Project Intake Form Best Practices + Examples
- A project intake form can help agencies save time and resources by providing a standardized process for gathering project details and requirements.
- Using a project intake form can help agencies manage client expectations by clearly defining project scope, timeline, and budget from the outset of the project.
- Project intake forms allow for automation that make the service delivery cheaper for agencies, creating leaner business operations.
Many agencies and consultants work on a task-based basis. They give their clients the freedom to request new tasks that need to be completed. To make this process easier, a project intake form should be used.
As an agency owner, it’s not easy to deal with project requests if a proper client intake process hasn’t been set up. Clients often send requests via email, social media channels, or help desk tickets. None of those make completing requests any easier, especially if you lack a system to manage customer relations, and your team doesn’t know who is taking care of which task.
Another issue is that clients often don’t include enough information when they make requests. This causes a back-and-forth between both parties that could’ve been avoided from the get-go.
Let’s take a look at why you should be making use of intake forms, how to design them, and make it easy for your clients to fill out.
What is a project intake form?
A project intake form is a set of questions and/or instructions that has to be filled out by clients in order for agencies or freelancers to commence the project. These forms support different types of fields, for instance for file uploads, spreadsheet input, as well as date pickers.
The purpose of the intake form is to reduce the back-and-forth between service providers and clients. Instead, everything the service provider needs is asked in the intake form. Certain form fields could be mandatory, while others are optional.
Why a project intake form is a must-have
Standarizing project management with a pre-define project intake process reduces the friction between agencies and their clients. Instead of clients having to guess what an agency needs from them to complete a task, the latter need to create service-based forms that ask the right questions.
Let’s take a look at a few reasons why intake forms are important for agency owners and their workflow.
1. It brings consistency
As mentioned above, a client doesn’t know what kind of process an agency has set up to complete a project. This often leads to project requests that are incomplete, and the agency needs to ask for more information.
Asking the right questions streamlines the project intake process, so both parties know what to expect in the upcoming steps.
2. It delivers the right information
According to a PMI’s Pulse communications research, companies that employ effective communication complete on average 80% of their projects on time.
Only agencies can know exactly what they need from their clients to complete a project. Some fields of your intake form can be mandatory, while others are optional.
3. It allows for automation
Your current project management tasks might require some human input that could be automized. For instance, if you’re using the SPP.co client portal, you might want to give your clients the option to submit multiple tasks, but define a priority for each one.
One way to do that is to create a “Priority” drop-down in the service intake form, then give it three options:
To make this client choice visible in the order view, create a Zap in Zapier to check the priority submitted by the client, and tag orders automatically:
Trigger: Order data submitted
Filter: Only continue if Form Data Priority is Low
Action: Add tag
A similar Zap needs to be set up for the medium and high priority.
4. It saves time
Collecting requests from multiple sources would be a nightmare to handle. Not just organizing them, but also keeping track of client communication related to them.
Grow your industry knowledge
When all your tasks are centralized in your client portal, you have an overview of all projects you need to tackle. Priorities can be automatically set thanks to the Zap mentioned previously, and powerful project management filters help you further narrow down the important tasks.
Look at your past projects & collaborations
Before you dive right into the intake form creation, take some time to look at your past projects. Where did a constant back-and-forth arise, and what was the pain point of your client and yourself? You can learn a lot from your past mistakes, and avoid them in the future.
Of course, there are probably also projects that were delivered on time without any major hurdles. Take a look at those too, and try to find out why they were successful.
Create intake forms around your services
The power of intake forms becomes clear once you start creating them individually for each of your services. Let’s look at an on-demand graphic design agency.
If they’ve decided to opt for an unlimited requests service, they theoretically only offer a recurring service. However, the intake forms still need to be customized in a way that allows clients to request different service tasks:
Ads (Facebook, Google)
Social media (Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter)
Thanks to intake form rules in SPP, agencies can customize the intake form, and display questions based on selections the clients make. For instance, if the task “Podcast cover” is selected, show a specific set of questions.
Further reading: how to create an intake form
Work around software limitations
It often happens that agencies start designing their intake forms in a Google sheet, then they try to migrate it over to their service provider software. They’ll hit a snag because each software has its limitations. It’s better to be aware of them beforehand, and create the form around the limitations.
