The Business of Boudoir »

Piecing Together Art History

Last month we took at look at what defines fine art in this modern industry.  In the next few months, we will dive deeper into what constitutes the makeup of a fine art process, from the initial phone call to the final piece hanging on your clients wall. Knowing what to wear or not to wear is vital to crafting a fine art piece. JTNoir_Photography_PalatkaStudio__BusinessofBoudoir_Wardrobe__NudeBack_March2015PIN

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There’s been a lot of chatter in boudoir photography forums lately about studio management software. If there’s anyone who needed to get their act together, it was ME. As my business volume increased month to month, the need to invest became more and more apparent.

I discovered 17Hats Studio Management software during its pre-launch phase last year. After working on Studio Cloud software (free and subscription version) for a few years, this was a refreshing change. Game changer. It’s actually made my business operations fun to manage once again!

Less expensive than Tave or ShootQ, but more functional and dynamic than Studio Cloud, it has a lot of features packed-in. Clients and photographers began complimenting me how organized and well-run my business, which I noticed immediately after implementing 17Hats.

Curious? Here’s a demo…

Invoicing, bookkeeping and workflow traction are the bomb. If you manage payment plans, what you’ll miss here (vs. Tave) is automatic invoice billing (although I hear it’s in the works). Some comment it has less functional marketing capabilities than Tave or ShootQ, but I’d argue you can get pretty creative with your workflow and functionality here to make it worth your while.
All in all, this is the single most important investment I’ve made for my New Jersey boudoir business in the past year. It’s improved my quality of life as well as my overall client experience.

  • May 12, 2015 - 1:55 PM

    Ryan - The one thing I didn’t see in your review was multiple company abilities.

    I run 3 “businesses” under one company to target different markets. (Family, boudoir and nature.) Is this possible? I know I could use the tags but it is logo’s, e-mail and website that are different for each. All of the monies end up in one account but for marketing reasons I need to have them separated.

    Thank-you for the review!


  • May 18, 2015 - 2:52 PM

    Melissa - Hi Cate, I noticed that you indicated that 17Hats will work with Stripe. I happen to use Square for payment processing. Can any payment processing service work with 17Hats?ReplyCancel

  • September 11, 2015 - 5:19 PM

    Rayleigh Leavitt - Thanks so much for the review on 17Hats! I currently use Tave and the functionality seems similar to 17Hats, but I like the look of 17Hats better and it costs less. But I’ll have to see what is involved in switching over. I’d hate to lose all the work I did to enter everything in to Tave (orders for each client, etc). I know you can export/import client info but I’m not sure what all will transfer over. Sounds like a big headache!ReplyCancel

  • January 6, 2016 - 11:10 AM

    Tracy Russell - Cate,
    Your video about 17Hats was very helpful! I’m currently on the free trial of it and am very impressed!
    The only question I have is how do you put your order invoices together? I was hoping to have a function where I can input all of my prices for prints, albums, frames, ect so I can just call those up when a client orders. They don’t have that function (yet, I’m told they are working on it), so I’m just wondering how others go about that.
    I love the idea of having EVERYTHING in one program so I would really love help with that area!
    Thanks so much!ReplyCancel

    • January 6, 2016 - 2:06 PM

      Cate Scaglione - I am so glad you’re loving it! I love it too. I manually enter my invoices then save them as invoice templates. I kind of enter them as collections, and then hit save. But I also have them as individual invoices. A drop down menu would be fantastic! I am sure it’s in the works.
      Check out the 17Hats Facebook forum… A lot of questions get answered there directly by the product managers which you may find helpful…ReplyCancel

As photographers, we’re always on the lookout for new, visually-appealing ways to get, and keep, people’s attention. From wildly blinged-out business cards to fancy accordion booklets, every photographer has a variety of first impression products she’s trying out. Finding the perfect one can often feel like a wild goose chase.

But maybe, just maybe, I’ve found it. View full post »

  • January 27, 2016 - 12:05 PM

    Veronica - Perfect! Just perfect!!!! I’m going to have to look into these booklets!ReplyCancel

Spoiler Alert: starting over is hard.

I’m starting over, again. Two years ago I decided that photographing weddings and children was slowly killing me and completely wiped the slate clean and dove into boudoir. Overnight I switched from natural light to studio light, photojournalistic style to fully posed, and easy income to a major challenge. No one expected me to be able to make it in my tiny town as the ONLY boudoir-specific photographer, but after a lot of work (and many many months of feeling like a complete faker) I got there. I was making a good average sale for the area, was producing quality work for quality clients, and was loving life.

