As entrepreneurs, our goal is to have freedom within our lives. When working for yourself though, it can easily become addicting and boundaries can be crossed. You end up working way more than you did when you had a regular 9-5 job. I quickly realized this and had to make a change. I wanted to work in order to live, not the other way around. Learning how to automate my business was what I sought out to do. My first step was to do this with my CRM tool, Dubsado.
What is Client Relationship Management (CRM)? What are CRM Systems?
Client Relationship Management (CRM) refers to the process a company uses to interact with clients. Every time you interact with a client, it falls under “CRM”. Generally in a photography business, this describes emails, contracts, invoices, sending galleries, etc.
These day-to-day interactions with clients can become overwhelming when you are working with multiple clients in different stages of business. Thankfully, that's where CRM systems or Client Management Software comes in! Client Management Software allows business owners to automate large portions or all of their client interactions. Through email, contract, and invoice templates, you can seamlessly manage multiple client relationships in one place.
CRM tools also allow you to organize and create processes more easily. When working with customers, their client experience is increasingly more important to your business health.
Different Types of CRM Systems
There are countless CRM Systems on the market that allow business owners to automate different levels of their business. Some CRM options only work for specific aspects like sending contracts or invoices or reminding you what stage you are at with each client. Depending on what you need for your business, there is a CRM system out there for you!
My personal recommendations, and the ones most popular with photographers, are Honeybook and Dubsado.
Both of these systems offer nearly identical features, the only real difference is their client interface and graphics. When referring to these options, most photographers base their choice of CRM system on their personal preference.
What CRM System do I use?
I personally use Dubsado. Dubsado has been an absolute game-changer in my business and has allowed me so much freedom to live my life instead of being stuck on the computer all day. Instead of spending hours on my computer, stressing over what clients are at which stage of the planning process and rewriting the same email over and over again, I am able to send out emails with a click of a button or automatically when a client moves onto the next stage of my process.
I personally prefer the client interface with Dubsado over Honeybook. I've used Honeybook as a customer in the past and it just isn't as intuitive as I've found Dubsado.
I would highly highly recommend trying both before you purchase one over the other. All CRM tools have ways that you can try them for free before making a decision.
How to use a CRM to automate your business
1. Write down your workflow
The first step to using a CRM system is to figure out your client relationship management workflow. How do you interact with your clients? What comes after your initial inquiry response email to a client? Think about every single time you communicate with a client and write it down. This will guide you and show you exactly what your process looks like.
Here is a very condensed version of my initial workflow with clients:
- Inquiry response email
- Consult call
- Post Consult Call recap email
- Welcome Email
- Location/catch up appointments
- Gallery delivery
- Review email
2. Create Email Templates
Now that you have an idea of what your interactions with clients look like, start creating email templates in your CRM system. Think about the emails you send over and over again. Use those past emails to create a template that will allow you to quickly send out emails. Leave room in these templates to customize your emails for each client so that you are still building a relationship while also automating.
One of my favorite parts of using a CRM system is being able to seamlessly send questionnaires in emails to clients and have their responses saved in one location for me to refer back to.
Questionnaires are wildly important for my business. It allows me to really understand what my clients are looking for so I can provide them with the best possible experience and photos.
In Dubsado, you can easily create questionnaire templates that you can link to your email templates. These not only look great, but they are also incredibly easy for your clients to use.
Contracts, the least fun part of running a business. Contracts can be a pain to send to clients but Dubsado makes it easy. You can create a contract template for each type of session you provide, and when the time comes, you can easily link it to your client’s “project” and send them a link to in through email. These contract templates also allow you to quickly customize the necessary fields before sending it out. Once the client signs the contract, you get an email notification, then you're done!
You can also create invoice templates in a CRM system. Like email, questionnaire, and contract templates, you can create an invoice template for recurring sessions and have that ready to send out when the time comes. You can customize any necessary areas, add additional fees, and even include payment plans in your invoices. These can be sent to clients in an email link. When clients open the invoice link, they will see all of the charges listed (you can be as descriptive as you want) and a button at the bottom for them to pay.
You can also create email reminders that are sent to your client at desired times to remind them of upcoming or past due payments.
How does this help me automate?
The best part about using a CRM tool is you mainly have to do the hard work just once. You set all 5 of these items up within the tool, and now you've started a true system and process within your business.
However, CRMs have made it even easier to now automate. They have workflows within the tool that allow you to take all of the hard work you just did, and automate it throughout the client stages. It takes a few hours a month to make sure everything is flowing correctly, but you're saving so much time by setting it all up in the beginning.
I can not speak highly enough about client management systems. I used to stress about how to get signatures back on contracts, who signed, who paid, when payments from clients were due, and what I needed to send to each client. Frankly, I was a mess. Once I started using a CRM system, my life became much less stressful and I felt like I actually had my business under control. It is incredible what these systems can do and I would not be where I am today without them. I truly can not imagine trying to run my business now without Dubsado.
If you want to try Dubsado or Honeybook today, here is a link to each platform. I personally love Dubsado and how easy it is for my clients, but a lot of my photographer friends swear by Honeybook. You can’t go wrong with either one.
A New Hampshire + Vermont based adventure elopement and intimate wedding photographer team for the adventurous souls. We specialize in New England and destinations worldwide, empowering you to create the most beautiful, adventurous day and give you the memories you'll be able to look back on for all the years to come.
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