Updated: Feb 19
Need some help managing all the emails, clients, contracts and more that comes with running a business? This is where CRM (client relationship management) software comes in. There are sooo many different software options out there for photographers (or any business owner) looking to get their client management under control and it’s cumbersome to pick through them, which is why I decided to do a comparison.
I went to IMAGING in Atlanta this last year hoping to get a hands on look at some of the well known ones, as there are usually several companies there, but there wasn’t a single company there showing off their CRM software, I was shocked!
I figured I can’t be the only one in this search. And based on the amount of times I see people post on Facebook asking who they recommend, this is a common problem. My research here and information I obtained is based on items I found important. This guide should help you get the basic jest of many companies, you may have to dig a little deeper if there’s a particular feature you’re looking for.
I’ve chosen companies to compare that I’ve seen recommended by other photographers. Some are aimed just at photographers, many are aimed at small businesses in general.
All are studio management software and all should be able to meet the basic needs of having clients sign contracts and keep track of clients. I believe all have it so that you can save your email templates, thus saving you time. Many, if not all, have some sort of automation for you as well. All also seemed to have questionnaires you can create and send your client.
Some support multiple brands in one account. Some will let you pay for multiple accounts, but you have to switch between them.
Some have bookkeeping capabilities built in. Some have it where you can export your info over to Quickbooks, but all have it to some degree, just some are more advanced than others.
All seem to have calendar linking in some way. Some to multiple types of calendars like Calendly or Google Calendar.
Many of my questions and focus are based on the things I need in my photography business, but I tried to get as much information as possible for myself and you to make an educated decision. Or at least make it easy to narrow down the choices you’d want to do a trial with.
Please note, just because a feature isn’t listed, doesn’t mean that the company doesn’t have it, they may have added it since I wrote this or I just didn’t see it off hand when I was researching.
**Some may have certain features only available with certain plan hierarchies.
-- they def do not have that feature
X they have that feature
Blank space means I’m not sure.
To me there are two types of CRM companies, those that target all small businesses and those that only go after photographers. Obviously, you’re going to have more photography related features with those that are photographer specific. So far, 17Hats might be the exception to this rule.
For one, they integrate with two photography related sites, Shootproof and Fundy Designer. And they were the only ones that told me they linked with Fundy. I know many people use them for album design and I think they also do IPS now.
“It is part CRM system for keeping track of your clients, contacts, and vendors including document control (online quotes, contracts, invoices, and questionnaires), part bookkeeping software, and more,” the 17Hats agent Australia told me over chat. “Plus, you can integrate with so many outside systems including payment processors, Quickbooks Online, Facebook, etc.”
Australia went on to say that photographers can connect and sync email, calendars, bank accounts, and contact forms to the system.
With a paid subscription, you can have unlimited brands and up to 5 users. The pricing is pretty straight forward, there’s no different tiers, it’s $45 monthly, $295 for the annual plan or $395 for two years.
One of my concerns is, if you leave a company, can you back up your client database and take it elsewhere. According to Australia, If you needed to switch companies or wanted to back up your info, you can export your contacts, but the contracts and such would have to be done individually.
I had a lot of photographers recommend this one. For me, the deal breaker was that you couldn’t use your own authorize.net acct—so it could feasibly cost me about an extra $500 or so in credit card fees a year.
Olivia Marie Smith of Bellemariephotography.com, however, says she is a big fan.
“I love dubsado and all that they do,” Smith told me. “They have so much in their software and they are always coming out with new stuff. They just released the scheduler which is awesome for mini shoots or consultation meeting scheduling. Their proposals and questionnaires are super customizable and I love how I can make them look.”
Christian over at Dubsado said that their software is different in that they can be fully customized and branded to you. This includes contracts, forms, email templates, and even URLs.
“Customization is a huge priority for us,” Christian told me via chat. “And we want you to translate your branding as best as possible :). We are always making improvements to our system in order to make your process smooth and effortless. A lot of what we are currently working on is a direct result of user feedback as we continue to service different industries and their unique needs.“
I was told they currently don’t have an App, but they are working on one.
There’s no time limit on their trial, you just can’t go past three clients or leads. It runs $35 a month or $350 a year. If you want to add on additional brands, it’s $10 a month. Plans cover up to 3 users, beyond that will cost you more.
In the event that you decided to cancel your account and go elsewhere, the agent told me that you have up to 30 days after you cancel to download and save all your client info, forms, invoices and contracts. Reports and address book can be turned into a CSV file for download. All forms, contracts, and invoices, however, would have to be downloaded as individual PDFs within each client project.
Demo video of Dubsado: https://www.dubsado.com/salescalls
This is another popular one among photographers. And it has one of the easiest setups if you’re coming from another company… they’ll set up your account for free!
