Okay, let me tell you one thing right now.
I am a super messy person, especially when it comes to any systems. I hate systems. My creativity hates systems. But my business was barely alive without them.
About a year ago I was really struggling with my productivity, but really I didn’t want to believe that having the right systems in place is all it takes to go from a struggling business to highly profitable one.
I mean, it can’t be that simple, right?
I was relying on my creativity to save the day, but one thing started to be really clear. I felt like I was doing the admin work half of the day. And I didn’t like that either.
I was sending contracts as a pdf, I was writing all emails from scratch (will talk about email templates later), all leads from my contact and inquiry web form were sent to my email address only and it was really hard to keep track with every single email…anyone? I could continue but you have the picture.
Automatization was the magic word that worked for me.
That was the system I was willing to try.
That was the magic word that worked for me. That was the system I was willing to try.
I wanted to automatize tasks like contract signing, invoicing, partial payments, emailing – and so I started with the research. I was looking for something suitable for the creative business owner, something that will help me with all the different business tasks.
My main requirements were:
Great customer service
(Yes, this is the first one. Don’t get me started on all the struggles that bad or non-existent support can cause.)
(Lead forms, Custom lead tracking, Automated follow-ups)
Google Calendar integration
Payment Scheduling & Recurring invoices
(So they can access all their files and invoices, so I don’t have to re-send it all the time)
A place to save and easy load all the contracts, forms, and email templates
My branding on all documents
I compared 5 different tools – 17 Hats, Accelo, Tave, Honeybook and Dubsado. I signed up for their trials so I could test them.
I am not going to make you guess, I chose Dubsado.
But before I share why, let me tell you about the other options.
17hats is a good client management system. It was recommended to me before so I wanted to really try it. It has great workflows, and it reminds you if you didn’t complete some step.
First of all, 17 hats has few features than other systems. It appears that it does not have any accounting features which makes it more difficult to stay in the finance loop and you have to do the accounting elsewhere. More importantly though, it seems that you can’t let clients have multiple payment options. You can connect Stripe, or PayPal, but not both. Not cool!
Pros: Okay, Honeybook is pretty good. It’s intuitive and easy to use. It even has a great iOs app so you can be fully productive when on mobile
Cons: There is honestly not many things I would mention here, except the pricing. And because this was my very first system, their pricing was beyond what I wanted to pay for it. (400/year, 40/month)
Pros: It looked like a great tool especially for teams. You can also pick a pricing package according to what features you need, which is pretty handy.
Cons: Accelo is literally packed with features. Which means it gets confusing as well. It felt like I would spend more time there than saving it. It can be just me, but I lost the interest pretty quickly because of that.
Pros: Okay, Tave interface is gorgeous. It is created for creatives as well, originally for photographers but it is possible to be used by anyone now. I also liked how you can track your own records by generating fun charts and monitoring your business’s performance. I am not going to lie, thanks to the reasonable pricing it was a runner up.
If you’re using CMS (like WordPress, Squarespace, Wix etc), make sure the theme you’re t seems Tave don’t have the hourly tracking feature as well as the appointment booking options.
DUBSADO (totally biased but honest)
Pros: It is clean and easily understandable. I was frustrated anyways (as always when I am learning something new after all) but their free 1:1 introduction call and great supports helped me quickly. It has every feature I need and they are even adding more.
They just added perks like live proposals that you can integrate into your site and the customer/client can book you AND sign the contract without leaving the site. Stuff like that. 🙂
Cons: The only problem I was able to find so far is when I needed a custom tax field on the invoice for my international clients. However I was able to go around that, even though I contacted the support and let them know it should be added in the future.
Now, let’s finally take a look at all the reasons why I ended up choosing Dubsado as my business management tool of choice.
the ultimate business management suite
To give you the idea of how my process looked like before:
- G Suite – Client correspondence & pdf contracts
- Paypal – Invoices
- Gravity Forms (WP plugin) – Contact & Lead forms
- Quickbooks – Bookkeeping
- Toggl – time tracking
And even though neither of these tools
That I could connect it all somehow. And here are the reason why I chose Dubsado for this task.
