How to Create a Client Intake Form in 5 Steps
Customer Experience : 12 min read

How to Create a Client Intake Form in 5 Steps

Spending just five minutes creating a client intake form can save you hours of unnecessary back and forth with clients.

As a service provider, you know how precious your time is. You also know how many things there are just waiting to steal time away from your work with clients.

If you want to serve as many clients as possible and to serve them well, you can’t afford to let any of your time go to waste.

One of the first places to look for these costly time-sucks is your client onboarding process. Chances are good you’re losing a lot of time in inefficient back-forth communications with clients before you’ve even started to work on the project.

With a client intake form, you can save yourself the trouble of wrangling important bits of information and materials from clients. In return, the time you spend talking to clients and working for them can be more productive.

The following guide will teach you how to create a client intake form that prospects and clients will be happy to fill out, and that’ll make your life much easier.

What is a client intake form?

A client intake form is nothing more than a questionnaire designed for a specific business purpose.

Here’s an example of a client intake form that Monument Sotheby’s Realty uses on its website:

It includes standard contact form fields like name, email, and phone number. However, it digs deeper, looking for answers to questions like:

  • What are you interested in?
  • When are you looking to make a purchase?
  • What is your desired price range?

These are the kinds of questions a real estate agent (and other service providers) would have to take time to address over email or on the phone.

By designing it in an easy-to-fill-out form, you can more efficiently collect critical info from clients while equipping yourself with everything you need to have productive discussions going forward.

Why you (and your clients) need an intake form

Here are 10 benefits you get from using client intake forms:

  1. Prepare the questions only once: Save yourself time while ensuring you never forget to ask critical questions.
  2. Look like a pro: By having a prepared form, you’ll make the best first impression with clients.
  3. Vet leads: Ask the right questions and you’ll weed out bad-fit clients before they can clog up your inbox.
  4. Help clients focus: A client intake form forces them to really think about their goals and whether they’re really ready for your help.
  5. Speed up proposal prep: Use these accurate and thorough details from prospects to fill out sales proposals and contracts.
  6. Automate record-keeping: When you integrate your form with your CRM, it’s like having clients input their data directly into your system.
  7. Be prepared for every discussion: Instead of spending time recapping what your clients need, you can get right down to business.
  8. Streamline your process: Intake forms hold clients accountable, which means never having to start a job without required materials again.
  9. Boost your sales: Save time upfront in your process, so you can get clients more quickly into and through your sales pipeline.
  10. Reshape your offering: Look for trends in what clients fill out in the form (like which services or specifications they never select) and adapt your business accordingly.

A client intake form might seem like such a simple tool that it’s hard to imagine the far-reaching effects it can have on your business. But if you build it out the right way, it totally can.

How to create a client intake form for your business

Depending on what line of work you’re in, the type of client intake form you use and the questions you ask may not be the same as other service-based businesses.

However, in terms of creating the form itself, there are five steps each of you will need to check off no matter what:

Step 1: Choose a client intake form tool

There are a number of tools you could use to create your client intake form.

Pro tip: Make sure you find one that is cost-effective, easy to use, and integrates with your other business software.

Google Forms

Google Forms is free, easy to use, and can be managed alongside your other Google Drive business documents.

This is what a new Google Form looks like:

From this screen, you can:

  • Create a name and add instructions to the top of the form.
  • Add a logo or company image.
  • Change the colors and fonts.
  • Add different types of questions: open-ended, multiple choice, checkboxes, date or time selection, file upload, etc.
  • Set questions as “Required”.
  • Add individual instructions to questions.
  • Add a video or a screenshot.
  • Organize the form into sections, which is useful if you have a longer form.

If you’re a Copper user, you’ll have the added benefit of integrating the form with your CRM. All you’ll need is a Zapier account to set this up.

Instructions to connect your Google form to Copper are here.

Wufoo

If your business is brand new and you’re looking for a flexible form manager tool that can scale with your business, Wufoo would be a good option.

