If you’ve ever had to request client documents, you’ll know how painful it can be – they’ll send the wrong stuff, send 15 emails with 1 document each, or never get back to you at all.
Using dedicated document collection software will save you a TON of time and frustration in the process of requesting documents from clients.
In this post, you’ll learn how to:
- Use email more effectively (if you don’t want to switch to a document collection tool)
- Create client document upload forms
- Automate document collection with Content Snare
tl;dr – The easiest solution
Can’t be bothered reading all of this and just want the easiest solution?
Head over to the Content Snare website and grab your trial. It makes collecting documents from clients incredibly easy.
Video version of this post
This post is also available as a video if you’re a visual learner.
If you’d rather skip to the best document collection tool – go to 6:25 in the video.
Collecting documents with email seems pretty logical, since everyone knows how to use it. There’s nothing for you to learn, and it’s pretty likely your clients already use it.
You just have to send off a quick file request email with a list of required documents and you’re done, right?
Not quite. It gets messy fast. Clients will reply to your document request with 15 emails, each with a different attachment… and half of them will be the wrong document.
Then you’ll have to:
- Dig through multiple emails to find relevant documents
- Move all the correct ones to a client folder
- Keep track of which ones are complete and what’s outstanding
- Juggle the back and forth email to get the remaining documents
And that’s just for ONE client. Multiply that by how many clients you have and it descends into chaos before you know what happened. You’ll end up spending half of your time chasing documents.
This assumes that your client actually replied. Far more common is that they don’t reply at all and you have to chase them up for weeks to get what you need.
But if you understand all of this and still want to use email instead of dedicated document collection software, here are some tips.
Create a document checklist
A checklist is a great start to any business process. You’ll need somewhere to keep track of which documents you’ve received. A spreadsheet is a simple way to do that.
For each client, create something like the sheet above. When a file comes in:
- File it in your cloud storage e.g. Google Drive
- Mark it off in the checklist
- Add a link to the file
Send summary update emails
When clients create several email replies, resist replying to each one individually.
Instead, create summary emails of everything you still need. If you need something updated, tell them what was wrong the first time.
This makes things much easier on both you and your client.
Creating document upload forms
A step up from email to collect documents is to create a simple form where your clients can upload documents. While this isn’t going to be on the same level of productivity as document collection software, it’s a great step in the right direction.
Google Forms is free, and allows you to create file upload areas that look like this:
There’s one big downside though – your client needs to be logged into Google to upload.
If you’re working with clients that don’t have a Google account, it’s an immediate dealbreaker. You can read more here about requesting files with Google Drive.
There are other forms tools you can use that don’t have this limitation, like JotForm.
You can create a near identical form that looks better and allows anyone to upload files, not just people who are logged in.
Problems with forms
While these make it simpler for your client to see all the items you need and upload them one at a time, there are some downsides.
Must be completed in one sitting
The first major one is that if your client closes the window halfway through, they’ll lose all the work they’ve done. This causes some pretty unhappy clients when they realise they have to do it all again. Even if they recognise that it’s their fault, it’s a terrible experience for them.
In a way, it’s not their fault if the process wasn’t actually that simple for them. They might have been called away to do something, or had to go hunting for a document. That could take a couple of days, and if they haven’t kept the tab open – it’s all gone.
Another major downside is that you still have to manually remind clients if they don’t submit the document upload form.
That’s a lot of time spent doing something that doesn’t add value to your business.
No way to request changes
If your client uploads the wrong thing, you’ll have to follow them up by email to get the right one. You can’t ask them to submit the form again, because it will ask for all the other documents as well.
So you end up back dealing with multiple email threads.
3. Document collection software – Content Snare
Finally, you can use a specialized document collection tool that makes the whole process easier.
Content Snare is an example of this. You can create a secure document portal which your clients can access at any time to provide their files.
The process is really similar to creating a form. You just lay out a list of “file uploads”, which are documents that you need.
You can also include instructions and examples of what you need, so that your clients get it right the first time.
When you send a ‘file request’ to a client, you can create a series of reminders that are sent automatically.
Your client receives an email that looks like this:
And this drops them directly into their document collection portal.
If your client leaves or closes the window – they just click the link in one of the reminder emails to come back to their client portal, and they’ll be back where they left off. That’s because everything is automatically saved as soon as they upload it.
That will save your clients a lot of frustration that could have been directed at you.
Document approvals with Content Snare
Finally, one of the most time saving features of this document collection software is the ability to reject a document that a client uploaded.
Even if you provide great instructions, sometimes clients will still upload the wrong thing.
Instead of asking them for a replacement document by email, you can request a new version in Content Snare by clicking reject.
Your client will receive a message saying that they need to come back and make an update.
Normally that’d mean a bunch more back and forth email – and this avoids the need.
Try Content Snare for document collection
The three methods of document collection above are:
- Upload forms
- Content Snare
No matter what you choose, try to make the process as easy as possible for your clients. If it’s easy for them, you’ll get what you need faster. That means creating helpful instructions explaining each document you need, and how they should send it to you.
If you want to automate client reminders and streamline your document collection as much as possible, give Content Snare a try. Read more about Content Snare here, or start your 14-day free trial here to start collecting documents.