What is HoneyBook?
HoneyBook is a CRM built for small, independent business owners. Initially, it was designed for creative entrepreneurs like photographers, interior designers, copywriters, and graphic designers. In 2023, they rebranded and also updated a lot of their features. As a HoneyBook Educator, I wanted to take a second to answer some of the most common questions I get from business owners. So, if you’re looking for a thorough HoneyBook review, I got you! (And yes, I meant to rhyme.)
If you’re not familiar with CRMs, it’s basically a tool to manage your clients all in one place. Rather than jumping from your inbox to your invoicing software to your calendar, HoneyBook keeps each client in their own folder of the same system. This makes the entire process seamless for both of you. (I give examples on how it can change your workflow here.) Honestly, it’s a breath of fresh air… especially when you’re swamped!
Want a quick peek inside HoneyBook? Watch this 2 minute run down.
Here because you already know you want HoneyBook but wanna save some money? Click here.
How to Use HoneyBook
If you know how to use HoneyBook to its full potential, it’s a lifesaver. Many of my clients have gone from feeling overwhelmed to completely on top of their business (even though they’re currently working with 3-4x the number of clients they used to).
There are a ton of features within HoneyBook, but the ones my clients use most frequently are…
HoneyBook Website Integration
Whether you’re tech savvy and want to embed your contact form directly on your site or prefer to link it via buttons to keep your site design clean (like I do), HoneyBook has options for you!
“And that’s not all…” *in cheesy infomercial voice*
Every time someone inquires, rather than it only going to your email, it’ll go straight into HoneyBook. Bare minimum, you’ll get a notification that you can reply to as normal. If you have date-specific services (again, like a wedding photographer) and your inquiry form asks for that info, HoneyBook will also tell you whether or not you’re available, making life so much easier. Even better though, if you have automations set up, the system could reply for you using pre-drafted templates.
“It’s like having an assistant.” – my past photography client, Sarah, after setting up her workflows.
All of this is so easy when you have things like your contact form or even scheduler (more on that in a minute) integrated right into your website.
HoneyBook Scheduling & Calendar
Okay, now that they’ve inquired, your next step may be to set up a consult call to get to know them. Can you think of anything more annoying than the dreaded back and forth emails of “I’m free this day until 2pm, this day after 10am… do either of those work for you? No? Oh, okay, how about these days?”
Wanna know the easiest way to lose a potential client? Make it hard or cumbersome for them to work with you. They deserve better and frankly, you don’t have the time for a bunch of inefficient back and forth.
With HoneyBook’s scheduler tool, you can set your availability for different types of meetings / sessions and simply send them the link to pick a time. Not only does this keep you super organized, it also makes life really easy for the client while maintaining strong time boundaries in a subtle way. Once they pick a time, it’ll be automatically put in your calendar while sending them any details they need to join / prepare.
Depending on what you’re scheduling, those details may change. For instance, a consult call may take place virtually for 20 minutes while a session may take place in person for 1 hour. Having different session calendars allows you to batch your schedule with certain types of meetings on specific days (if you’d like) or simply limit things like photo sessions to times of the day that have the best lighting.
The way you use the HoneyBook scheduling function will obviously depend on your type of business, but this is one of my favorite features and saves so. much. time!
Let’s say your consult call or email exchange is going super well and your client is ready to move forward… please don’t make it difficult for them to do so. I cringe when I think about my client process pre-HoneyBook. I would send a PDF contract, ask them to print & sign it, then scan & email it back. What a pain in the ass. Granted, this was years ago… I wouldn’t want to do it.
With HoneyBook, you can send digital contracts that can be electronically signed within seconds. And HoneyBook will even remind you to countersign the document, verifying you both agree to the terms. This is not only so much easier for your client, but it’ll help you book more people quicker.
Consistency is super helpful for incoming clients because they won’t have to learn multiple softwares or open 1000 links to make their booking official. Unless you like chasing clients down to help them finish their onboarding process, having each step all in one place is so helpful.
Through HoneyBook, you can send invoices as well. If you understand the value of efficiency and don’t mind payment fees, you can accept ACH bank transfers or credit card payments directly through the HoneyBook invoice. If you’d rather accept a check to avoid fees, you can send the invoice with limited payment options and manually mark it as paid once the check arrives.
Either way, invoicing through HoneyBook has that added benefit of staying organized with all client files & communication in one place.
HoneyBook Smart Files
We haven’t even gotten to the best part yet! With HoneyBook smart files, you can combine your proposal (details of services), contract, & invoice into one file. This allows clients to click ONE link, easily navigate through the file, and complete their booking in literal minutes.