Then we had the opportunity to follow our hearts to a bigger city. A city that is fully covered for boudoir — Denver is full of fantastic boudoir photographers. So the question became, what do I want to shoot? Do I want to spend another two years rebuilding my business to compete with these women? Or should I find my own niche?

So, I’m starting over. Who likes an easy life anyway? There aren’t any photographers specializing in men here, and very few across the country. With Denver being the fittest city basically in the universe, the streets are flooded with gorgeous, ripped, hunky men. And, as luck would have it, I happen to really enjoy men. Especially the naked ones.
View full post »

  • April 18, 2015 - 12:21 PM

    Leslie - I’ll be starting over this fall in a new state with all the same hurdles… except I’m not switching to dudes. Ha. That’s all you, girl. Good luck. I can’t wait to see where it takes you. Oh, and thanks for adding some men to my instagram feed instead of just ladies.ReplyCancel

    • April 21, 2015 - 3:49 PM

      Jen Swedhin - Thank you! Good luck in your new adventure!ReplyCancel

  • April 21, 2015 - 12:33 PM

    Danea - Jen, you are awesome and I believe from your work, that you are a natural with the fellows. I am a total fan of your switch and thus I need to say thank you. No really, THANK YOU! HahahaReplyCancel

    • April 21, 2015 - 3:50 PM

      Jen Swedhin - Thanks, Danea! Glad I can entertain 🙂ReplyCancel

  • April 21, 2015 - 2:02 PM

    Petra - Best quote ever: I won’t be following in footsteps. I’ll be making my own. The trick is to grow bigger feet.

    Excellent article and wishing you the all the success you hope to achieve!ReplyCancel

    • April 21, 2015 - 3:50 PM

      Jen Swedhin - Thank you!ReplyCancel

  • April 21, 2015 - 3:33 PM

    Sue Broderdorp - Super excited for this next adventure for you, Jen! I’ve been loving your images (as always)! If anyone has the business acumen to pull this off, it’s you! Go get ’em!ReplyCancel

    • April 21, 2015 - 3:51 PM

      Jen Swedhin - Thank you Sue!ReplyCancel

  • April 22, 2015 - 9:32 AM

    Jennifer - Amazing article. I love watching the change and can’t wait to see what you have next month!ReplyCancel

    • April 22, 2015 - 8:56 PM

      Jen Swedhin - Thank you!!ReplyCancel

Welcome back for part II of “Creating a Kick-Ass Client Experience”! If you missed part I on websites, you’ll first want to check that out HERE!

Today we shall talk about creating a kick-ass client experience via your inquiry response and booking process!  Once your potential client has had a chance to peruse your website and has decided “HEY, I need to hire this amazing photographer!”, they’ll need to get in touch with you to ask more questions or book their session.


There are some valuable guidelines that you’ll want to adhere to in efforts to make this as smooth as possible for your clients!

1. Make it easy to contact you.

We talked in detail about this in the “Website” portion, but it deserves another mention.  Your potential clients should have options to contact you from just about every page of your website. Your contact tab on your menu bar should be at the very end or furthest right on your website. That is where people are “programmed” to look first!

In addition to having lots of contact forms throughout your website, you should also include your e-mail address typed out. Many people are anti-contact form or they want to store your email address for future reference! Make it easy.  If your potential clients are super busy people, something as simple as not being able to find your contact info right away could deter them from booking you at all, let alone promptly.

2. Use the inquiry contact form to your advantage.

Contact forms are VERY helpful and allow the client to give you the information you need right away so that you don’t have to have more back-and-forth correspondence than necessary.   Ask questions such as “What’s the occasion, if any?” “Do you have a deadline for when you are wanting your finished products?” “How did you hear about me?” and a fun quirky one that will tell you a little about their personality and taste like “Where’s your favorite place to shop?” or “What’s your favorite beverage?”.

Getting these things addressed from the very beginning will save both you and your client time and help you get straight to the point when you respond!

3. Respond promptly and thoroughly. And no instant auto-responders.

First thing’s first: the auto-response that immediately goes out to every single email that says “Hi, we got your message but we’re with a client right now, so we’ll get back to you shortly!” is incredibly annoying. If you have one, get rid of it.  I’m not referring to a vacation response (although, those can be off-putting as well).

