Today on the blog I want to share a little something about my business, particularly about the incredible piece of software that I use to keep everything going – Light Blue – and how this makes things so much better both for me and for my clients.
I’m lucky enough to have been the first ever user of Light Blue. My incredibly talented husband wrote the first version for us to run our respective wedding and portrait businesses on back in 2003. I have every client in it from my very first professional shoot – it’s wonderful to track clients over the years, who is still with me from those early days and all the different pictures I have taken and they have chosen over the years.
Since then Light Blue has grown. Tom has ceased to be a wedding photographer and now works full time on the business, along with his business partner Hamish. Launched to the wider world in 2009 Light Blue has gone from strength to strength and is now the market leader for photography business software in the UK. I’m very proud.
But wait you say, why are you blogging about this? I’m blogging to share a bit about the new version, Light Blue 6, which came out this week and how incredibly useful this has been for me and my clients.
I’ve been using the beta version for a couple of months now and have been able to fully test lots of the different features. My absolute favourite – and the feature my clients are raving about – is the new online contract, forms, and payment system.
When a client books in, I can send them an email with a link to a booking form and contract (and the contracts can be adjusted on a case-by-case basis if necessary, which can be important when working with celebrity clients who require confidentiality clauses). They can sign this contract online – no more printing things out, or struggling to find a printer. No more hunting for a stamp and then realizing the contract has been forgotten lost under a pile of postman Pat books and toy trains. My clients are busy people, and removing the need for a printed paper contract has met with universal approval.
We have a booking form attached to the contract, where clients fill in all the information I need for their shoots – their address and contact details, names and dates of birth of the children so I know what to expect when I arrive (as all photographers know the equipment you bring to a newborn session can be quite different to that you need for photographing teenagers on water skis). I discover the names of other people who will be there so I can learn these beforehand, and clients are able to fill me in with anything else they think I should know. It’s lovely to be prepared!
The best thing about these forms though is if it’s a repeat client – and I’m lucky enough that I see a lot of my clients regularly, particularly at this time of year – Light Blue is clever enough to populate the forms with the information I already have so that my clients don’t have to type everything in again but can simply add in the details for new baby’s or changes of address. When the form has been filled in, at a touch of a button the information is sucked into Light Blue, attached to my shoot and I’m ready to go.
The last part of this trio of wonder is online payment. Using Stripe (a card processing service that’s really easy to set up and use) clients can type in their card details and they are done. No more logging into PayPal or setting up a new payee on online banking. No more hassle of sending a cheque or remembering to bring cash on the day. In a matter of minutes everything is done, the shoot is booked in, I have all the information and we are good to go. This is brilliant for both me and my clients.
Here’s a real life scenario to explain just how wonderful this is. Recently I went on holiday to Iceland (which was amazing!). Arriving back at the hotel after a long day photographing icebergs, I had an email from a client wanting to book a shoot on a particular day, perfect! I was able to send the contract, booking form and payment information from Light Blue and by the time I had returned from the bar with a cold pint of beer (and before my memory card had downloaded my pictures from the day!) I had notification to see that the contract was signed, the information ready for importing and the shoot paid for. The client had also had an email thanking them. This, to me, is priceless: I could enjoy my holiday while running the business without any effort at all.
Since I’ve been using Light Blue 6, not a shoot has gone by when a client hasn’t commented on the ease of use of the new booking system. Repeat clients are thrilled with how quick and easy it is to get everything sorted out, and new clients say how simple the process way for them. Todays’ client has been so impressed she has asked for the details of Light Blue as she might like to use it for her own small business, even though she’s not a photographer – you can’t get better feedback than that!
So this post is for my photographer friends out there – if you are thinking of upgrading to Light Blue 6 then do so, it’s incredible. For my lovely clients, thank you for your wonderful feedback and I’m so pleased that these systems are making life easier for you.