Client Intake Form Best Practices + Free Templates
Does your business provide professional services? If so, chances are you have a client onboarding process in place. (And if you don't, you should.)
But whether you have an established client onboarding routine or you're just starting to lay the groundwork for one, your business can likely benefit from a client intake form.
Read on to learn how to create a new form that asks the right questions to the right clients to get the results you want.
What is a Client Intake Form?
A client intake form is a questionnaire you share with your clients at the start of your working relationship. There's a dual purpose to the intake form questions:
1. To screen potential clients and determine if they are the right fit for your expertise and services
2. To gather necessary relevant information before starting a project or service
Who Uses Client Intake Forms?
Businesses that collect client information generally provide a service. Examples of these
- Marketing agencies
- Law firms
- Psychiatrists and therapists
- Wellness practitioners (like an occupational, physical, or massage therapist)
This list is by no means exhaustive. Any business that works with clients can potentially necessitate an intake form.
Where and When to Deploy Your Intake Form
Depending on how your lead pipeline is structured, you can serve your intake form after you've had an initial consultation call and the contract has been negotiated. At this point, the implication might be that you have agreed to take the client on, and you are just information gathering.
Or, if you have a large number of inbound leads and referrals, you might consider embedding intake questions on your website contact form to pre-screen candidates so you aren't wasting effort on new clients that aren't a good fit. This strategy works well for organizations with limited resources or ones that garner enough demand to cultivate a waitlist.
The structure and timing of your client intake process should flow naturally as an extension of your business framework.
Marketing tip: mind your conversion rates
Remember, as a general rule, that the more form fields you have on your landing page, the lower your conversion rate will be. If you choose to add screening questions to your contact form, make sure you're balancing your qualification wants with your lead generation needs.
Benefits Of A Good Client Intake Form
A good client intake form protects both you as the service provider and your client by ensuring the relationship is a good match. A good intake form will…
Reduce scope creep
An intake form forces a client to think through project particulars. When clients don't complete this mental exercise, they can realize too late what they genuinely want. A good intake form will guide a client and help them articulate what they are looking for.
Cut down on revisions
In the same way an intake form reduces scope creep, it also cuts down on the number of revisions. The less clarity there is, the more revision rounds there will be.
Establish realistic timelines
Sometimes clients don't understand how much time is needed to complete a project. It doesn't mean they are unreasonable; they're just not a subject matter expert like you are. The intake form prompts a discussion about realistic timelines.
Prevent resource blocks
Depending on how responsive your client is, it can often be challenging to collect essential resources (like a brand style guide, custom design assets, logo files, buyer personas) once the project has begun. By collecting these items upfront, you can prevent client resource blocks and protect project timelines.
Info to Collect
When creating a client intake form, the hardest part is determining what questions to ask. Although the form content depends on your business type — medical practitioners, for example, will collect very different and specific information — here are core question themes to think about that apply to a majority of service-based projects.
Contact information and preferences
The first and most apparent section that can't be skipped over is the contact information section. At a minimum, you should collect the emails and phone numbers of all project stakeholders.
It's also helpful to have a quick discussion on contact preferences. Some clients prefer email, others Slack or texts. Contact info isn't beneficial if you can't get ahold of the client. It's easier to meet a client where they prefer.
Budget can be an uncomfortable topic, but it's critical to get this discussion going immediately. Budget ranges are usually hard lines both clients and service providers draw, and there's no point wasting either party's time if there isn't a match.
Project scope and deliverables
Questions around project scope make up the real meat of the form, and this section is where you will gain the most insight into compatibility. By asking thoughtful questions, you'll piece together an in-depth mental map of your client's needs and expectations.
For marketing agencies who work with a myriad of clients across different industries, it may be prudent to collect a client's industry information. Researching competitors can offer valuable points of comparison and contrast.
Goals and expectations
It's crucial to define your client's goals and expectations carefully so you can ensure that what they are asking for maps to their overall business goals. This critical detail sets a healthy foundation that ensures a long relationship. Goal discussion also helps you steer the client in the right direction when they ask for a deliverable that may not impact their bottom line the way they expect it to.
Leaving a catch-all section for clients to write in particular questions and concerns is a good best practice, so you provide them with the additional information they need.
Consent and liability
Depending on your occupation, you may need to collect consent for treatment and have clients sign a liability waiver.
Marketing tip: standardize your data
When you're just starting out, or you're a small business, a detail like data integrity may seem like the least of your worries, and to some extent, it is. But by standardizing data with picklist options on forms, you'll ensure future integration with a CRM or marketing automation software is as seamless as possible.
Clean data also helps you segment and filter your clients for targeted campaigns down the line if you decide to launch nurture campaigns.
A little extra upfront work will prevent a future migraine.
Tools For Form Creation And Collection
Instead of building form infrastructure from scratch, several tools can help you create simple web forms.
Many email service providers, most notably Google, have form-building capabilities. For no-frills forms, using your ESP may be the easiest option.
Formstack is a popular form-building application that boasts a feature-rich, no-code form builder. With advanced features for data collection and management, Formstack is suited for enterprise-level organizations.
Portal is an all-in-one commerce platform that makes creating custom-branded client intake forms accessible. Portal's CRM understructure means data collection is organized and tied to a specific contact for easy access and retrieval. Portal also combines billing, eSignature collection, and knowledge base creation, so all your client information is in a single location.
Wufoo is a beloved free form builder that allows you to embed forms on your website or share them privately and directly. Users like it for its mix of simple features and no-cost pricing.
Lexicata is a salesforce, cloud-based CRM, and client intake system for law firms. It helps improve organization, maximize efficiency, and drive more revenue, and it tracks potential clients and professional contacts.
A note on security
If you are a practitioner that collects personal information like date of birth, gender, mental health history, or any other sensitive information, you will need to research compliance laws and make sure you choose a tool and data collection method that has good security practices.
Free Client Intake Form Templates
Although we recommend using a web form builder to create your intake form, so the data passes directly into your digital records for easy search and access without scanning or manual entry, there are a wealth of templates from which to take inspiration.
For a small business
This template from Microsoft works well for primary contact information gathering.
Download here. (Web)
Patient intake form
This patient intake form from Template.net gives clinicians a look into a client's medical history.
Download here. (Zip)
For legal counsel
This client intake form from Smartsheet offers sections to fill out case information as well as time and fee tracking.
Download here. (Doc)
For marketing agencies
This marketing intake form from Hubspot helps marketing agencies qualify prospects.
Download here. (Web)
Want More Templates?
If you need more templates for inspiration, try these searchable databases:
Iterate Over Time
Over time, as you hone your client intake process, you'll learn what information is the most important to gather. Nothing beats personal experience, but by studying existing templates and thinking through your service details, you'll be off to a great start.