When Larissa and I first started our photography business, she asked me to geek it out and program an online ordering system to let our customers see their pictures from their session and place their order online. The online ordering system I made has worked out well for us, but it still takes work to place the orders through our lab after the customers have entered their order online. It would be a gross understatement to say that I really don’t enjoy manually ordering prints, so when I heard about Smugmug’s online order fulfillment option, I jumped at the chance to try it out. Let someone else do the work and I just collect a paycheck? Sign me up.
Opportunity Comes Knocking
Shortly after I learned about Smugmug’s order fulfillment services, Larissa started working on organizing a Christmas portrait special. Great, tons of small orders I have to put in. Wait a second, light bulb! Why don’t I just make Smugmug do the work? Basically what I needed was for customers to be able to order prints using prices that I set. Plus I needed them to be able to download all the digital files so they could print out from a local lab themselves if they wanted to.
Getting Ready To Sell
I probably spent longer than I needed to getting everything set up to sell through Smugmug, but even with the extra time I put into looking at different options, I probably only spent 2-4 hours total getting everything set up. That includes setting up price lists too. Here’s a screenshot showing one of my price lists.
At the same time that I set up prices, I was also able to choose which print sizes and products I wanted to offer. The one hangup I had with getting set up was that I had only 2 choices for photo labs. Unfortunately my favorite lab, H&H Color Lab, wasn’t in the list. It seems like Smugmug may be adding support for additional labs in the future though, so I’m crossing my fingers that H&H makes the list. Overall, the setup was pretty easy. There were also plenty of extra options that I haven’t taken the time to look through yet. If you’re looking for a good place to start with your setup, visit these pages first:
http://help.smugmug.com/customer/portal/articles/93382 – general Pro FAQ
http://help.smugmug.com/customer/portal/articles/93342 – getting started with online Smugmug sales
Mostly Passive Income
When you create a new gallery of images in Smugmug, you can choose what kind of pricing you want for the gallery. That’s convenient because some of our prints are half off – depending on the type of session. For print orders, Smugmug rocked it out! I didn’t have to do anything except set the prices, and Smugmug took care of the rest. Sweet! We also needed our customers to be able to pay for digital files, which Smugmug also supports. There was a catch to that one though. There’s no way to include a copyright release along with the digital downloads. Smugmug’s recommended approach was to have the customers print out the personal use license and print their receipt. I had a number of customers who either forgot to do that or were having trouble locating the personal use license. The customers kept asking why the copyright release wasn’t included in the zip file with their download. All in all though, I saved myself probably 10 to 20 hours of dealing with orders and burning flash drives (do you burn files to a flash drive? whatever) by using Smugmug instead of doing it myself. Plus, for the couple of issues that customers had, the Smugmug Heroes (support team) responded quickly and with good information.
Money In The Bank
Not only did I save time using Smugmug’s order fulfillment, I ended up making quite a bit of money. In fact, I may have even made MORE money than if I had done it myself when you take into consideration that I wasn’t having to use any of our packaging, flash drives, or pay for shipping. From the 30 orders placed for the special, I made over $1000.
Getting paid was pretty straightforward. I entered some basic tax and bank info into Smugmug’s system, and I opted to be paid monthly. Then Smugmug automatically deposited my earnings into my bank account.
When I’d Use Smugmug
Smugmug’s system worked perfectly for print order fulfillment, so a couple weeks after our special when we shot a holiday party, we sent out a link to the Smugmug gallery for anyone who wanted to purchase extra prints. That worked perfectly! Not only did I not have to put the orders in or deliver them to the customers, the orders most likely got processed quicker than what I normally would process them. For cases where we also wanted the customer to be able to purchase the digital files, I think I’d still use Smugmug, but I might let the clients know that I’d email them the copyright release myself. There are probably quite a few other options for how to handle the copyright release scenario – just a matter of being a little creative.
If you’ve used Smugmug for order fulfillment, I’d like to hear from you. Have you had a good experience. I especially want to hear from someone who uses Smugmug exclusively for their orders. I’m curious how that works out for you.
For more information on using Smugmug’s order fulfillment service, visit http://www.smugmug.com/photos/professional-photo-hosting-sell-photos/