Next, RESPOND to your emails in a timely manner. My personal policy is to respond within 3 hours of an inquiry, although the majority of the time, I respond within an hour. It’s a commitment for sure, but that is how important the client experience is to me … and my client satisfaction (understatement) record reflects that.

Templates are your friend! Make them. Make them for inquiry responses, booking confirmations, appointment reminders, etc. When I respond to a first-time inquiry, I start out with my template, but then I personalize it with all the information that I was given in the contact form.

I make mention of why it’s such a great idea to do the shoot for *insert their occasion*, let them know about turnaround times in relation to when they are wanting their finished product, answer all of their questions, AND comment on their favorite place to shop/favorite beverage. I am showing them right off the bat that I am thorough, efficient, and genuinely care about them and their experience with me.

Then the email goes into detail about what the process looks like, directs them to important parts of my website like my reviews from past clients, the FAQ section, and my detailed pricing guide. I let them know how excited I am that they are about to have this experience.

4. Assume they are going to book, and present them with the next step without them having to ask.

After I’m done educating them on the boudoir experience with me, answering all of their questions, and bombarding them with stellar customer service, I do it some more by telling them what to do next!  I tell them what my next available dates are that will still get them finished products in time, and direct them through the booking process should they decide they want to move forward.

I never want to end an inquiry response with “Let me know if you have any questions or want to know how to book a shoot!”. I want to direct them, tell them what to do next so there are no other questions. Make sense?

When they respond back, it’s always with something like “WOW, thank you for the fast and thorough response!” … and is usually followed with “I’ll take May 10th at 10:00am!”.

5. Streamline your booking process.

Sending your clients a contract through a document signing program, then an invoice via your payment processing company for them to pay, then a questionnaire in a different email, and then your boudoir prep guide in yet a different email is not only confusing but also completely unorganized, frustrating, and likely to be put off until they have a solid block of time to sit down at their computer.  If your clients are anything like my clients (or like most human beings), they’re freaking busy. They don’t have time to follow 7 different links and make sure they’re jumping through all of your hoops. 

I’m actually in the process of completely overhauling my booking process to make it even more efficient. I used to use ShootQ (but not to it’s full capabilities like I should have), and have recently switched over to 17hats (Note: I am not sponsored in any way, shape, or form by either company. I just like the product.) for my studio management.

Screen Shot 2015-04-06 at 10.00.25 AM copyPIN

If you don’t have a system for your booking process, get one. I will be the first to tell you, as I am currently pulling my hair out over it, that it is a giant pain to set up. Once you’ve got it set up, though, your life will be so much more organized, efficient, and less stressful. The amount of time saved by not having to re-type the same emails over and over is insane.

On top of that, though, when your booking system is mostly automated, it looks way better to your clients and leaves nothing to question. Here is how mine is set up:

Client selects package, signs contract, and pays the retainer fee all from one email that I have sent them via 17hats.  It’s fool proof for them!


As soon as that is completed, they receive an automated email (which is a template that I was sure to put my voice and personality into) letting them know that their shoot is officially official.  This email gives them my boudoir prep guide with the tips on getting ready for their shoot. It tells them exactly what they can expect from me. It gives them their “homework” assignment from me.

4 days before their shoot, I get a reminder in my calendar that tells me or my assistant to give the client a call to see if they are ready and excited for their shoot, see if they have any last minute questions, and basically just reassure them that we’re about to have the BEST time. They’ll usually bring up their outfits or a massive pimple that just developed. We chit chat for a few minutes and then I let them know that they’ll be getting a shoot reminder via email the next with directions to the studio, parking instructions, and other day-of reminders. This email is also automatically scheduled to go out 3 days before their shoot … yet another thing I don’t have to remember.

When they show up to shoot (10 minutes early, with their face clean and moisturized and their lingerie all steamed/wrinkle-free because my automated prep and confirmation email told them to!), they know exactly what to expect and they are more at ease, organized, and impressed with their experience before a single shot has been fired.

THAT, my friends, is how to create an outstanding experience for your clients before you even shoot!

Next time, we’ll talk about how to deliver an outstanding client experience during the actual photo shoot! Stay tuned, y’all!

Feel free to leave any of your questions on the inquiry and booking process in the comments!



  • April 7, 2015 - 3:28 PM

    Lynn Clark - Kara, another stellar post! Thank you for going into so much detail about it! I’m looking at 17hats right now to solve some of these exact issues.

    xx LynnReplyCancel

  • April 8, 2015 - 1:02 AM

    Elizabeth Zimmerman - So many little, but important, tweaks! Thank you!!ReplyCancel