Onboarding: Are you asking enough of the tough questions?

Square Design Guild | Onboarding for Website Clients | Are you asking enough hard questions?

Are you asking enough of the tough questions during onboarding?


I love the SSDG community in Slack, from helping each other through rough clients and more it seems like there’s just SO MUCH that a community of designers can do for each other when thinking, “let’s help each other out”.  I am totally digging the new ssdg vibe with all the new members! 

Did I ever think I was going to learn as much as I did leading a group? No, but I shouldn’t have been surprised. You tend to learn a lot as a teacher right?

One of the BIGGEST take-aways that I have learned as a designer working with my own clients and then working with other studios AND with so many mentoring or helping with a simple code fix. MOST (not all) of the hard solutions could have been fixed if we had just asked the client the right question from the beginning.

I am 100% guilty of taking projects when I am strapped for cash and probably shouldn’t. I think oh this will help pay that school loan bill, it’s just a simple x solution. It’s ok there are twenty-five little orange flags all over the inquiry email, I can deal with orange, it’s not Red. LOL.

You could argue that value based pricing could work in that instance, that you know it will be a hassle, not your style and gonna take more time than another client with the same solution, so you could charge more right? Well so many people publish their rates, or send over pricing before the red flag status goes up. Then they find out they can’t get x and the project goes south FAST right? Or maybe you just work 100 hrs on fixing it and basically are in the negative post project financial status. I’ve done it. I am sure most of you have as well. 

A few things that I had to emotionally get over to jump this hurdle as a freelancer, esp. me thinking that it’s “just a site”.


  1. NEVER start a project right away. Give it a 2 week starting point, so that you can get all the “things” in order. This includes makings sure they see the full timeline, client homework and all their due dates. TIP: include a question about their vacation // access to internet time in onboarding! I learned the hard way when all of my client was "away" during her invoice due date week!
     
  2. If you have trouble with content, consider giving them a FULL example of the exact kind of site content you want, if you do a folder system, create a FULL example folder system in google drive and send them a “see only” link. TIP: Spend time with the client and their content questions. Ask them before anything begins if they feel comfortable replicating the example site content format without a copywriter. 
     
  3. Have a kick-off call. Seems easy right? This meeting should be 1-2 hrs long. YES> that long. 1) you need to go over everything in the questionnaire! Then I start to create a site-map with them on the phone. Make sure that before I do a cinch of work that they know they are at the page limit for the package they are in or even the personal plan. TIP: include these pages in their initial questionnaire. I can't tell you how many times I read the questionnaire and it says "shop" and they aren't on an ecomm package **like I'm going to forget lol.
     
  4. Start with strategy, sitemaps or wireframes if you aren’t doing them are 100% necessary even if someone is doing a few small edits. What this does is create a stage in the process that they are APPROVING the amount of pages, the functionality needed on them before moving on so it’s not “i forgot to tell you I sell pdf downloads” 3 days before launching.  TIP: If clients are bad at "approving" items, make it part of your process, assign them tasks with mini-contracts approving parts of the process. I've even required hand-written signatures before. Yes, I am admitting this on the internet.

Feeling like you need to change more for all of that? Yeah you probably should be. Consider including this in your description of your strategy, discussing these important aspects of your process with clients, and charging for each of these items along the way so your time is worth it! They will value the fact that you thought so in-depth about their project. I pinky promise.