Today, I’m sharing my review of HoneyBook—the client relationship management tool I’ve used since 2016! This little workhorse tool has helped me collect nearly $250K in my small business over the past 2.5 years.
I tried loads of systems to streamline accounting and client workflow the first few months after I quit my corporate job. I’d been serving brides for years as a calligrapher, but now that I was doing this *FOR REAL* for real—and adding copywriting—I needed to get my ‘ish together.
From a jury-rigged Excel system to Quickbooks, Freshbooks to 17Hats, even poking around in Dubsado (which launched after I was pretty heavy into making HoneyBook convert like crazy for me) … if it was a CRM tool billed for creative small businesses, you name it, I gave it a whirl.
At my first creative conference, my friends Jenna and Kat told me to give HoneyBook a whirl. “Just try it. It’s worth the price, and once you get it all set up you’ll see why it’s worth it.”
I got home, took a deep breath, and invested in the software platform so I could quit my cut-and-paste systems.
Chips all in, I did it.
And I haven’t looked back (proof is in the profit!).
In this post and video tutorial, I’m unpacking my review—the good AND the bad—as well as 5 ways you can get started in HoneyBook today!
What Is HoneyBook?
Before I dig in, I want to explain what HoneyBook is.
HoneyBook is a client relationship management tool. It’s a place to file and e-sign agreements, process invoices, manage client projects, and communicate with the client.
Like I said, there are lots of different options here.
I get asked a lot “which project management tool should I pick?”
The answer is the one you’ll use.
I’ve said it before, and here’s the thing: no ONE CRM or project management tool will have every.single.bell.and.whistle you’ve EVER dreamed of, unless you develop your own app or tool. Honest.
The trick is to pick the ones that get it the CLOSEST and invest time setting it all up to work for you.
My biggest qualm as I searched? I needed a pristine, organized workflow—with accounting reporting and “housing” for my contract and email templates—that gave my clients a high-end, AW branded experience.
I needed brains and beauty for my invoices, contracts, and client experience.
HoneyBook hit the closest to that, and continues to.
What Makes HoneyBook Amazing
So, you’re doing all the things, especially early on. You’re the payment collector, CEO, CMO, project manager, customer service tech, IT guy (definitely IT, which ew, is my least favorite when something’s on the fritz!), and for sure the janitor.
Being able to centralize 90% of my client experience in one tool?
That’s like, getting a financial gift from Shark Tank (er, almost).
Here are a few things I love:
Being able to hit “chat” when I’m confused is a game-changer. I’ve hopped on a call with their team (multiple times), suggested ideas for product improvements (which they made!), and more. I can point to at least 3 things inside HoneyBook now that I asked for and they added per my requestThe only thing that could make support better is if they were 24/7, which is why I like the Facebook group.
Before I could afford a bookkeeper, each Friday, I opened a spreadsheet, and manually typed every single expense in my business. I then added every single client payment (I was invoicing with PayPal or asking them to mail me a check).
I calculated sums, counted pennies, and prayed clients would pay on time because I had no standardized way of reaching out if payments were late.
Then I tried to figure out QuickBooks on my own, and THAT was a disaster and a half.
No wonder I was always in math coach class growing up.
And then HoneyBook came in with their easy reporting.
On the billing screen, I can review outstanding and paid payments (btw—I click the “remind” button if the client is late, and it sends a gentle note I’ve pre-loaded in!), and run quick profit & loss. To note, since we have lots of other streams of revenue, I typically use HoneyBook analytics to look at our client work only … i.e. not digital products. FYI!
You can tell where your leads come from, too—I don’t realize use this because we “gate” our contact form and only give it out to those who are a fit for us, but this was super helpful before I did that!
Nothing mentions HoneyBook. Everything that comes from me is Ashlyn Writes. I appreciate how I can let things look fancy, because if I’m going to charge high-end prices, dangit I’d best be giving a high-end experience.
More on how to get set up like this below!
