The Lowdown – July 2017

appointment software newsThe Lowdown is our monthly update that highlights recent improvements we’ve made to the platform, so you can easily stay informed on what’s new in Ubookr. Here’s what we launched in July.

HUGE Notification Improvements

We’ve been knee deep in tricky code and are really excited to unveil our new Notification system.

In the past, every-time you made or altered a job booking a new notification would be generated and instantly sent to everybody involved. With this new release you now have ultimate control over who gets a notification and when they get it.

You now have these options:

Always ask – you’re asked whether to send the notification or not
Immediate – make a change or new booking and everybody knows immediately
Delayed – send notifications after an amount of time has passed
Time of day – set what time of day all your notifications get sent out
On demand – use the notification management to send notifications as required

To choose your setting go to Setup > Company and click on the Notifications tab.

 

notifications

 


 Calendar Speed Improvements

We’re continually adding features to the calendar and that can eventually slow things down as the calendar gets more and more features. This month our resident calendar guru, Joseph, has released a major speed upgrade to the calendar.

Those of you with loads of bookings or staff will see dramatically faster loading times.

 


Set your invoicing date

You can now set the date that appears on the invoices you generate in Ubookr and send to Xero.

This means you can now do your invoicing after the end of the month but still set the date to the last day of the previous period. The benefit of this is that some customers pay their invoices a certain number of days after end of month and now you can ensure your invoices are included in the current payment cycle.

 

invoice-date

 


 USA beta launched

July also marked a milestone for Ubookr with our first users in the USA.

At the moment we are in beta mode and working with our volunteer testers across the USA to ensure there are no unforeseen bugs.

Welcome aboard and thanks for helping us out.

 


Minor bug fixes & upgrades

  • Notes and attachments to bookings are now displayed in the details pane
  • Email templates have a brand new improved layout and look
  • Google account sharing (contact us for more info)
  • A message appears when you have unconfirmed bookings that need attention
  • Unconfirmed bookings now appear at the top of your booking list
  • Including the word “invoice” anywhere in a bookings private notes will make an exclamation point pulse next to the booking when creating invoices.

 


What’s next?

In the coming days and weeks we’ll be releasing Busy Times for the calendar and the much anticipated Sub-contractor feature as well as lots of minor improvements and features.

Thanks for all your great feedback and happy booking!

:)  The Ubookr team

The Lowdown – APRIL 2017

Ubookr news march 2017

The Lowdown is our monthly update that highlights recent new features and improvements we’ve made to the platform, so you can easily stay informed on what’s new in Ubookr.

Here’s what we launched in April.


Calendar Improvements

As mentioned last month we have continued to add features and improvements to the already great Ubookr calendar. As the heart of our system we are continually looking for ways to make using the calendar an awesome experience.

  • Keyboard shortcuts: holding shift and clicking an event will reschedule it, holding alt and clicking an event will duplicate it, double clicking will edit it.

  • Filters: if you have a lot of staff then we now group by service type so you can look at all your photographers at once, or all your floor planners, etc.

  • Push updates: If you’re in your calendar and someone else (another staff member, a customer, etc) adds, deletes or changes a booking, you’ll get notified immediately and it will appear in your calendar straight away.


Invoicing Improvements

A big thanks to the team at Incredible Images in NZ for making some great suggestions on how to improve your invoicing experience.

The improvements implemented in April are:

  • Visual improvement to make invoicing easier (alternating background colours on invoice rows)

  • Typeahead’s in the drop-down fields – now you can start typing a customers name and they will appear so you don’t need to scroll down to find them.

  • The ability to group bookings for invoicing by contact person in a customers office.

  • Edit booking costs while invoicing without leaving the invoicing screen.

  • We’ve added a date range selector so you can determine which period you’d like to invoice.


Improvements to Create Booking

As a supplier you can override the default settings: if a staff member doesn’t usually do a particular service or in a certain work area, you can still select them to do the service if you need to.

This is great for flexibility but if you have a lot of staff it makes it hard to know who is actually designated to do the job in the given work area.

We now make that clear in the supplier staff dropdown.


WHAT’S NEXT?

Next month we’ll be releasing two big new features for the calendar, Busy Times and Delayed Notifications as well as several other handy features and improvements.

We’re also really excited to announce development has begun on the all new Ubookr mobile app. The new app is going to be a huge advancement on the current app and will allow agents and suppliers to manage bookings in a whole new way. We can’t wait to show you!

Thanks for all your great feedback and happy booking!

– The Ubookr team

The Lowdown – MARCH 2017

Ubookr news march 2017

The Lowdown is our monthly update that highlights recent new features and improvements we’ve made to the platform, so you can easily stay informed on what’s new in Ubookr.

Here’s what we launched in March.