This is what Wufoo’s simple form builder looks like:

All you need to do is select the fields you want to add, customize the settings, and then drag-and-drop them into the order you want them to appear.

With Wufoo, you can:

  • Edit various parts of the form: name, type, size, required, placeholder text, etc.
  • Add preformatted fields (like email or phone number) that force clients to input the right type of response.
  • Enter predefined values to save clients from typing out the most common response for that field.
  • Redirect users who’ve successfully filled out a form to a specific page.
  • Use conditional logic so that the form displays certain fields based on responses given.

Just like Google Forms, you can integrate your Wufoo form with Copper.

Typeform

The forms you create with Typeform are conversational, which means they look like this:

Only one question is displayed at a time and, generally, the questions are formatted in a more casual tone:

This design is meant to make the form feel more like a person-to-person conversation and much more convenient than filling out a traditional form.

Below is what the Typeform builder looks like. You can add the usual fields as well as additional elements like:

  • A Welcome Screen image and message
  • A Thank You Screen to display after the form submission
  • A legal checkbox for GDPR compliance
  • Payment fields (if accepting retainer fees or down payments ahead of time)
  • And more

If you’re giving this option some consideration, take note that Typeform also integrates with Copper through Zapier.

Step 2: Decide when you need to use it

A client intake form is useful in two situations. Before you do anything else, figure out if you need one or both of these forms:

Prospecting

It’s not uncommon to spend a lot of time going back and forth over email trying to find out more about a prospect’s needs and goals. Or to spend too much time on a discovery call with someone who’s a bad fit.

A client intake form can be helpful in this case, by allowing you to gather useful details to help you qualify a lead in one fell swoop. Or to quickly pair them with the service they need.

Take, for instance, Iron Lotus Tattoo Studios. This is the basic contact form on the website:

Notice the line “Is this a tattoo booking request?” This is where Iron Lotus streamlines its sales process by converting the form into a client intake form:

This is the same exact form as before. However, interested clients can fill out what they’re looking for, saving both them and the business time in the follow-up email, call, or visit.

Client Onboarding

In some cases, the information you collect during prospecting will suffice. For other businesses, though, another client intake form is necessary.

In this case, you’d use it to dig deeper into your client’s needs and goals while also collecting required materials from them before work begins.

This is helpful for people who sell pricey services that take a while to deliver in full (like a web designer or business consultant).

It doesn’t always make sense to ask for things like a client logo or logins before a contract is signed, which is why another, more in-depth client intake form becomes necessary.

For example, this is a new client intake form that CRUSH 2.0 Agency uses:

It’s a lengthy form and covers questions related to:

  • General business information
  • Primary contact details
  • Current Internet presence (information as well as logins)
  • Marketing and design information (including logo and image uploads)
  • E-commerce needs
  • SEO details

This client intake form asks clients for everything the agency needs to

  1. Get the project started
  2. Complete it in a timely fashion

Step 3: Ask the right questions

Whether you’re creating one form or two, you need to figure out which questions to ask on your client intake forms.

This will differ based on the kind of service you provide:

Appointment-only service provider

If you work with new clients by appointment-only, then a brief form asking for preferences or specifications is all you need.

This would be helpful for businesses like:

  • Auto body shops or dealerships
  • Hair salons
  • Law firms
  • Real estate agents
  • Wellness clinics or spas

Here’s an example of a custom client intake form that Mountain States Toyota takes customers through during the booking process:

Return customers can sign in or new customers can provide the Make, Year, and Model of their vehicle.

What’s nice about this form is that the fields are pre-populated with options:

This way, clients can fill in their responses even more quickly and accurately.

That’s not all. It’s not just the submission of vehicle specifications that’s streamlined. Service options are loaded based on the information provided by the customer:

This makes the client intake form even more fast and convenient to fill out.

Again, this would be useful for any type of service-based business that works on appointments.