Making it easy for clients to book will increase your booking rate, which – yay for you, but it will also make their client experience better from the start. If you want “effortless” or “stress-free” to be associated with your service, this is the way to set a tone.
To be clear, smart files can be used a multitude of ways. It doesn’t just have to be for onboarding. You can combine any number of steps into one smart file to make the process easier for everyone. For example, I also use smart files to prep for my strategy session after a client books. They first page welcomes them, the second page is a custom questionnaire (spoiler alert: HoneyBook has those too) I use to gather more information about their business / specific goal for the meeting, and the third page contains a scheduling link that takes them specifically to my strategy session scheduler.
I set this up intentionally so they couldn’t schedule their session until they got me all of the information I needed. This prevents clients from waiting until the last minute or worse, not getting me the info at all. Because my ability to help them depends so much on understanding their problems / goals thoroughly, I can’t do my job without their answers.
Maybe you feel the same way. Maybe clients are quick to choose their session time, but you have to hound them to get you the info you need to plan it effectively. Not only do you feel annoying when this happens, sometimes it means you’re flying by the seat of your pants once that day arrives because they haven’t gotten you what you need. Using a multi-step smart file will help eliminate this completely. And because they can’t schedule until they submit their answers, they’ll have extra motivation to get it filled out.
Like I said, if you ever need to collect information from a client to serve them better, using questionnaires is a great way to do it. I don’t know about you, but I don’t particularly enjoy getting a bunch of questions via email and then having to copy & paste them into my reply or change the color of my responses to be clear.
HoneyBook questionnaires are beautiful and can make the process of providing information a lot more enjoyable for your clients. It creates a subtle, but huge elevation of your client experience. In practice, questionnaires for business to consumer services (like wedding / family photographers & interior designers) could be used for things like:
- Planning a wedding day timeline.
- Creating inspiration for custom engagement / lifestyle sessions.
- Gathering a clear list of family formal photos.
- Getting a better idea of your client’s style.
If you’re B2B (like a website designer, brand designer, or copywriter), you could also use this to:
- Help you draft your client’s moodboard.
- Get a good understanding of their brand voice.
- Gather important information (such as details about the experience your client provides).
Having all of this info in one specific place is so helpful anytime you need to refer back throughout the project. No more sifting through 100 emails to find the one that mentions when their makeup artist is scheduled to arrive.
HoneyBook Automatic Payments
Did I say the scheduler was my favorite feature? I might’ve lied. This one is my favorite feature. If you provide a service that requires a deposit / retainer or has a payment schedule, HoneyBook automatic payments is going to save your butt. When you initially create your invoice, you can either set it up to where they pay you on certain dates with the option of automatic payments or you can require them to opt into automatic payments.
If you choose automatic payments, it will make this clear to the client. When a payment date approaches, HoneyBook will send the client an automatic reminder letting them know how much is coming out of their card / account on file and when. Notice I said HoneyBook sends this reminder. This means that in their email, you’re not harassing them for money. I love this because it allows you to be the relationship builder and makes HoneyBook kind of like your pseudo collections team.
I choose automatic payments for all of my clients and often encourage clients do the same because:
- It’s one less thing to have to keep track of.
- It’s easier for your clients who are often busy themselves.
- You can avoid awkward money conversations or chasing people down.
- It ensures you get your payment on time, which can be really important for small business owners.
Long story short? If you basically want a built in accounts receivable department, use automatic payments on HoneyBook.
Everything I’ve mentioned so far can be made into a template so you’re not starting from scratch every single time. Even if you offer the most custom service in the world, you often repeat at least the same outline for each client within that service. For example, my strategy sessions are different for each person depending on their goals, but the process is the same…
- Book the client via contract & invoice.
- Gather information needed for meeting.
- Schedule the meeting.
While the questionnaire itself may change a smidge from person to person, the rest will stay the same with the exception of minor details like date and price. Having a template saves me so much time. I just click, update, and send.
Within your HoneyBook account, you can create templates for not only specific files, but also the email copy that accompanies them. Imagine not having to stress about what you’re going to say each time someone inquires! How amazing would it feel if you could just use a dropdown menu to pick the email template you’ve pre-written to convert? (Side note: if you need help strategically writing the emails throughout your process, my course, Systems That Sell can help you do that within hours.)
Your time is too valuable to spend it re-writing the same emails or creating the same files over and over. Work smarter, not harder, and get back to living your life, lady!
Look, everyone thinks you have to use automations to be efficient. Personally, with HoneyBook templates alone, I think you can save a ton of time. (Raise your hand if automations kind of freak you out because you’re a control freak!) *raises hand*
HoneyBook workflows are those automations though and they’re not as intimidating as they sound. You can set up specific triggers & actions for various parts of your client process. For example, you could trigger a welcome email for the second someone officially books with you. Because people love to feel reassured of their decisions, having a quick response at that point of your process can set the tone for the rest of their experience.
