A little weird, fun fact about me is that I LOVE building systems for businesses.
While I love most things about building businesses, I would have never suspected that the organization and system implementation would be something I took so naturally to.
From working at marketing agencies, to running them, to helping clients work through their own processes, I have had a lot of experience in using different softwares and mapping out what actually happens on the backend to make things grow.
So today I’m going to break down one of the biggest, most helpful, most important tools I used to help grow my business.
A few years ago I honestly am not sure how I was managing everything. When most people start a creative business their main focus is the actual service –– showing up, taking photos, making designs, etc.
But there is actually A LOT that goes on behind the scenes to keep up with everything!
For example, a single client of mine will fill out at least 3 forms in their booking and planning process along with multiple emails…and that’s just for a senior session!!!! Can you imagine what’s involved in a wedding?!
I used to have all of my emails living in my inbox, I was making Google docs to try to keep up, and honestly I was trying so hard to not let my clients know how much I was scrambling on the backend.
Because of my experience in the agency world, I knew there was no way that I would grow my business to a point where I could increase prices if I couldn’t scale or manage a heavier client load.
I began my research into what client relationship management (CRM) system would make the most sense…and let me tell you, I had HIGH expectations after working with one of the most robust (and expensive) systems in the space with my clients –– shoutout Hubspot.
I tried a bunch of them, including Honeybook, and wasn’t that impressed. I needed something that would be able to manage everything but also feel familiar to the things I know people actually use (not just the things that sound nice and cool!).
Then I found Dubsado.
I loved their story. The founders are a husband and wife team that built the software and team while still keeping up with their daily life and I LOVED that. I saw so much of myself in them so I knew that I wanted to invest in a company that I believed in.
But as much as I can love stories, the things I spend money on need to be worth it and I wasn’t going to invest in something that wasn’t going to add value to my business.
Aside from the fact that the program essentially did everything I needed it to, they also were releasing new features and updates LIKE CRAZY. Like every other week. It was hard to keep up!
Now it’s officially been a YEAR (wild!!!) since I implemented Dubsado and I can honestly say that my business would not be able to run without them.
There is a long list of reasons why I love working with Dubsado, but I’ll break it down to the things that have created the biggest impact on my business in the past year.
If you like this post and have more in-depth questions, let me know and I can continue exploring the way I use Dubsado here!!!
When I implemented Dubsado last year, I re-designed my website at the same time using Show-It. By using Dubsado’s lead capture forms, I was prepared for the traffic and potential leads coming from the giant push I was about to make to the site launch.
Dubsado allows you to create different forms specifically for lead capture and you can embed them on your website.
I love this because I have 3 different types of forms (for seniors, weddings, and general) that all have different questions based on the event. Each service page on my site has the specific form so I make the process of getting in touch with me really easy.
My contact page has all three forms so visitors can “chose their own experience.”
When a lead fills out a form, they are automatically added into the system and a project is created with all of their information attached. The project is labeled with the type of lead and then sorted in the Projects tab so I can easily navigate to those who need to be immediately followed up with.
I talked about this a little bit with the lead capture forms, but Projects are Dubsado’s way of collecting and organizing everything that is related to a specific project.
For me, projects are each of my clients. This allows me to keep all contact information, email communication, form responses, session dates, notes, contracts, and invoices in one place. This is CRUCIAL to keeping yourself organized!!!
I loved being able to quickly prep for a call or session by having access to all of the important information with one click of a button.
For anyone trying to implement a CRM system, I always recommend starting on paper first. Write down every step of your process. When you have the steps, write down the emails and information needed at each step.
This will help you see the big picture before you dive into the specifics of building out your assets!
Once you have all of this, you can start to utilize one of my favorite features –– proposals and forms.
Dubsado allows you create forms for anything imaginable. Designers can use it for selling branding packages and photographers can use it to get information to build timelines…you name it.
These forms are automatically linked to the specific project so you always have access to that client’s information.
Within the forms, you can also build proposals, which allow you to attach contracts, forms, and invoices all in one. This is a complete game changer.
