Create an intro packet to streamline your client screening and onboarding

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Updated 10/7/2020. Originally published on ErinFlynn.com

How I created the first intro packet

Back when I started my web design business in 2012, I didn’t really have any guidance.

The courses and content that are available today, didn’t exist back then.

And I was plagued by bad clients.

It wasn’t so much that they were bad people, as they were bad fits for working with me and the kind of business I wanted to have.

My clients would do things like call me on Sunday mornings, or shoot me an email and expect an immediate response. If they didn’t get it, they’d run around to Facebook and post on my wall, or start publicly tweeting at me, making me look like an idiot, even though I was neck-deep in their project trying to get it done (not living in my inbox).

Or, they’d have unrealistic expectations of how long a project would take, or not understand that YES, I really did need them to provide feedback and participate in the process. Sometimes they’d even disappear for weeks in the middle of the project, halting progress altogether, because they had a vacation they hadn’t told me about.

I figured there HAD to be a better way to screen out clients who wouldn’t respect my boundaries, while also letting clients know WHAT to expect during a project, so that there would be no surprises or hold ups.

But I couldn’t find anything.

There were service guides, which were designed to give an overview and price list of what creative business owners had to offer, and there were welcome packets, which were sent AFTER the client had already signed a contract–but that was FAR too late in my opinion to weed out people who were going to be a problem.

There was nothing that would automatically screen clients who wouldn’t respect my processes, or set expectations about the project before either of us had committed or even wasted time on a phone call.

So I, to the best of my knowledge, created the first Intro Packet in 2014. I sat down and outlined everything I thought my potential clients would need to know, wrote it all out, popped it into a PDF I could email, and started sending it to every potential client who came my way.

The results were immediate. Potential clients who were a bad fit stopped wasting my time and went to someone else, and potential clients who were a great fit LOVED the intro packet and how organized I was. They were excited to work with me, and knew exactly what to expect during the project which reduced scope creep and helped keep everything on schedule.

Now, many years later, and after teaching hundreds of students how to create their own Intro Packets, I’m thrilled to see that the idea has spread and is commonplace not just for web designers, but for all sorts of creative businesses!

Want to make your own? Let’s get started!

Psst! This post was originally published January 27, 2016. Updated May 30, 2020.

What is an intro packet and why would you want one?

When working with clients, it’s important to outline the process and let clients know what to expect. This keeps clients from getting antsy if they don’t hear from you for a few days, and lets them know what they need to provide and when.

An intro packet includes all of this important information, and allows you to spend more time working on projects, and less time answering questions.

An intro packet does the following:

  • Gives potential clients a rough overview of the project and what to expect throughout the project
  • Lets potential clients know what you need from them and when
  • Lets potential clients know when and how they can contact you
  • Gives potential clients a rough timeline of the project—so they’re not surprised when their project isn’t complete the next day
  • Reminds potential clients of your major policies (because you can never tell someone the big stuff too many times)
  • Keeps you from having to answer the same questions over and over and over

What’s the difference between an intro packet and a welcome packet?

You’ve probably heard of a welcome packet before, but it’s not the same as an intro packet. The major difference is that an intro packet is designed to be sent BEFORE you and a client sign a contract. It helps weed out clients who are not a good fit for you. I recommend sending the intro packet shortly after getting the initial inquiry, and before spending time quoting or hopping on a call with a potential client.

An Intro Packet:

  • Screens clients
  • Outlines the “big picture”
  • Lets clients decide if you’re a good fit for their project before either of you waste time

A Welcome Packet:

  • Sent after client has agreed to project
  • Outlines exactly what you need and how you need it
  • Lets clients know how to access and use things like project management

Think of the intro packet as the big picture—don’t waste time with tiny details that the client doesn’t need to know yet (like how to actually use your project management system), just outline the big stuff that is make or break for working with you (like that you will require them to use a project management system with you, or when it’s acceptable to call you and when it isn’t).

The anatomy of an intro packet

An intro packet should include basic information that doesn’t change from like-project to like-project. For example, if you offer a signature service (which I totally recommend you do!), you just need one intro packet for everyone who inquires about your signature service.

If you offer multiple services that have different processes (e.g. you offer both web design and consulting services) you’ll need to make an intro packet for each, but keep things simple by re-using information whenever possible (like your office hours).

Below is the basic outline for all intro packets—feel free to add information or rearrange according to your industry.

An intro packet should include:

  • Cover/Title
  • Intro
  • Office Hours/How to contact you
  • What’s included in the project
  • What you need from the client
  • Process and Timeline
  • Payments
  • FAQ
  • Wrap-up

This is enough to cover the majority of questions you get, and weed out those who don’t agree with your policies, before you waste time going back and forth with them. This is a great way to inform potential clients about what it’s like to work with you (and get the right people excited about it), and alleviate most of the major concerns they have. At the same time, it makes YOUR life easier, because you don’t have to start at the beginning every single time.

Let’s dive into each section!

Cover/Title

The cover is pretty self-explanatory—or so it seems. But a cover needs to do more than just look pretty; it should set the tone for working with you.

Match your cover to your branding and include a title (and possibly a subtitle) that explains what the service is.

If you’re not doing a PDF, you still need a title! So a video title, title for the webpage, etc. Don’t skip this, it really sets the tone right away.

Pro tip: You want to set the tone, but don’t be too clever. Potential clients shouldn’t have to guess what’s inside.

Intro Packet Intro

It seems silly to have to write an intro—after all, the client contacted you, you’ve probably exchanged a few emails, and there should be no question about what you’re working on together—but there might be.

Plus, clients probably have no clue what this intro packet thing they just opened is. So you need to tell them.

