Intake forms are usually the first professional exchange between a nutritionist and a new client. They not only serve to collect information, but also give the client a first impression of what they can expect from their practitioner.
Having poorly designed intake forms can leave you feeling less confident, and your clients will notice that. Taking the time to build great intake forms can allow you to help your clients much more effectively.
It is so important to ensure your intake forms are nothing less than spectacular. To get you from zero to hero, we've put together this simplified step-by-step guide on how to build great intake forms for your practice. Let's dive right in!
Step 1: Choose Your Format
The way that your clients receive the forms will determine how compliant they will be in filling them out, and how you will keep this information organized.
When it comes to intake forms, there are three different formats to choose from: online forms, printed forms and fillable PDF forms. Let's go over the pros and cons of each of these formats:
Pros of online forms:
- Simple to build with little or no design required
- Easy to send with a single click
- Sending can be automated, which is helpful as your business grows
- Easy for clients, so they are more likely to fill them out properly and on time
- Easy to organize as information gets added to client’s file and stored online
Cons of online forms:
- Requires a subscription to practice management software
- Not ideal for clients who have little or no computer access
- Not ideal for clients who aren't tech savvy
Pros of printed forms:
- Easy for clients who don't have access to the internet
- Easy for clients who aren't tech savvy
Cons of printed forms:
- More difficult to build as they require design
- Lower compliance as clients may not have access to a printer or may lose the forms
- No automation (you will have to provide the forms to each client)
- Requires manual filing and physical files to be stored
Fillable PDF Form
Pros of fillable PDF forms:
- Simple to send and receive via email
- Easy for most clients so they are more likely to fill them out properly and on time
Cons of fillable PDF forms:
- Difficult to build as they require design customization and multiple steps
- No automation, you will have to send the forms to each client
- Requires manual filing, and an organized digital file system
- Not ideal for clients with little or no computer access
- Not ideal for clients who are not tech savvy
When you are building the foundation of how you will run your practice, it’s important to consider not just where you are but where you want to go. Even if you are starting with 5 clients, who are happy to fill out paper forms, keep in mind how you will grow and scale your business as you get busier.
In our experience, practitioners who grow their practice eventually realize they need to convert to online practice management software in order to scale. Moving from a paper-based system to an online system takes a lot of time and energy. Because of this, we recommend setting up online forms, online booking, and online billing from the very beginning. You will need to use practice management software to do this but the benefits far outweigh the cost. Better, OutSmart and NutriAdmin are some platforms built with nutritionists in mind.
When it comes to choosing the format of your intake form, our best advice is to look ahead, think big and adopt a mindset of abundance. Design the life you want to live!
Step 2: Deciding What to Ask
Great intake forms should be condensed yet concise. Don’t give your client an overwhelming questionnaire that will take them 2 hours to complete (because they won’t).
Keep it simple, with the following:
- Client contact information (address, phone number, etc.)
- Client personal information (birthday, gender identity, etc.)
- Goals and expectations for working with you
- Health history (illnesses, pregnancies, etc.)
- Diet history (previous diets attempted, eating disorder history, etc.)
- Current health status (weight, medications, etc.)
- Current diet information (typical breakfast/lunch/dinner/snacks)
- Dietary restrictions (preferences, ethics, allergies, etc.)
If you work within a niche, include specific questions related to it. For example, if you work with women on hormone balancing, include a section about their menstrual cycle.
You don't want your clients to be answering questions that aren't relevant to why they booked an appointment with you, so be mindful of information you can easily cover during the client's actual intake appointment.
Step 3: Designing Your Forms
If you are using practice management software, designing your forms is as simple as uploading your logo, contact information and adding/editing the questions themselves. You won’t need to do anything else.
If you are building your own forms, you will want to include the following:
- Business name
- Your logo
- Your contact information
- Brief instructions on how to complete and submit the forms (including when you need the form submitted by)
If you opt to go the printed or PDF intake form route, you can hire help or take advantage of some great DIY resources available.
Canva is a great web-based program that will allow you to design intake forms and more. It’s totally free and easy to use. Check out nutritionist Vanessa Baron's tutorial on creating client intake forms using Canva here.
To create PDF forms that your clients can fill out on their computers, you will need to do a little more work. Vanessa Baron also has a video tutorial on creating a fillable PDF online for free, check that out here.
Step 4: Sending Your Forms & Timing
Now that you have built a great intake form, make sure you use them effectively. Ensure your clients provide you with their completed intake form prior to their initial consultation. This will give you time to review so you can feel organized and prepared going into the consultation. First impressions are everything and you want to make sure you deliver a great experience.
If you offer a complimentary "Meet & Greet" before booking a full consultation, have the potential client fill out intake forms before that appointment. This will give you better insight into who they are, so you can better communicate your value. It also shows how serious they are about working with you. Note: Even if they do not become a client right away, you can use this information to target future marketing efforts, which may motivate them to work with you down the road.
Building an Intake Form Summary:
- Pick a format (online, print or PDF)
- Decide on what to ask (keep it simple and concise)
- Design the form
- Send the form with proper timing
- Use the information to deliver a highly valuable experience
If you have great forms or tips on how to use intake forms like a pro, we'd love for you to share your experience with us in the comments below! Or, if you are in the process of building your own forms, let us know if this guide was helpful and if you'd like to see more posts like this.