#Reason1 – Client Management System for Creative Entrepreneurs.
Dubsado was built directly for creative entrepreneurs that are feeling overwhelmed by all the admin work and who would rather focus on their creativity instead.
The founders Becca & Jake ALWAYS have their users in mind. Which is why they’re polling their audience, asking for the feedback and improving based on their audience incentive.
#Reason2 – The Lead Capturing.
Lead capture is one of the most important things for service based businesses. It’s the way the customer contacts you, and you should make sure you ALWAYS receive that message. No matter what.
The problem with standard contact form plugins for WordPress or forms on Squarespace or other CMS platforms is following. The lead is sent to your email address. And sometimes stored on the website. Now, how many emails do you receive per a day? Is it possible you can overlook some of them? YES, absolutely. It happens to me all the time, especially with all the promo email I receive.
Which is why having a reliable lead capture system is so important.
With Dubsado, the lead is sent directly to the platform. It can even create a client’s profile based on the information received, and it will also send you an email notification. And even if you miss that email, once you open Dubsado (which I do every day), it will show you a new lead directly in the dashboard, the first page you open after signing in.
#Reason3 – The Amazing Automated Workflows.
I think I am becoming a little bit obsesses with these automated workflows. I mean who doesn’t want to have their emails sent without even knowing about them? Imagine having a system that sends the first response emails, questionnaires or contracts on its own before you actually have to take any action.
And the best part? The exact steps are completely up you. You can really play with it until you perfect it.
Here’s an example of Cold Lead Workflow.
Medley Tip: You can also sync your emails! It’s called a Conversation mode and it allows you to send an email out through the platform and when your client replies, it goes to your email AND it gets logged in Dubsado. No more searching through your inbox looking for some email!
#Reason4 – My Custom Template Library.
Weirdly, the section with Templates and Canned emails is the one part I love the most. It’s the place where you can store form & contract templates, and more importantly email templates!
And the really awesome part is that you can also customize every single file and add your branding to it! No more pdfs, online customizable files are the new black!
#Reason5 – They Know How Important Your Brand Image Is.
Dubsado gives you the option to put your branding on everything. Quite literally. That means no more confused clients with questions where their invoice or form are coming from. No more logos of another companies in your emails or on your forms.
Dubsado wants you to really connect with your customers. They leave no trace of their branding so all your clients see is your brand.
#Reason6 – The Client Portals.
Speaking of the client portals…the clients LOVE them. They are super clean and easy to work with. They are safe, hidden behind the custom password you set up, and you can create a custom branding for them as well so they really feel like part of your brand.
#Reason6 – The Invoices and Online Payments.
Okay, so I love Dubsado’s invoices that allow you to set up a partial payment plan. That means I can give only one invoice to the client, but the payment can be divided into 3 sections — the deposit, second payment and the final payment.
Not only that but the online payments allow the client to pay directly either by credit card through Stripe, or by Paypal. (There is more options but these are my favs). Plus, you can select different payment options for each client — no more default settings for all of your clients!
MedleyTip: Do you run a membership? Do you need recurring payments? No problem, with Dubsado you can set up recurring invoices as well. Easy peasy.
#Reason8 – The Community.
Dubsado’s commitment to community is one of it’s best features. Their Facebook Group is an amazing source of tips, tricks, tutorials and generally answers to any of your questions. It’s a community of photographers, designers, bloggers and other creatives.
It’s also the #1 place to find all the updates or upcoming features.
To be completely honest though, there are still features that I don’t use yet. Plus, they are releasing new features quite often so there is always something to improve about my process. Which is actually pretty exciting!
I am really excited that they are sharing not only the planned updates but even the ideas they only brainstorm so far. The overall transparency is definitely attractive, take a look!
to be continued…
I plan to describe exactly my process which can give you the idea about how productive you can get from using service like this. That means we will talk about connecting from lead magnets/contact forms with the system, how the client profile is created from it, automatic responses, the hiring process, the actual project workflow and more.
In the mean time, comment below if you want to know anything specific! Also let me know if this article helped you!