What to include in your getting started guide

When you receive a new client lead, how long does it take before you actually send them a proposal?

The time it can take from that client enquiring with you for the first time to actually offering them a proposal can take weeks. There may be a lot of back and forth talking about the project (fair enough), but also you may find you’re spending your time communicating your business, how you work and what your service offering is.

But have you considered offering all of this information in one simple PDF Guide?

As a creative freelancer, you’ll find yourself time and time again in a position where you have to communicate these things. Why not make life easier for yourself and your clients, save some time and present all of this information in a neatly packaged up little guide?

Why have a Getting Started Guide?

It’s in your best interest to over communicate. While you know how you work and may have done it a hundred times – a new client doesn’t. They may have never even worked with a freelancer before. A Getting Started guide can help communicate how you work and pre-answer any frequently asked questions – saving you so much time. Don’t spend half your morning answering the same questions over and over again from different clients!

A Getting Started Guide also helps position you as the professional that you are. It shows you have your systems and processes in place, and have a professional way of working.

It also allows for the client to have all of the information about you and how you work in one place, so they can refer back to it at any time or use it to convince someone else internally why they should work with you.

If your guide is publicly available on your website, this could also help convert clients into leads and help set the expectations for the project process.

So what should a Getting Started Guide include? Well – a few informative things and a few salesy things – but it doesn’t have to be as dirty as it sounds. At the end of the day, you need to convince the client that they should choose you to work with on their project. So what things can you include in there to help convince them of that?


What to include:

Want to skip the below and just get started on creating your own guide already? Download our Getting Started Guide template at the bottom of this post – free to use!

Introduce yourself and business
It seems like the obvious one, but it’s also really easy to get caught up in communicating ‘the important stuff’. You’re probably not the first freelancer that the client enquires with, so make yourself stand out! Which of the below sounds more interesting to you?

Welcome to my Getting Started Guide. I am Tree Ferns, a web designer and developer who has making websites for over three years.


Looking for a brand new website that increases your conversion, makes your customers stay longer and is easy to use? You’ve come to the right place.

Ok you obviously don’t want to say the latter if it’s not true, but hopefully you see what’s going on here. Just saying who you are, the trade you provide and how many years you’ve been doing it – isn’t unique anymore. There are so many freelancers who start their portfolio this way that I can assure you it isn’t going to make you stand out.

Outline why you’re different in a few simple bullet points. Focus on what you do well. Communicate what the benefits are if your client works with you, and back it up with testimonials to prove it. Which leads us to…

Client testimonials
Sure, you could say nice, lovely things about yourself – but how does the client know all of that is true? Client testimonials are a great way to validate your work. They’re instantly more trustworthy and help show the success of your past projects and satisfaction of your previous clients.

The key is getting the right type of testimonial. Now while I don’t recommend that you manipulate or fake testimonials (please don’t do this!), you can however guide the conversation with your previous client to ensure that the testimonial helps highlight some of the key success factors of the project.

For example – state a minimum length for the testimonial. This avoids you getting testimonials like ‘Tree Ferns was a pleasure to work with’. It’s nice that they enjoyed working with you, but it doesn’t communicate at all the benefits they’ve seen to their business since the project you worked on launch.

Leverage your customer testimonials to help convert potential clients into paying clients.

Creative process
This is probably going to be the most meaty part of the Guide: You need to communicate with clients how you work, what your process looks like and what they can expect from working with you.

Communicating your Creative Process early on helps set the expectations of what the client can receive, and also gives you the opportunity to refer back to it as a guide throughout the project.

Outlining your creative process early also shows the client what they can expecting working with you will be like. If you’ve really nailed down you process, you could even include timeframes at each step of the process.

A snapshot from the Getting Started Guide Template

Service offering
What kind of projects do you do? What kind of projects do you not do?

Outlining this in your Getting Started Guide can help weed through the clients that aren’t going to be right for you. You can also use this to help set boundaries of what type of projects you will and won’t work on. For example, you may not want to do fixes or tweaks for websites you didn’t’ design. Or you may not feel confident in e-commerce.

Of course, this also helps you communicate what you do offer. Which can help convert if the client sees exactly what they’re looking for on the list – and this is exactly the client you want to attract!. For example, explicitly state that you can create WordPress themes, or Email Newsletter templates – whatever it is that you can offer, say it!

Previous work
Showing examples of your work is not only going to help communicate your visual style, but also show the type of projects you’ve worked on in the past. This is a great way to show your skills and experience to potential clients.

It’s rare that people purchase blind. Would you buy a mattress if you didn’t get to feel it, lie on it, or at least see it? Clients want to get an idea of the type of services you can offer, and the potential solutions you can create.

An FAQ section helps you answer some of those nitty gritty questions that you commonly get asked. What you include this section will completely depending on what you get asked about most often! 
At The Apartment we often get asked about our price. As we use value-based pricing to determine a quote for each project individually, we help communicate how our pricing structure works in our Getting Started Guide.

You may also want to use this section to pre-empt some of the expectations you’ll have of your client.

For example one of the FAQ’s in our guide is: Do I have to have all the website content?

While this was never a FAQ until recently, we found ourselves often having to repeatedly outline that content is not our responsibility (unless stated otherwise), and that we need the content in order to begin the design process.

This helps set the expectation and responsibilities that we’ll have on the client when we work with them.

Next steps
Lastly, you want the client to know what to expect to happen next. Will you contact them? Should they reach out to you? Never leave the client in the dark about what step of the process they’re in, and what step of the process they’ll be going into next.

Everyone works differently. If your client has worked with a different freelancer in the past, they could be expecting your process to be the same as their previous freelancer.

Having a Getting Started Guide is the best way to communicate with a potential client what they should expect, and why they should work with you. It saves them getting frustrated trying to find the same information scattered around your website, by having it all in one neat place for them to refer to.