Clients Coming & Going? Master the Onboarding & Offboarding Game in Your Creative Business

You’re seriously good at what you do—nobody’s questioning that.

But somewhere in the back of your mind, you’re nagged by the feeling that you could do more in the way you engage and send off clients or customers in your creative business. 

You deliver great value and exceptional client experiences, yet you can’t shake the suspicion that there might be a more effective way to foster repeat business. Maybe you even worry that you’re leaving money on the table by not fully capitalizing on opportunities to keep clients coming back for more.

Here’s a not-so-secret secret: keeping clients happy is far more cost-effective—and less exhausting—than the endless grind of chasing new leads.

So, why not pour fuel on what’s already working?


By perfecting your onboarding and offboarding processes.

This approach not only eases the pressure of constantly finding new business but also builds a foundation of trust and continuous engagement. 

When you fine-tune these key bookends of your client experience, you not only make your life easier but also turn new and returning clients into lifelong fans of your creative offers. 

Let’s build a sustainable business that’s made to last.

Onboarding in Creative Businesses

What is Onboarding?

Onboarding marks the beginning of your journey with a new client. It’s what happens immediately after the sales process is complete. Here is where you start to set the tone for the relationship, proving they were smart to hire you. 

Think of it as more than paperwork—it’s your first chance to establish your credibility and map out what working with you is like, now that they’re officially paying customers. 

Why You Need A Strong Onboarding Process

A tight onboarding system isn’t just nice to have as a creative business– it’s crucial for several reasons:

#1 Make a Good First Impression

They’ve navigated the sales journey with you, and if this is a high-ticket offer, they’re already somewhat familiar with your process. 

But now, as paying clients, they’re getting their real first impression of what it’s like to work with you. They come with expectations, and it’s your job to not just meet but manage and exceed them as best you can.

The onboarding phase is critical because it sets the stage for your entire relationship with the client. As a creative entrepreneur, it’s important to leverage your skills to create a memorable and positive first impression.

#2 Set Expectations + Boundaries

Clearly defined expectations and boundaries ensure that both you and your client have a mutual understanding of the project’s scope, which helps prevent future conflicts.

This is where you lay the foundation for how the project will progress, what the client needs to do, what you will (and will not) do, and everything in between.

Setting expectations and boundaries during your onboarding process keeps everything straightforward and prevents misunderstandings later on. This clarity ensures everyone knows what to expect and helps avoid unnecessary rework or any surprises as the project progresses.

#3 Celebrate the New Partnership

Lastly, your onboarding process can and should feel like a celebration! Investing in your services was likely a big decision and investment for your client, and letting them know you understand that and take that responsibility seriously speaks volumes. 

Make sure your client feels valued and excited about the collaboration, increasing their engagement and enthusiasm from the get-go.

COO Tip: You might consider sending a personalized welcome note or a small gift to set a positive tone. This could be as simple as a handwritten card, a branded goodie, or even a gift card for coffee. The key is to make the gesture feel personal and genuine.

Key Elements Every Onboarding Process Needs


Believe it or not, your client experience and customer journey begins even before any official onboarding starts. A lot of your onboarding work can (and should) be done upfront.

Lean on tools like your website, brochures, and discovery calls to begin shaping expectations. Make sure these materials authentically represent what clients should expect once they decide to engage your services.

Onboarding Session

You likely already have a kickoff call or strategy meeting as part of your project process. Conducting a strategy call lets you dive deep into the client’s needs, which helps streamline the entire process.

When I kick off with COO or coaching clients, we always start with a laser-focused strategy session. Thanks to my detailed Discovery Calls, I’ve already got most of the info I need by the time they sign on the dotted line. This means we can cut straight to the chase, diving deep into the custom work they need, without wasting any time on preliminaries.


In the onboarding process, consider the types of documentation you’ll need. This can vary widely—some prefer to use onboarding or welcome packets, while others opt for emails or comprehensive project plans. It really depends on the specifics of the project, the business, the level of support required, and what works best in your scenario.

I use two distinct onboarding approaches for my different client types:

For my COO clients, I provide a welcome packet in the form of a simple PDF. This packet includes essential information like communication protocols, expectations on response times, and other specifics tailored to their project and business needs. My COO clients are usually dynamic, well into their business journey, and eager to dive in quickly, which is why a straightforward, informative packet works best.

