Young Christina Montemurro

Me, back when I was young and remembered everything

When I was in high school and college, I never wrote anything down. I didn’t keep a calendar or an assignment book – it was all my head. For a time, I felt this was something to be proud of, because I clearly had a great memory for keeping track of things. Now that I run two businesses (this one and Syncopated Pictures), I realize it wasn’t so much my terrific brain as that I really didn’t have that much to remember! Those days are over. Now, I have a lot to keep track of. And I need a good system (spoiler alert: that’s now Dubsado), so I can spend time at my favorite place, pictured above… North Park.

For six years, I used a studio management tool called ShootQ to manage my leads, invoices, contracts, questionnaires and workflow. But in January 2016, I left ShootQ and switched to Honeybook. And then, in January 2017, I switched to Dubsado.

Why did I make the switch from ShootQ? For many of the same reasons others have written about…

  • Updates were very few and far between. In this age where there have been so many tech updates in such a short time, ShootQ didn’t seem to be moving forward.
  • The site didn’t work well on mobile devices, and the ShootQ app was very buggy.
  • ShootQ ownership changed several times. With each change I’d get offers for discounts on partner products and services… but no ShootQ innovation. And I was starting to worry that there was going to come a day when no one would want to support it any more.
  • $40/month was more than I wanted to pay.

Once I decided to make the switch, I looked at Tave, 17 Hats and Honeybook, and decided to give Honeybook a try. I will freely admit that price was a motivating factor. Like ShootQ, Tave and 17 Hats have monthly fees. That may be a good idea for someone that’s not sure they’re going to stick with their business. But as I’ve been at this for a while and plan to keep going for many more years, I found that the one-time fee of $500 Honeybook was offering very appealing.

Here’s how it went with Honeybook. First, it’s worth noting that while ShootQ is geared specifically toward photographers, Honeybook is not. Honeybook is designed as a solution for any event professional – florists, planners, DJs, makeup artists, etc.

What I liked about Honeybook:

  • The one-time fee! Basically one year of ShootQ.
  • The transition and setup were easy. I was assigned a concierge who entered all of my existing shoots, contracts, invoices and templates. There were a few glitches, but everything worked out well eventually and I appreciated having all of this done for me.
  • Customer service is very good. They’re responsive, courteous and knowledgeable.
  • It’s intuitive and easy to use.
  • It’s easy to create, edit and send proposals.
  • Credit card processing is built in; funds are transferred directly to your bank account.
  • It’s easy to send up connections with other vendors and send referrals to clients.
  • Reporting features are easy to use.
  • The contact form works great. You embed code on your website, so if you make changes to the contact form, it updates automatically. Very streamlined.
  • Updates were added. In my first month, I encountered a few significant issues with payment reminders. The Honeybook team was able to quickly push out updates that resolved those issues.

What I didn’t like about Honeybook:

  • No workflow built in. ShootQ had a great workflow system, and it was hard to adjust. I tried using Google’s product GQueues. It integrated nicely with Google Calendar,  but it didn’t offer the sophistication that I was used to with ShootQ. You have to manually set your own due dates. A hassle! Really, this was the biggest reason I felt I couldn’t live with Honeybook anymore. Workflow and efficiency are so important to me!
  • You can create and send questionnaires. But, clients cannot edit them once they’ve been submitted. Also, there is no way for clients to save a questionnaire in progress as a draft. So once they start filling out a questionnaire, they have to finish it. And then they can never make any changes. In my opinion this makes the questionnaire feature useless. I used Google Docs as a workaround.
  • Some emails can be customized, but some cannot. For example, you can set up a template email to respond to an inquiry. But you can’t customize automated emails like payment reminders. And the payment reminders come from Honeybook, rather than me.
  • The interface that clients see when they login to view their contracts cannot be edited to match your branding.
  • I felt that there was more of an emphasis on community (like the ability to connect with other vendors) than functionality.
  • When I signed up, there was no option for a trial membership for me to really fully test the system before paying.

At a Pittsburgh Rising Tide Society meeting, I heard someone mention Dubsado. The first thing in its favor: a fully functional trial version. You can use the system to its full capacity for as long as you want… but you are limited to three clients. So, I took advantage of the off season and tested every single thing I wanted the system to do. Here’s what I found…

  • Workflow success!!! I was able to setup my workflow exactly the way I wanted, with various reminders and tasks being triggered based on the date booked and/or the event date. Exactly what I’d been missing so very much!
  • Incredibly responsive customer support. I thought the Honeybook support was quite good, but the Dubsado support impressed me even more. They’re quick to respond to emails, and they also maintain an active Facebook group. I was never waiting long for an answer to a question.
  • The system is easy to use and intuitive.
  • Credit card processing was easy to set up with Stripe.
  • Questionnaires are editable! Hooray!
  • Emails are customizable, and payment reminders come from me.
  • New features and functionality are being added at a dizzying pace. Dubsado is only a year old, but the amount of development going on is kind of crazy. Like, I hope the coders are getting enough sleep, remembering to eat regular meals, and sometimes see their family and friends.

After about two weeks of rigorous test driving, I officially signed up for Dubsado. It’s been about three weeks now – and so far, so good!

UPDATE, December 2017.

It’s been almost a year with Dubsado now, and I’m still very happy. This is a fantastic product with a top notch team behind it. I continue to be impressed at how quickly they put out new updates. Sometimes it’s a little thing, like being able to customize the pop up after a client submits a form. Sometimes it’s bigger, like being able to create a customized portal for each job. Customer service is excellent. Questions submitted through the help desk are addressed quickly. There’s also a very active Facebook group where you can share ideas with other Dubsado users.

Have questions? Leave a comment below.