The Ultimate Guide to Onboarding in 3 Easy Steps | Part 1


The biggest problem I had during my early years as a freelance graphic designer, was not designing, it was creating systems that worked.

I wanted the playbook, but couldn't find one. I suffered through trial and error. When I finally landed my $6,000 amazing full brand client, I knew that I had to up my game! I came up with a system as I was working through the design process with her. After we wrapped up the project, I saw a gap in the system for inquiries.

Onboarding doesn't just apply to existing clients.

It also applies to those inquires that come in from your website's contact page, or from your social media platforms.

Today we will cover the exact steps you can take to create an automated system of onboarding. 

Let's get started!


When someone inquires about your services, there are 2 things going on that you don't see on the surface. They are looking for someone to solve their creative problem NOW, but they also need someone with an organized process to put their mind at ease.

If they are a cold lead, which means they haven't been following you and know nothing about you, they will not be coming into this trusting you. 

Trust. You need to earn it.

So, what you don't see, is that they are scared that they are going to get ripped off and not receive a return on their investment. Even the ones that have the money to spend.

What does your onboarding kit need right off the bat, to start earning their trust?


Your Cold Lead Checklist

• Set-up your process. You could do this in a google doc, in Trello, or whatever works for you.

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  • Create a welcome document. I created mine in Adobe InDesign, but you can create on in Canva too. They have amazing templates that save time and get you a quick professional look. Remember, my biggest tip to designers new to freelancing online, is that you do not need to create designs from scratch, just because you are a designer! Creative Market has beautiful templates at great prices and Canva is a free or very affordable resource.

I created an onboarding and offboarding bundle that are in my shop. See it here. Customize it to your fit the style of your brand and get up and running FAST. 

  • Include a warm welcome.

  • Introduce yourself. Ex. Header "I am Jean! Nice to meet you!" Subtitle: "Your business is just as important to me, as it is to you. Brand Design is my jam!"

  • Secondary header: Ex. "What's Next", then give a sentence or two of what they can expect, but be sure to inject your excitement about their project and the opportunity to work with them. You will start to gain trust here, because everyone wants someone else to be excited about their project. It provides much needed validation!

    Ex. "Now it is time for me to get to know you and your brand better! I’m all ears. I can’t wait!"

  • Map out your process from start to finish, if someone were to hire you.

  • Open accounts with tools that you will use during your time with a client. My Favorites are Asana, Trello, Pinterest, and Dubsado, as well as considering creating a password protected page on your website if you don't want to use Dubsado.

  • List the apps that you will be using throughout your time together, if they choose to hire you.

  • Refer to your process map and include that listed out in the order that things will happen, with a short explanation of why you use it. Highlight how it makes things more streamlined and everything in one place, for example.

  • Ask your reader if they are ready to move onto the next step? Tell them what that next step is.2

Again, if you don't want to bother with figuring this out on your own, grab my blueprint here.

2 / Send a Pre-Booking Questionnaire

This is the one step that I LOVE including into the onboarding process!

It is my favorite because it almost doubles your chances of booking clients from these free consult calls. To be prepared to show that you know your stuff, get some background info first. This includes their current struggles with their biz, if they have seen your design services page, and what one question they want answered on the call. If they respond to your welcome email with a "Yes, I'd like to move forward." Then send this questionnaire first, to weed out the dumpster diving clients!

At the end of the questionnaire, place a link to a scheduling app, explained below.

3 / Schedule Free Consult Call

Scheduling each step will decrease the stress that comes with onboarding clients. At the end of your welcome email, include a link to *Acuity or Calendly.

If you don't have an account with a scheduling app yet, choose one and get set up so that you can pop your link at the end of your welcome email. Even if you are in your yoga pants, designing from your dining table, you will look like the #ladyboss you want to be.

15 or 20 minutes are good amounts of time to assign to these introductory calls.

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Once you have these steps in place, you will find that your confidence in the design services you provide will increase. You will also repel the clients you don't want, and happily attract the clients that you do want. 

Lastly, you will drastically lower your chances of wasting your time on consult calls that don't translate into clients. This is a huge win that will give you momentum for each step of the design process. 

Jean Coelho