For my coaching clients, a full packet isn’t necessary (in fact, it can be intimidating). Instead, I use a customizable email template that I tailor for each individual. This method keeps things straightforward and approachable. My coaching clients often come in feeling a bit apprehensive, and a dense PDF might overwhelm rather than help. An email strikes the right balance, providing necessary information without adding pressure.

Each approach is designed to meet clients where they are, ensuring they receive the right level of information and feel ready to engage from the start.

Access and Tools

You’ll also need to consider what access is necessary for each project. It’s important to set up access early—whether that means integrating clients into your systems or obtaining permissions to enter theirs

For instance, if you’re a graphic designer, you may need access to a client’s website backend. As a copywriter, you might need to share a Google Drive folder with your client to exchange files and feedback seamlessly. 

In addition, you might need to be added to your client’s project management system or tool like ClickUp or Slack. These are the most common systems that creative businesses tend to need access to. 

Establishing these access points upfront ensures less friction and fewer delays as the project progresses.

Policies and Guidelines

Make sure to establish clear policies and guidelines right from the start. 

This includes explaining how system access will work (whether you’ll use theirs or yours), expectations about your office hours, how you prefer to communicate (more on that below), where to find critical information, and your usual turnaround times for tasks and any other important policies or guidelines they should be aware of. 

Laying out these details helps everyone know what to expect and keeps the project running smoothly.

Communication Strategies

Effective communication is crucial for any successful project. Here’s how to make sure both you and your client know the best ways to stay in touch:

Channels of Communication

Clearly define where and how your clients should contact you. 

  • Are text messages or DMs appropriate, or would you prefer emails? 
  • Is Slack your communication tool of choice, or do you provide real-time feedback via tools like Voxer

Establishing these channels upfront will minimize confusion and ensure that messages aren’t lost in the shuffle.

Communication Guidelines

Share how you like to communicate and any important communication rules.

For instance, maybe you have specific hours during which you’re available, or perhaps there are particular updates you handle via email only. Maybe you prefer that all communication goes through the Project Management system you have in place to keep things tracked and tidy. Setting these expectations early helps streamline interactions and keeps everything organized.

Align Communication with Both Needs and Boundaries

Consider what works best for both you and your clients. For example:

  • Meetings. Decide if you’ll meet regularly and how those meetings will be conducted. Are they in-person, over the phone, or virtual? Will they occur at set milestones, or do you prefer a more frequent, scheduled check-in like weekly or monthly? Defining this rhythm helps both you and your client plan, schedule, and prioritize.

  • Requests for Information or Resources. Early in the project, request any items you need from your clients to do your work well. This could be anything from logos and brand guidelines for design tasks, to system access for IT needs, or even contact lists if your role involves outreach on their behalf. Clear requests at the start ensure you have everything necessary to deliver your best work.

By setting these communication standards and expectations, you create a professional and efficient environment that benefits everyone involved in the project.

Onboarding Period

It’s important to remember that the onboarding process may need to happen gradually to avoid overwhelming your clients. 

You don’t want to hit them with everything all at once.

Instead, I like to think of this as an onboarding period. It shouldn’t last too long, though, because we want it to be intentional and not drag on. 

Typically, I aim for no more than a week, but sometimes it’s just a single meeting or even just a day, depending on the project’s scope and complexity. The goal is to strike the right balance and ensure that clients feel comfortable and informed as they begin working with you, while also securing the information and assets you need to successfully begin your work!

Offboarding in Creative Businesses

Once you’ve successfully completed the onboarding process, it will be time to dive into your project. Ideally, your onboarding systems set the stage for a smooth and successful collaboration. 

After you’ve invested your time, talent, and energy into your creative work—and delivered that stellar client experience you promised at the start—it’s time to hand over the deliverables so you can conclude the project and part ways.

This is where your offboarding process enters the scene!

What is Offboarding?

Offboarding is the process you lead your client through at the end of a project or working relationship. 

Offboarding is so much more than just tying up loose ends. This is your chance to leave a lasting impression that keeps clients coming back for more. 

By wrapping up your project or working relationship with clarity and respect, you’re not only ensuring your client has a positive experience but also opening the door to future referrals and opportunities. It’s the final touch that seals the deal on a successful partnership and sets the stage for even greater things ahead.