Not only can you better prepare for an upcoming appointment, but it spares your clients from having to rush through the form when they’re on-site.

Project-based service provider

If you work on projects for a living, then you’ll likely need two client intake forms:

  • Prospect intake form (before signing a contract)
  • Client intake form (after signing a contract)

The client intake form would look similar to the CRUSH 2.0 Agency example above. That’s because that layout is more helpful when you have to ask clients for a lot of things, from questions to file uploads.

A prospect intake form that’s shorter in length and really only asks high-level questions has more room for creativity and design.

For instance, this is the bottom of the homepage for Make Mention:

The “Ready to Get the Ball Rolling?” section invites prospects to take the next step, but makes sure they understand there’s a little bit of work upfront to do.

This Typeform intake form asks basic questions about prospects’ businesses like: “Do you have a subscription model business?”

It also asks about the company’s goals. Like the example above, the options are pre-written, making it easier for leads to fill out the form:

Also, notice the progress bar at the bottom. If you’re going to provide prospects and clients with a lengthy, multi-step form, this is a good element to include. This way, the clear end in sight can encourage them to keep going.

If you want to establish a good working relationship with clients, this kind of client intake form is the perfect first step. It demonstrates how well you understand their needs and also helps the both of you get prepared for next steps.

Step 4: Add other elements to your form

It’s not as though clients don’t know how to fill out forms. However, you might feel it necessary to include other information besides just a list of questions.

For instance, your form might need:

  • A logo and your company name (for brand recognition purposes)
  • Brief instructions on why you’re asking for this information and how you need them to fill out the form
  • Contact information at the bottom of the form (in case they have other questions or want to follow up)
  • A note about what to expect next (e.g. your response time, next steps, etc.)

Keep in mind that you don’t want to overwhelm clients. The focus needs to be on getting them through the questions as quickly as possible.

However, these additional elements would be a nice touch considering this will be one of your first interactions with your clients.

Step 5: Share the client intake form

Finally, you need to figure out how you’re going to get the client intake form into the hands of leads and clients. There are a number of options:

Turn your contact form into a client intake form

Similar to how the tattoo parlor above adds extra questions to its form for people interested in scheduling an appointment, you can do the same for your own.

This way, you won’t overwhelm website visitors with too many form options. Instead, you program the one form to adapt to what it is your prospects want to do with it.

You can use Wufoo or Typeform to do this.

Add the questions to your appointment or meeting scheduler

If you’re gathering up details prior to an appointment, combine the two tasks in one. In other words, when a client goes to book an appointment, you can ask your questions then.

Online scheduling tools like Calendly and Acuity will allow you to do this. You won’t have as much control over how the intake form is presented, but it will make your clients’ lives easier.

This is where you would add client intake form questions to Calendly, for instance:

What’s nice about this option is you have some flexibility in how you share the appointment scheduler and client intake form. You can embed it on your website or send a link directly to clients.

Include a link in your email signature

Whether you’re reaching out to cold leads or following up with warm ones, it would be great to add a line in the signature of your email that enables them to shortcut the process.

This is easy to do in Gmail.

Open your Settings and add the line to your default Signature:

Whenever you create a new email, it’ll automatically be included at the bottom:

This way, even if you don’t directly ask them to fill out the form and get started, the option is always there. You can, of course, include a direct link to your client intake form within the email, if you prefer.

This option can be used regardless of which tool you use since all you need is a link to the form.

Make your life easier with a client intake form

While you have to take time upfront to talk to clients about what they need and how your service is the answer to their problem, it shouldn’t require you to:

  • Spend additional hours every week answering endless email chains.
  • Waste your time on calls with the wrong-fit clients.
  • Chase down missing information or materials from clients long after they promised to give them to you.

The more you let your administrative tasks overwhelm your day, the less time you have to dedicate to paid client work.

Thankfully, a client intake form will help lighten your load while also improving the overall client experience.