You probably became a photographer because you’re passionate about capturing life’s most beautiful and memorable moments—not because you love the administrative work that comes with running your own business. Tracking marketing activities, appointments, sales, and scheduling picture days can be a chore. You need a powerful software tool that simplifies and organizes these tasks in one place.
That software is called a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system.
What is a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system?
A CRM is a comprehensive client management tool. It empowers you to effectively monitor vital details like client contact information, service history, associated costs, product preferences or wish lists, and a record of their latest interactions and current activities with your studio.
Simply put, it’s a powerful software designed to make your life easier by handling tedious admin work so you can focus on the aspect of your business you actually love: taking photos!
CRMs have been around for a long time, but photography studios haven’t used them heavily until recently. Initial CRMs were far too complicated to make sense for small businesses of any kind. Fortunately, today’s systems have become much more user-friendly and intuitive.
Several options are now available specifically for photography studios. Finding the perfect match can be overwhelming since every CRM for volume photographers is built with different features and volume levels in mind.
Even with a great CRM, running your business takes effort and dedication. You want to ensure the mix of software you use works together to make your processes as simple as possible. When researching providers, it’s important to choose which parts of your business you’d like to automate.
When deciding which platforms are right for you, here are some factors you should consider.
What Features Do I Need?
In the dynamic realm of volume photography, where capturing and managing a multitude of moments is the norm, finding the right tools to streamline your workflow is paramount.
As you navigate the diverse landscape of CRM options, you must identify the features that will truly make a difference in your photography business. From automated communication to intuitive order tracking, we'll explore the must-have features that define the best CRM solutions available to your studio.
Let’s delve into the essential functionalities that can elevate your volume photography business, ensuring a seamless experience for you and your clients.
Lead and Contact Management
Lead and contact management is the primary purpose of a CRM. You probably started searching for a solution because you are tired of all the sticky notes, text messages, phone memos, and buried emails you currently use to try and keep things organized.
Look for software that offers user-friendly tools to effortlessly create, import, and manage contact records. Additionally, features like contact tags, the ability to send emails to multiple contacts at once, and automated reminders prove invaluable in maintaining your studio’s organization and keeping client interactions well-managed.
Finding a CRM that streamlines capturing lead information is essential. Every CRM will allow you to input contact information for clients and leads manually, but having automated capture is valuable. Some software will create a contact record by simply scanning a business card.
Marketing Automation and Workflows
This may be one of the most valuable CRM features outside of contact management. Imagine the time you will save automating reminders for crucial marketing efforts like updating your social profiles and website, reminding your clients and customers that picture day is coming, and providing helpful marketing tips so the school or league can assist with your revenue-generating efforts.
Look for a CRM system that offers email templates for multiple use cases and an option to include them in automated workflows.
Workflows are designed to guide tasks and processes, ensuring no crucial steps are missed. From lead generation to post-picture day follow-ups, CRM workflows automate repetitive actions, sending reminders and triggering actions at specific points.
If you have an upcoming photo session at a school, you can set up a workflow to send reminder emails to your clients so they can prepare the students and their families.
Another great use for workflows is for lead capture and onboarding. When a new lead inquiry arrives through the website form, the CRM springs into action, sending a welcome email, letting them know someone is taking care of their request. Not only does this welcome email save you time, but it also ensures the client feels confident that you will address their request promptly.
The option to manage social media campaigns in the CRM platform is another great feature. Many CRM systems enable you to post on your social platforms automatically and even view reporting. Each platform has its quirks, so be sure to compare each feature.
If you want to learn more about how to market your volume photography business, check out our course here.
Invoice Management, Proposals, and Payments
Invoicing and payables can get highly complicated for volume photographers. CRMs play a pivotal role in streamlining invoice and payment management. Even though many of your sessions involve returning commissions to your client, there are specific cases where you would need to send an invoice. For example, you might photograph an event and provide all your images for a set fee, or you could handle the printing of banners, yard signs, window clings, and other materials for a league. Your CRM will let you record those costs and generate an invoice for the client.