CALENDAR UPDATE

The calendar has received a major update that brings loads of improvements and many new and exciting features. Calendar improvements are ongoing and you’ll see more of the most requested features available next month. New features and improvements include:

  • Agents also now have a calendar to view their bookings.
  • Staff planner view button has been added – ideal for large organisations.
  • Compact mode button has been added that reduces the size of the events shown, this improves visibility on really busy calendars.
  • Filtering services has been made more intuitive – it’s hard to explain so take a look.
  • Clicking on an event now opens a toolbox. Try using the new re-schedule tool to drag a booking wherever you like. (Tip: when moving an event you can use the next and previous week buttons)

The Ubookr calendar is awesome


COLOUR CODING HAS ARRIVED

Now the colour you have set for each of your staff will be the same colour as the pins on the map and the number in your bookings list. This makes it much easier to find what you are looking for.

Ubookr has colour coded pins dso you can see who is doing which booking


‘SEE ALL’ AND SEARCH FUNCTIONS

We’ve added a ‘See All’ button and search function to both your Calendar and View Bookings screens.

The ‘See All’ button turns off any filters you have set and all of your bookings will be displayed.

The Search function is great for finding bookings in a busy day, week or month view of your calendar or bookings screen – just type anything about a booking and you’ll find what you are looking for.

Ubookr now has a search bar for finding bookings


EXTRA FIELDS AND TABBED BOOKINGS

When creating a booking you can now add private notes to a job that will only been seen by you. There is also now a field for entering a job reference number. 

All these extra fields were making the booking page a bit too long so we’ve split the page into two tabs. The ‘Booking details’ tab is all the essential information that every booking needs and the ‘Advanced options’ tab is all the optional information you may only need sometimes.

Ubookr new features include tabs when you are making a booking


WHAT’S NEXT?

We’re putting the finishing touches on a ‘Busy times’ feature for the calendar as well as many more minor improvements which will make using Ubookr even better.

Thanks for all your great feedback and happy booking!

– The Ubookr team

Manage bookings with non-Ubookr customers

Gone are the days of sending unanswered invitations to your customers. Now you can add contacts that need to see updates to bookings straight into Ubookr–no need for them to sign up.

By blood, sweat and popular demand, our new Customer Management feature has launched!

There’s no two ways about it; logging into a new booking system can be a daunting task. The photographers (and other suppliers) of Ubookr need to get their real estate agents online and making bookings into their calendars, so bringing them into the system gently and meaningfully is paramount.

An invitation-based connection system that requires signing up had been our answer to that…

Contacts' invitations to start booking with you on Ubookr get lost in big piles of mail
…but invitations tend to get “lost in the mail”

Now, suppliers can add customers and their staff straight into Ubookr, and match them up to bookings as though they’d signed up!

We’ve re-framed the invitation emails as connection requests and continuous booking updates. These emails are far more relevant and meaningful, so customers will be more likely to engage and start making bookings. Furthermore, pesky account setup won’t be an issue–all that’s left for them to do is enter a new password and they’re in!

For our existing suppliers…

Simply head to the Customers page and search for your client’s listing.

Search for a customer by their business name and they can start booking you straight away
If we already have your customer’s information, the rest is easy!

If they turn up in the search results, just click Connect and you’re good to go. Otherwise, don’t worry; enter some basic contact details down the bottom and we’ll create an account for them automatically.

Once that’s done, you can add any staff that you book with, and you’re ready to get booking!

Work hours are changing as the ‘golden hour’ gets later

With the arrival of Spring and longer daylight hours, now is a good time to check your scheduling rules and work hours.

If you’re a photographer or videographer you’ll be very aware that sunset is moving a little bit later each day. And with many of your customers wanting to book shoots during the magic ‘golden hour’ twilight period it’s important to adjust your work hours in Ubookr to allow your customers to make bookings at the correct time.

What is the ‘Golden Hour’?

In photography, the golden hour (sometimes known as magic hour, especially in cinematography) is a period shortly after sunrise or before sunset during which daylight is warmer and softer than when the sun is higher in the sky. Shooting in this time gives images a comforting warmth and properties with the right lighting and can look amazing.

If you’re unsure of exactly when ‘Golden Hour’ is we’ve found this nifty website that lets you click on a map to find out when it is in your location. Another rule of thumb that works in all locations is 1/2 an hour before and 1/2 an hour after sunset.

twilight,dusk,book photography,work hours
There’s something about the light at dusk that can transform a real estate photo

Update your work hours settings

Ubookr gives you accurate control over your calendar with a number of scheduling rules and day by day working hours management. To manage these settings, simply go to your staff page on the dashboard and scroll down until you see your Work Hours settings. Then just adjust your finish time so your clients can fit in a twilight shoot at the end of the day. You can see the staff page here.

work-hoursOnce your settings are updated, customers will be able to book right up to your knockoff time, but no later. Every couple of weeks it’s a good idea to come back and tweak this setting as the days get longer going into Summer.

Phone-tag and other olympic events

I’m a photographer. I work with my hands. Lining up the perfect shot can be a painstaking process, and there’s nothing more frustrating than having the phone ring as you’re about to press the shutter. Don’t get me wrong, if the phone stops ringing my kids stop eating – that annoying vibration is the lifeblood of my small business. Or was, anyway.

