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Collaboration

Working with clients

October 6, 2022

This guide is geared towards users that need to collaborate with clients. If your work requires you to work with clients to provide services or deliverables, then this guide is for you. Examples of this are: coaches, educators, designers, freelancers, developers, writers, researchers, and personal assistants.

We'll show you how to create a simple system to coordinate with your client so it's simple and effortless for both of you.

Identify the communication needs with your clients

The first step towards creating a system to work with your clients is to       identify what type of communication needs you have with them. In other words, does your work mainly involve fulfilling submissions from clients or are does it involve you sharing something your clients?

Whatever type of work you do with clients, one of the two parties is going to be doing most of the pushing

Client-side push system

Let's start with the case where information is mainly coming in from the client, we'll call this a client-side push system. Now, information will still be going in both directions but most likely in the case of submissions from the client and you'll be responding with some sort of deliverable.

For example, let's say you're a designer and you have clients that you create graphics for. The clients submit requests to you and you fulfill them. Sometimes they'll make additional requests or ask for changes but for the most part they're submitting a request and you're fulfilling it, giving them the finished product.

In this case we'll need a simple inbox for each client where they can put their submissions and a place for you to put the finished deliverable.

Diagram of a client-side push system

Provider-side push system

In the case where you'll be doing most of the pushing, we'll use a provider-side push system. Again, communication will be happening from both sides but it will mainly consist of you giving something to your client. These are cases where the provider is the one initiating the communication.

An example of this is in coaching where the coach usually has some system or lessons that they have developed before they work with a client and then provide them to the client at the appropriate time. Here the coach is the one doing the pushing of information to the client.

Again, in this case we'll need an inbox but the purpose will mainly be to track progress and provide feedback instead of fulfilling submissions.

Diagram of a provider-side push system

Set up a basic flow

Once you've figured out which type of system you'll need you can then set up a simple inbox that starts the whole process.

Let's create a bullet that will hold our structure so we can re-use it with each client. We'll name it 'Client template'.

Inside we'll add an item for our inbox and add the skeleton of any content each client is likely to need. Let's look at the case of the designer first.

Flow for a client-side push

Let's say the designer specializes in creating assets for social media posts and the client provides the text and general directions for the designs. A simple structure to handle that might look a little like this:

Screenshot of the client template

And the flow for that would work like this:

Diagram of the designer's flow with each client

The flow starts when the client puts their requests into the '📥  Inbox'. The designer then moves each request into the '🎨  In progress' as they work on the request.

Once they're finished and the design is ready for review, they move the item under '🔍  Review'.

Then the client reviews the asset, and if there are any changes or tweaks to be made they add the comments and move the item to the '🖋  Revision' section. Otherwise the they move the item to '✅ Done'.

If there are any items in the '🖋  Revision' section then the designer moves them to back to '🎨  In progress' as they work on those revisions and finally move them back to the '🔍  Review' section for a second review.

In this case we're using the example of a designer but the main idea is the same regardless of the specifics of the work done with the client. The main components of the flow are, an inbox that the client puts something into to start the process, then you do something with that request and it'll usually go through a couple of steps with the client taking a look at it at some point. And lastly, there's some daily destination for that item that marks the completion of that request.

I've opted to create specific areas like '🎨  In progress' and '🖋  Revision' and move the requests as each step is completed. However you could choose to instead have no inbox and instead use tags. The downside of that is that tags are a bit more fiddly when working with other people as they have to remember to change them. If you instead create separate steps like we have in this example, it's pretty clear where an item is at all times, and it's also clear to the person you're working with where an item should go even if they don't quite remember the entire flow since the steps are always visible even if no item is currently at that stage.

With tags it's a little more likely that someone will forget what all the tags they're supposed to use are if there's currently no item at that step to remind them of the tag's name.

Flow for a provider-side push

Now let's look at the case where the provider, that's you, is the one that's running the show.

Again, we'll create a bullet to hold everything we'll need for each client and label it 'Client template'.

This time let's say you have a coaching business where you work with clients to help them improve their writing.

In this case you have a set of lessons and exercises you want your client to read and do. Once they complete a lesson, they share their exercise with you and you review it, leaving feedback for the next lesson.

A simple structure for handling that might look something like this:

Screenshot of the coach's template

And the flow for that would be something like:

Diagram of the coach's flow with their clients

This flow start when the coach either shares all of the lessons at once with the client or adds them in parts to the '📕  Lessons' section.

The client then does each lesson and completes the exercise and puts it  in the '📥  Exercises' section.

The coach then reviews each exercise, adds feedback and moves the item to the '💡  Feedback' section.

And finally the client reviews the feedback and incorporates it for the next lesson.

Remember that this flow is a simple example to help give you an idea of how you could structure your template. There are many more things you could add depending on your needs, but the basic idea is the same one - the person working with the client is the one that's pushing the information to the client.

In this type of flow where the information that you're sharing with the client is essentially the same across clients, it also makes sense to keep a library of content that you can then simply duplicate and drop into each client's space as they require it. This allows you to have more control over the content and tweak it as the client's needs change before you give it to the client.

Screenshot of a lesson library and a lesson being copied to a client's space

Create a standard client template

By now you should have some idea of the type of flow you'll need based on the work you do with clients.

The next step is to take that basic structure and simply turn it into a template that you can reuse with each client. Once you have your basic structure, give the template a good name and open the bullet menu for that item (the three dots to the left of the bullet) and select 'Make template'. You can also just add the '#template' hashtag to the bullet and collapse it to turn it into a template.

Now all you have to do with each new client is click the template button, rename the bullet to the client's name and share the bullet with  the client.

For more control, we recommend you share only using the 'Invite specific people' option in the sharing panel. While this requires the client to create a Workflowy account, it's safer for both you and your client.

Some final tips

Your clients' accounts

Your client does not need a pro subscription in order for you to collaborate with them. They can create a free account and as long as they don't go over the monthly bullet limit or the file upload limit,  they'll be fine.

If the work you're doing with your clients requires that they add a lot of information or upload a lot of files then we suggest you upgrade your account to a team subscription (it's the same price as pro) and simply add your clients to your 'team'. This makes the whole process much easier for your clients as they don't have to input payment details and you avoid having them reach the limits mentioned above.

Screenshot of the team admin panel


Emoji labels

When labeling different sections of your client's space, we recommend you use emojis to both make the space a little friendlier for your client and to make it easier to quickly see what each section is about.

As long as you pick emojis that make sense and don't put two emojis that are too similar next to each other, you'll be fine.

Screenshot comparing client space with emojis and without


Additional instructions

Once you've explained the flow to your client, you can essentially use
just Workflowy to communicate back and forth with them. However, if you want to be extra careful with your client and label everything so even if they forget or don't read the instructions, they'll know what to do, then we recommend you use the 'Add note' feature to clearly label each section with a short description of what each section is for.

Here's the designer's template with labels to show you what that could look like. You add notes to an item by using the bullet menu and selecting 'Add note'.

Screenshot showing client template with notes for each section for the client

And there you have it, a simple guide on how to collaborate with clients. With just a bit of prep work, you can create a simple template that'll make it easy to work with multiple clients from a single interface. And if you combine it with a team account for yourself, you can make the onboarding process super-simple for your clients.

View the template to copy it and get started

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