How to Onboard Freelance Writing Clients: Step-by-Step Guide for Beginners

Learn how to kickstart freelance writing projects with clear expectations.


Dan Marticio

3 years ago | 5 min read

Learning how to onboard freelance writing clients helps you drive the conversation and set expectations. With a clear process, you ask the right questions, establish project parameters and minimize future disputes and revisions.

The client doesn’t have to wonder what’s the next step. Instead, they look to you as the professional to guide the project. Keep reading to learn how to how you, a freelance writer, can start onboarding clients.

How to Onboard Freelance Writing Clients

  1. Offer an intake survey
  2. Schedule a call
  3. Send a proposal and quote
  4. Follow up
  5. Finalize the terms with a contract
  6. Get approval on an outline

Step 1: Offer an intake survey.

Before a prospect directly communications with you, they complete an intake survey. An intake survey allows the customer to complete basic information about their background and what type of project they’re looking to complete.

Most freelance writer websites have a contact form with required questions the prospect must answer. Other writers use services, like Typeform. Generally, freelance content writers may want to ask:

  • What type of writing do you require (blog post, email newsletter, website copy, etc.)
  • What are your company goals (increase brand awareness, drive traffic and sales)
  • Who is your target audience?
  • Name a competitor or another company with a writing style you want to emulate.
  • What is your budget for this project?

These are the big questions you want the client to think about before you call or exchange emails with the client. Typically, this process weeds out low-paying clients that don’t really know what they want. Unless that’s your target client, speaking unnecessarily with dead-end leads saves you time and energy.

After reading a client’s intake form, you can express your interest by scheduling a call or responding with an email.

Step 2: Schedule a call

Many writers are introverts and prefer email, text, snail mail, or morse code to hopping on a call. However, collecting information on a call is often more efficient than playing email ping pong. Also, it allows you to sell your personality and the experience of working with you.

Some questions you’ll want to ask in this discovery call include:

  • What is your company all about? What product or service do you deliver?
  • Do you have any buyer persona research that describes your target customer? If not, who is your ideal customer and what are their desires and pain points?
  • What are the exact deliverables are you expecting to gain from this project? (4x blog posts, email drip campaign, etc.)
  • How quickly do you need this turned around?

Pro tip: Consider using a calendar scheduling tool, like Calendly or Doodle, to make securing a time slot that works for you and the prospect a whole lot easier.

Step 3: Send a Proposal and Quote

Based on your discovery call, craft a freelance writing proposal that addresses the prospective client’s specific needs. Within it, you’ll want to address:

Writing process. Describe the process of working from beginning to end. For instance:

  1. All writing and editing occurs in Google Docs
  2. We’ll sign off on an outline before you start each deliverable.
  3. Each deliverable has two free rounds of revisions.
  4. You have 3 business days to review the first draft and feedback. This also applies to any subsequent revisions.

Rates. Break down your freelance writing rates, whether that’s a flat fee, amount per word or hourly. If you charge flat fees, you could display your prices on a table, like so:

Payment Process. If you charge a payment deposit upfront, state that. Then specify how you will collect the remaining payment. Will you collect a percentage as you submit each deliverable? Or will you collect the final amount when the project is completed?

Also, be sure to specify your net payment terms. For instance, if you allow Net 30, that means the client has 30 days to make payment from the date the invoice was issued.

Final quote. Drawing on the client’s specific needs, provide a quote for the different services you intend to deliver. Be sure to explain that the value you offer will offer these benefits (increased traffic, subject matter authority, etc.). The trick is to get the prospective client to view you as an investment, not a commodity.

Pro tip: Sprinkle testimonials from past clients throughout your proposal. Social proof can help reinforce the value you offer and builds a track record of the results you helped others achieved.

Step 4: Follow up.

Sometimes, prospective clients go dark on you. Sometimes, they’re no longer interested. Other times, it’s just that they’re busy and your proposal fell through the cracks.

That’s why it’s important to follow up.

If you haven’t heard anything after three business days, send a follow-up email. Gmail has a useful “Snooze” feature that reminds you to follow up on an email.

Pro tip: Develop a sense of urgency. In your proposal, consider mentioning that the quote expires after seven business days to respond to your proposal. Remind the prospect of this deadline. People are more likely to remember hard dates over something “they’ll get to when they have time.”

Step 5: Finalize the terms with a contract.

The client accepts your proposal, great! The next step is to transform that proposal into a signed contract. Your contract should cover the essential terms you outlined in your proposal. It should also include a place for you and the soon-to-be client to sign.

Step 6: Get approval on an outline.

Depending on your preferences, signing off on an outline might not be necessary. However, an outline can be great for renewing expectations for each individual project. It’s especially useful when you’re writing blog posts.

If you’re writing blog posts, consider adding the following in your outline:

  • Primary and secondary keywords
  • Target audience and writing tone
  • Main points
  • Key takeaway / Meta description
  • Competitors ranking for the same primary keyword

This information can help guide the writing process. Before you submit the first draft, you and the client are on the same page for that specific blog post.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you onboard a client?

The broad phases of freelance client onboarding are to capture information, provide a quote and finalize the terms. Many freelance writers use contact forms with specific questions about word count and budget to screen projects before initiating direct contact.

If the project seems like a good fit, they might hop on a call with the client to gather more information before providing a quote. If the client is agreeable to the terms, the freelance writer typically sends a contract to finalize the terms.

How do freelance writers get clients?

Writers can find freelance writing jobs through job boards, such as Problogger and Blogging Pro. Cold emailing and referrals are other ways to secure paid writing projects with clients.

How do freelancers manage clients?

Clear communication and documentation are key to maintaining client relationships. Signing off on a contract and outline, for instance, are common ways to set expectations for both parties.


Created by

Dan Marticio

Dan is a freelance writer specializing in small business and personal finance. He works with FinTech and B2B companies and has written extensively about small business, from startup guides to payment processor reviews. Hire him to write for YOU at







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