As a business owner, I’ve found myself going down the endless research rabbit hole often. You’ve been there… What bookkeeping software should I use? How should I send invoices? What’s the best project management software?
Over the next few weeks I’m doing a deep dive into client on-boarding (or Client Relationship Management CRM) softwares. I’ve done the testing + comparing for you over the years, and narrowed it down to my top 3 recommendations.
Up first, Honeybook!
Part 1: What are my favorite features unique to Honeybook?
Pipeline: Keep track of the status of each of your projects at a glance. You can customize your “pipeline” to show different stages of your process. I’ve included each of the steps from initial inquiry to project completion, as well as beyond into updating my portfolio and follow-ups after project wrap up. Honeybook will automatically move clients through parts of the process (proposal signature, payment, etc.), and the other steps you can easily move them to the next step until they’ve made their way through the complete pipeline. It’s a nice visual tool for the admin side of projects!
Calendar: Honeybook syncs up with your calendar so you can see all of your projects at a glance. Everything from when payment is due, to Calendly booked appointments and project completion. It’s nice to have this dashboard available within the same platform that houses your important project details!
Workflows: Any way I can automate parts of my business, I’m all for. With Honeybook you can create various workflows custom to your process. Here are a few workflows you could consider:
Send your client a link to book a kick-off call
Send your client a questionnaire to complete a week before the project kick-off date
Send your client a follow-up email a couple weeks after project completion to check in and see if they need help with anything else.
Here’s how it works. Let’s use the example of sending a client a link to schedule a kick-off call + complete brand questionnaire.
Once the client has booked your project, Honeybook will begin any workflows you’ve created.
Each project can be assigned a start + end date.
You can create a workflow that is scheduled to go out 1 week before the official project start date to schedule a kick-off call as well as complete the questionnaire. You can also customize this email template, or create your own (hello time saver!)
Either Honeybook can automatically send this for you, or you can set it to manual to email you first for approval.
Done, and easy for both you and your client.
The best part is that Honeybook helps you stay on top of your process so you never miss a beat.
Community: Hands down — this is my favorite feature for Honeybook. To say they have a heart for the creative business owners is an understatement. They’re the team behind monthly meetups for Rising Tide Society, “Tuesday’s Together,” which I’m such a fan of. Having moved across country a few times in the past couple years, I’m so appreciative of this network where it’s almost guaranteed I’ll find a local meetup of photographers, designers, calligraphers, etc. As an online business owner, it’s much needed to have an in-person group of creatives who get it.
Beyond their heart for fostering community, the Honeybook team personally reaches out to each user to see how they can better serve their community. I’ve been truly blown away at the personalization and generosity behind this company.
One tool within Honeybook that encourages this community is the “people” section. You can search for creatives local to you and connect with them directly within Honeybook. You can even post + search for business opportunities as well. Great feature!
Concierge: Let’s be real — anytime you sign up for a new software there’s a bit of overwhelm. Sometimes this overwhelm of learning a new tool can even lead to hesitation to move forward with streamlining, in favor of going back to the ways we’re used to operating (even if we know it will take us more time)!
Honeybook offers a free concierge service to upload your existing proposal and contract templates. They are there for you to make it seamless to get your business running. Such a stellar feature and one that further enhances their focus on serving their customers well.
Part 2: How much does it cost?
Honeybook has two payment options — $40/month or $400/year (save $80). With each plan you get access to a free trial to test out the software before paying a dime. This also includes the free concierge service :).
As a Honeybook partner, you can save 50% off of your annual subscription through signing up with a free trial from my referral link. I’m all for saving in our businesses :).
Part 3: How well does Honeybook work?
Let’s take a look under the hood of Honeybook and rate each of the features as a designer we would use most in our business.
Client intake forms (grade: A-): Create a contact form for your website that you can embed easily on your site through code. It took me 2 minutes to customize the form + embed. There is a little room to customize the form design, however if you know CSS you can customize the design within your site itself.
Quote, contract, invoice (grade: B): One of the features that makes Honeybook so powerful is the ability to house your quote, contract and invoice all together. This is ideal to increase conversions and ease the process for your clients to book. Rather than being sent to separate pages/apps, or waiting on you to send the invoice once the proposal is approved, it’s all together and automatically walks the client through the process.
One major setback in my opinion is that you cannot add optional items to quotes. Some of my clients mention a need for collateral items, but they aren’t quite sure if they’re ready yet financially to purchase. Through showing them optional items, they can add these on easily to the quote. This also works great for those clients who might not have thought of social media templates, for example, — but once they see it listed out as an add-on, they get excited and book it along with your primary package.
You can create add-ons within the “brochure” section that shows your packaged prices, however the brochure must be approved before you manually send out the proposal, contract and invoice. This slows down the process.
Questionnaires (grade: B): Easily customize questionnaires to send to your clients. You can create templates + customize for each individual client if you’d like. Once you’re ready to send the questionnaire, the options are to either email the client within the Honeybook platform, or to print the file (or save as PDF). If you’re all in with using Honeybook for client communication — this is a great feature! However, if you like the flexibility of sending the client your questionnaire through another project management app, it's own link, or directly in email, than this could be a setback for you.
