Freelance Wedding Photographer Accounting Software: Choosing TAVE
If you are serious about your small business, it’s time to take your accounting to the next level – on par with the work you are doing. For the first year I was using Google Documents to manage my business. It was okay when I only had 5-10 jobs per year. Each client could have their own word document and I had a running spreadsheet to track expenses and payments ect… But now that we are doing more than 40 jobs per year, I knew it was time to upgrade our accounting system. It’s just another cost of doing business. Free is great when you are just starting out. However, you get what you pay for is pretty much always true. That’s why I started looking at my options.
Before I started my search, I made a wishlist of the features I wanted. I didn’t know if I could find a software that would meet all of them, but I figured it was a good place to start. Here were some of the things I wanted my software to have. They also happen to be some of the deficits I was having when I was simply using Google Documents.
My list of WANTS from my photography accounting software
- Calendar – Being organized and reminded of events upcoming was important to me. It’s my biggest fear to be late or miss something or to be under-prepared in general. I wanted the software to help me with that. I wanted it to sync to my phone, with my gmail ect..
- Cloud Based – I knew I wanted to be able to access my info and jobs on the fly – from my phone, ipad ect.. I didn’t want to have to worry about my computer crashing, and along with it my accounting data – I didn’t want to have to worry about making backups myself.
- Track Expenses – I have over 100 purchases every year often for over $5,000 in gear ect… and I wanted a way to categorize and track that info so that taxes would be fast and easy.
- Contracts – I knew that typical accounting software would have trouble with this one – I didn’t even know if it existed. I had digitally signed the lease for my apartment in Chicago, so I wondered if I could find a software that would allow my clients to digitally sign their contracts. I wouldn’t have to worry about scanning them in – and clients wouldn’t have to e-mail them to me.
- Branding – I wanted my clients to have a brand specific experience – in other words, when my clients interacted with my accounting software, I wanted their user interface to be consistent with my brand.
- Invoices – I assumed that pretty much all the various software would allow for invoicing, but the feature I was really interested in was automated e-mailing. With wedding photography, or wedding freelance business, there are often multiple payments – typically a deposit well in advance and then a remaining balance a couple weeks before the event – what I wanted was some software that would automatically remind my clients that their bills were due.
- Pay Online – though not critical to me – I thought it would be cool if my clients could pay online. Again, saving me the trouble of checks.
- Questionnaire – we ask all of our clients to fill out a questionnaire, it helps us remember all the information and gives us insight into the job. I wanted my software to track all the answers.
- Taxes – obviously, I wanted to the software to make my life easier when tax time rolled around.
- User Interface – We are creative types – not accountants – I didn’t want to feel like I was using excel – I wanted a nice graphic user interface.
- Cost – I was stressed enough using Google Documents, that I was ready to spend money. But I’m no dummy, the smaller the cost, the better of course.
As I was making my list, I realized that it was long. I wasn’t sure what the hierarchy was, but I didn’t think I was going to find all of them. I started my search – of course at first, I didn’t think to look for software aimed at photographers – I didn’t realize that existed. It does! Before I rush ahead, here are some of the programs I looked at.
Accounting Softwares I Looked At for Photography
- Quickbooks by Intuit: Quickbooks was cloud based. It did all the accounting things you’d expect. It was reasonably priced at about $20/month, but there were lots of wierd add ons and extras. It was aimed at all small businesses. It couldn’t do my contracts and digital signatures.
- Studio Cloud: the basic version is free. Then jumps in price as you add things. It did contracts and signatures for an extra $10/mo, it was another $3/mo to add my wife, another $10/mo for online booking, another $10/mo for cloud alerts, and more and more and more for cloud storage, and text messages and just seemed silly. It’s big downfall for me however, was that you had to download something. I wanted, no needed, everything to be online – from any computer – any device – at any moment.
- Studio Plus: I didn’t get very far in my investigation of this one. The website was so confusing I had little hope for the software. I gave up on it before I ever gave it a chance. I also chopped it quickly because it was over $60/month. That was simply too expensive for my blood.
- Successware: Computer based – out.
- ShootQ: was well documented online. It was an early front runner. The plans started at $40/month. It seemed to have a nice graphic user interface. It was web based. One of the downsides for me was that it only allowed for one brand (for reasons I won’t go into – I needed more brands, for video/photo/architecture ect.)
- Tave: was also well documented online. While I was on the website for the first time, I was able to click chat, and talk directly to one of the founders. I liked this. It was able to do all the bullets on my list. I will do a separate review for an in depth review of TAVE.
It was, at the end, between ShootQ and TAVE. I ultimately chose TAVE because it was a little cheaper, and seemed to have all the same functionality as ShootQ along with A-grade tech support. It also gave me multiple brands, and I know that is not important to everyone. It’s very important to me. I’m not sure if you can do the questionnaire withe ShootQ, but I know you can with TAVE. I am able to sync my calendar. Tave is cloud based, tracks my expenses, allows me to make contracts and have them signed online, send invoices, track payments, and payment schedules, create templates for emails, contracts, and invoices, allows clients to pay online if I so choose. Lastly, TAVE costs me $32 per month. If you only need one brand, it would only cost $25/month. Happy Accounting. What an oxymoron!