Why I use HONEYBOOK as my CRM (and a 50% discount code off your subscription)

(Disclaimer... I AM an affiliate of Honeybook.)

Being a solopreneur is NOT easy... especially when it comes to all the BUSINESS-y side of all that I do. You know how it is... you go into photography because you freakin LOVE it, but once it becomes an actual BUSINESS, clicking the camera is a teeny-tiny fraction of what you actually spend time doing.

But even with all that other stuff that goes into running a business, I am super PROUD to say that providing a stress-free client experience is one of the things I've come to be known for. 

And I have to admit, a huge part of my "secret" is that I have Honeybook to keep me on track with it all.

I'm not new to using CRM's (Client Relationship Mangement) or CMS's (Client Management Software. In fact, I was with a different company for about 5 years, and have tested out a few others in the meantime, too. But my eyes kept wandering back to Honeybook. They simply seemed to have it all... organization, integrations into my calendar and other important places, reminders, a custom client pipeline, easy emailing, digital contracts and invoicing... and it's PRETTY, too!

So I made the switch to using Honeybook as my client management software about 6 months ago, and haven't looked back!

There are sooooo many awesome things about Honeybook... including some features I haven't even delved into yet. But for now, here is a rundown of a few of my favorites:

01: Capturing Leads

Honeybook offers the option to create MULTIPLE custom contact forms, making it SUPER easy to onboard new leads and turn them into clients. I can quickly create a new form for where I want it to go on my website... meaning that I can ask SPECIFIC questions based on the type of client I'm talking to, whether it's an inquiry for business/personal branding photos, a FAMILY photo session, etc.

Here's what the form builder looks like in Honeybook:

And here's how that form actually looks on my site: 

02: A Custom Client Pipeline

When someone contacts me via one of my contact forms, they automatically get uploaded to Honeybook as an "Inquiry," and I receive an email notification. I can also easily add a new client or project to Honeybook, and add them to whatever stage of the pipeline I want, too... whether that's an inquiry, I'm sending out a new invoice, or we're already jumping into the planning stages.  

Honeybook refers to this as the "Pipeline," and it can be configured into whatever steps/sections make sense for you + your business... from inquiries all the way to completion + archiving. This gives me an at-a-glance overview of all the projects I currently have in motion.

03: Custom Workflows + Task Management

While I haven't delved into this feature in detail yet, it can AMAAAAAZINGLY helpful of keeping track of step-by-step tasks involved in different types of projects. I mean, you wouldn't use the same to-do list for photographing a WEDDING as you would for a FAMILY or CORPORATE stuff, right?

So you can create custom workflows for each project type, and apply them to each individual project, so that you essentially have your detailed to-do list right there and waiting for you! And it's easy to create new tasks and reminders, too. 

04: Project Workspace

Each Project gets its own workspace within Honeybook, so you can easily see ALL conversations, forms and documents associated with it. Your task list and notes are in there, too.

And the CLIENT sees their own version of this workspace, too, with easy access to their forms, questionnaires, conversations, and more! 

05: Easy Emailing (and a Digital Papertrail")

Speaking of keeping track of conversations, I love, love, freakin LOVE this feature!!! No longer do I have to search my inbox for emails coming through from my clients. Instead, I can email them directly from Honeybook, and Honeybook keeps track of all emails sent and replied to... so I never have to search through my inbox again (for stuff like "Where did we leave this conversation?" When do I need to follow up next, etc.). It's ALL THERE in Honeybook. And for those who love backing up their info in multiple places (me, me, me), Honeybook DOES send a copy of the email to your inbox, too.

You can even reply directly to the email in your inbox, and have it go straight to your client AND the project's workspace, without having to switch over to Honeybook for this!

06: Customizable Templates

I'm a BIG fan of the copy/paste method. Let's face it... 99% of the time, we're sending the SAME info over and over again to new clients... so why not create a template for each email + cut your response time in half?!

I've got email templates for EVERYTHING... inquiries for different session types, sending a contract or invoice, following up with people, sending questionnaires, prepping my clients for their sessions, etc. The list goes on and on. 

