You’ve landed a web design client! Woo hoo!
What do you do next?
That was the biggest question I had when I landed my first client through UpWork. What the hell do I do now that I’ve landed the client? How do I make sure this project runs smoothly so she’ll A) want to work with me in the future and B) will recommend her friends and fellow business owners to use my services?
Fortunately for me, UpWork took some of the guesswork out of the equation because they handle payment on their end. But I didn’t continue on UpWork for long. It was an awesome platform to get started on but it wasn’t great for growing my web design business into what I knew it could be.
Once I moved off UpWork, I had even more questions about what to do to get prepared for a new project. Since then I’ve worked on, over and over again, my process until it worked perfectly for me.
In this post you’ll find the 4 steps you need to follow to prepare for a new web design project.
Step One: Prepare and Send a Contract
You’ve got a verbal or written confirmation from a lead that they in fact want to hire you to (re)design their website. Sweet, you’ve officially landed a web design client! Now what do you do?
One of the biggest mistakes a lot of newbie web design business owners make is not creating an official contract.
You’re a business owner now and if you want to be taken seriously (and not get taken advantage of), then you need to have a contract in place that states what is included in the project, what isn’t included, the total amount due and on what payment schedule, late fees, the start and end dates for the project, and any other terms and conditions that you want to hold yourself and your client to.
Now that you’ve landed a web design client, make sure you send the contract to your client and get it signed BEFORE you begin doing any work. If the contract isn’t signed for any reason, don’t begin working on the website!
Step Two: Schedule and Send Invoices
Designing a website takes a lot of skill and can sometimes be a balancing act all on its own. With everything you have to do to design the website, you don’t want to have to think about sending invoices or sending reminder emails to your client that their payment is due.
While you’re waiting for your client to read over and sign the contract, start preparing the invoices. You can always use a tool like Freshbooks (this is what I used when I got started) to schedule and send invoices. But if you’re looking for something that is free forever, you can also send invoices directly through tools like Stripe (this is my reco) or Wave.
If your client is paying you 100% up front (woo hoo, way to go, you!) then send that invoice immediately. If they’re paying in installments, create each invoice at the beginning (and schedule them if your tool lets you) so you don’t have to think about sending those off at a later date.
In your email draft, set up “payment is due” and “payment is overdue” email templates so you can easily copy and paste those to send to clients who need gentle reminders to pay their invoices on time. When you’re scheduling the invoices, also set up reminders in your calendar to send those emails to your client if they forget to pay when the invoice is sent.
Dubsado is a tool that will take all this manual work off your shoulders. If you’re at a point in your business where you can invest in a tool, I highly recommend you do!
Step Three: set clear expectations
When I was working from Thailand in 2018, I ran into an issue where a client called me in the middle of the night. It was the afternoon her time but I was sound asleep and there was no way I was answering a phone call at 2 AM.
That was a learning experience for me. While I thought I had been very clear on how to communicate with me and when I was available, being in a different time zone taught me that I wasn’t actually being all that clear.
Make sure you let your clients name the exact means of communication you will respond to and try to keep it to 1 method maximum. Don’t hand out your phone number, your email address, your Facebook messenger, and on and on and on. Give your client one way to reach you (most likely email) and let them know if they reach out to you in any other way, you won’t be guaranteed to respond or even see it.
Also let them know when they can expect to hear from you and include the time zone! So if you’re available from 9-5 on Monday through Thursday… is that EST, GMT, or PST? Be clear. And if your client is in a different time zone, include a link to a time zone converter so they can easily tell what time of day it is their time when you’re available.
step four: Pull Together all Onboarding Documents
To smoothly go from onboarding to offboarding without a hitch, you need to have a rock-solid process for collecting content from your client. The best way to do this is to have an all-in-one content collection document like the one I use. This document is sent to your client after they’ve signed the contract and paid that initial deposit and helps you collect absolutely everything you need from them right up front.
Using this document you’re setting yourself up for the best case scenario… not having to email back and forth with your client or jump on calls with them every so often to get clarification or collect more information, images, copy, etc.
If you’re not down for speeding up your process and taking a lot of work and effort out of each project you work on by using my content collection document, then make sure you pull together all of the documents you are using to collect content at the beginning. Add them to a Google Drive folder and share them with your client so you can more easily communicate with each other throughout the workflow.
When you’ve landed a web design client, you sure better be celebrating! Each new lead, each new email address added to your list, and each new client is a baby-step toward your web design business exploding into success. So make sure you take the time to celebrate!
But also take the time to make sure you start off each project on the right foot.
By following these 4 steps (after you’ve landed a web design client and before you even begin designing), you’ll be setting yourself up for success:
- Prepare and send contract
- Schedule and send invoices
- Set clear expectations
- Pull together all onboarding documents
By being successful and showing how professional you are, you’re more likely to wow your clients and have them refer their friends and fellow business owners to you as the go-to web designer!
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