HoneyBook Review – Is This The Studio Management Software For You?
When you first decided to start your own photography or videography business, you probably imagined spending most of your time behind the camera, flexing your creative skills. If you’ve been at it a little while now, you’ve no doubt discovered that shooting is probably, ironically, one of the things you spend the least amount of time doing while running a photography business.
For any size studio, there are numerous tasks that require efficient handling, and the more streamlined your workflow, the more time you have to focus on the aspects of the business you love. Say what you will, but trying to run a photography or videography business without solid studio management software can feel overwhelming. There’s no shortage of options, either, when it comes to choosing such software for photographers; however, as you might expect, not all options are worth your time or money. Ideally, studio management software should be well-integrated with the tools needed to maximize efficiency and take you all the way through a client experience.
Enter our HoneyBook review. Having made the news earlier this year for their substantial financial backing, HoneyBook has established itself as a serious contender in the studio management software game, and they represent the one-stop-shop model, which makes their software convenient to use. The aim of this HoneyBook review is to examine HoneyBook’s features to help you determine if it will make a good fit for your business.
PLEASE NOTE: While we do maintain a partnership with HoneyBook and several other studio management software companies for the benefit of our community, this article is NOT sponsored and reflects only my views based on my experience regarding HoneyBook’s software.
HoneyBook offers a monthly rate of $40, or you can pay $400 annually; the monthly rate then averages out to $34 per month for a total savings of $80 per year. Regardless of the subscription you choose, you will get a free 7-day trial to explore the software and ensure it does what you need it to do. Because HoneyBook is one of several partners offering discounts to the SLR Lounge community, you can save 50% off your first year subscription by clicking here.
How do these rates compare to others?
HoneyBook’s rates are on par with the average for comparable plans. They live just on the pricier side of studio management software rates, but then you have to consider what they’re offering in comparison. Here are some of the price breakdowns for some of HoneyBook’s competitors. Because there are different “levels” of membership offered in various subscriptions, we tried to include comparable levels whenever possible:
- 17 Hats: $45 monthly, $295 annually, $395 for a two-year plan (and you can save 15% with the SLR Lounge partner discount.
- Bloom: $14-$59 monthly or get two month’s free when you choose an annual plan, which brings the monthly payments down to $9-$49, depending on the plan you choose. Bloom offers a free 14-day trial.
- Dubsado: $35 monthly, $350 annually. Dubsado’s free trial is based on how many clients you work with (the limit is three for the trial). You can save 20% with the SLR Lounge partner discount.
- Pixifi: $25-$50 monthly, depending on the plan you choose. Free trials vary on Pixifi, but you can get 60 days free and 10% off 3+ months when paid upfront with the SLR Lounge partner discount.
- ShootQ: In addition to a free option (for six jobs or fewer), plans range from $29-$80 monthly, depending on the plan you choose, or $24-$67 monthly (when paid annually). ShootQ offers a 30-day free trial.
- Sprout Studio: $17-$69 monthly, depending on the plan you choose. Sprout Studio offers a free 21-day trial to ensure they’re a good fit. You can save 10% off for three months with the SLR Lounge partner discount.
- Studio Ninja: $21.95 monthly, $215.40 annually, which averages out to only $17.95 per month. Studio Ninja offers a free 30-day trial, and you can save 35% off for the first 12 months using the SLR Lounge partner discount.
- Tave: $24.99-$49.99 monthly with additional discounts when paid up front. Tave offers 1, 2, 5, and 10-year plans. You can test Tave with a free 30-day trial.
Here’s a quick overview of the features we’ll cover in more detail throughout the article, including my first impressions.
- Set Up Dashboard
- Dedicated App
- Client Management/Workflow
- Lead and Project Tracking
- Booking Proposals and Contracts/Agreements
- Online Payments
- Managing Multiple Brands
- Proofing Galleries
- Other Tools to Enhance Client Experience
Set Up Dashboard
Getting started on HoneyBook is simple, and the user interface is clean and easy to navigate. After answering a few short questions about your business and business goals when signing up, you’re guided through HoneyBook’s features, starting with a dashboard to chart your progress (see above).
As time is money when you run your own business, it’s a welcome sight to see the effort HoneyBook has put into UI/UX. HoneyBook’s dedicated app is also an extremely helpful tool that is easy to navigate. Setting up the basics took very little time and allowed more time for exploring all of the features, which you can view through a list of samples on the dashboard.
Like its desktop counterpart, HoneyBook’s dedicated app provides their laundry list of features, including a community networking feature that allows photographers to seek and find second shooters, event planners, or even graphic designers in the area (in the event that your brand needs a new logo or a reboot of older assets).
As you’ll discover in the features to follow, HoneyBook has put all the pieces in place to increase efficiency in your workflow. By automating key steps throughout the process of managing your clients, this software makes it easier than ever to stay on top of practically every step of running your business.
Several of the tools in HoneyBook can be automated, from emails to invoices and payment reminders. The setup requires a bit more work up front, but what may at first seem like a “negative” for using HoneyBook will soon crossover to the “positive” side of the list once it’s finished. At the end of the day, on-boarding is not nearly as complicated as some of the other options I’ve tried. Having the ability to create workflows and automating many of the repetitive, day-to-day tasks is key when working with studio management software, and HoneyBook delivers.
Lead and Project Tracking
Every lead represents potential income, so it’s imperative that each lead be responded to quickly and efficiently. If you’ve invested at all through Facebook ads or other means to attract leads, then each lead matters that much more because you’ve paid to get it. With HoneyBook, the process of tracking leads has been significantly simplified, from the point of inquiry through to booking. For example, you can link HoneyBook to your Facebook account so that business leads created on Facebook lead ads will become new HoneyBook inquiries and show up in your pipeline.
