ShootQ is an online studio management tool that’s designed to meet the specific needs of photographers. We refer to ShootQ as our office manager cause it pretty much does all the work a real live office manager would do for us! It contains our contact list, accounting information, client records and a ton more. And the best part? It’s all online so we can access it from anywhere, even our iPhones. It’s a pretty amazing tool. Before ShootQ, we were up to our ears in outlook folders, excel spreadsheets, manila file folders and lots and lots of paper. We signed up with ShootQ in 2009 and within a month we realized that we couldn't live without it. Today, we wanted to share the top 5 features that make it such a valuable tool for us.
Calendar Management & Appointment Scheduling
The life of a photographer is a busy one. Between weddings, engagement sessions, new client consultations, networking events and our personal obligations, managing our calendar can be a bit of a nightmare. That is, if you don't have ShootQ. This handy program syncs our personal Google Calendar and business calendars so we can have an easy snapshot of what we’ve got going on and what’s coming up. When we need to set up a meeting with a client we can actually send them a meeting request from within the program by defining a few easy fields. Then the client can choose what date and time works the best for them. It factors in any conflicts on our calendars and only allows them to choose from our available dates and times. So much easier than trading dozens of emails back and forth just to schedule one meeting! And we never have to worry about double booking ourselves.
Email Tools: Templates, Scheduling and Correspondence Tracking
I love writing the same email over and over again, don’t you? Not so much! ShootQ makes us a ton more efficient when it comes to keeping our inbox under control and streamlining our correspondence. We set up a bunch of email templates for the emails we find ourselves sending all the time (like a general lead inquiry response and what to wear for an engagement session) and then do our emailing from within the ShootQ interface. Every email is tracked and linked to the client or lead, which is extra nice with there being two of us. This way we don’t both accidentally email someone about the same thing! A simple click of a button now creates the email we used to retype every time. After applying a template, you can still customize the message based on your relationship with the client or any specific questions they have. The templates can even be designed to fill in the name of the client and other important details for you!
For those that still prefer to reply to emails using gmail or another email program, you can still have ShootQ keep track of the conversation within each client's account. All you have to do is copy and paste a special custom email address that client's correspondence section and use it as a blind copy (BC) on the email. If you forget, a simple forward to the same email will do the same thing. It makes life SO much easier being able to see every detail you've talked about with your client all in one place.
You can also use the email interface to schedule an email in the future. Don't want your client to know you're emailing them at 1am? Just schedule the note to go out in the morning. We use this feature all the time when we set up a consultation with a new lead. Sometimes these meetings are schedule a week or two in advance and we'd always forget to send them a reminder. Now, when we schedule the meeting, we also schedule the reminder email to go out the day before so we don't have to give it a second thought.
When ever someone inquires about our services through our website or blog, we copy and paste the email into ShootQ and it sets up a lead profile with all the wedding/session details. It tells us if there are any conflicts on our calendar and starts to track our conversation with that lead immediately. We can easily categorize each lead, set up reminders for ourselves to follow up with them after a certain amount of time has past and event assign a star rating if we want to prompt ourselves to give them some extra attention. It makes the process so easy and helps us not to let our leads fall through the cracks if they don't respond right away.
Shoot Tracking: Client Sites, Contracts and Surveys
Once a client books us, their lead profile is converted into a client profile where all the information for their wedding/session can be kept in one place. Contact info, notes and correspondence, workflow tasks, package and billing information and even other vendors related to their shoot can all be accessed from one easy place. There’s A LOT of information to keep track of for every client and this flawless system makes it so easy to make sense of it all.
Every client gets their very own password protected client site where they can update information about their wedding, track the progress of their album, make payments and interact with us in a variety of ways. The very first thing they do on this site is sign their contract & pay their deposit. No more waiting for contracts or checks to come in the mail! It’s all in one quick, easy, online process that’s super convenient for us and for our clients.
We also use the client sites to send surveys. These surveys are an easy way for us to gather information for planning a couple’s engagement session or confirming all the logistical details, portrait list and schedule for the day of their wedding. There’s even a handy survey feature that asks our wedding couples to enter the contact information for their other vendors. When they do, it’s automatically entered into our ShootQ contact list, making it really easy for us to connect with their vendors before and after their wedding day.
Workflow (Task Management)
We're total checklist people – mostly because we're naturally pretty forgetful! The only way we've found to combat my forgetfulness is to be very organized. Before the days of ShootQ we would spend hours creating tasks in Outlook for each of our shoots so we wouldn't forget to do anything. It was horribly tedious, difficult to share between multiple users and a huge waste of valuable time. ShootQ allows you to create workflow templates with all the typical tasks related to every shoot. We have one for portrait sessions, weddings, engagement sessions, album production and a few others. You define how many days/weeks/months, etc. a task should occur in relation to a shoot or booking date and ShootQ does the rest. During the process of booking a new client, we apply the appropriate workflow template and BAM! All the tasks are created for us. No muss, no fuss. Now we know exactly what we need to do for each client and when, and every day when we log in, there is a lovely little preview of our upcoming tasks and what’s right around the corner so we never miss a beat 🙂
Seriously, we don’t know how we were getting by before investing in ShootQ. It has made our business better in a thousand ways. It makes us more professional, more organized and allows us to provide incredible customer service to our clients because of it. Wedding planning can be a stressful process so our couples truly appreciate the fact that we're always on top of things and make the process so easy for them. One of our brides wrote this in an online review, “Ryan and Denise kept us in the loop every step of the way. They would tell us what was next before I even had a chance to think about it and ask questions.” We can attribute that kind of feedback to that to the fact that we have such an amazing studio management tool.
There are a lot of options out there, and we've tried quite a few of them, but we've never found another that compares with the flexibility and robust features we have in ShootQ. For us, it’s worth every penny. Now in case you’re wondering, ShootQ didn’t ask us to write this post. I’m sure they don’t even know about it, but we feel so strongly about what they’ve done to help our business grow, that we felt inspired to share it with you. We highly encourage you to check them out – just CLICK HERE and take a tour!
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