Shore Shooters and Mountain Escape work with more than 2,000 clients each year. Needless to say, our office gets a little crazy sometimes during the peak tourist season! When you are working with that many clients, you have to have a very organized system. Here’s a look at some of the software we use to keep our office running smoothly…
Over the past 10 years, I’ve tried out quite a few different appointment scheduling systems. I still haven’t found one that is perfect for our situation, but Acuity Scheduling comes pretty close.
The client side of Acuity can be customized to meet your needs by adding an unlimited number of input fields. These can include yes/no answers, checkboxes, dropdown choices, text fields, and file uploads. It also integrates with many email marketing programs, so new clients are automatically added to your email list.
The “back end” of Acuity can be customized in a number of different ways as well. We have ours set up in a way that allows our office staff to assign the client to the photographer that we feel is best for the job. However, you can also set it up where the client can choose the employee they want to work with, or the system can randomly assign the client to an employee.
After an appointment is assigned to a photographer, that photographer receives a text message and an email with the appointment details. They also receive a reminder text and email the day before the appointment. This helps me to rest easy knowing that it’s nearly impossible for a photographer to miss an appointment! Acuity also has an app, which makes it easy for our photographers to pull up their client’s information while they’re on location or on their way to the session.
Acuity works for any type of business that schedules clients with team members. Salons, spas, yoga studios, doctors offices, or any other type of business that offers appointments, consultations, or classes.
Acuity is great for scheduling portrait sessions, but scheduling a wedding is a completely different process. So for weddings, we turned to Táve, one of the most advanced platforms for managing creative event-based businesses. Táve helps creative professionals keep their business organized by keeping your quotes, questionnaires, and contracts (which can be signed electronically) all in one place. It also includes a number of automated features, so Táve is working for you even when you’re out of the office.
We have two different “brands” of wedding photography (Shore Shooters and Mountain Escape). Tave handles both of these brands in one account.
Táve is very effective at managing creative businesses, but it can be VERY overwhelming in the beginning. It includes a lot of features that you will probably never use or are completely irrelevant to your business. When you begin to dive into it, you’ll probably think that it’s WAY too complicated for you. But as you read through the documentation, you’ll figure out which parts you’ll need and which parts you can ignore. They also have a private Facebook group where you can ask questions. After playing with it for a while, you’ll figure out that it’s really not as complicated as it looks!
Client Proofing / Downloading / Print Sales
After several years with Pixieset, we decided to look for a different system last year. Why switch? Well, there were two main reasons…
- Although we were able to email the primary client by connecting our email marketing software with Acuity, we also wanted the ability to send promotional emails to all of the other family members who view, download, or order prints through the online gallery. Pixieset requires clients and their family members / guests to enter their email address when downloading or placing an order, but we could not use those email addresses for email marketing. We wanted a system that included built-in email marketing.
- We wanted to have both of our companies inside of one system, but with separate branding for each company.
After researching several different companies, we were most impressed with Pic-Time. They offered all of the same features we loved about Pixieset, while also having the features that were missing. Since we are unlike any other photography company, the Pic-Time staff connected us directly with their founder / CEO so we could work out a plan customized for our volume of business.
Accounting / Financial
I’ve been a Quickbooks user for nearly as long as I’ve been a business owner. For the first few years, I used the desktop version. But after Shore Shooters grew into other areas and I was spending a lot of time on the road away from the office, I switched to Quickbooks Online.
Many people say the desktop version is more powerful. And in all honesty, it does contain some features that the online version doesn’t offer. However, for my businesses, I’m able to get everything I need from Quickbooks through the online version. Plus, the online version allows multiple users from different locations to work at the same time and the information is synced up in the cloud. If my office staff enters something into Quickbooks Online, I can instantly see these changes when I log in from wherever I happen to be working on that day.
Acuity Scheduling integrates with Quickbooks Online, so our new appointments are automatically added to Quickbooks as soon as the client schedules their session.
Quickbooks Payroll can also be added to your Quickbooks Online account. This allows me to pay employees and contractors through direct deposit from anywhere. It also tracks and pays my payroll taxes to the government automatically.
So there you go! A look behind the scenes at some of the programs that help to keep Shore Shooters and Mountain Escape running smoothly. I hope these programs can help keep your creative business running as efficiently as ours!