Now that I'm able to store these templates in one easy place, all I have to do is click a button to create a new email from one of these templates, customize it as needed, and send it on its way!

And it's NOT just for email... 

You can also create unlimited forms for questionnaires, invoices, packages, contracts, and MORE! 

There's even a "Proposal," which combines a brochure, invoice and contract all in one. This has saved me sooooooo much time in the long run, and clients appreciate how pretty + POLISHED it all looks, too!

07: It LOOKS good!

While this may not be a deal-breaker for some, I've found it to be a BIG selling point with my clients. I mean... in today's world, you've gotta make your business stand out in any way possible, amiright? 

Honeybook lets you customize the look of each workspace and file sent to your client, so you really CAN add your personality + branding to it all. And this adds to your "polished" look, making you look SO much more professional, too!

08: There's a corresponding APP!

We live in a mobile world, so it just makes SENSE that Honeybook has an easy-to-use app. Everything is right there at your fingertips, so you can get on-the-fly updates and quickly look up someone's phone number if you need it in a pinch. 

09: Calendar Integration

Honeybook easily integrates with Google Calendar + Calendly (and maybe a few others), which makes it suuuuuper simple to schedule new projects + tasks without having to worry about the dreaded double-booking! Honeybook will even WARN you if there's a possible conflict.

10: Take 50% off your subscription!!!
(Even month-to-month plans!)

Okay... this is HUGE! Because, I have to admit... I'm a bit of a cheapskate at times, and don't always have the funds to put into my business as much as I'd like. And this is the MAIN reason it took me so long to switch over to Honeybook in the first place. 

But as an affiliate, they've given me a way to pass on a 50% discount to all new users... regardless of whether you sign up for an annual subscription or even a month-to-month plan!

There's even a FREE 14-day trial period, with the 50% savings automatically kicking in if/when you officially sign up. All you have to do is click here to get started.

I could go on and on about how awesome the Honeybook platform truly is (and maybe I'll update this post in the future), but this should be enough info to get you started!




Nominate a BEAUTIFUL child

Do you know a truly BEAUTIFUL child?

Maybe you know a kid who has stood up to bullies or have helped someone else through that situation. Maybe you know someone who hands out food and water to the homeless, or donates their time at a local non-profit. Maybe it's someone who's overcome a lot in their short life already and are still smiling. Perhaps it's a kid who has reached out to other isolated kids, saved up money to spend on their friends instead of themselves, or someone who has even started their own business or YouTube channel to inspire others.

Know a kid like this? I'd love to meet them!

As part of the Beauty Revived photography movement, I am asking for nominations for beautiful children in the Bend, Oregon area to be featured in a national magazine.

The beauty of these children will not be measured by their looks. Instead, these children will be chosen because of their REAL beauty... the good stuff that shines from the inside out. The child chosen through this nomination process will be gifted a free photo session with yours truly and a feature in the Real Beautiful Children’s issue of Beauty Revived magazine. 


What is Beauty Revived?

Beauty Revived is a movement that celebrates women and children with real beauty. Selected photographers donate sessions to chosen women and children, whose stories are then featured in their magazine and on their website at BeautyRevived.com.

Hundreds of photographers applied to be a part of the Beauty Revived 50 Beautiful Children's campaign, and I am honored to be among those selected to participate.

Michelle Simmons of The Suitcase Studio in Bend Oregon was chosen to be a photographer in Beauty Revived 50 Beautiful Children campaign 2018.

Nominations are OPEN!

I will be accepting nominations from June 12 - June 24.  I will then select one child to gift with a complimentary photography session (and a few other goodies, to be announced). The child chosen will be an example of real beauty and will have shown their beauty by demonstrating courage when challenged, kindness in the face of adversity, or another beautiful way of expressing themselves which has impacted the world in a positive way. 

Have someone in mind?

Click here to learn more + fill out the submission form. Bring on your awesome stories... I can't wait to hear them! 

Sometimes it's all about the timing.

Ours is an unlikely love story...

One that almost never happened, and took us THREE times to get right.

I don't remember how it was that we met, other than knowing it was through a mutual friend. Maybe it was at a house party, or on a Friday night for Cosmic Bowling.

