If you’re like most photographers, you’ve long ago figured out that the best part of being a professional isn’t trying to find new clients or manage requests; it’s taking pictures.
But still, you can’t be a successful photographer without dirtying your hands with the everyday operational aspects of running a business.
So consider an online form builder as a one-stop shop for creating online contracts, managing client intake, handling model contracts, giving quotes, gathering signatures on final approvals, and even receiving payment for services. While form builders are designed as an information collection tool for all small businesses, photographers get more disproportionately more use out of them than most. And it’s easy to see why.
In the old days, web forms needed to be created by someone with technical coding skills; today’s online form building tools require no such thing. Drag-and-drop input fields, widgets, integrations, along with copy-and-paste embed options mean photographers can create forms in minutes and get back to focusing on taking amazing photos.
And make no mistake about it, online forms are crucial for small photography businesses.
That’s why they need a simple solution for collecting information themselves. Something they can customize however they’d like, change on the fly, and a system in which store the information they collect in the cloud.
Form creation tools are generic in nature, but they’re incredibly versatile as well — you just need to know how to use them.
Here are the best ways to utilize the do-it-yourself online form builder to improve how your photography business collects information.
#1 Quote requests and online booking
There might not be a better reason to utilize the build-it-yourself online form than creating a standout form for requesting quotes. Especially if the nature of your pricing depends on the nature of the photography project, it’s important to have an effective means of collecting requirements to give an accurate quote to potential customers. And sometimes getting the ball rolling with a customer requires nothing more than an online booking form, squaring away specific dates, times, and durations of the shoot.
#2 Payment collection simplified
Collecting payment or deposit for your photography services is simplified with online forms. Most major form building tools allow you to integrate with payment solutions like PayPal or Stripe to securely receive money for services, and it can be set up with just a few clicks and your account information. Your customers can pay you quickly and seamlessly using the same form they’re giving you their order information on.
#3 Signatures the digital way
E-signing tools that come standard with most online form platforms allow you to digitally collect model release or final approval signatures in just a few clicks. The way it works is pretty simple: just drag the e-signature tool onto your form to turn it into a contract. Customers on the receiving end just need to scroll their mouse across the signature field to be able to send along a real signature with their form submission.
#4 Creating custom themes
This might sound crazy, but aesthetics are sort of important to a lot of photographers. That’s why it’s helpful to not only have the ability to create a functional online form, but a gorgeous one as well. Using many of the theme designers available, you don’t need to know complicated CSS to create beautiful, customized web forms that match your website and brand’s look and feel. It can even be a popular means of showcasing the very photography skills you’re offering to clients.
#5 Customer feedback
Many small businesses neglect this all-important form, but it’s a must to truly understand the needs of your clients, and how well you’re suiting them. Setting up a survey is no different than creating any other form. For this type of form, you can make a visual report so you get a graphic representation of how your customers feel about your business using charts and graphs.
#6 Organize in the cloud
Online forms are equal parts information collection and business process organization. Having the information you collect neatly organized in the cloud, or integrated with helpful programs like Google Spreadsheets, is the easy way to keep requests, billing, and, requirements, and inquiries at your fingertips.
#7 Scale up for special events
If you need to staff up and add more photographers for an event, isn’t it nice knowing you can do so using the same system you’ve already implemented for your other forms? Application forms are a breeze to create, and can either be embedded onto your website or used as a standalone link to include in job board postings.
General tips for more effective forms:
- Forms with images convert at a much higher rate than forms without (22% versus 14% in one of our recent studies).
- Consider changing the words on your “submit” buttons to something more descriptive to encourage more conversions.
- Only ask what you need to know. As fun as they are to create, most people don’t take a lot of pleasure filling out forms. The less time you’re asking of them, the more results you’ll see.
The best part about implementing your own online form system is the lack of barriers in your way to retrieving the information you need. The major form building platforms offer their full services for free up to a certain level of monthly submissions, and are generally pretty affordable after that.
Whether you’re an industry vet, or you’re just getting started, it’s nice to have tools to help you grow and save time. There are scores of photography businesses using DIY form builders every single day to help streamline their operations and provide better service to their customers, and the number is growing.
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Chad Reid is the Director of Communications for JotForm, a popular online form builder for photographers. A self-proclaimed pro-level rock skipper and cat lover, he lives in Oakland, California with his girlfriend.