Nerd alert: creating a client intake process

What happens when someone is interested in your services? Do you get a Facebook message in your “other” folder or an email sent to your already hectic inbox? Is it then your responsibility to respond with instructions to fill out an attached PDF?

When starting out, so many business owners rack up a high email count going back + forth with leads. They spend a good chunk of their time trying to figure out what the person is looking for, if they’re a good fit + what time they can both talk over the phone or Skype.

There’s a better way

I fully understand wanting to vet folks before agreeing to work with them, but if someone is interested in having a conversation with me about their project, I have no issues spending 30 minutes of my time after they have spent at least that much of theirs giving me information.

Anyone interested in working with tiny blue orange is routed to a questionnaire that asks very specific questions about their project needs. Those questions help give me a baseline for what the project is about so that our phone call is only for specific details + answering unique questions to the project. And the best part is that this time-saving process is pretty painless to set up!

Asking the right questions

The first part in your new intake process is to know exactly what questions you want to ask. If you already have a PDF questionnaire, you’re ready to create your form. If not, think about all of the questions that you ask whenever someone wants to get a quote from you or before you agree to a project.

Do you ask about timelines, budget, feature requests, color preferences, if they know how to use Dropbox? Start brainstorming these questions + then order them in a way that makes sense. (i.e. start with the basics — name, business name, email address — and then move on to project specifics.)
Armed with your questions, you’ll want to set up your questionnaire directly on your website. Now before you yell at me about how beautiful your PDF looks, hear me out. I used PDFs for years because I loved the control that I had over them + how branded they were. And then I had my logo redone, only to realize that i now had to update 6 PDF documents to match the new brand. I was already updating my website, so why repeat the effort? Plus, it saved me the steps of having to explain how to fill out the PDF on their computer if someone wasn’t familiar with that. And when you implement a questionnaire on your website, you are keeping visitors right where you want them — on your website.

My favorite tool for this job is a plugin called Gravity Forms, simply because of the features that they provide. I can set up complicated questionnaires + offer to add folks to my mailing list automatically based on a little bit of setup. Plus they make the next step so easy, you don’t have to be a nerd to do it.

Whatever option you use, set up the form so that the responses are emailed directly to you so that you can review them before you have a call with your new lead.

Schedule a call without sending a single email

After someone fills out your questionnaire, it’s time to schedule a call. Ditch the back-and-forth of “What time works for you” “Oh, I can’t do afternoons, what about tomorrow morning” “Sorry, i have an appointment that day, what about…” and get yourself set up with a calendaring system like Calendly or Acuity. They have affordable plans or free options + allow you to sync with your personal calendars so that clients can only schedule calls with you.

With a calendaring system ready for use, this is where the magic of your intake process starts to happen.

First, embed the calendar directly onto your site (again, keep site visitors where you want them.) Most calendaring systems have an embed code feature, so grab the code from your account + paste it into a new page on your site.

You may also want to type out some instructions at the top of the page for how to use the embedded calendar. Give the page an easy to remember name so that if someone needs to book a call with you apart from your questionnaire, you don’t have to log into your site to remember it.

Go back to your questionnaire to make one final edit — redirect the person who has completed the form to your calendar page. That way, the second they are done filling out your specific questions, they are assigned the task of picking a time that works for them based on your schedule. All of this is happening while you are working on current projects or reviewing the answers to their questionnaire.

Refining your process

With any new process, I always recommend testing it for yourself. That way you can see both sides + make any tweaks or adjustments so that you love the results + know that it’s crystal clear to those filling it out.

From there, make your new process live + keep an eye out for ways to improve it even more for your potential clients + your business. For example, do you require EPS logo files as a first step to working together? Maybe work a file upload question right into your questionnaire so you don’t have to wait for that file to start. Or you might find yourself asking the same question on 80% of your calls + work it into the questionnaire so you no longer have to take time out of the call to ask it. I’ve even seen clients start to implement “what to expect” steps + downloads along the way so that the lead knows what is coming up so they can prepare for it.

But really, your client intake process can be a matter of 3 simple steps — fill out the questionnaire, schedule the call, have the call — with you needing to be involved for the last of those steps only. And if you’re the type of person that wants to make sure folks have the right budget +/or timeline before agreeing to a call, set up a conditional form (which is geek speak for saying something like “if they answer the budget question with anything less than $5,000, route them to this thank you page”) + send them to a page that thanks them for their answers + you’ll be in touch after you review them. Then you can reply via email after receiving the form submission.

It’s a matter of making the intake process do work for you + remove time wasters, like finding a good time to have a call or answering questions ahead of time, so you can run your business efficiently.

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