However it was that we came together, it happened in 2000... for the first time.

Drawn to one another, we casually started to date. And during that time, Erik told me about a favorite memory of his... something about admiring a friend who had worked with snow leopards, and having gotten the chance to be close to them, himself.  

So I drew THIS for him, as a gift for his birthday.

snow leopard pencil drawing by Michelle Simmons of The Suitcase Studio

We didn't date for much longer, but went back to being friends. 

And little did I know that that this had become a treasured possession of his... and one which he'd always kept out in view.

And NOW, after all these years... this drawing is proudly displayed in OUR living room.

HERE WE ARE on New Year's Eve of 2001...

At our friend Mark's house and playing a game of Jenga Truth or Dare, and "dared" to rub noses. (Many thanks to whomever picked up the camera to snap this moment for me!)

ours is an unlikley love story - The Suitcase Studio - photographer in bend oregon

We were only friends at that time, but there always seemed to be some kind of pull between the two of us. 

Not too long after New Years, while I group of us were hanging out and swapping stories, I confessed that I'd never been given a dozen red roses.

And the very next day, I awoke to find a long gold box on my doorstep... containing a dozen long-stemmed red roses, and a note which simply said "Never?"

And soon after that, we began to date again.

And, being the sentimental fool that I am, I've kept that note tucked away in a photo album for all these years. 

ours is an unlikely love story - The Suitcase Studio in Bend Oregon

But like the first time, we simply didn't last very long together as a couple. I don't think we ever even made things official.

Tale as old as time... Much as we liked each other, we were in different places in our lives, wanted different things, yada yada yada...

But still, we remained friends. 

And he's just always been there. Someone I've always instantly "clicked" with, no matter how much time had passed. And being able to pick right back up where we'd left off, no matter if it had been days, months or years that had passed since we'd last seen one another.

You know... the way it is with great friends and family.

And looking back, it feels like we've always just BEEN there in each other's lives. Maybe there were no big fireworks or dramatic moments between us, but he's been a constant. Sometimes as a main character, other times in a supporting role, and even just as a background character.

But time marches on, changing our direction and our selves.  

He moved. I got married.

And time, and our lives, continued. 

But sometimes things just don't work out the way you thought they would, and 12 years later I was once again single.  

And craving an adventure. 

And having found one another on Facebook, Erik suggested I come up for a visit... as he'd moved from Portland to Bend, and knew I'd LOVE the area.

You've already heard the rest. And if not, I won't bore you with the details... but here it is in a nutshell:   

Bend felt like the place I never realized I'd been looking for... and for the first time in years, I felt myself able to breathe deeply.

I made the bold decision to MOVE to Bend.

And Erik flew down to help me.

He helped me pack, dealt with the movers AND my emotional moments, and even met my parents for the first time. And then he drove us both up to Bend, and it felt like coming home.      

We officially crossed the border into Oregon on April 20, 2015.

So I count that as MY anniversary. In my life, that date signifies the start of this new chapter in my story. My big "before" and "after." 

And as the relationship between Erik and I grew, we decided to make that OUR anniversary, too. Because there was no clear beginning, or dates to easily mark as we transitioned from one level to another. 

So we count April 20 as the start of OUR new chapter, too.

Time passed, and we simply evolved together, in a way that took us both a bit by surprise. Because it all just seemed so natural. Too easy. And too good to be true. 

Because time has a way of changing a person... or maybe just changing them into the person they're MEANT to be... stripping away all the "shoulds" and other things we're taught we're supposed to be and do. Life experiences carve us, like chisel to marble. Cracks form, pieces crumble, and what's left can be absolutely beautiful.

And we found that we simply made sense together, and it simply felt right. We just "got" the other person, sometimes without even saying a word.

We fell in love. 

Maybe it's because we're older now and know OURSELVES better. Enough to know what we want and don't want, to know what we actually need, and know how to ask for it.

We started to feel like family.

We have an amazing partnership unlike anything I've ever known, and complement each other in ways that balance what we "lack" in ourselves. 

We just FIT TOGETHER in a way I can't completely explain, but can FEEL clear through my bones. 

