A little back story….
Lots of work, lots of admin, an awful lot of accounts work and preparation (vat returns, year end returns, tracking and chasing invoices, regular client email contact blah blah blah). All this meant I spent more time faffing about with admin than actually shooting. It was driving me insane, and the worst part was the fact I actually believed I was being efficient, because I was busy.
So lets now move forward a number of years, tantrums and foot stomping. I had a conversation with a friend of mine, regarding work life balance, and the fact I was so busy. He’s a business coach, and of course, he picked apart my busy lifestyle, and pointed out, in his own subtle way, I was a busy fool.
Nice bloke. Not spoke to him since!
Okay, the last bit was a fib. He had a valid point, and he explained the usefulness of a decently implemented CRM (Customer Relations Manager) software. So the hunt was on. And being a bit of stingy sod, I started by looking at the free options. The positive takeaways from that (ahem!) trial, was the absolute certainty that I definitely needed a CRM system implemented. The negative notes? Well, the freebies, or ultra low cost options were a “one size fits all” affair, that didn’t fit at all. They were far too generalised, needed far too much work to set them up, and were far too limited on features. Support was somewhat questionable too.
So, lets move forward to March 2019, and the Photography Show at the NEC, Birmingham in the UK. Helen and I came across the Studio Ninja stand, proclaiming to be a dedicated photography CRM system. A couple of folks stood around, with leaflets, screens and welcoming smiles. The leaflet promised to reduce workload and free up time, organise schedules and ease client communication. A late night conversation with Helen (I said “About Studio Ninja.”, Helen said “Do it. Do it now!”), and I was signed up.
Right, so that’s the back story. How have I found the software?
It’s all handled by app or desktop browser. Easy to set up, although it’s worth taking your time, as the more you put into setting it up, the easier your life will be as you progress forward. That said, around 30 minutes will get you up and running.
Start with your company details, accounts etc., job types, email templates, before moving on to the workflow, where you will integrate everything.
The integration options are excellent. I use Xero for my accounts, and Studio Ninja copies all invoices across to Xero. Job done. Studio Ninja will also integrate with Quick Books too.
Besides the accounting integration, it also facilitates the integration of Shootproof Galleries, Fundy Designer and ProSelect. This list is growing and will no doubt include far more by the time you take a look at it.
Payments systems include Stripe and PayPal, as well as providing BACS details etc.
Studio Ninja also easily integrates with Gmail and Google Calendar. You can also use it with your own mail server.
One of the key features for me, is the automation Studio Ninja provides. Emails can be triggered automatically, such as a shoot or appointment reminder. More importantly, invoice payment reminders are automatic. Since taking up Studio Ninja, I haven’t had a single late payment, and nor have I had to pick up the phone and prompt a client for payment either. The automated emails is something I’ve also utilised to solicit extra work from established clients. I created a very simple workflow that has a shoot date and time.
Once the time of the “shoot” is reached, it triggers an email to the client that is very simple…
Such a simple email, and yet it tends to generate extra work 70% of the time. As soon as I have completed a job with a client, I schedule this email to go out to them three to six months after completion, dependant on the client and work type. The additional income brought about just by doing this follow up, has more than paid for the software.
When I first subscribed, I was adding client details manually. Once I embedded the bespoke Studio Ninja contact form on my various sites, my workflow became automated up to the point of preparing the quote.
An enquiry email would come in, which would populate the client details within Studio Ninja. They have already received an email, thanking them for contacting me, and letting them know I would be in touch as soon as possible. Part of the contact form lets them select what type of photography is required (job type), which in turn sets up the Studio Ninja workflow I have assigned to that job type. A commercial workflow is different to a food shoot, as is a wedding. I’ve tailored the responses and emails to each client type, and each workflow has specific prompts, reminders and emails that are specific to them.
Don’t be daunted by the idea of creating custom email templates, or custom workflows. When you first start with Studio Ninja, you will find examples already available, and good to go. You can start by simply duplicating and then editing the examples to suit your needs. But honestly, you will be creating your own templates and workflows very, very quickly.
They offer a free months trial, which is how I started. Although I actually upgraded to the full subscription within two weeks. They also have a discount code, which will give you 20% off your subscription. This is for the life of your subscription, not just the initial payment. So you will get 20% off every month.
The discount code is : AILM94C16463MJ
I can honestly say, Studio Ninja has not only saved me time (and I do mean shedloads of it!), it’s increased the rate of leads converting to confirmed shoots, and therefore increased my revenue.
Seriously, take a look. Studio Ninja can be found at https://www.studioninja.co/