Additionally, CRMs often allow for easy tracking of payment statuses, sending automated reminders for overdue payments, and even enabling secure online payment options. This ensures a smoother financial workflow and maintains a professional and organized approach to handling transactions.
Some systems even provide invoice templates for you to customize with your studio’s branding.
Having professional and itemized proposals can dramatically increase your close rate. These proposals ensure you and the client are communicating expectations clearly and can open important conversations early in the process. This may not be a make-or-break feature for you, but it’s something to consider.
Scheduling and Appointment Management
Calendar management is a vital component of CRM software. Top-notch solutions offer features like online booking, automatic appointment reminders, and adaptable scheduling choices.
Look for a CRM with calendar sync so that when you receive a booking, it automatically gets added to your Google or iCalendar. This helps prevent double booking and is very convenient when you’re on the go.
You should prioritize a CRM system equipped with robust reporting functions. By grasping the analytics, you can gain insights into time allocation and effectively monitor crucial client details, including appointment history, attendance trends, and payment records.
Contract and Questionnaire Templates
When you’re ready to scale your volume photography business, you may already have tried and true contract templates, but if you’re looking to switch things up or you’re just starting out, it is wise to find a CRM with templates. It will give you a solid place to start; just make sure they’re easily customizable.
When you’re ready to adjust the templates but lack confidence in term structuring and other contract-related language, check out our Foolproof Guide to Contracts and Commissions course.
Another feature to consider is questionnaire templates you can use to gather all the information you need from new clients during onboarding. You can refer to this information for marketing insights and opportunities throughout your relationship with the client.
The best-case scenario is that your chosen CRM integrates with as many platforms as you are already using as possible. It’s unlikely that you’ll find a perfect match, so focus more on streamlining lead capture, contact management, invoicing, and other high-level business functions that would benefit you most if you automate them. Carefully review the capabilities of each CRM or contact their technical support to see if the system works with a tool you are already using or has the potential to replace it. This can simplify your business and save you money.
The Top CRM for Volume Photographers
We went through the top CRMs for volume photography and compiled their features and prices to give you a head start in your search. While this list may equip you with the information you need to create your shortlist of platforms, we recommend signing up for free trials and testing them yourself.
HoneyBook ranges from $12.50-$52.80/mo and bills annually. They describe their platform as an “all-in-one clientflow platform.” The starter account offers unlimited clients and projects, invoices and payments, proposals and contacts, calendars, professional templates, a client portal, and basic reports. The upgraded accounts boast features like QuickBooks integrations and dedicated account managers. Regardless of your package, you’ll have access to support 7 days a week with a live chat feature on the site.
This platform is perfect for someone who wants a high level of organization and automation. With the ability to set up workflows that automatically update clients and triggers that remind you to complete tasks, it’s perfect for ensuring you don’t miss a beat. If you’re a sticky note and list creator, this might be the platform for you to keep all of your to-dos in line. If your whole day can be thrown off when someone turns on a fan and your notes go flying, it might be time for a CRM that handles task management, workflow automations, and calendar integrations.
What Others Are Saying
While HoneyBook has a lot to offer, current customers mention system blackouts, difficulty navigating the platform, and slow communication from support. Some reviews boast the ease of organizing contacts and contracts. With 43 reviews on Google, they rank at 3.8 out of 5 stars.
Dubsado packages start at $200/yr and go up to $400/yr with the premier subscription offering scheduling, automated workflows, and a Zapier integration to simplify all your automation needs. Billing can be done annually or monthly, with the annual option being the cheaper of the two. Dubsado claims to be a volume photography CRM that has everything in one place. Their main features include customizable client forms, simple online invoicing, personable automation, interactive client portals, and built-in scheduling. Like HoneyBook, Dubsado offers unlimited clients and projects in their basic package.
Dubsado is a great CRM for volume photographers who want to focus on their client experience. Every step of the process is customizable to make your client feel heard and long-term relationship-building with your customers much more effortless. If you connect with the phrase, “look good, feel good,” Dubsado might be the solution for you. Each customer will have a professional and personalized experience.
