3 steps to successful client onboarding

Posted by: Gráinne Forde /

An agency’s success — and sanity — comes down almost entirely to workflow.

Choosing project management software over the traditional scattershot collection of emails, Word documents and phone calls removes confusion by offering  a systematic way to track projects and centralize communication with clients across your team. Without this essential tool, you’re wasting time chasing details, putting a strain on your client relationships and your project deadlines.

Clients won’t pick up your project management software on their own, however.  If you don’t take the time to carefully and intentionally onboard them, you put your client relationship into jeopardy. Include them from the beginning by taking a proactive approach to teaching them your system.

Here’s how to onboard your clients to your project management software effectively so both your agency and your clients come out on top.

1. Set up the ground rules

Maintaining excellent client relationships comes down to reliability, according to the expert consultants and authors of the book The Trusted Advisor. Consistency and ability to meet agreed-upon deadlines play a huge part in creating trust, but meeting your client’s anticipated needs is even more important. This is how they put it:

“The more a provider can do to understand and relate to the usually unconscious norms of the client, the more the client will feel at ease and experience a sense of reliability.”

In order to work well with your clients, you need to know how they work or their “unconscious norms.” To do this, outline the desired outcomes of your project together. Lincoln Murphy at Sixteen Ventures calls this “defining success,” which means that you determine what qualifies as success for both you and your clients before the project launches. Everyone needs to know what the final product should look like before you start working on it.

When you set explicit expectations around the project parameters  how your project management software will be used, and what the finished result will look like, you’re charting the course ahead. Everyone is clear on what part they’ll play, and you get a close look at the work style of the other party involved. Understanding how your clients think and what they need from you will help you both work better together.

Email your clients a questionnaire

Before you start planning a project for a client, you’ll want specific information about their needs and expectations. Don’t make assumptions about what you think your clients want to accomplish — ask them.

Pull together a list of questions for them to answer via email. This gives them the chance to articulate their definitions of success in their own words, and you’ll have a reference guide to guide the project and future conversations.

Use these questions to get started:

  1. What results do they want to see? How will they measure these results?
  2. What does successful execution look like to them? What does it look like for their boss?
  3. What customers are they looking to engage with this project? Who is their ideal customer?
  4. What platforms or channels will they use once the project is finished to disseminate it?

Their answers will give you a clear idea of what they expect to receive from you. With these answers in hand, you can show your clients what you need from them in return.

Pick up the phone and talk it through

As you create a better sense of performance and expectations from the client, you can provide a clear picture of the project scope and responsibilities from your side. In addition, you can make it clear what they shouldn’t expect from you. Feel free to set boundaries on issues like too-frequent update requests, last minute revisions, or other tasks that could jam up your workflow.

Whether you talk to clients over the phone or discuss it in a document, make sure you explain these issues:

  1. The type of project management software you use and why
  2. How tasks get completed in the software,
  3. How products get shipped and when, and
  4. Resolve any questions they have about the process

Also send your clients guides, outlines, and examples showing how this software has been effective for past projects. These may look like screenshots of your project management software and an explanation of how tasks within your project might move through it. Often, short videos can make onboarding simple and provide an excellent troubleshooting tool that doesn’t require a staffed help desk.

Make it clear how you will deliver on their project goals and how they can expect your software will be used to track all of the project landmarks. This reinforces trusts every step of the way.

2. Train your clients on your software

If you want to support your clients, your team, your goals and your deadline, then help your clients get comfortable with your project management software right away. If you just toss clients straight into the software without making certain that they are secure in the basic functions they need,  those confused clients will create more work for you.

If new clients find the software intimidating, they’ll design their own avenues outside your workflow to get the answers they need. They’ll badger you with emails asking for updates or phone calls that waste time and can’t be tracked later. Invest in training right away, because–if they don’t trust it, they won’t trust you.

To onboard your clients to your project management software:

  • Set up their personal account within the software.
  • Make it clear what areas they need to be active in: the comments section, where they’re tagged, etc.
  • Show them what the value of each action within the software is: moving a card shows that the task is completed, check-ins mean these team members are working on it, etc.
  • Demonstrate how the team works to complete a task within the software.
  • Show them where they can get an overview of project.
  • Introduce them to the in-house language your team uses in the software.

Note: If you have a client that’s difficult to onboard, use the Rule of 3. Show them how to do 3 tasks they need to know, and once they’ve mastered those, show them another 3, and so on. Breaking down the process into manageable steps removes a lot of fear and overwhelm.