HoneyBook talks to other software, which is lovely. Here are the ones I actually use:
QuickBooks (which my bookkeeper uses to track and report my finances)
Gmail: So I don’t have to manually type in if we add a project, plus, we see all the email exchanges and can “reply” within Gmail, but the client sees it like it was sent within HoneyBook
ConvertKit: If they fill out an application/contact form, they can get added to an email marketing sequence (or our newsletter) given permission. Click here to start your FREE 30-day trial of ConvertKit!
Y’all know I love me some time tracking. If I’m tracking time to a client with a billable project, I can mark that in two shakes. I don’t have to worry about reporting from some other time tracker (note: It doesn’t have a clock running, but you can go in and enter “6 hours of work to a sales page” after).
Because I can’t tell you how many times I’ve needed to email a client from the airport and needed to be official.
What Makes HoneyBook Not So Amazing
Credit Card Fees
Other creatives complain about credit card fees, but there’s a chance to use other forms of payment—I’ve had clients ask to pay by check or PayPal, and been able to work that out.
But, TBH I count credit card fees as like, part of being a business owner in 2018.
We have fees on everything we sell, not just client services. Shopify, Stripe, our courses … everything. I calculate in things like this making our annual budget, so again, not a big deal to me.
Again, they don’t have 24/7 chat (but that’d be kinda weird, since they’re humans, not bots). Back in the day, out here on the east coast I used to have to wait on that west coast sun to rise, but that’s changed—they’ve upped their time a lot, and you have 12 hours a day (and weekends) to get support.
No Client-facing Demos
In the past, I’ve found it kinda hard to “show” a client what to do. I ended up making a couple of how-to videos on my own, but it’d be nice if HoneyBook had a library of videos I could send when my client’s having user error and can’t figure out something inside the platform.
I also had a ~famous~ client one time run into issues and they reached out to her with a billing issue she was having, which was pretty fab.
It’s not available worldwide yet
Again, this doesn’t affect me, but I have a student in Haiti and didn’t realize this until she mentioned she was having a hard time finding a CRM in general.
5 Ways to Get Started with HoneyBook
Okay, let’s dig into how you can get started. Don’t forget to watch the full video to see how to do this!
Step 1: Add in your visual branding.
Go to Company Settings, and load in your logo, brand color, imagery, email signature info, and any pertinent files. p.s. Here’s where you add team info if you need to load in your headshots, too.
Step 2: Customize Your Pipeline & Load-in Your Workflow
Ah, workflows. My love language. So, this post I wrote about How to Automate Your Workflow with HoneyBook & Trello will probably help the most, but essentially, spend some time loading in your client process.
This lets you automate and trigger as much as possible (more on that in the video).
Then—at least I like to do this—go into your Pipeline (the docket of client work you’ve got) and add in any areas you need to track. Like, I need to be able to track when we need testimonials.
Step 3: Load in Your File Types & Templates
Okay, this goes in tandem with Step 2. Here, I’d recommend going ahead and adding in your brochures/inquiry magazine, questionnaires you need from clients, your proposal templates, and your packages.
You can also create payment plan templates, which has been helpful for me!
Step 4: Create Your Contact Form
I’ve talked about this, but we “gate” or lock our client contact form—at least while I’m writing this!—just because we got so many inquiries from folks we wanted to see if we could help out before the client stage. Copywriting is expensive, and I don’t want someone to invest if they’re not quite there!
Whether you’re using your contact form on your website or “hiding” it like we do, you can go ahead and add in your questions—it’s easy to embed!
Step 5: Test Your Process
Finally, I recommend a dry run. Open an incognito window or hop on another computer, and make a dummy email address so you can flow through your process.
WHEW! That was a long one! I get asked a lot of questions, and wanted to make sure I’d answered why we use HoneyBook and tell you how you can get started!
Verdict? Worth it. Worth the time I put into setting it up. Worth the money I paid to get started on it, back when that was a leap of faith.
Want to give it a whirl? Here’s a trial for not 20%, not 30%, not 40% but 50% off your HoneyBook experience—plus, snag my free welcome packet template when you register through my link for your FREE 14-day trial!