We photographers sure do like our forms. We have forms for everything. Model release, portrait contract, printing rights, new customer information, pre-shoot questions, post-shoot questions…it’s almost absurd. I filled out less paperwork to open a business banking account. Nobody really likes forms, but they are a necessary evil.
If you are keeping a 100% paper office/filing system, you need to get with the times. Aside from that fact that is just plain wasteful, it’s time-consuming. I’m going to assume that you are probably half paper/half digital. Your workflow probably looks something like this:
- Client fills out paper forms
- You enter information into some sort of CRM
- You also enter information into your mailing list
- You enter the information into…
In this digital its just plain silly to do that much work. What if I told you that you could setup forms, that when filled out could automatically add all the info to a CRM, sign the person up for your newsletter, have them pay a deposit, and much much more?
The Gravity Forms Plugin
All this and then some is possible with a little WordPress plugin called Gravity Forms.
Here at Pictalo, we use Gravity Forms exclusively for all the forms on our WordPress themes for photographers. It is pretty much amazing. It is probably one of the best built and well maintained WordPress plugin on the market today. It’s this exact reason this isn’t a free plugin, but rather a premium plugin with a starting price of $39. If you need some additional features, it will cost you extra.
Common uses of Gravity Forms for photographers include:
- General contact form
- New client information sheet
- Newborn photography questionnaire
- Portrait photography questionnaire
- Senior portrait photography questionnaire
- Wedding photography questionnaire
- Photography session deposit
- Client testimonial form
- Newsletter sign-up form
The list can really go on and on. It just depends on your needs and wants. Technically speaking, you could use it for contracts and agreements, but it’s probably best not to leave the “digital signature” to chance. These important legal documents should stay in the paper format for now. There are services out there that allow for legal digital signatures, but you have to pay a monthly fee for them and I just don’t see them being that valuable for photographers.
NOTE: Gravity Forms does offer an add on for digital signatures, but it is only included in the most expensive version of the plugin.
A combination of good old fashion paper contracts and Gravity Forms should do just about everything you need.
How Gravity Forms Works
The Gravity Form plugin uses a very simple and very easy to use “drag and drop” interface. If you are familiar with WordPress, it’s the same basic technique as adding widgets to you sidebar. Gravity Forms has a set form fields (text boxes, checkboxes, etc) as well as sets of common form sections (address, phone number, email, etc). All you do is simply drag over the element you need on your form, customize it, and BAMN, you have a form in no time.
That is honestly all there really is to the form creation.
Once the form is created, you can do a number of additional things with it. You can setup custom automated replys, link the form to your newsletter service, have it populate your CRM, and a number of other things. It really just depends on your needs.
One nice feature is that all the form submissions are stored in your WordPress dashboard. This way, if you accidentally delete the form email, you can always look it up inside your dashboard. All of the form submission info can even be exported into a CSV file to use with other third party tools that might not work with Gravity Forms natively.
How You Can Use Gravity Forms
As mentioned already, Gravity Forms is limited only by you imagination. But, to help you better understand what you can do with it lets create a sample scenario. For the sake of this scenario, lets pretend you are a wedding photographer.
A couple visits your website and requests more information.
- You use Gravity Forms to create a contact form that allows you to capture as much or as little information as you want.
- Gravity Forms automatically send the couple a thank you email that greets them by name. The email can even contain information submitted from the form in a natural way.
- Because ou have your form linked up to your MailChimp account, you can automatically send out emails to them. These emails can be marketing related, simple wedding advice, or whatever you see fit.
Eventually the couple calls you and decides to book you as their wedding photographer.
- Because you have the premium add-ons, you have created a digital version of your contract on your website.
- You email the client a link to your online contract. They fill it out and even sign it with a real signature.
- Since your form was linked to your Paypal account, they form also redirects them to pay your standard deposit amount once the form is completed.
During the time between the signed contract and wedding you can…
- Send the couple a form the lets them check off the photos that are most important to them.
- Have them fill out a wedding photography questionnaire to find out what kind of pictures and style they want.
After the wedding…
- You can email the couple and include a link requesting a testimonial and have it automatically posted to your website.
- If you want, you can also link to a form that asks them to review your service so you can get a better idea of what you’re great at and what you need to improve.
Services That Work with Gravity Forms
One of the best parts of Gravity forms in my opinion is its ability to work with a number of third party services. The developers are also constantly working on creating additional add-ons based on customer demand. Here are the current Gravity Forms add-ons:
Awember is a email list manager and auto responder. You can have your forms submit the clients email address to your mailing list and start automatically sending them marketing and promotional emails on a predetermined schedule.
Campaign Monitor is a newsletter services. Ask clients if they want to opt-in to your studios newsletter. If they say yes, they will automatically be added to your newsletter mailing list.
MailChimp is a newsletter and auto responder. You can actually do both of the above services, auto email your clients marketing emails and ask if they want to join your newsletter.
Authorize.net is a payment gateway similar to PayPal, but generally used for selling digital products. Use your form to sell goods to photographers, have them pay for it, and then Authorize.net charge and email the item.
Freshbooks is an online invoicing app. Create a form that lets clients choose any number of criteria from your form and the automatically create and email them an estimate or invoice based on their selections.
PayPal is a payment gateway. Linking PayPal to your forms allows you accept payments on a fixed amount or a variable amount based on items selected in the form.
This premium add-on lets your clients actually sign a document with their real signature.
Twilio is a service that can send text messages for you. Setup Twilio in your forms and you can send predefined text messages to the person who filled out the form.
This premium add-on will let people who fill out the form create a user account on your blog. This is perfect if you are a photographer who has premium content for other photographers or you want to password protect content if or your clients.
There are a number of other form builder apps and plugins out there. Some of them are free and some of the have a monthly fee. I personally would prefer to make a one time payment on a great product, which is exactly what Gravity Forms is. I have tried just about every major form builder out there and Gravity Forms is by far the best bang for your buck, and then some. It does everything you would expect it to in a way that makes sense. Someone would have to build something pretty impressive to make me ever stop using Gravity Forms.