Pipelines: Pipelines, the term HoneyBook uses to describe the stages of your project, make up the heart of the workflow in HoneyBook’s client management software. You can customize your pipelines so that they fit your particular process for working with clients. See the image below for a sample pipeline, which HoneyBook provides as a template based on popular features regularly selected by other photographers using HoneyBook. Several steps can be added to the pipeline (not shown below), including planning, editing, send gallery, feedback, and more.
Preferences: HoneyBook also allows you to categorize your lead sources and tag which types of projects you’re working on to help keep everything organized. This will also come in handy later when viewing reports to see where you’re spending most of your effort as well as tracking the success rate of your projects.
Notifications: One helpful tool comes in the form of notifications, which you can customize under your preferences. As you can see in the image below, HoneyBook offers several options for sending notifications and details for each can be customized. It’s a simple yet powerful tool, like having an automated assistant integrated into your workflow.
Booking Proposals & Contracts
Whether or not you’re familiar with putting together proposals, invoices, and contracts, HoneyBook provides a decent amount of templates to get you started, and they’re extremely easy to set up and customize. The best part is, each template includes a workflow that allows you to combine several steps (invoice, payment, contracts, and even galleries) in one automated bundle.
Here are some notes on HoneyBook’s invoices, contracts, and billing portal:
- As mentioned above, you can create customizable invoices from easy-to-use templates.
- Online invoicing makes it easy to keep track of each project.
- Like invoices and proposals, contract templates are available through your HoneyBook account and they’re easy to customize and send.
- Clients can review & sign contracts online. Because the contracts are part of an automated workflow, you can easily locate the contracts and stay up-to-date on when they’ve been signed.
- Billing Portal
- You can set up your billing for clients to pay either by project or hourly, depending on your preference.
- The payment processing fee is currently set at 3%, but bigger businesses may be eligible for lower rates based on the outcome of setting up a custom studio/venue plan.
- Allowing your clients to make online payments (even by mobile phone) using most major debit or credit cards, as well as bank transfers, makes life easier for everyone. No more having to collect and cash checks. You can even set up payment plans to collect multiple payments if you offer them.
- HoneyBook’s integration with Quickbooks is a big win for payment processing options in this type of software. Quickbooks customers with either the Simple Start, Essentials, or Plus QuickBooks plans can automatically sync HoneyBook payments to your QuickBooks Online account for easy management. For everyone else, HoneyBook’s bookkeeping tool will help you keep track of your expenses and measure your profits and/or losses.
- Again, to make life easier, HoneyBook offers a tax calculator for accurate billing & bookkeeping.
Managing Multiple Brands
For those who’ve split their business into multiple brands, HoneyBook has you covered. For example, if you wanted to keep your wedding photography business distinctly separate from your family or newborn photography business, you can easily do so by adding the “other” business to your main HoneyBook account. There’s currently no limit to how many brands or companies you can add to your account. This is great because you can still take advantage of all of the above features—setting up and using pipelines, integrations, templates, bank accounts, and other tools—for two or more independent brands all under a single HoneyBook account. It’s also very easy to switch back and forth between the different brands on your account. All you have to do is click on your profile icon and choose from the list of icons that drop down (will vary depending on how many brands you add/manage); you can even switch between companies using the mobile app.
Unfortunately, HoneyBook does not currently offer proofing galleries. After you’ve captured an event and culled and processed your images, you’ll need to use another service like Shootproof or SmugMug to share your images with your clients.
Additional Pros and Overall Client Experience
In addition to offering the helpful tools mentioned above, HoneyBook excels in other areas to make their service that much better.
Customer Service: Customer service reps are readily available online (business hours apply, but they’re available on weekends) with especially quick response times for email support during regular business hours.
Ease of Use: Even though it’s already fairly easy to use (with a bit of heavy setting up to start things off, depending on the complexity of your workflow), HoneyBook offers free training available via webinars, documentation, and real world examples. This is great for those who might otherwise feel overwhelmed diving in on their own.
Opportunity Feature: As noted in the “Dedicated App” section above, this feature is somewhat unique in the field of studio software management and can prove extremely helpful for a variety of vendors looking for extra hands to see a job through. Photographers, for example, can use this feature to hire additional shooters for a gig or, likewise, find other photographers who are looking for help.
Timeline Feature: You can create timelines through HoneyBook that you can share with clients and other vendors, which is a definite plus.
Who’s It For?
HoneyBook has been tailored to accommodate businesses that range from self-employed single-person owners to studios with up to 50 employees. This includes everything from professional photographers to web designers, and so on. With the multiple brands feature, it’s also great for companies who manage multiple brands. HoneyBook offers a studio/venue plan for larger businesses.
If you take the time to set up your preferences, draft your automated responses, dial in your pipelines, and take advantage of the integrated apps like Quickbooks, then HoneyBook’s client management software solution will do wonders for your business and help you accomplish the afore-mentioned goal of spending less time behind a desk and more time behind the camera. The ease of use for the powerful range of tools offered make HoneyBook an easy recommendation for photographers looking to take their business up a level.
If you’re interested in trying HoneyBook for yourself, SLR Lounge community members can enjoy a 50% discount. Simply follow this link to check out from Honeybook’s store with the discount already applied.
If you’re already using HoneyBook, we’d love to hear about your experience! Is it living up to your expectation? Is it allowing you to focus on other aspects of your business and create additional revenue? Tell us below!