I think writing this section like a letter or an email works well, but you can make it more formal if your brand requires.

Include a friendly photo, let them put a face to your words!

Pro tip: Remember that they’re not a client yet, they are being screened. Steer clear of any language that implies you are accepting them as a client at this point.

Office Hours

I find office hours are my MOST violated boundary. For this reason, and because I think it’s important to let clients know when I am available, I strongly recommend including your office hours in your intro packet. At the beginning.

Nothing is more frustrating for us than to get calls outside of our office hours (hey, I need to sleep sometime!) and nothing is more frustrating for clients than to not know how or when they can get through to you. They probably paid you a lot of money—being unavailable isn’t an option.

This is especially important if you work irregular days or hours!

Here’s what you need to include:

  • Days you work
  • Times you work
  • How clients should communicate with you (and why if it’s important)
  • A rough turn-around time for communication
  • Any scheduling info they need to know (like using a call scheduler)

Pro tip: If you’re not currently using a call scheduler, you should start! This will help you plan your days so much better and keep your work from being interrupted. I personally love Calendly.

What’s included

If you’re offering clearly outlined services, you can outline what the client gets here, so they know from the start!

Yes, I know they already know because they’re contacting you about your service, but repeating things doesn’t hurt.

To keep things simple, save the nitty-gritty details for the scope of work and/or the contract (which you should definitely have, no matter how much you trust your clients). This is more of a big-picture overview.

Things to include in the included section (that’s confusing):

  • The end product the client is getting
  • Any features that are the same no matter how custom the project is
  • Any calls or meetings
  • What’s definitely not included

Pro tip: What’s NOT included is just as important as what IS included. This may include things like the fact you won’t be writing content for your client’s website if you’re a web designer, or that you won’t be inputting content into the website if you’re a copywriter.

What you need from the client

You know what I see all the time? Service providers complaining that they haven’t received X from the client. Like the client was supposed to know everything they needed before the project began.

News flash: clients are clueless. And it’s not their fault, it’s yours.

If you don’t tell a client what you need (and when) you can’t very well expect them to deliver it to you. I actually recommend including client work and deadlines in the contract, but the intro packet is a great way to tell them straight-off that you need something. Especially if you need it before the project begins.

For example, If the client needs to write 10 pages of new content for the website you’re designing, they may not even be ready to book your services yet. If they need new headshots for a website, but their photo session isn’t scheduled for another three months, it doesn’t make sense for you or them to proceed right away.

Unless you have a long waitlist, of course.

You should know exactly what you need from the client and when because you should have mapped out your entire process for your service beforehand.

Now, you get to tell them so that they can plan approrpriately.

Pro tip: Haven’t mapped out your process? It’s something I teach in The Successfully Simple Shortcut! I also include things like example text to use in your Intro Packet so you’re able to simply copy and paste your packet together. Head to the Shortcut info page to learn more!

Process and Timeline

If you don’t know what your process is, your clients sure as heck don’t.

And when clients don’t know what’s going on, they get antsy. And they email. And they call. And they freak out because they paid you lots of money and WHY isn’t their project done yet?!

You want to avoid this, so having clear processes is REALLY important!

Theoretically, you’ve already mapped out the entire process, so now you just have to make it understandable for your clients.

This is going to be a SIMPLER version of what you’ve done before, you want to include the big important pieces, as well as important parts of the timeline where your client needs to provide something, but save all the down and dirty details for yourself.

Pro tip: When I say simple, I mean SIMPLE. Outline the project week-by-week or hit the big milestones, but don’t give more than your potential client needs to know at this point.

Payments

The dreaded talk about money. This may seem odd to include in an intro packet, but letting clients know upfront about how you need payments can save a lot of headache later in the project.

If you’re selling a multi-thousand dollar service, and need payments in large chunks, clients need to know so they can get their finances in order.

It’s best to do this before a project begins, instead of springing the fact you need $3,000 on the client the week you’re supposed to begin work.

Pro tip: I generally recommend making your payments due based on DATE, not on deliverable. This keeps clients from holding up payments to you by not reviewing or approving your work, and ensures you get paid regularly regardless of project progression. Check out this post on consistent income for more details.

FAQs

Get a lot of repeat questions? Answer them!

The intro packet is an excellent place to answer questions and reduce the amount of back and forth you have with potential clients, while ensuring they get the answers they need.

Pro tip: Focus on the questions potential clients have, and don’t get too far ahead in the process. If you don’t get a lot of questions or haven’t yet, you can always skip this section completely, or revisit it when you’ve collected some questions from potential clients.

Intro Packet Wrap Up

This section marks the end of your intro packet.

You should thank your client for reading through it all, and let them know they can ask questions at any time. After all, you could probably write a book and still not cover every possible question they might have!

Be sure to tell the client what the next step is—replying to your email, booking, a discovery call, or whatever you need them to do to show that they agree to your processes and policies, and that they’re ready to take the next step.

Pro tip: Be clear what the next step is and make it easy for potential clients to take it. If they need to schedule a call, use a call scheduler. If they need to fill out a form, link to the form. If it’s too hard to figure out, you’ll potentially miss out on a great client!

Create your Intro Packet!

Intro packets don’t just help you, they help potential clients determine if you’re a good fit for them. By answering a lot of questions upfront, outlining your policies, and sharing your process, both you and the client are able to screen each other, with little effort on your part.

Stop wasting time going back and forth in emails, create your intro packet today!

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About Erin Flynn

Erin Flynn is the founder of Successfully Simple™, a hub for creative entrepreneurs who want to work less and live more. Erin’s mission is to help female creative entrepreneurs ditch the busywork and redesign their businesses around what success means to them. Find her on Instagram @SuccessfullySimple