The previously mentioned form rules in SPP.co, while powerful, need to be properly applied:
all intake form fields are visible by default
with rules, you can easily hide certain fields
if you want to show a field when a condition is met, you first need to hide it
Check out a video from Alex that goes into detail on how to use our intake form rules.
One thing we noticed, especially with design services, is that those agencies have very detailed forms. They want to display a variety of drop-downs to make the selection for their clients easy. To make things simpler, we recommend putting each set of questions on one page, and show/hide it as needed. You can use the “Page break” element, and give each page a name to easier apply the rules.
Keep it short and simple
Have you heard of the KISS method? It applies perfectly to service intake forms. While many agencies want to design beautiful forms that capture a lot of data, take a step back, and ask the following question: how much project information is the absolute minimum I need to complete this project?
More often than not, agencies go overboard with their request forms. Not only do they ask too many questions, and require multiple selections from clients, they also embed images, animated GIFs, external resources, and more. All this does is overwhelming clients with too many elements, and it increases the risk of potentially breaking the form.
Use the right fields for your questions
Service Provider Pro’s form builder supports many different form fields. Some are universal, other’s serve a certain purpose. For instance, if you require access to a website from your clients, and need their credentials, use the password field. The saved data is hidden by default and is not included in confirmation emails.
Content writing agencies will most likely enjoy making use of our spreadsheet-style input; podcast editing agencies require clients to upload their audio and video files via the file upload field.
Automate intake form data
Many agencies are thinking how to automate the intake process. The good news is that SPP does a bit of automation already. For instance, if a service requires an intake form to be filled out, we redirect a client after purchase to it.
There’s also a mention on the receipt page reminding them that they need to fill out a questionnaire form. Should they fail to submit the form, we send an email reminder after 24 hours.
If you want to add more automation to this flow, you can set up a notice inside the dashboard that is displayed if an intake form needs to be filled out, like so:
Simply add the code to the clients/dashboard.html file.
One more thing you can do with automation is to send specific data to your CRM of choice. Depending on the selection clients make in your intake forms, they might show an interest in specific services that you can use to target them for upsells.
Related: best client relationship management software
Examples how to make better intake forms
After talking about intake form best practices, let’s look at a few examples.
Content writing intake form example
Assuming you’re offering a monthly subscription that allows clients to request a certain number of content pieces each month, you could create a service intake form such as this one:
The above content writing intake form consists of the following elements:
article title or topic
a word-count drop-down
main keyword and secondary keywords fields
a checkbox that activates a file upload field
Other fields that could be included:
a note field for additional information
a priority drop-down
The priority drop-down could be used to tag orders via a Zapier automation, as already mentioned.
Graphic design intake form example
If you’re running a graphic design agency, here’s a simple intake form that you can set up for your clients:
The above social media graphic design intake form consists of the following elements:
social media channel drop-down
image dimensions field
text to be put on image field
drop-down to select image format
optional file upload field for guidelines/inspiration
If you would like to improve this form, you could add a second drop-down to the social media channel one. The new drop-down could allow clients to select from a set of image dimensions based on the social media platform chosen.
Project intake form FAQ
What is an intake form used for?
Intake forms are used to define the scope of the project. Some forms filled out on a one-time basis (during the onboarding process), others need to be filled out regularly because the scope could change.
How do I create a project intake form?
There are a variety of tools and form builders that allow you to build forms to capture important details, such as Service Provider Pro. Intake forms are an integral part and linked to services that can be set up in the client portal.
What should be included in a project intake form?
Depending on the type of intake form, it should ask about key information that allows a company to start working on a project or task. With that said, it shouldn’t overwhelm a client, or ask the same information repeatedly.
Why do you need a project intake form?
Many companies cannot begin working on a project without specific requirements set in stone. Those selling recurring services also need new information regularly as their clients request regularly changing project types.
Next steps after intake form data submission
Once you’ve successfully set up your intake forms, what are the next steps? While those come down to the way you handle your business, here are a few ideas:
Assign the order to a project manager. Thanks to our Zapier integration, you can assign orders to a specific person once the intake form has been submitted.
The project manager, or any other person, should check the intake form, and make sure everything looks correct.
If not, reach out to your client, and ask them to provide the missing/wrong details.
If multiple people will be working on one order, it’s a good idea to have a task list that details each step (what to do, whom to assign to, etc.).
If you need any help or ideas with your client intake forms, feel free to reach out to us. We’re happy to help you get set up with your new SPP workspace.