When you first pick up a camera, you don't realize everything involved with being a photographer and taking on clients. To be a photographer, all you technically need is a camera. But to run a photography business, you quickly fall into an endless rabbit hole of services you need to make your business successful.
A way to deliver photos to your clients in a way that they can download, or purchase downloads (a gallery service).
A way to accept payments via invoices, and send & sign contracts (a CRM).
A way to keep track of who you're meeting when, to avoid double booking.
A way to communicate with new leads, current clients, and past clients.
As you get a little further on in your business, you'll find new needs to fill.
You discover you need:
A way for clients to select and purchase prints and products.
A way to advertise sales on services and prints to a list of past, present, and potential clients.
A way to let clients choose an available date from your calendar for a session or meeting without a lot of back and forth.
A way to automate parts of your process in order to get back time.
A way to send questionnaires to collect information from clients.
Sprout is by Photographers, for Photographers. It is a service that lets you do all of these things you need to run your business, all under one roof.
What is a CRM?
CRM stands for Customer Relationship Management. This is what all sizes of businesses use to keep track of their customers, their profits, and all the backend details of running a business. It is a website or software that keeps all of the details of your dealings with customers in one place.
Why Sprout Studio?
Sprout takes the place of your CRM, your gallery service, your scheduler, your email marketer, and more.
Accept payments (processed through Square, Stripe, or Paypal
Send automated emails.
Access a library of templates for emails, contracts, workflows, and more.
Sync your calendar.
Create an online portal for your clients where they can find their contracts, invoices, and galleries.
Creating booking proposals where potential clients are directed through a step by step booking process.
Add a contact form to your website that sends new leads directly into your CRM.
Let clients use coupons and credits.
Create custom workflows that generate automations to run, such as sending an email after booking, or 2 days before a shoot.
Track expenses and view reports.
Track your mileage for each shoot.
Get a double booking warning when you schedule overlapping events.
Give your suggested pricing for print products, based on a unique algorithm cost of goods, profit, and time involved.
Send questionnaires to collect info, including conditional questions that only appear based on a previous answer (like if a client selects wedding they'll see questions about their date and venue, if they select senior from a dropdown they'll be asked their school and hobbies).
Let clients see a calendar with dates you are unavailable blocked out, customizable every time, like if you'd like to schedule a meeting but only offer dates within the next week. Or let potential clients choose a timeslot for a mini session, sign, and pay.
Send out email blasts to your mailing list with designer templates for a beautiful presentation in their inbox.
Choose from a library of templates for designer emails, and just about everything else.
Create drip campaigns, like a series of emails that are automatically sent to a client between their booking and wedding date.
Notify your entire email list of a sale in just a few clicks.
Import your entire mailing list from another service using a CSV in just a few clicks, including merging duplicate contacts.
Create payment plans for your clients with retainers, and invoices broken up over the time period you set.
Create beautiful galleries for your clients to view, download, and purchase their images.
Add automatic watermarks to images.
Let clients purchase through the gallery and receive a print order from WHCC, without you ever having to lift a finger. Or chose your amount of control. Turn on manual acceptance for lab fulfillment, have clients prints shipped to your house (I love this for my own piece of mind), or let clients place orders for you to fulfill at your lab of choice.
Let clients visualize their prints on their walls, including the ability to upload a photo of your clients room or choose from a library of stock photo rooms.
Take your clients through an IPS slideshow of their photos, where they can even narrow down their favorites for purchase using a fun game-like system for selecting.
Send your clients proofs of their album design and let them make notes and send back.
And of course view all of your reports and analytics of how your business is performing.
But Most Importantly...
Sprout just seems like family. They run a Facebook community where the employees and customers are interacting, asking questions, talking, and sharing gifs in response. It's so casual and fun. The CEO, Bryan Caporicci, is right there in the group and often the first to respond to questions and concerns.
But coming from Shootproof/Tave most recently before Sprout, it was such a breath of air to find a company who puts customers first. They legitimately feel like your personal business cheerleaders and you just don't get that feeling anywhere else! They want to see you succeed. The Sprout employees are helpful, kind, friendly, funny, involved, and they LISTEN. The other companies don't do this. You can be with a company for years saying, eventually they're going to solve the issues I'm having, eventually they'll come out with the features I'm wanting. And eventually you give up. With Sprout, they want what you want.
