases of the work you’ll be doing.
  • An introduction to the social media tools you and your team will use to manage their work. 
  • Reminders for any other housekeeping items that still need to be addressed.

Take this opportunity to set expectations from both parties and include a list of expectations you will have from the client to prevent any bottlenecks from their end. You must also let them know how often you’ll be meeting and for how long so they may prepare in advance.

6. Start with a kick-off call

Once you’ve sent out the welcome package, you or your account manager (if you have one) should schedule a kick-off call with the client. 

The kick-off call is your chance to put your new client at ease about the onboarding process.

After introductions, take the client and their team through the goals and the project timeline as provided in your welcome packet. This is the moment to respond to any clarification questions.

  • Discuss your services as outlined in the welcome package. 
  • Confirm the approval process for work done. 
  • Firm up on the deadlines for submitting work.

Give everyone in the meeting a few minutes to ask questions and get answers or give feedback regarding the project. Finally, review meeting actions and reiterate the tasks you and the client will need to complete. 

7. Get access to their social media accounts

As a social media manager, it’s obviously vital that you have access to your client’s social media accounts to be able to run them effectively. Unfortunately, often, this is one of the steps that hold back the project. 

You can help make this process easier and faster if you offer guidance on how to go about it. Most importantly, let your clients know you have a secure way to manage and store their login information.

You can create a simple template for precisely what you need for each social media account. Ask for: 

8. Add them to your tools

Most social media managers use a bunch of tools to streamline their work. It’s time to add your clients to them.

If you’re using a dedicated CRM tool for your agency, add all client-related details to the system. This could include creating a new Google Drive folder and a board on Trello or your project management tool of choice. Add your client to your preferred communication and collaboration tool, such as Slack as well.

Also, integrate your client’s social media accounts into your social media management and analytics tools like Sked Social.

9. Conduct a social media audit

One of the most critical steps of creating an effective social media strategy is to audit the client’s existing social media activities. This involves reviewing your client’s social media metrics to access growth and identify opportunities. 

Your social media audit should have a list of all the current activities of every social platform your client is on. This should include:

  • How often they post on each platform.
  • The number of followers, likes, comments, engagement rate, etc.
  • A review of their voice tone and writing style on different channels.
  • How their current activities are performing.
  • Which types of content perform best (video, photos, etc.)
  • What is being said about the client to understand how people feel about their brand .

10. Do your research

In addition to a social media audit, it’s vital to research the client’s brand. This includes everything that affects the brand externally, including industry trends. 

Research the industry your client operates in to understand how it works. Read up on the latest trends in the industry and what they mean for your client. Also, get up to date with the latest news from that industry. 

Conduct a competitive analysis to identify at least 3-4 top competitors. Find out how often and what type of content they post, their brand voice, and what their customers say about them. You can then use this data and compare it with what you gathered from your client’s audit to help create an effective social media strategy for your client.

11. Let the work begin

Now that your client is fully onboarded, it’s time to start thinking about how you’ll implement your social media marketing strategy. Begin by creating, planning your content, and outlining everything in your content calendar.

Then, get started with some templates for publishing and reporting to help you shave minutes off your day-to-day activities. If you’re a solo freelancer with no graphic design support on your team, a tool like Canva can be very helpful

12. Keep up the updates

A solid working relationship is incomplete without regular updates. Make sure your client is always in the loop on what you are doing for them. Keep them updated on progress and the results you achieve for them. 

25 questions to ask in your client onboarding questionnaire

As we’ve discussed above, a client onboarding questionnaire is essential for collecting additional information, such as goals and the client’s vision for the project. It forms an integral part of the onboarding process. 

Here are some questions we suggest including in your questionnaire.

Client information

  • What are the names, roles, and contact information of the team members we’ll be working with?
  • What’s your preferred method of communication?
  • Who is the backup contact in case of emergency? 
  • What are your social media accounts?
  • What are the account access details to these accounts?

Marketing information

  • What advertising vehicles are being considered? 
  • What are your company’s short and long-term goals?
  • What is your business’s unique value proposition? 
  • Who is your target market, audience, and persona?
  • What geographic locations are you targetting, and what are your language and spelling preferences?
  • Who are your top 3-5 competitors?
  • How do your products/services solve potential customers’ problems?
  • Do you own a brand style guide? 
  • What font do you use for your marketing & branding? 
  • How do you want your target audience to feel after seeing the brand, website, or advertisement?
  • What is the ‘personality’ and ‘tone’ of your brand? 
  • Who are your 3-5 main competitors?

Project information

  • Do you have set goals for this project?
  • What metrics will you track to measure results?
  • Do you have a specific timeframe for how long this project will take?
  • What elements will you need our agency complete vs. what will be provided by your team?
  • What are the legal requirements for this project?
  • Is there anything you like and dislike about your current strategy? 

General information

  • What excites you most about working with us?
  • How often would you like to receive updated marketing reports?

Choose relevant questions from the above or create more of your own to build a custom questionnaire that will help arm you with all the info you need for your clients.

The tools maketh a social media manager

Creating a comprehensive onboarding process can initially seem overwhelming; we get it. But, once you’re done, it will help streamline your workflow and how you work and relate with your clients. You’ll be pleasantly surprised by how much easier it is to get all the critical information you need to start implementing your client’s strategy in one hit—especially if you have all your document templates ready in advance.

In addition to an automated and effective client onboarding process, every social media manager must have the right tools. The right tools will make your job so much easier.

For example, Sked Social is a social media management tool that can help you efficiently manage multiple social media accounts in one place. Plus, you’ll have access to advanced Instagram scheduling tools and analytics. 

Manage your clients’ social media accounts like a superhero with Sked Social. Get started today! 

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