When someone decides that they want to book with me, I will send them a proposal with a short message introducing them to the document, along with a contract and an invoice (that they can quickly pay with a credit card) all in one link.
This was huge in setting up a system where clients could sign and pay quickly (using the integration with Stripe) without any issues or without having to exchange money at the session –– this isn’t fun for anyone and takes away from the experience in my opinion!!!
I use forms in every aspect of my business:
One of the other huge things that cut down on so much time was the ability to use email templates.
Within Dubsado, you can create different templates for the emails that you send over and over again. Say goodbye to copying and pasting!!! I use this almost every single time I send an email.
They still allow you to personalize each email before sending, so I do usually put a custom message in there but most of the information is the same!
You can add in links and contract properties that will automatically fill in when you link them to a project and keeps things really consistent, which improves your client experience x1000.
Any time I find myself copying and pasting from a previous email, I make a template. I would recommend this method so you don’t overwhelm yourself with templates OR spend time creating things you’ll never use!
My most commonly used templates are:
Along with templates, I have been diving into the workflows, which also cut down on time.
The only reason I didn’t set these up initially was because I know the dangers of automating workflows when you don’t completely know your system. The worst thing for your client experience is having emails, contracts, and invoices go out when they aren’t supposed to!!!
Now that I have been running things manually and have a clear idea of what systems are always the same and never change, I can feel comfortable about automating those parts of the business.
Dubsado’s workflows have a ton of possibilities and allow you to automatically trigger tasks once an action is taken. For example, once a client completes a contract and invoice, you can have a welcome “we’re official!” email go out to confirm their payment and your excitement.
Again, make sure to test these multiple times before implementing and turning them on!!!! Once you find the areas of your processes that don’t need your manual involvement, workflows will make life a lot smoother!!
Dubsado added the scheduler feature a few months ago and I have been loving it. I am able to set my availability within specific scheduler templates, attach forms, and send with specific email templates.
Because it integrates with my Google calendar, it will automatically remove my availability once I have an event scheduled (whether that be another session or something personal).
This makes the process of scheduling sessions a lot easier because there isn’t a lot of back and forth through emails. Especially in my busy season where I am shooting anywhere between 3-5 times a week, the slots fill up fast! It would be impossible to schedule appointments through email because anytime someone would confirm there would be a good chance that it would no longer be available!
Now I don’t have to stress it at all. With one click, I can send an email with all of the directions, a link to my availability, and the form with the questionnaire to design their session.
If we need to cancel or reschedule, I have the ability to do that as well. If someone reaches out and wants to schedule on a day that I’m already booked, Dubsado alerts me and doesn’t allow it –– which makes the chances of double booking impossible (whew!!!).
Overall, Dubado truly changed my business.
There are so many things within my client management that I could not do without this platform…and it’s only getting better and more robust.
If you are getting to the point in your business where you are starting to feel overwhelmed or you know that you want to GROW, you need a client management system. Period.
There is always going to be a learning curve with them, especially if you’ve never set up or used one before. I would recommend reading a ton of reviews, asking your creative communities, and trying out the free trials of each.
Don’t pick something just because it’s popular or because someone gave you a discount code. Get in there and see what is going to work specifically for you and how your processes already work!
Of course I’m a little biased because I chose, use, and love Dubsado so if you start their trial and have questions about it, I am happy to bring you all of my CRM knowledge!
My favorite part is helping map out the business systems BUT if you need help on the technical side of things, I can help with that too –– plus Dubsado’s support team is phenomenal. You can chat with them at any time and they will get your questions answered. They also have services to help you get setup and started.
If you found this article helpful and you are going to try using Dubsado, I would so appreciate you using my link to sign yourself up!!! PLUS, it will give you 20% off ON TOP of the current sale price!
If you have more questions about how I’ve set up the backend of my business or how I’ve helped others set their up, please comment below or reach out!
Here’s to growing businesses!
I’m Dakota, a Wilmington, NC-based photographer Helping engaged couples feel comfortable in front of the camera and creative businesses grow with purposeful brand imagery.
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