I've witnessed as requests have been made for features and they've replied that it's not an easy fix, and then made the change 2 days later. And that's kinda just who they are.
What's With The "Almost"? What Can Sprout Not Do?
Sprout does not replace your website. Wix is my favorite website builder (the whole "Wix sites can't have good SEO" thing is hogwash). I switched from Wix to Photobiz last year in hopes of a full service CRM, gallery service, websites all under one roof. I hated it. The customization just wasn't there. Then I found Sprout. Turns out it is possible to do all the things listed above successfully, you'll just need someone else for your website. Trust me it's better this way.
There are also a few features that Sprout is still working on. This includes 2 way emailing. You can send emails in Sprout, but not receive. It's a bummer, but they're aware it's a feature the people want and I have faith that they'll roll it out as soon as they can.
Some features, like payment plans, are possible but require more manual entry that they have to. Hopefully there will be changes to make things like this easier in the future, and in the meantime it still definitely gets the job done.
How Does Sprout Compare to.... *insert your current CRM/Gallery here*?
You can find an amazing list for comparing services here. I've used Pixieset, Zenfolio, Photobiz, Shootproof, and Tave in the past, and Sprout is hands down the best, and just makes you feel good.
How Do I Know I'll Like It?
Start a 14 day free trial and experience everything for yourself! The sky is the limit, just about the only thing you can't do on the trial is send out a email blast to your whole mailing list just yet.
Who Is Sprout Best For?
Sprout is best for you if you love the idea of running your entire photography business with one service and have been searching for a way to do so. If you are married to a particular company for galleries, contracts, etc, and aren't willing to let Sprout do those things for you, you're probably going to be disappointed. It's made to be an all in one solution, not to supplement other services. It functions best as an all-in-one.
Which Sprout Plan Do I need?
Lite & Basic are both pretty limited in their number of sessions. If you are just starting out and don't have a steady client base yet, they may be just what you need. But be aware, they only allow clients to download photos in high resolution, not full. But if you are a full time professional, the Pro package is the absolute best fit for you. Studio is only necessary if you are a high volume studio. Pro includes 3 Users and 2 Brands. Users would be if, for instance you had a business partner who needed access to their upcoming shoots. Brands would be if you have multiple businesses and need to keep all the names, logos, email signatures, etc separate. Pro will be the best fit the majority of businesses. But if you're still not sure, you can find the full list of differences here.
Need a Payment Processor?
I love Square. It connects directly to Sprout, processes my cards, and acts as my business bank account. I can bring my Square card reader in my camera bag to accept session fees or tips and it all goes to a centralized account. I love that I can organize by checking and savings accounts and can automate a percentage of every transaction go into savings folder like "Sales Tax" or "Gear Lust". The savings account even accrues interest! They do charge a fee for each transaction to process cards, but this is standard across the board. This is a necessary cost of doing business in this day and age. But you can use my link to have no fees on your first $1000 processed.
I Like The Idea, But I'm Not Techie At All. Will I Be Overwhelmed?
Two words: Sprout School. They have an entire video series that walks you through everything you need to do to get setup! Binge it or take it at your leisure! There is a lot to learn coming in, especially if you've never used a CRM before, but between Sprout School, the live chat support, and the Facebook group (which contains employees who can answer your support questions), you're setup for success in the learning process. And once you learn it will come second nature and you'll be saving so much time in your business, you'll be wondering where it's been hiding all this time.
Okay, I'm Just About Sold On Sprout! What Do I Do Next?
If you're not 100% sure yet, start with a 14 day free trial here. Then once you've gotten acquainted with the features and made sure you love it, use my link for 20% off your annual plan, or 20% off your first month of the monthly plan. Obviously the best deal is the annual plan, that's why I recommend enjoying the free trial so you can make sure it's the best option for you before committing for the year. Once you're signed up, join us over at the Sprout Studio Community Facebook Group where you can ask other members all the questions you need to get setup.
Why Should I Trust You? Are You Getting Kick Backs For Saying All This?
As soon as I joined Sprout I immediately fell in love. It was, no joke, life changing. I couldn't stop talking about it. And I still talk about it every chance I get. When I saw they had an Affiliate program, it was a no brainer. I do get a small commission from referring others to Sprout but I wouldn't do it if I didn't love it so much. They did not ask me to write this article, or the other reviews I've written. All opinions are my own. I just want you to check into Sprout and see for yourself how it's made such a difference in my business.