The behind the scenes effort necessary to run a photography business can be overwhelming. Juggling leads, creating contracts, sending invoices, and verifying payments, keeping the customer experience as seamless and enjoyable as possible, etc. etc. Is your blood pressure rising yet?
I was using multiple systems (Google docs, spreadsheets, third party apps, printing cute templates from Etsy to name a few) to track all of my inquiries (some coming from Instagram, Facebook, my website, or email aghhh), contracts, invoices, dates available, etc.
I have four kids and a little bit of ADD to begin with and knew I would never survive this business if I didn't find a studio management system that would do the majority of this work for me. A system that had reminders and templates and access to help when needed.
Since there are multiple photography software programs out there, I had to first determine what requirements were the most important to me. This is my list, and how Sprout Studio met those needs.
1. Cost. I think investing in a good software program as a photographer is critical. However, I did not want to break the bank so the best bang for my buck was absolutely critical. Of all of the software programs I looked into, this was NOT the cheapest program. You can definitely find more affordable CMS, but I personally think for me and for my business, this one is worth the extra few dollars each month. I opted for the Pro Plan which allows me unlimited galleries and 200 GB of storage and it costs $49/month. You can try it out for 21 days with no credit card required and with this link you can get 10% off your first three months.
Are there other programs that are more affordable? Yes. But with studio management, online galleries and online fulfillment options, design proofing, bookkeeping, emails, templates, etc. I felt like this was more affordable than using several other systems to do what this robust system does all by itself.
2. Contact Management. I needed something to keep my leads organized with their contact info and what steps I had taken or needed to take within my client management workflow.
Sprout Studio makes it simple track leads from the initial inquiry up until booking.
It is straightforward and simple to create custom contact forms for your website and/or social media platforms so when a potential client fills one of your forms out, their inquiry is automatically in Sprout as a lead.
Once a lead is in Sprout, it’s also simple to track where you are with each particular lead. Color-coded labels allow you to label each inquiry and set up specific tasks needed for each incoming lead. See below my new lead tasks:
3. Money. Oh how I HATE collecting money. I mean, I like money, but I hate asking for it, pestering about it or even talking about it AT ALL with my clients. I wanted some place I could send them that would answer all of their money questions, collect their money and pester them about it if they hadn't paid. In fact, this MIGHT be number one on the list, but I don't feel like cutting and pasting my list right now.
You can create orders, invoices, specify billing and shipping details, taxes, payment schedules…I really can’t think of what else you might need with regards to billing. Here is a demo invoice so you can see what it might look like:
4. Email Integration and Automation. I had already been bootlegging my automation by copying and pasting my go to emails into a Google Docs and then copying and pasting it back into my email replies for leads. Having my emails saved as TEMPLATES that are labeled and one click away from being sent, saves me hours every month. Even better, is the automation feature where you can set up lead inquiries to AUTOMATICALLY get specific emails.
You can automatically send emails about different session locations.
You can automatically send the link to your calendar system to schedule a time and date.
You can automatically send email confirmations, contracts, invoices, etc.
I always send a “what to wear” email and a “what to expect” and also have links to a number of blog posts on my website as well to further enhance the client experience (and help my SEO!).
If you are interested in looking at some of my email templates, enter your email address below and I will email you a free copy of some of my automated email templates.
Really if you didn’t have to take pictures and edit, this photography business would just run itself! ;)
5. Booking Proposals. Prior to Sprout, I didn’t even do official booking proposals. I love how this straightforward process makes client communication about all that you have to offer very simplified yet very professional. I created all of my packages and a la carte sales items ahead of time (don’t worry, it will walk you through how to do this), and then every time I get a new client, I send them a proposal with the package and print selections. After clicking the booking proposal link in the email you send to new clients, clients are taken to a beautiful welcome screen where you can customize your text and include photos and logos. Clients can then see package options, payment schedules, contracts, and questionnaires.
6. Contracts (Etsy branded and printable contracts are cute, but paper clutter is NOT). I love that these are signed by all parties and saved in their portal so I don’t have to file them away. I can also easily refer to the fine print on a contract if the need were to ever arise.
7. Client Portal. When I was comparing software programs, this was unique to Sprout Studio’s software. Each client is able to log in to their own portal and access anything and everything they could need from their session. Once logged into their portal, the client can access their contract, invoices, galleries, emails, and questionnaires. I also like that if the client shares their gallery with friends and family, you can collect email addresses from all of the people associated with the client and it is a great avenue for additional marketing.
8. Online Image Gallery. I had been using Flickr or my website to deliver images. Flickr wasn't very mobile friendly and my personal squarespace website took 7 years to upload individual images. This was such a time suck and having to explain the ins and outs to every client was getting painful and seemed unprofessional.
I really wanted a system that had access to a gallery within the client portal to simplify my whole process and improve customer satisfaction not to mention show up like a professional.
I really love the proofing gallery and there are many different options for customizing the gallery experience in a way that suits your brand. The Sprout Studio Galleries have 12 cover styles, 3 thumbnail display types, and 2 color themes to choose from. You can also customize your watermark for your images, or turn it on (or off) for thumbnail images.
9. Questionnaires, email templates, and task reminders. I needed to stop re-inventing the wheel every time a new client would knock on my door. With the increase in leads and clients, I was wasting so much time re-generating communications, looking for documents to send and the right blog posts to refer clients to, etc. I needed things to be streamlined. Email templates were an absolute lifesaver, but I also love the access to questionnaire templates (I have a few you can download for free if you sign up below) for each of my different photography niches. Task reminders are very helpful in my workflow and make sure that no small detail is forgotten. I have tasks to remind me to do a sneak peek, Instagram story post, add to Planoly, follow up tasks, review request tasks, etc. So much more efficient than my mom brain to remember all of these details!
Questionnaire Template Library
I have many of my own, but sometimes use the reference library to create new ones as well.
10. Customer Support. I knew going in that any studio software program I chose would have a learning curve. I did not want to waste hours researching each little misunderstood step and needed guidance every step of the way to keep things moving forward. I have been SO thoroughly impressed with the quickness of the responses I get from the Sprout Studio team with any questions that come up. They are patient and helpful and will walk you through any bump in the road.
I would love to hear if you have tried Sprout Studio and if you liked it, or if you use a different software program, tell me and my readers about it! I love things that save photographers time and mental energy so we can focus on the things we enjoy best.
If you have any questions about how to use Sprout, or specifics that you want to know before trying it out, be sure and comment below and I will do my best to answer any questions!