I am so proud to be a part of the Flirty Fleurs Magazine this month! Read our full-featured article below and learn how to take your business into the digital age!
By Alison Dahlson
It's the year 2017 and gone are the days of yellow legal pads of scribbles, checkbooks, and snail mail. Well, some of those things may still exist in our industry, but for the most part, they've been replaced by tablets, credit card swipers, and email. I realize there's a kind of comfort in consistency, of doing things the way you've always done them, but does that always mean it's the most efficient way?
Some old-school practices, like handwriting your wholesale orders or using your trusty Excel sheets, may still work for you. Still, there's a way to make the "business" side of your business much easier and more efficient, allowing you to focus all your creative energy on designing. So many of us wish we could leave the books to someone else - and surprise! - there are now could-based systems designed to do just that.
I've heard these programs called different names - Business Management Software for Creatives, Studio Management Software, Floral & Event Planning Software - but what they all have in common is their intent of organizing and simplifying the business side of your world and making life much easier. From designing beautiful, branded proposals and contracts to creating and storing flower recipes, these programs have features to help you run and streamline your business. We've selected five of the most popular programs on the market to give you a look at what's available and the unique features each offers.
Many of the programs share a few basic features in common, allowing users to:
*Lobiloo does not support payment processing at this time.
**Honeybook was created for creatives and the wedding industry in general, so it doesn't offer some of the more florist-specific features listed.
The following graphic compares the features each of these cloud-based systems offers. Each offers a free trial, so you can play with the various platforms to see which will best serve your needs.
I chatted with several florists who'd each tried at least one of these programs to elicit feedback about their experiences, shared here alphabetically.
Details gets rave reviews for its professional appearance and visual beauty. Its good looks seem to help upsell clients, and its ability to determine the general cost of an arrangement or bouquet from simply uploading an image is a helpful tool unique to Details. Several commenters did note that its higher price point was a deterrent.
One designer told me that what she loved about Details is "the graphics/layout, the recipes (you can save them and not start from scratch each time), and the analysis." When I asked about possible improvements, she said, "Just some tweaks to make it more customizable. They've been excellent in adding features and getting feedback from users."
Honeybook also gets high marks for good looks, and its new mobile app is a big bonus. I also love that they have two membership plans: pay $24 per month and cancel anytime, or $500 for a lifetime membership, which also comes with a few special perks! (We've heard they may discontinue this option, so stay tuned on that...)
Says one Washington State florist, "I just started using Honeybook for proposals, client management, and contracts, and I love it. It streamlines the whole process, keeps it flowing from step to step, and collects all the information in one place. And it handles billing! It also makes referring clients to other vendors easy, which is great!"
She continues, "I wish it were a bit more suited for the florist business, though; I think it's designed for businesses with more set packages, but they let you edit each time to customize each client."
Says another Illinois designer, "I love using Honeybook. It has saved me time and made my business look more professional. And bonus, now that their final invoice asks if they want to add a tip, I get WAY more!" She adds, "I love that everything is automated and online. I created the proposal while meeting with the bride and emailed it immediately after our meeting. She can open it, sign the contract, and make her retainer payment all in one sweep. Then, I can schedule automated emails and reminders to go out. The contact form on my website is linked to Honeybook and automatically sends them a questionnaire to fill out when they send an inquiry. Everything is just a huge timesaver! I wish it had a stem counter/order-creating feature. I also wish you could add items as options into a proposal that the bride can select. Right now, there is no option for them to choose an option out of multiple items."
Lobiloo is popular because of its simplicity and low price point. Its drag-and-drop interface for creating custom floral designs helps it score high in efficiency and usability.
Says one Tennessee designer, "I love that I can add images, floral selection, and rentals in the proposal. My clients always comment on how much they appreciate how detailed the document is. I like how everything I need is in the program: line item cost, markup, and labor percentages, and my recipe and flower order can be downloaded and arranged the way I need it. Clean, clear orders for my wholesaler; if I wish, I can send an order directly to Florabundance. Such time savers and so organized! I can also input information about the client and the event and a payment history. Wonderful! I love this program. I am a classic creative, messy desk, have-my-own-system kind of person, [so] Lobiloo keeps everything in order where I need it. It allows me to have an organized, professional presentation with my client and helps me keep my eyes on my money."
