04 Oct Workflow and CRM software for your portrait studio
Choosing a piece of software to manage the workflow in your portrait studio is a big commitment, and worth getting right. Like me, you’ve probably watched a bunch of online videos and tutorials. You’ve taken advice from a few people using the different options. And you’ve compared the pricing plans. Now it’s time to take the plunge. Before you do, here’s my experience after a couple of months using Studio Ninja. Similar packages are 17hats, LightBlue, and SproutStudio. I’ll compare where I can to these other main players.
Studio Ninja sells itself as the easiest package to set up. Running a portrait studio (while you’re working a job, raising a family, and competing in the odd triathlon) is busy enough. And of course we hire our studio to other commercial photographers. So I needed something I could get up and running asap. I loved the colour coded workflows, which seemed pretty intuitive, and have the key feature of being completely customisable. I’d also looked briefly at Lightblue, which has similar functionality. The layout just seemed a little more spreadsheety than SN.
Workflows are really the core of SN. The sample workflows give a great steer to how it could work, while allowing the flexibility to define how it actually works for you and your business. It is here that you build your own set of tasks which are specific to how you interact with your clients, produce your work, and deliver your jobs. I’ve found them useful for keeping me on track and bringing some valuable consistency to my client interactions.
Again, all of the other available packages use workflow based systems. But the colour coded layout of SN just sat right with me. And while it’s only a minor detail, one of the quirks I actually like with SN are the corny comments you get when you complete a task. “To infinity and beyond, your invoice has been sent!”. OK it’s seems much cooler in use than when I type it here…
Ok I admit I got mildly aroused and kind of geeked out when I figured out how this works. So you can set certain workflow items to set off automated actions. This could be for example to send a contract when the client has accepted a quote. Also when you set up payment terms, you can automate reminders when the payment due dates have passed. This was my first big success with SN. I’d set up payment terms with a client who had hired our studio, and a week after I’d invoiced, I got an unexpected email in my inbox. “Hi John, thanks for the reminder, we’ve just paid your invoice”. I was like “What reminder?” Then I remembered I’d set the automated reminder for seven days. Result! And best of all, no awkward phone call or wondering what to type into an email.
Around the same time as I’d been looking at studio management software, my accountant was on my case to start using some dedicated software to manage my accounts. He recommended Xero, and when I checked SN I was impressed to see it was possible to link the two. It took a bit of fiddling to get it right, as I currently run my design engineering business through the same Xero accounts, so I had to set up the syncing in the right way so as not to double account some invoices and payments. But it all seems to be sweet now, and means all the business I put through SN is recorded in my accounting software. I’m still not sure if that means less work for me, or just less work for my accountant, but it’s less work for someone.
Next up was shootproof. I currently deliver all of my images through shootproof, which has been revolutionary for my portrait studio (if you want to know more about shootproof check out my other blog here) So I was glad to see that SN supports shootproof integration. I’m hoping this allows me to make best use of all of the email addresses that I get from clients viewing galleries, but I’ve yet to fully explore how this all works.
Invoices, quotes, questionnaires, contracts, emails, and branding for your portrait studio
I’ve lumped these all under one heading as together they form a nicely coherent, consistent, and most of all professional set of tools. The templates look great straight out of the box. Just beware you’re not applying the laws of the city of Melbourne to your UK contracts. And remember to change the email templates if your style isn’t quite “Hi Natasha, we’re SO excited to shoot your super duper wedding…” But with a bit of tweaking you’ll have a set of professional documents that would have cost you a major chunk of time/money/advice to develop. Consistently branded, with company details provided, logos, the lot. Very cool.
So go play. Watch the videos. Talk to your mates. Trawl the internet and the social media threads. Or if you like, swing by our studio and we can figure it all out over a cup of coffee. You might find that LightBlue or 17hats or something else is a better fit for you and your business. But me? I’m a ninja…