 

Getting the perfect shot can be tough
Having your phone ring when you’re trying to line up that shot can be maddening

Even worse than the constant interruption is the wonderful game of phone-tag. You know the one: I don’t answer your call in time (despite ruining my shot) so you leave a message. I ring you back twenty minutes later when I’m done with my shoot. By that stage you’re teeing up on the second hole, so I’m leaving you a message telling you I got your call. And so on. And on. And on.

The light at the end of the phone-tag tunnel

You’re ringing me up to give me a job. I’m ringing you back to try to coordinate when and where, and a bunch of other details. Given the other jobs I have on, I need to figure out how long it will take me to get from here to there (so to speak). I have to find out whether you want me or my offsider to do the shoot, and if the vendor will be home or I need to go via your office to get the keys.

Enter Ubookr. Rather than leave each other half a dozen messages, you call up my Ubookr page on your web browser (or mobile app), and in less than a minute your job is booked and confirmed. I have all the details I need, it’s scheduled into my diary in a slot that the system knows allows me enough travel time to get between jobs. I get my shot and you get a birdie.

 

Real estate photography – what rules?

I’ve been shooting real estate photography for a long time now. Going on 12 years, and over that time I’ve shot hundreds (actually probably thousands) of homes. I thought I’d probably seen and photographed everything, so the rest of my career was going to be a sausage factory. Turn up, assess what kind of property it is and which formula works best, shoot, drive to the next place. Lather, rinse, repeat.

Standardised Real Estate Photography? I was wrong

Six weeks ago I turned up to a job, the agent hadn’t given me much info about what to expect just the usual “it’s a nice one so we have to get some great shots” kind of thing. So I pull up, grab my kit and walk into the house. WTF! This place was amazing! It had amazing textures like concrete, copper, stone and glass. It had breathtaking views straight onto the bay – I mean literally step off the back lawn and you get wet. The design and layout was inspired. They had imported mature trees from around the country to make what can only be described as an oasis garden. I mean this place totally rocked.

tropical oasis
No this is not a stock photo, and its not tahiti.

So here I am walking around deciding what my shots and angle are going to be and BOOM! It hits me. Shooting my ‘standard’ method of shooting real estate photography isn’t going to be good enough. Forget the speedlights, forget the HDR, forget relying on my poor, ever suffering retoucher to make it look consistent with every other bloody house photograph on the planet. I’m going to get back in touch with my inner ‘creative photographer’, go back to my roots, use natural light, and become a wanton hipster freelancer again.

That was it. My lightbulb moment. I took off my shoes, put away my super wide angle lens, then “forgot” attach my speedlight and left my battered old tripod at the front door.

Two and half hours later I had an amazing collection of hand-held photos where I felt and worked with the natural light. I felt re-energised, I felt like a photographer again.

Weeks later the house has received an amazing amount of coverage in the papers and online, the shots the agent placed on Instagram have thousands of likes and the house sold for a gobsmacking price and I’m getting loads of shoots as a result.

You can see some more of the shots here.

This experience taught me some important lessons about real estate photography

  1. Shoot what looks best and not just follow the ‘formula’
  2. Others will see the craft in your photos and embrace the break from convention.
  3. Nothing beats natural light. Full stop. Nothing.
  4. Stop, think, breath and shoot like a pro.
  5. Remember why you became a professional photographer.

Remember why you became a professional photographer

I know not every or even many properties allow you to have this freedom but when those gems do show up on your radar make sure you identify them and give them the attention they deserve, your business and soul will be the better for it.

Ubookr: Automated scheduling made easy

Introducing Ubookr, a web application that makes short work of managing bookings for mobile professionals. It fully automates job scheduling and lets customers book straight into your diary.

ubookr logo

Founded by Sydney photographer Cam Curdie, Ubookr grew out of the challenges Cam found being one of Sydney’s first real estate photographers. As business grew, so did the time required to manage the admin side of his business. Managing job bookings, letting agents know availability, allocating jobs to his team, accounting, retouching and so on.

Three years ago Cam decided it was time to streamline everything and had the idea for Ubookr.

What can Ubookr do for you?

Ubookr is now a beautiful cloud based solution for real estate photographers that helps you look after many aspects of running your business, including:

  • Accepting online bookings from your customers
  • Purpose built drag & drop calendar that syncs with Google Calendar to easily arrange your jobs
  • Your own booking page with your logo and a personalised url e.g. magiclight.ubookr.com
  • Agent management – your clients can have a login so they can make and view bookings
  • Calculating travel time between shoots so you have time to get there
  • Custom services and prices for your different agents
  • Email and mobile booking notifications
  • Seriously fast invoicing fully integrated with Xero
  • Agents get automated notifications through their calendar and also via the Ubookr app on their phone
  • iPhone and Android app that is a one stop shop for everything you need for your day. Keep track of and reschedule your jobs on the run, navigate to the next job, sms or call the client with one click

Try all of Ubookr’s features totally free for 30 days

If you like what you see (and we hope you do) there is a totally free plan or you can sign-up for Ubookr Plus and have full access to the enterprise features. Either way there are never any contracts.

So please take a look around and see how Ubookr could be a great match with your business. If you have any feedback don’t hesitate to tell us, we’re always adding new features to make Ubookr better for real estate photographers.