When asked what she would change about the program, she said, "I would like to be able to organize my image uploads and be able to organize or delete my custom arrangement titles."
Another florist tells me, "I find this program is a great value for what it does. However, it is not as professional looking as Details. I currently use Lobiloo for ordering and printing out recipes. However, I still use my templates for estimates so my clients have something more visually pleasing and professional-looking."
People like StemCounter for its clean appearance and straightforward approach, but the higher price point is a limiting factor for some. However, its automated stem counting and click-to-edit functionality add to its ease of use and efficiency.
One Arizona designer told me, "I signed up for StemCounter one month ago and love it! It shaves an hour off my bid process and saves time by providing recipes for all of my bouquets, centerpieces, etc., and provides the shopping list, too. I would highly recommend it! "[Previously,] I created my own Excel document with stem pricing for my bid process, but always wrote my recipes by hand. I love that it does the calculations for me, the shopping list that shows me what I will have left over, and that I can print the recipes." She adds, "I wish it would connect to QuickBooks, so I [could] have my brides pay directly and tie into my accounting system.
Another designer said, "I love that I control the markup and labor calculation. I love the recipe function and ordering sheet. It saves me a million hours! I started it over a year ago and have evolved with the many new options they offer. But it didn't seem complicated or overwhelming from the get=go. I was able to ease into the program."
She continues, " There are so many features out there. The beauty of StemCounter is that it's catering to florists. So many programs are for photographers or planners, but the beauty of StemCounter is that [they] know the recipes and shopping lists are the biggest components in our work. The struggle is real! And they respond to any chats/emails and Facebook inquiries. And they offer YouTube videos!"
If they could change or add something, I ask? "I would love for it to do bookkeeping and more detailed project management such as emails, workflows, etc."
People love Ularas for its usability and price point, though it does get dinged a bit on good looks. I've heard they'll be upping their game in that department in an upcoming round of improvements. Its ability to create mood boards for each client and allow them to visualize your proposal is a helpful feature.
One California florist I chatted with said, "I like Ularas. It is not as slick looking as some other software focused on floral designers. But it gives a good value for the money and is a very robust program. I love the recipe builder and the ordering module. Ularas has lowered my COGS and increased my profits." She says, "I wish they had an inventory management module. They have told me they are adding that function very soon! Sarah and Paul (the owners of Ularas) are very customer service-oriented. Sarah often hosts what she calls 'jams,' training sessions on different aspects of the program. If you have a problem, Paul is always available via email to help."
One Pennsylvania florist told me, "I LOVE Ularas. Not only did I have a record year with wicked profit margins (my accountant kept praising every number he saw!), but Ularas let me do my proposals in a fraction of the time. I can send out three versions of the same proposal - one with everything, one with modified embellishments, and another with just 'essentials'- and it all takes me three minutes. So good!"
When I asked about any changes she'd like to see, she said she'd love for Ularas to add a feature where designers could create separate recipes for multiple arrangements on one line item, such as a trio.
A Colorado designer talking about Ularas says, "Event bidding has become much easier and more efficient since I started using Ularas, and I'm way more confident in my pricing and margins. Their customer service is second to none, and they are committed to building the best system they can for us. They are constantly improving the software, and I have seen so many of my requests and suggestions already incorporated. I'm hoping one of the next improvements they make is finding a way to tie into QuickBooks so that doesn't have to be an extra step."
These systems will require some initial investment of your time and an ongoing financial investment, but the time they'll save you in the long run will be well worth it. Your clients expect professionalism and ease in their interactions with you, and these systems might make that process more straightforward for you. After all, we're looking for more time - whether it's time for design, networking, or time with our families, one of these programs might give you just that.
As seen in Flirty Fleurs Magazine March 2017 Edition:
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