Disclaimer: I loved Sprout Studio so much that I became an ambassador for the brand back in 2020. While I do receive a commission for new users signing up, this application has been a staple in my business since 2015. For anyone interested in trying out the program, please know your support is greatly appreciated and I am here to help if you have any questions. – Image Designs by Your Designer Ash
We all get into photography thinking we are going to get to shoot, edit, and create all the time. But, most people forget that there are several aspects of running a business that can take up the majority of your day. Leaving little time to do all the things you wanted when you first started your business.
Any work you do in your business benefits your overall income but, when do you actually make the most money? WHEN YOU ARE OUT SHOOTING! So… how do we free up time to do that? Thankfully, there are ways other than outsourcing to help lighten the load of some of your administrative tasks.
My solution: Sprout Studio
Your new studio management suite. All in one Place
Sprout Studio helps you build your photography business with a consistent brand, great client communications, help you know what to focus on, while streamlining the “business stuff.” With Sprout, you can keep everything in one place so nothing falls through the cracks.Sprout Studio
I have been using Sprout Studio since the day it launched in 2015, and a lot has changed since then. The team releases regular updates and is always adding new features which create more ways to save time, earn more money, and do what you love most.
Rather than just providing an opinion of what I think of the software, I wanted to share how I have been using the application to streamline a basic workflow. But, before we get into how I personally use Sprout Studio to operate my business, I want to give a little praise to their customer support. From day one they have listened closely to all the feedback provided by their user and even better, they actually implement the changes we asked for. Some requests obviously may take some time due to the volume or complexity of coding. But, unlike most software companies… THEY ACTUALLY LISTEN, ACKNOWLEDGE YOU, AND IMPLEMENT. It definitely helps that CEO/Founder Bryan Caporicci is also a working photographer who has dealt with similar problems that we have all faced at some point and he wanted to create a solution.
This program has been designed with a focus on Portrait and Wedding photographers. So without a doubt, anyone working within those genres will have a ton of extra features to benefit from. But, if you take a creative approach to using the application, you may find some of the other tools beneficial for your business. While I personally don’t shoot in those genres, it has been worth every penny for the traditional needs of all photographers.
Sprout Studio is a web-based application so while there is no mobile app, it has been optimized to work smoothly while you are on the go on all devices. This allows the team to make updates to the code without having to wait for app store approval. I still do almost everything on a desktop because for me it is more efficient and I don’t love being on my phone that much. That said, there are many situations where it helps to quickly reference something or add to an invoice, and who doesn’t appreciate having options?
Here is a breakdown of the features I regularly use:
- Contact Database
- Client account management
- Invoicing, Estimating jobs & processing payments
- Contracts and Image licensing agreements
- Proofing Galleries
- A built-in scheduler allows your clients to easily reserve time slots for meetings, shoots, etc.
- Accounting & Business Reporting
- One-Page (Similar to a Call sheet summarizing all the details of the project based on what you input into the system on a pretty web page that you can share with your crew and clients)
- Automated workflows with Sprout Assistant
- Website-embedded contact form that places leads directly into the system
- Price lists
Other features available:
- Email Marketing
- File Delivery
- Provide credits/coupons
- Lab Fulfillment
- Many other features I have yet to explore… you can view a full list of features for Sprout Studio V3 here – Sprout Studio V3 Feature list
How I Use Sprout Studio
As commercial photographers, we all have different workflows and our clients will have unique needs. This can lead to an occasional workaround until you find a workflow that works best for you and your clients. When Sprout Studio launched their primary selling feature was “Booking Proposals”. They are beautifully designed and can be a great way to present your proposal to a client that doesn’t care about all the line items. But, with my clients, there is usually a more complex invoicing structure and it needs to be clearly communicated so I have chosen to bypass this feature and stick with the traditional quote presentation which easily converts into the project invoice. If you are working in the world of Real Estate Photography, I could see creating a booking proposal template with all your standard packages being a great use of this selling feature.
I have some automated workflows set up such as reminders for invoice due dates, events, galleries, account details, and some other generic informational emails. I have several custom-built email templates that allow me to quickly communicate common details and will make quick updates to personalize them further so I am not writing everything from scratch. It’s all about saving time and maintaining a consistent top-of-the-line customer experience.