There are truly endless ways to use HoneyBook workflows, so I won’t go into depth on it, but just know it’s an option. Oh — and you should also know there are very techy business owners called HoneyBook Pros that HoneyBook has vetted to help people just like you!
Obviously, saving all this time comes with a cost. And I get it… business is already expensive. Do you really want to add another line item? Hear me out… whenever I explain this to my 1:1 clients, they’re quick to invest. How much is your time worth? Yes, it’s quantifiable.
Let’s say you charge $500 for a photo session. Obviously, that includes the shoot and editing, but it also includes prep / communication. If you’re spending an extra 15 minutes per client because you have to hunt down emails and send manual invoices, you’re missing out on serving more clients. Even if you only worked with 20 people in a year, paying for a CRM could save you 5 hours… that’s plenty of time to take on an additional client, which could pay for HoneyBook for the year!
I believe HoneyBook’s pricing is worth its weight in gold, but it’s up to you to decide, so let’s break it down…
How Much Does HoneyBook Cost?
HoneyBook’s monthly or annual fee varies depending on the plan you choose. There are three plans designed to cater to different levels of business.
Shameless plug that will benefit you… as a HoneyBook Educator, I have the best discount to offer new HoneyBook members. If you use code: creativebusinesscoach, you can save anywhere from 35-50% on your first year (depending on whether or not there’s a seasonal sale). You’ll also get my templates for free!
The Starter Plan
The starter plan is great for those with simple businesses. If you’re afraid of automations and don’t really need integrations with other bookkeeping tools, this is perfect for you. You’ll be able to use invoices, proposals, contracts, templates, & the scheduler (limited to one session type). When paid monthly, it’s $19, but if you opt into the annual payment, it breaks down to $16 / month.
The Essentials Plan
The essentials plan is the best choice for businesses with 1-2 employees that will need to access HoneyBook. Not only do you get everything in the starter plan, you also get access to the scheduler function, HoneyBook-free branding, expense management, and automations. This plan ranges from $32-39 per month depending on if you pay monthly or annually.
The Premium Plan
The final plan is the premium plan and to be honest, I’ve yet to work with a business owner that truly needs this one. I work with primarily solo entrepreneurs, husband and wife teams, or those with a few employees that don’t need to access client info. This plan includes everything mentioned in the essentials plan in addition to unlimited team members & increased access to HoneyBook’s staff. I’ll chat more about their service in a minute, but considering it’s already pretty stellar, this doesn’t seem necessary. The premium plan ranges from $66-79 per month depending on if you pay monthly or yearly.
HoneyBook Plans at a Glance
Here’s a visual breakdown on the HoneyBook pricing listed above. In the photo, you’ll see what each plan costs with the limited time 50% discount applied. If you use my code to sign up, it should automatically apply once your free trial is up! Take full advantage of that free trial to poke around, but also note that HoneyBook offers a 60 day money-back guarantee.
If you want to dive deeper to compare different features available on each plan, visit HoneyBook’s pricing page & click “compare plan features.”
HoneyBook Processing Fees
One other cost associated with using HoneyBook (just like any other payment collector) is their processing fees. I’ll provide a quick summary below, but if you want a super in-depth look straight from HoneyBook, watch the video below. When compared to other payment processors, HoneyBook is pretty on par. In fact, they’re actually lower than Square, PayPal, & Stripe!
If you’re concerned about processing fees eating into your profit, factor them into the price of your services. (Kind of like Amazon does to account for “free shipping.”)
HoneyBook ACH Transaction Fees
HoneyBook ACH transactions can take a little longer to clear / reach your bank account. (We’re talking 7-8 business days vs 2-3 when the client pays with a credit card.) But there’s a huge advantage to using ACH payments on HoneyBook. The transaction fee is 1.5% regardless of whether it’s the first payment being made or an automatic payment coming out later on.
Honestly, you’ll save a lot of money if you can get clients to pay via bank transfer. Plus, it’s usually quicker than waiting for a physical check (and definitely more convenient for your clients).
HoneyBook Credit Card Fee
Credit card payments are often the preferred payment method for clients and if it means the difference between booking or losing a client, I’ll suck up the extra fee. If the client manually enters the credit card info, you’ll be charged 2.9% + 25 cents. If you opt for automatic payments, you’ll pay 3.4% + 9 cents.
Depending on the size of your payments, you may decide you’d rather follow up for future payments personally. Think about the difference in fees as the cost of your accounts receivable team.
I cover this quickly at the end of my course, Systems That Sell, but there are a few popular alternatives to HoneyBook that you could consider… Let’s start with the most popular.
