The creation of QKtract is really a story about my wife who runs an outstanding photography business, OpieFoto, well that and a lot of frustration.
Opie was just starting to begin the gentle growth of profits that every new business owner dreams of getting. The exciting tipping point where your expenses were suddenly less than you were charging. After two years of excruciating hard work and even harder clients, thousands of dollars invested in camera equipment, countless hours spent tweaking and over analyzing every detail of her site things were just starting to look promising. Validation was suddenly there, she was not just running a business, but she was running a business that was making money and crazy enough people were actually starting to queue up for bookings. There were just one little problem preventing her business from growing further.
Closing deals is really difficult, it's almost unfair at the start of a business. Unless you are one of those incredibly talented individuals, you have to suffer like the rest of us through months or even years of bad closing rates. Clients were always interested in booking her, but for one reason or another more than half would book elsewhere. Time after time Opie came to me wondering what she could do to increase her booking rate. Client after client would say they wanted to book, she would email them a contract and eagerly wait for them to print it, sign it, mail it, and write a check. She was putting an awful lot of faith in her customer's level of effort, but it was a necessary evil in order to run the business safely. So we looked elsewhere and poured through countless psychology, sales, and economics books only to squeak by marginal improvements. Something was missing here but we weren't sure what yet. The cost per acquisition felt high, but was it?
Not long after, the epiphany was made. Opie has a great website, and her site was slowing climbing it's position in the rankings of google. Every month she brought in more and more visitors to her website. What she was doing with these customers, in retrospect, seems to be such a waste looking back now. Clients wanted to book online they just couldn't. That's the moment when we realized we found the missing piece of the puzzle. She spent the next few weeks looking for solutions online to booking, taking payments, collecting customer answers, and signing contracts online. Some choices were great but took forever to get started and didn't have the flexibility to do what she wanted. That's when I decided it was time to write a custom contracting system just for her. I had already coded up her site and slowly expanded over the years, how much effort could a little contracting site be?
Like most programmers, I'm an optimist. Everything seems like it can be done and done in a matter of hours, or for those big projects maybe the weekend. This had the feeling of a weekend project to me. Of course, like many other programmers, I'm downright awful at guessing how long it will take. Working the nights and weekends between my nine to five and consulting the project progressed until January of 2010, a few months later, when I completed the first prototype. My wife quickly integrated it into her site through a simple link to her first contract. Within the first week 10 clients had scheduled photo shoots. She had never booked that many clients in a week. She was positively thrilled. Her stress level was a rollercoaster during that first month. It started out with high stress from the lack of winter clients, to falling back down now that she had the comfort of a fully booked 2 months, back to the quick realization that she had to photograph them all.
The rest has been organically grown from there. Through numerous emails from my current customers, but mostly my first and wonderful customer QKtract has grown from a fragile system that required me to massage the contracts into place, to being completely self sufficient. Opie never needs to have me tweak anything and her business continues to grow month after month. Her clients love the ability to do everything all online. Like any sane business owner she is thrilled when she makes money and wasn't even involved in the process. Over 200 clients have booked with her using QKtract in less than two years and I'm quite proud to say that they love it.