Here’s a breakdown of a typical process workflow for me:
- Receive leads directly in the system from the contact form embedded on my website or manually add leads that come direct to my inbox from previous clients.
- An automated response goes out letting them know we’ve received their inquiry and we will be in touch within a specific time frame.
- I review the lead and make my first connection. At this point, I will always push for a video call to speed up the process and make a more personal connection with the potential buyer. I will include a few standard questions to dissect some information so I can prepare accordingly for the call.
- Once I receive their response, I may have more questions and will do this until I get all the details. If I manage to get a call booked, the back-and-forth communication can usually be bypassed.
- Under the lead section, I will set up a quote and then email it off to my client suggesting another video call to go into more details and explain the thought process behind the breakdown. Connecting 1-on-1 to review the proposal is often the only way you are given the opportunity to negotiate. So if you fear talking over the phone or video, I’d highly recommend stepping outside your comfort zone so you can learn more about how you are winning projects or losing them.
- If the client approves, the lead gets converted into a shoot and an automated email goes out with the client’s account details as a part of a workflow I’ve created. For existing clients, I have another template providing them with a reminder of their account details.
- The standard deposit is set up in the order, the contract is adjusted to reflect our deliverables and licensing agreement. For the most part, this is a template and is auto-populated except for a couple of minor adjustments that I make based on my workflow and terms & conditions.
- I send an email with the invoices and contract which I created a template for. All I have to do is apply the contract and invoice links which are easily accessible within the email builder in Sprout Studio.
- The client signs the contract and processes the deposit, we are now officially booked!
- This is when pre-production and production begin. At this point, I am more hands-on and don’t automate much as every project is entirely unique.
- Once the shoot is wrapped, I upload a proofing gallery which I have also set up a template. Sprout also just released a teaser of their new galleries launching soon and offers a wide array of design features and the ability to upload a video.
- The image upload completes, I’ll set the gallery to go live, and an automated email goes out to the client. It does prompt me to hit send on the email because I will often make a couple of minor adjustments in case there is other information to share specific to the project.
- The client reviews the gallery, will make their selections, and submits the images to the photographer.
- When I receive the notification that selections have been submitted, I will review, select all favorites, copy the file names and paste them into Capture One’s filtering system. (Replace Capture One with your choice of RAW processing software.)
- Edit, export, and upload the files to my Synology NAS which has been set up with a custom domain name to share my files with personal branding. I chose to use my own file delivery system as it is a more efficient workflow for me. It also allows me to easily archive files, access my full catalog from anywhere in the world, and reduce my use of storage on the Sprout Studio platform which saves more money in the long run.
- I’ll copy the shared link from my NAS and input it into my client download email template in Sprout and hit send. I often like to add a more personal note to this email as well so I usually make updates that take a couple of seconds.
- The client receives files, loves them, and processes the final payment.
- Archive the project in the shoot section of Sprout and move on to the next!
This is actually a simple breakdown because there are always new scenarios that come up, like adding more to the invoice because the project scope changed. But, otherwise, it is usually a fairly simple process. Sprout Studio helps us streamline a lot of work and consistently looks awesome on the client end while allowing them access to information on all previous projects to date. There is a bit of leg work to get familiar with the platform and set everything up but, Sprout does have a “Set up wizard” to help with that, including transferring your database from other popular CRMs such as 17hats, Táve, HoneyBook, and many others. You can either do it yourself or pay the concierge to complete the task for you. If you have already paid and are locked into a contract with another CRM, Sprout will even buy out your existing prepaid CRM subscription with a credit of up to $150.00!
Before Sprout Studio launched, I was using multiple apps to do all of my administrative tasks and it was a nightmare in terms of organization. In the end, it cost my business a lot more per month to be so unorganized. To some, this may seem like a large expense at first but, with the reduction of time completing those tasks, I can now free up more time to focus on marketing, sales, networking, shoots, and all the other things that make the business money.
The reality is, admin work will always be a part of running your business. That’s why I love Sprout so much. If you are interested in saving time, money, and your sanity, there is a trial period of 21-days to get familiar with the platform and I would highly recommend you don’t rush the setup process. While learning something new can be tedious, be patient and intentional with designing your processes, it will save you a lot of time and headaches in the long run!
Feel free to reach out if you have any questions and there is a very supportive Facebook group available to learn from and ask questions!