HoneyBook vs Dubsado
Look, I’m not going to pretend to be a Dubsado expert. But here’s what happened to me when I signed up for an account to help my husband automate his business. (At the time, HoneyBook’s branding was very creative business focused and my husband’s business is… not that. Otherwise, we would’ve gone that route. I digress.)
I was completely overwhelmed. It felt like I had to have a PhD in computer science to figure out how to create automations and a Masters in graphic design to make the files look good. It was clunky, the support team / articles were less than helpful and within hours, I ran back into the loving arms of HoneyBook.
Put simply, I hate Dubsado. But, I have a few tech-savvy clients who love it. They swear by it and it works great for their business. So let me push my bias aside and give you the quick run down of who should win in the great battle of HoneyBook vs Dubsado…
If you are excited to nerd out and create complex automations, go with Dubsado. If you want the ability to embed a form on your site that allows someone to schedule, sign, & pay without even talking to you, use Dubsado. (HoneyBook is working on this, but it may be a while.) Don’t care about having an app for your CRM because you plan to work mostly from your computer? Dubsado could be a good fit.
If you want an easy to use CRM, go with HoneyBook. Is having access to your notifications & client files / emails on the go with an app important to you? Go with HoneyBook. If you want the ability to communicate with multiple contacts within the same project, go with HoneyBook. (I’ve noticed this is particularly helpful with people like wedding planners. You may want to keep your couple and their vendors in the same workspace for organization purposes, but want to be able to email them separately. This is where HoneyBook shines.) Lastly, if you don’t want to have to sign up for a separate payment processor, go with HoneyBook.
In my opinion, these are the biggest differences, but it’s personal preference. Oh – and from a price perspective, Dubsado’s plans vary from $17-40 / month. As far as processing fees, they link with Stripe, Paypal, & Square, which if you remember, take more than HoneyBook.
HoneyBook vs Calendly
Calendly is not a CRM. It can integrate with CRMs, but really it’s just a scheduling service.
It’s a great option for those who just want to make scheduling sessions or consult calls with clients simpler. If you want it to behave a lot like HoneyBook’s scheduler, you’re going to spend at least $8 / month on Calendly. (This gives you access to email reminders & more than one session type.) At that point, it seems like a no-brainer to just pay for the additional features HoneyBook provides.
HoneyBook vs QuickBooks
Again, QuickBooks is not a CRM. That said, you can connect HoneyBook to QuickBooks (if you pick the essentials or premium plan). They’re really not suitable alternatives for one another, so it’s hard to compare them as such.
QuickBooks starts at $15 a month and is built to help you track your money in your business. You can invoice through QuickBooks like you can with HoneyBook, but clients would then have to follow multiple steps to complete booking. That said, the processing fees are slightly lower than HoneyBook’s.
If the only thing you want is to track income / expenses as well as invoice clients, QuickBooks could work great. But again, for the price, HoneyBook makes more sense from a customer management standpoint.
Is HoneyBook Worth It?
I mean, if it isn’t obvious by now, yes. I’m leaving a glowing HoneyBook review. I believe it’s worth it and recommend it to most of my clients. It saves so much time, keeps you organized, & makes the entire process feel effortless for your clients. And honestly, with as much competition as there is for creatives these days, the level of professionalism that comes with HoneyBook will make you stand out.
If that’s not enough, here are a few reasons I love HoneyBook specifically…
HoneyBook Customer Service
I don’t think I’ve ever waited more than an hour (during business hours) to hear back from their support team. With a built in chat function, I can easily get the help I need. I’d compare HoneyBook’s customer service to Showit’s… they’re fun, helpful, and aren’t afraid of a good gif.
They also have an incredible resource library that is actually easy to search and follow along with.
But what makes HoneyBook really shine is their FREE setup service. This is available for any plan. Let’s say you’re new to HoneyBook, but have contracts, proposals, and email templates you’ve been using for years. All you have to do is send them to the HoneyBook team and they’ll set them up inside HoneyBook for you!
It’s seriously that easy. In my course, I help students create one Google Doc that upon completion, can be handed off to HoneyBook. It takes work off of your plate and gets you set up for success quickly so you can implement what you’ve learned.
HoneyBook Promo Code
Phew – if you made it this far, congrats. I know this was a beast of a breakdown, but hopefully it was a helpful HoneyBook review. As a HoneyBook affiliate, I get access to their best discounts for you! Depending on the time of year, my HoneyBook promo code will save you 35-50% on your first year. This almost always saves you as much or more money than they offer through HoneyBook’s normal website promos!
But the nice thing about using my link (or code: creativebusinesscoach) is that you not only help support a small business owner, but you also receive my smart file templates for free!