He feels like HOME. 

Happy three year anniversary to us. 

And cheers to the many adventures still to come.

love stories &nbsp;- The Suitcase Studio

What love stories are hiding within YOUR family? I'd love to discover them together... 

Click to learn more about my STORYTELLER EXPERIENCE, so we can bring those stories to life!

Why you might want to skip the MINI SESSION for your family photos

Here's why mini sessions are NOT always the best idea for family photos, especially if you've got young kids.

Mini Sessions might seem like the optimal way to go with getting new family photos, right? I mean, they're low-cost with little time commitment, will give you that one perfect picture for the announcement or end-of-the-year holiday card, and can be a great way to test out a new photographer without making a major commitment, right? I mean... what could go wrong?

BUT PICTURE THIS: You step into this adoooorable new shop that you've never been before. There are So. MANY. Things. to see. You're SQUEEEEEING with glee and getting ready to drool because you just can't stand the cuteness, but before you can do ANYTHING you're suddenly yanked by the arm to the center of the store where everything is just out of sight, and definitely out of reach. You try to sidestep to a colorful shelf that calls your name, but you're redirected again. Told you can't even LOOK in that direction. Frustration mounts, you find yourself checking your watch over and over again, wondering WHEN you can just have a peek... when you're suddenly pulled out of the store and led away.

Not cool, right?

Unfortunately, mini sessions with young kids can be a bit more difficult than you might expect, because this is what it feels like to them. This is what your toddler feels like whenever they're brought somewhere new and magical, and aren't allowed to touch or look or explore at all. And told to sit still and look straight ahead. But SMILE, dammit!

While most moms tend to want to book a MINI session because the kiddos' attention span is incredibly limited, this is actually the opposite way to go. A mini session can be "crunch time" if you're trying to get all those smiling family photos, and with little time to wiggle or play, the kiddos tend to melt down even more.

But by booking a full-length session, there's still in-between time for them to easily make the transition from moment to moment, stop for a snack, and explore the area from time to time. There's also plenty of time for everyone to warm up to the camera, and for authentic personalities to shine through. A full-length session ensures that everyone is able to actually ENJOY the experience all the way through, and alleviates the stress of worrying whether or not the kids will "behave" for the camera.

Now, before you start to panic because you've already booked that mini session or your budget just won't allow for the full session at the moment, let me remind you: the MINI session CAN be an absolute blast. I still actually offer them myself (only at certain times of the year), and get GREAT results every time. But the KEY is to remind yourself that this is, truly, a MINI session. You won't be able to get those 25 dream Pinterest poses or multiple locations or outfits in 20-30 minutes without giving yourself, your family (and the photographer) a heart attack in the process. Instead, pick out one MUST-HAVE photo idea, and leave room for plenty of candid moments. And start saving up for a bigger session to get the rest of those dream photos you crave.

Try this: If time and budget allows, book a FULL-LENGTH session instead of a MINI. It's toooootally worth it. But if you just can't swing it at the moment, start saving up for the future. And for now, pick out one or two MUST-HAVE photographic moments for the MINI, and save the rest for later.

Ready for even more SIMPLE TIPS on how to prep for the most stress-free family photo session EVER? Coolio. Just click here.  


Building TWEEN self esteem, one image at a time

preteen portraits by The Suitcase Studio - The WHO I AM Project

When people see you...

Like... REEEEALLY see YOU...

It can make ALL the difference in the world.

Because I know...


As much as you want to find your tribe + fit in someplace,

You also want to be appreciated as the individual you are.

Because you ARE unique, and a gift to the world.

And as much as YOU might be struggling with this...

Remember how much WORSE it was when you were 11,

And still trying to figure out who you even really were.


If you or someone you know are a parent of a tween (ages 10-12), please take a moment to check out my WHO I AM Project. I offer a free portrait session to tweens, to help build self confidence one image at a time.

I'm currently booking WHO I AM portrait sessions for these locations/dates:

And I'm open to suggestions for travel locations/dates for the last half of 2018, as well. CLICK HERE for info + to get started, and please share with those who could benefit from being a participant.