Why You Need A Strong Offboarding Process

#1 Prevent Scope Creep

By setting clear boundaries and defining the end of the project, you avoid the dreaded cycle of indefinite requests and ambiguous responsibilities. This ensures that everyone knows when the work is done and prevents unnecessary delays or misunderstandings.

#2 Improve Client Retention Rates

Offboarding leaves clients on a high note with that warm, fuzzy feeling, making them significantly more likely to return for future projects or refer others to your services. It’s the icing on the cake that solidifies your relationship and keeps your client base growing organically.

#3 Drive Ongoing Growth

Offboarding isn’t just for your clients. It’s also for you! A strong closeout process can be an opportunity for growth. By collecting feedback and insights during this phase, you gain valuable intel on how to fine-tune your business helping you refine your processes, address any hiccups, and ultimately level up your client experience

What Every Offboarding Process Needs

Project Review

Take the time to review the project outcomes with your client, discuss any next steps, and provide them with all the necessary deliverables in a polished, professional package. 

Feedback and Testimonials

Ask for feedback on what went well and what could be improved from their perspective—this not only shows you’re committed to your craft but also builds a dialogue of openness and transparency.

I like to use a simple questionnaire to gather insights and improve my services. This can also be a great time to encourage your clients to provide testimonials or refer your business to their networks.

Clear Timelines for File and Access Handover

You also need to be crystal clear about how and when you will hand over or provide access to any files, assets, or systems

  • How long will they have access? 
  • How long will you keep copies? 
  • And what’s the plan for removing them from the systems

Ensuring clarity on these points prevents any surprises down the road, like suddenly finding yourself locked out of important resources (or vice versa).

Additionally, ensure a smooth file handoff. You want to guarantee that every last detail is covered. Make sure they receive everything you committed to—whether it’s files, products, or documents. It’s essential to confirm they have everything they need, they acknowledge receipt, and ensure they can access and open everything, whether it’s in your systems or theirs. 

And when the time comes to revoke access, make sure it’s done promptly. You don’t want to be responsible for it indefinitely.

Celebration of Success

At the end of a project, you can share the project’s best moments on a celebration call or event. 

Depending on the nature of your work and if your client agrees, you might even show off their success story in your portfolio, social media, or email newsletter to highlight the great results you achieved together.

Continue The Relationship

Finally, leave the door open for future projects. A parting gift, like a custom thank-you note or a small token of appreciation, can leave a lasting impression, making them eager to work with you again. 

Offboarding isn’t just the end—it’s the foundation for a continuing relationship.

Internal Closeout

Once you’ve closed out with the client, it’s crucial to conduct your own internal closeout. 

This step is just for you, but it’s invaluable (and often overlooked)!

Take a moment to reflect: 

  • How did the project play out? 
  • What aspects went smoothly, and where were the bumps in the road? 
  • What lessons can be learned from the experience, and how can you apply them to future projects? 

Reflecting on these questions not only helps you grow as a creative and an entrepreneur but also deepens your understanding of your Ideal Client Avatar (ICA) and how to better serve them. Set aside time for this introspective process, ideally after receiving feedback and testimonials from your client.

Client Experience Or Bust!

By prioritizing the satisfaction and retention of your current clients, you can break free from the exhausting cycle of perpetual lead generation. 

Dialing in your onboarding and offboarding processes lays the groundwork for strong relationships with both old and new clients.

When you prioritize delivering exceptional experiences at every touchpoint, you’ll not only reduce client turnover but also build a loyal base of supporters who will advocate for and champion your services for years to come.

A solid client experience from start to finish isn’t just good for business, it’s essential for sustainable growth and success in the long run.

And if you’re interested in diving deeper into improving your client experience, check out some of my other free resources. They’re filled with practical tips to help you take your business to the next level.

Free Client Experience Resources for Creative Businesses:

Wish you had a foolproof map for ‘wow’-worthy client experiences? I had a feeling… That’s why I created the Client Experience Mini-Course — your step-by-step sidekick to client joy.

The Client Experience Mini-Course includes…

🎥 5 video lessons specific for creative entrepreneurs
📘 1 interactive workbook so you can start taking action
🛠️  the client experience map builder tool 

Check it out here and start building experiences that clients love and rave about!


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