What Others Are Saying
Dubsado doesn’t have many Google reviews, but a quick search on G2 shows 4.3 out of 5 stars with 65 reviews. Reviewers are saying the platform is best for freelance-style businesses, with the flexibility of the auto-billing feature being particularly troublesome for recurring invoicing. Many reviews agree this platform is excellent for creatives working with project-based billing cycles.
Bloom has a free and paid version of their platform. The paid version is $29/mo billed annually or $37/mo billed monthly. The free plan includes up to three active projects, proposals and invoices, lead capture and management, one workflow, client image galleries, contract templates, deposits and retainers, one instant booking, client portal, various platform integrations, one automation, 500GB of storage, and ACH and alternative payments. The paid version of the platform allows for unlimited projects, bookings, workflows, and automations. The paid version of Bloom’s CRM for volume photography also upgrades the storage to 1T. Both versions of this CRM allow you access to live chat on their website and email support.
Between the vast number of integrations and flexibility of the platform, you can easily make Bloom work for you. If you are not satisfied with the number of tools you have to use to get your work done, this is the CRM for you.
What Others Are Saying
Bloom doesn’t seem to have a Google profile set up, but we found reviews from a G2 profile. With 14 reviews, the company comes in at 4.7 out of 5 stars. One review that stood out was from a long-time customer who’s been with them from the beginning, saying they’ve worked diligently over the years to add features to the platform that have addressed all of their issues. The most common feature reviewers ask for is more templated website options and SMS messaging. Several reviews are asking for email marketing in the platform, but Bloom has responded to those reviews, saying they are focused on the CRM and make it easy to plug into other email marketing platforms.
PhotoDay includes a wealth of marketing automation tools and many other benefits, making it a perfect complement to Bloom if you like everything else about this particular CRM.
17 Hats has three package options, starting at $15/month. Their Essentials Package offers standard CRM functions like contact storage and project details, online invoices, quotes, contracts, questionaries, email and document templates, online payments, online scheduling, and more. That’s a pretty robust offering for $15/month. You must upgrade to the Standard Package for $30/month to use more advanced features like workflows and bookkeeping. The Premier Package offers a branded client portal, advanced workflows, recurring billing, and Zapier integrations.
If you want to give 17 Hats a try with no commitment, you can start a 7-day free trial for any of the three packages. They also offer multiple date options for live demos and workshops at no cost. This makes the research process very hands-on.
What Others Are Saying
17 Hats has 194 reviews on Google and a 5-star rating. Overwhelmingly, the reviews rave about their responsive and supportive customer service. Streamline client management is another frequent mention in their reviews. Some reviewers on G2 mention struggles with syncing email and bank accounts and the need for a more aesthetically pleasing dashboard design.
How Can I Get Started?
The best way to learn about CRM systems is by watching demos, signing up for free trials, and researching. Your professional network and the online forums you regularly visit are also powerful information sources. Deciding which platform is best for you is a significant choice you should make carefully. This guide and other resources will reduce your worry and help you navigate the key considerations efficiently and confidently.
Be sure to look into the cancellation policy. If you sign up for a platform, use it for a few months, and decide it isn’t for you, you want the ability to cancel with minimal to no penalty. Most options don’t lock you into yearly contracts and allow you to downgrade if you decide the platform isn’t right for you.
Regardless of the CRM you choose, make sure you utilize their support. It’s easy to feel like sending in a support ticket means you’ll end up in a sea of emails the company will never respond to, but that’s typically not the case. Most CRM software platforms truly want their clients to be happy and have a great user experience. This means they’re open to feedback and willing to build highly requested features. Don’t overlook the live chat features and support ticket functions.
Take a look at the platform’s reviews before committing. You’ll typically see a lot of complaints if customer service isn’t up to par.
Juggling marketing efforts, appointment scheduling, sales tracking, and organizing picture days can quickly become overwhelming. By seamlessly consolidating and streamlining these essential tasks into a single, user-friendly platform, a CRM system empowers you to focus on what truly matters—taking amazing photos for your customers.
With the ability to efficiently manage client interactions, streamline processes, and enhance overall business organization, a CRM system becomes an indispensable tool for turning the passion for photography into a thriving and efficient business.