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I’m Kyle! I'm an educator, husband, traveler, photographer, podcaster & Calvin & Hobbes fan since '85.
Here, you'll find a lot of free content wrapped around marketing, social media, entrepreneurship, and all the things in relation to building a creative business. So, if you want to learn more about taking your creative business to the next level, you're in the right place.
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A quick review of the 3 main current CRMs for photographers & creative industry professionals – and how you can get a discount on a couple of them. (Yes, there will be affiliate links in this article, but don’t worry – any of these 3 options will be just fine for you and your business.)
It’s just a matter of figuring out what’s the best fit for YOU and your business(es).
Let’s dive straight into this, shall we? Because I want to give you my honest feedback and take on three of the leading CRM’s for photographers (and heck, a bunch of other creative pros as well). And my reviews here of each will be very, very honest with you (as always).
First, let’s VERY quickly just say what a professional-grade CRM is. It’s a Customer Relationship Management software tool to help you keep on track with things like your client communication, quotes, invoices, contracts, invoices, payments, and calendar. So, with the right CRM software behind what you are doing, you could be very well on your way to a more streamlined business. And that’s the goal we’re after.
It’s just a matter of choosing the best one for you.
I will also start off by saying this: The best CRM for YOU is highly dependent on your unique business, your goals, if you are multi-passionate with multiple brands, if you have a complex studio schedule, and if you personally care more about certain things over others.
With no further adieu, let’s talk about the 3 different CRM’s: Honeybook vs 17 Hats vs Dubsado.
I’ve been using 17 Hats for a few years now. It’s good. It does everything I need it to. It helps organize my communication with all my leads and paying clients, it helps organize all the different projects I have (namely, portrait sessions and weddings), and it’s incredibly easy to set up client communication workflows.
It is very simple. It’s incredibly easy to set up, it’s easy to manage, and it’s easy to do what you need it to do. Period.
It has fewer features than guys like Honeybook and Dubsado (and others on the market), but do you really need those extra things? I will leave that up to you to decide. I personally feel like 17Hats is a pretty bare-bones, no-frills sort of CRM – but hey, maybe that’s why I like it.
PROS: Simple. Easy to get up and running. Does the job. No frills. I also absolutely love that you’re able to manage multiple brands from a single account (you might be multi-passionate like me). And I really like how I can just use my ShowIt website-designed contact form and have the information from there push directly into my 17Hats account without the need for a not-so-pretty contact form embedded there.
I also personally love how you are able to create a digital quote that has a required base-line (say, 8 hours of coverage), then you have options where they MUST choose at least one, and then they have the “optional add ons” where your lead can select whatever they want a-la-carte-style and up-sell themselves without you ever needing to go back in and customize a digital proposal/quote ever again. Pretty awesome.
CONS: No frills (notice it’s a pro AND a con). To my knowledge, there’s also no super streamlined lead tracking other than using “tags” in the back-end of the system. No fancy graphs or charts that spit back useful data over the marketing channels that are working best for you. (Dubsado and Honeybook now both have this feature).
OVERALL SUMMARY OF 17 HATS:
17hats functions well for what it is suppose to do at the basic level, but has it’s limitations in what it is capable of doing. That said, I personally don’t honestly think you need a lot of the “extras” if you aren’t running a high-level studio portrait business or I like being able to see the bookkeeping side of my business, and that doesn’t seem to be an option. And because I am a multi-passionate business owner (with multiple brands) who also really likes having a very specific sort of digital proposal/quote, that’s why I currently use 17Hats myself.
That said, if you aren’t owning multiple brands and you don’t care to have a super specific digital quote like me, maybe you should look into Honeybook. Keep reading for details on what I think about the Honeybook platform.
Full disclaimer here: I am a “Honeybook Educator,” but I want to give you truly honest feedback from my experience using the CRM, knowing the team behind it all, and knowing [some of] their plans for it moving forward.