“That means we take all your already booked clients and add them with their outstanding payments/invoices so you don’t skip a beat, plus add in all your pricing/services, contracts, and questionnaires so all the tools you need for future bookings are transitioned over as well,” Christian from Honeybooks told me. “What sets us apart would be that we offer mobile apps, which many of our competitors don't. We have 7 day live chat, so we're always there to help you out. We're rated high on our customer service :) Once you become a member we offer new member webinars for you. Also many of our members just like our aesthetics and how everything looks.”
On Facebook, I found a bunch of fans of Honeybook. “I did trials for a bunch and I found this one to be the most user friendly and the team at HB made it super easy to get started,” Jessica Patricia, of www.jessicapatriciaphotography.com, told me. “ I sent them my collections and contracts and release and they created the templates for me and I tweaked from there. It has streamlined my workflow and created consistency in my responses and correspondences including the minimum number of times I reach out to each client.”
Keeping my hard earned money is a big deal to me, so one thing I didn’t like about Honeybooks is you can’t use your own credit card processor online through them, you have to use theirs for 3% fee on credit cards or 1.5% fee on ACH transfers. You can use your own processor in person and then go back into Honeybooks and manually mark something as paid for. This wouldn’t be a big deal for my clients that pay me at the studio, but all clients book their session online and pay their retainer there. And many have payment plans they need to pay online.
Honeybook runs $40 a month or $340 for an annual plan. FYI, beyond the 7 day trial they also have a 60 day money back guarantee, if you do decide to sign up.
The other downfall is, if you leave Honeybook, there is no way to export your client information after you cancel. You can access your account as view only. Christian said that while your account is active you are able to download all reports and files.
“It's not as simple as clicking ‘export all’ though, so it will require some work,” he says. “We don't delete anything here at HoneyBook, so you'll always have access to your info. I do want to add, I'm a visual learner and many of our members are, so we do provide a YouTube channel with videos to show you how something is done on HoneyBook”
5 minute demo video. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UK0I0-gn2vY&t=1s
This system is made for photographers, just look at the camera in it’s logo. The brief glimpse I saw of it’s color palette, I liked it!
If you have more than one brand, if you can send IrisWorks proof that both brands are yours, they will comp you a second account. Otherwise, they’ll give you a free secondary account, BUT, you will have to log out of one account to access the secondary account. Some companies, like ShootQ have a little more fluid way of going between brands, by just pushing a drop down menu. But this is still a nice courtesy.
They do not have an app, but the sales agent said they are mobile responsive and many photographers save the homepage on their phone for easy access. (How to do that, here.) They are hoping to have an app in the future though.
I asked the agent Megan what sets them apart from other CRM companies. “We're photography specific, so all future development is done with the photographer in mind,” she said. “Everything is centered around the client. So instead of having a job/project that you attach clients to, you have a client that you book sessions with. Everything you need to know about that client is stored in right in their client profile--contracts, questionnaires, past sessions, notes, etc.”
Megan also goes on to say they integrate with many different companies photographers use.
“Our invoicing can connect with Paypal, Stripe, Square, and Quickbooks Online,” she said. “You can also sync an external calendar like Google Calendar, iCal, Outlook, etc.
Other than 17Hats, IrisWorks is the only other company I found that integrated with Fundy Software. You create your products in Fundy, import that into Iris and invoice from Iris.
You can also integrate IrisWorks with Shootproof. When you create a session in Iris, the client information is automatically sent to Shootproof, so you don't have re-type that information there. A gallery is also automatically created in Shootproof. In Iris, in the client profile, the gallery tab will take you to the client's Shootproof gallery. You will send your client the gallery through Shootproof.
“We now have a booking feature that allows for you to create calendars with time slots you can offer to clients,” Megan said. “A client can choose a spot and this can initiate a workflow which automates the sending of emails, contracts, invoice templates, etc.”
Iris Works runs $25 a month, you save 10% if you pay annually. If you want the option to allow your clients to pick time slots to book (to make mini session bookings easier!), it’ll run $35 a month for your plan or you save 15% when you pay annually.
They have a 30 day free trial.
In terms of exporting data, you can go to Clients > Scroll Down (lower right corner) > Export to CSV. You can do the same in Invoices.
Contracts are stored within each client's profile. You can print a PDF or screenshot those.
“Currently, we have the ability to store old accounts and all the information,” Megan said. “We won't be able to do this indefinitely, but, if you needed to get back into your account for some information up to a year after canceling, I am able to retrieve and send that information to you.”
Another thing to note, all the sites seemed to have a chat button, but the majority said their turnaround time was hours or a day. Iris works software said it gets back typically within 5 minutes and they were quick and efficient to get back with me about my questions. Customer service here was great.
Videos on IrisWorks: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCY4mBABn4oqRykiYO6ZXieg.
This company was started by a photographer and caters to this industry and other creatives. Unlike other CRM websites, I didn’t see a page that flat out explained all the different features. The pricing page lists some but I wasn’t sure what it all meant. For example they have gift card pages and gift cards. What’s the difference?
They also didn’t have a popup chat button to ask, like all the other companies featured. So I had to send them an email. I did get a response within 2 hours, so that was pretty quick.
When I bemoaned that they didn’t have