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Client OffboardingClient Offboarding is the final step in building that oh so meaningful client relationship that will keep them coming back to you time and again with more design projects.
For the past few episodes, I’ve walked you through the various steps of Client Onboarding — everything you need to do to turn a potential client into a paying client. But once the client is onboard and you have their project, is that the end? Of course not. The whole purpose of Client Onboarding is to create relationships with your clients. What kind of relationship would it be if it ended once the project is over?
Acquiring new clients is hard work, especially the type of clients you want to work with and that pay well. But what’s even more important is having those clients come back in the future with even more projects.
They say it takes roughly five times more time and energy to land a new client than it does to keep an existing client. If you can get even 5% of new clients to come back, you should be able to increase your profitability by 25-125%. That’s huge.
The best way to keep an existing client is to impress them with good work and by exceeding their expectations.
All the steps in the Client Onboarding process, The Intro Packet, The Client Meeting, The Design Proposal and The Contract are all used to impress good clients with your organisational skills and the thoroughness you bring to your profession. By setting high standards from the start, you create a powerful impression that will encourage clients to come back again and again. But to hit the ball out of the park, you need to have a good Client Offboarding strategy.
What is Client Offboarding?
Client Offboarding is the process of finalising a design project and handing over everything you’ve promised to the client. It informs the client that their project is now complete. Should the client require your services again in the future, you would be happy to help them under the umbrella of a new project.
Where client onboarding was all about turning a potential client into a paying client, the point of client offboarding is to transition them from being a current client to a future returning client.
What does Client Offboarding do?
Client Offboarding defines an end to a project and prepares your client to bring you future projects.
Have you ever finished a project, only to have the client linger on, asking for adjustments or more work? This is especially bad with websites. The client contacts you weeks after it’s launched asking for fixes and changes. Do these fall under the original project or is this considered new work? Without proper offboarding, it’s kind of a grey area.
Client Offboarding clears up this confusion by informing the client that their project is completed and all future work will be considered a new project. In the process, it makes the client feel welcome to bring you more work. It’s another way of showing your professionalism.
The Client Offboarding Process.
Just like the steps involved in Client Onboarding, you’ll have to adjust your offboarding process to work for you and your business. But generally, the process should look something like this. You’ve finalised your revisions; the client is pleased with the work you’ve presented them, and they give their final approval. Now it’s time to begin the Client Offboarding Process.
Go over the final project with the client. Review the website or other deliverables and make sure the client knows and understands what it is you are giving them.
Go over any expectations that were in your initial proposal or contract. For example, I allow 14 days after a website launch for fixing any bugs or small errors. After 14 days, any requests are considered a new project. The client was told this information at the beginning of the project, but I remind them again during the offboarding process, so there's no confusion.
Package up logos and other design material and deliver it to the client in an efficient matter. If a style guide was part of your package, this is when you present and explain it to your client. Launch websites, publish content, deliver printed materials, hand over whatever you are expected to give your client.
Provide access information:
Provide usernames and passwords your client will need to access their website, analytics, emails or whatever. I usually record a short screen capture video walking a client through how to use their website. It's a great way to reduce any follow-up questions once the project is over.
Send Invoice / Request payment:
If your payment terms stated full or partial payment upon completion of the project now is the time to request it. Send your final invoice or payment reminder and ensure the client complies as per your agreement. Some contracts state that payment in full must be received before any deliverables are turned over to the client.
Offer more services:
The client offboarding process is the perfect opportunity to once again explain to your client what other services you offer. Be sure to ask if there’s anything else you can do for them. Don’t presume the client knows what other services you offer.
Thank the client:
Thank your client for choosing you for their project. They could have used any designer, but they decided to hire you. Make sure they know you are grateful. Consider sending them a handwritten note. A personalised card delivered in the mail is much more memorable than an email or phone call. If they were a good client, consider sending them a thank you gift. Unexpected gifts are a fun way to make the client feel important and valued.
Followup and ask for feedback:
Follow up with the client after a predetermined amount of time to make sure the client is satisfied with the way the project turned out. If the project was for an event, inquire how the event turned out.
If the client is satisfied with your work, be sure to ask them for a testimonial about your services and their experience working with you.
Ask for referrals:
The perfect time to ask your client for referrals is when the positive experience of working with you is fresh in their mind. If the client enjoyed working with you, they’ll want others to experience what they did and will be more open to spreading the word about your services. Don’t presume clients will talk about you. Permit them to.
Celebrating the project:
You did good work for your client, show off what you did by sharing your design work on social media. Make sure to tag your client in your posts. If you add the project to your portfolio, be sure to inform the client so they can share it with their audience as well.
Cutting your offboarding process short.
Everything up to this point presumes you enjoyed working with the client. However, There may be times when you don’t feel a client merits the full offboarding process.
Maybe, after working with the client for a few weeks, you realise the two of you are not a good fit after all. In cases like these, you want to provide only as much information as to satisfy the client that their project is complete.
In these instances, you can forgo the client retention parts of the process. That’s not to say the client won't come back in the future. You did do a fantastic job on their project, after all. But you can minimise the encouragement you offer them. If they do come back, you’ll need to decide if it’s in your best interest to work with them again or not.
Things to remember.
Let me state once again that your offboarding process needs to be personalised to you and your business. The whole purpose of client offboarding is to prepare the client for the next go around and to encourage them to make that sooner rather than later. If you do a good job, clients will be eager to work with you again.
What is your client offboarding process?
Let me know by leaving a comment for this episode.
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Running a graphic design or web design business all by yourself isn't easy. If there are any struggles you face running your design business, please reach out to me. I'll do my best to help you by addressing your issues in a future blog post or podcast episode here at Resourceful Designer. You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org