PROS: SUPER easy to set up. INCREDIBLE customer service. VERY intelligent management teams. Big roadmaps. Big communities. Big support. It’s an incredible company, and the mission behind them is why I love them so much.
As for the CRM itself, it has a very clean aesthetic and it does all the things you could want it to do as a small business pro in the creative industry. Workflows, automation, calendars, bookkeeping, lead tracking, you name it.
CONS: As of the time of writing this article, the contact forms aren’t the prettiest – yet. But is that a deal breaker? I say no. Just have the form you create to be as clean as possible, and embed that on your contact page. Have your work and your personal brand behind your work be so amazing that they don’t care about something as trivial as a design of a contact form.
OVERALL SUMMARY OF HONEYBOOK:
I love it. I think it’s great because of its simplicity, functionality, customer support, and mission behind the brand.
And for Dubsado, I don’t really have a solid pros and cons list. Just some thoughts on why I didn’t personally choose to use them.
Well, with Dubsado – it’s easy to get caught up in all the hype that you mgiht hear around Facebook™ groups. And I personally believe that a lot of the hype has been wrapped around the fact that it can be quite “on brand” when designed well for your client portal.
That said, I also personally believe that for 9/10 of us – that doesn’t really matter.
And for those who aren’t very tech savvy, it might be a little difficult and confusing for you to get the client portal design just right. And over the past few months of, I’ve seen graphic design companies and digital consultants with specific “Dubsado Designer” sections to their offerings — because so many creative business owners struggle to get their portal looking and functioning the way they want it to.
Sure, I get the desire to want to increase the perception of your brand at every angle – but it’s my personal opinion that when a potential client is going THAT deep into your sales process – they don’t care what your client portal looks like (to an extent, of course).
Yes, the Dubsado CRM has a clean feel. Yes, it can look very beautiful and on-brand.
Yes, they have great customer service (but they all do).
Yes, they now have lead tracking (like Honeybook).
And yes, they have a solid roadmap. (They seem to always be adding something new – which is great).
But is it the right choice for you?
Do you just want something simpler, easier to get up and running (in my opinion), and follow the simple, tried-and-tested path of K.I.S.S.? (Keep it simple, stupid.)
Harsh advice from an acronym, but you get the picture. And it’s a solid question to ask yourself if you are trying to debate between the three.
I will do my best here to be succinct. Because when you are choosing a professional grade CRM for wedding photographers, planners, videographers, or heck – any creative industry pro… it’s really all about choosing the one that you will use the most, and use well.
Personally, I always error on the side of simplicity.
Is lead tracking SUPER important to have as part of your CRM? Not really, to be honest. Yes, you should be gathering that data – but it’s easy to do with a simple Google Sheet or Excel Sheet as your leads come in. (And yes, obviously this is much easier when done automatically through your CRM like Honeybook or Dubsado). But over time, you will simply know which lead sources are working best for you. Being off by a few percent with not having a professional-grade tracking software won’t kill your business.
Is having a gorgeous client portal necessary? I say no. And I say that because after using 17 Hats for quite some time, I have not once had any leads or clients complain about the portal, nor have any worse of a client experience. Simply put, they don’t care about the portal. They care about the experience they receive OUTSIDE of the portal.
Did you skip or skim to the bottom?
CLICK HERE to grab 50% off your first year of Honeybook.
CLICK HERE to grab 10% off 17Hats.
(I don’t have a discount code for Dubsado, sorry).
This review to compare Honeybook vs 17Hats vs Dubsado has been meant to be as unbiased as I possibly can make it. Yes, I am a Honeybook educator, but my review is as real as they come. And yes, there are affiliate links here, but I believe any one of these CRM platforms can do great things for your business. I just want to help you understand what you might need versus what you might want – and to help give you some clarity.
As always, please feel free to use the contact form on my website and let me know if you have any questions.
Thanks for reading this CRM review.
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