That’s right — training is imperative. According to a study from Survey Monkey, a third of respondents said they don’t have the time to learn a new tool, so you need to overcome that barrier and make onboarding simple for them.

3. Accommodate your clients in your workflow

After the initial training is over, remember that your clients may still need help integrating the project management software into their daily routine. It may take some time before they understand how useful its tools can be for day-to-day communication, organizing key documents, and monitoring progress.  

Here’s how to maintain a seamless workflow for you and your client that builds trust and nails deadlines:

  1. Have short regular, scheduled check-ins about progress. This quick, simple meeting leaves the door open so uncomfortable questions or issues can be addressed before they become full-blown problems. This can happen through the project management software.
  2. Look for patterns. Do your clients seem to be confused about a certain process or notification in the software? Are you assuming that they understand your workflow? Are they ignoring your requests for important information? Find these patterns and solve the underlying problem — a misunderstanding,  lack of training, etc.
  3. Find places within your workflow to accommodate their comfort level. This may mean providing more training or using Google Calendar instead of Microsoft Outlook temporarily until they gain more confidence with your platform.

While this may sound like a lot of work, keeping tabs on your clients’ preferences and work style are simply part of a healthy high-value relationship.


Providing your clients with the necessary onboarding to have a friction-free start with your project management software will give you more peace of mind, fewer headaches, and more on-time projects.

Even better, when your software takes care of the details, your clients will think you’re a genius.


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Grainne Forde
Marketing specialist


mike weiss

Great article. I would like to see Teamwork make some “Client” videos that we, as users of Teamwork, can have our Clients watch to learn the basics.

1) How to set up their account
2) How to add their picture
3) What to do when they first login
4) How to see what tasks are outstanding for them
5) How to see if their employees are completing their tasks
6) How to operate a task – the functionality
7) How to create a taks
8) How to make sure the correct team members are alerted when a task is created or replied to
9) How and why to close a task and what happens when it’s closed

Gráinne Forde


Glad to hear that you enjoyed our latest post! More videos that specifically assist clients to get up and running with Teamwork Projects is a great suggestion. I’ll definitely discuss this with the rest of the team.

Thanks for your feedback.

Best regards,

Peter Coppinger

That’s a really great list Mike. As Leanne said, we’re on it. Thanks for that!

Rhonda Q

I second Mike Weiss’ request. You all have done a great job of the user videos, but short, bite size basics videos for clients would be a great addition and a big help for those that are onboarding clients frequently.

Gráinne Forde

Hi Rhonda,

Today the first of our client onboarding videos went live! Read more about all of the July updates for Teamwork Projects and check out the client onboarding video in this post.


Agnes Smith

It’d be nice to have those “guides” you reference ready as a downloadable resource to easily pass along to clients for further assistance.

Gráinne Forde

Hi Agnes,

The guides we reference are client specific–created from a list of questions that you ask each of your clients to articulate their definitions of success.

We do give some examples of questions to get you started with creating your client guides but I definitely see how it would be useful to readers if we had a template as a downloadable resource. I’ll definitely keep this in mind for our future posts.

Thanks for the feedback 🙂


Gráinne Forde

Hi Agnes,

Our very first client onboarding videos is now live! Here’s the link.

We hope it helps with your process!



Hi – has a above mentioned list (in first comment by Mike Weiss) ben created? If so, please provide a link here.

Thank you.

Leanne King

Hi Folks,

We don’t have these videos yet. We had a bit of a backlog with video content and we expect to start these at the beginning of June. I’ll post an update here once they go live.



Hi Leanne,

can you please let me know once the videos/written introduction to Teamwork for clients are ready? This would be super helpful and save a lot of time to any agency introducing new clients to Teamwork. Some clients are quick to learn the app’s core feature, some are not. Having a database of professionally created videos available to clients to access anytime would be great.


Gráinne Forde


Client onboarding videos are being worked on by our Customer Success team at the moment. As Leanne said in the previous comment we’ll be sure to post an update here once they go live 🙂


Gráinne Forde


We’re delighted to announce that the first of our client onboarding videos went live today! Read more about all of the Teamwork Projects updates for the month of July and check out the client onboarding video in this post.



Hi, I’m really looking forward to seeing the client onboarding videos! I am making my own videos for clients, but it would be helpful to have some pre-made ones from Teamwork. Thank you!


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