I also don’t believe the client has the ability to “save for later,” meaning they need to sit down in one sitting to complete the questionnaire.
Time tracking (grade: C+): Honeybook has the capability to record time for hours worked, as well as invoice clients from those billable hours. From what I can tell, you can only record time after you’ve worked, rather than the capability of a live timer. An easy enough workaround would be to either use an external timer (something like Toggl) or to jot down hours worked on a project and record later. I do enjoy the interface to view hours worked and assigned to a client project.
Projects at a glance (grade: A+): You can view the status of each of your projects within Honeybook at a glance from the “pipeline” feature. This feature sets Honeybook apart from the rest, and provides a nice at a glance picture if you have multiple projects going on. Great perk!
Easy for clients to use (grade: B+): Overall, Honeybook is fairly easy for clients to use. They don’t need to login to view messages, invoices, files, etc. which is always a benefit. Without logging in, they can also view all files (questionnaires, proposals, etc.), invoices and messages sent within Honeybook. If you’re looking for an all-in-one platform — Honeybook has been the best I can find.
That said, as with any platform, the client won’t be used to navigating through Honeybook. As a former client of a service that used Honeybook, I found it confusing if I needed to login to respond to messages, make payments, etc. A simple solution could be to inform your client up front that they will not need to login, and that they simply just need to respond directly within their email inbox.
How is the design? (grade: A): Another feature that sets Honeybook apart — the design. It’s simple, clean and user friendly. You can add your custom brand photos, select from a few Google fonts, and adjust the button color. Overall there is little customization available, but it’s got an approachable design you won’t feel embarrassed to send your clients.
How is the support? (grade: A+): You can’t find better customer support with any other Client Relationship Management (CRM) software out there. Here are a few ways their support is standout:
They are prompt with support questions.
There are loads of easy to follow tutorials + video walkthroughs within the platform to direct you along the way.
Their concierge service is standout — they’ll add your existing contracts + templates directly within Honeybook for you so you can get to using the software without the learning curve ASAP.
Within Honeybook you’ll find loads of pre-loaded templates + swipe files ready to customize.
Beyond technical support — the Honeybook team wants your business to succeed. They have several great resources to help you find clients + collaborations (within the “opportunities” tab), find a local community of creative entrepreneurs (Tuesday’s Together) or grow your business (blog posts + workshops). This is unbeatable from its competitors.
How easy is it to set up? (grade: A): As with any new software, there is a learning curve. However, with Honeybook I didn’t need to reach out to support once. It was really easy to follow their tutorials to create templates, proposals and setup projects. Each section has an overview to better understand their terminology, as well as examples to see them in action. It was a breeze to set up (especially if you take advantage of the concierge service).
What are the 3rd party integrations? (grade: A): It’s important that any CRM has solid 3rd party integrations that work within your existing process. Honeybook works seamlessly with Quickbooks, Calendly, Zapier, Gmail, and Google Calendar. They handle payments through secure credit card processing or bank transfer.
Is it friendly to use once it’s set up? (grade: A): The beauty of setting aside the time to load in your service packages, proposals, contracts, questionnaire templates and swipe files is that it’s a breeze to use for every client project moving forward.
Part 4: My take away
What I love about Honeybook:
All-in-one: It’s the best “all-in-one” platform for Client Relationship Management (CRM) that I’ve seen. You can access all of your client communication, timeline, files and payment through their software.
Unbeatable support: There’s no question — Honeybook values its customers and treats them well.
You gain community: Honeybook goes beyond a standout software product, and pursues community within its customers. You can search for vendors, services and peers within the platform, as well as narrow down by location. This alone is worth the investment :).
Access to exclusive job board: Once you’re a part of the Honeybook community, you have access to an exclusive job board within Honeybook customers. Post a listing yourself, or respond to needs appealing to your services.
Design: Overall the design is easy on the eyes and not distracting for our clients. You can customize the design slightly, but overall it appears “brandless” so as not to conflict with our own brand. Important for us designers!
What I think could be improved:
Wedding terminology: Though they’ve expanded to serve many industries, their platform is still focused on the wedding industry. This is apparent in some of their native terminology relating to weddings throughout their settings.
Client communication. When I first heard of Honeybook I was a client to a business that utilized Honeybook for communication and on-boarding. It was confusing if I needed to login to check messages, or if I was missing anything.
Proposal/quote add ons. You do not have the ability to add optional line items to proposals so clients can add design collateral beyond your primary proposal (ie: add a business card, icons, etc. in addition to the logo design). This is a missed opportunity for additional income (that could easily cover the cost of Honeybook).
Overall, I highly recommend Honeybook! If you’re looking for an “all-in-one” solution — look no further. You can start a free trial (no credit card required) with Honeybook, and if you enjoy the platform you’ll get 50% off through my referral link.
(Full Disclosure: As an affiliate, I receive compensation if you purchase through this link.)
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