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Light Blue 2020.1 is a major update that includes big new features and a whole host of other improvements, including:
- Payment schedules that allow you to easily break an invoice down into several smaller payments, helping you to make larger sales and get bookings more easily.
- Automated payment reminders help you to get paid on time.
- Email tracking features that help you to gauge your clients’ engagement.
Read on to find out more about the new features that we’ve added in Light Blue 2020.1!
Invoicing, quoting, and payment improvements
We’ve added a new payment schedule feature that makes it a lot easier for you to ask your client to pay an invoice in instalments.
A payment schedule can include as many instalments as you want. Each instalment can be for a fixed amount (e.g. £100.00) or for a percentage (e.g. 50% of the invoice total). The due date for each instalment is a number of days, weeks, or months after the invoice date, or before or after the shoot date.
When you apply a payment schedule to a sale, Light Blue automatically calculates the due dates and amounts for each instalment. The due dates and amounts appear on both the printed and online versions of the invoice.
We’ve supplied a few example payment schedules, and you can customise them or create your own in the “Payment Schedules” section of the Preferences window. We recommend having a “100% of the remaining balance” step at the end of all of your payment schedules in case anything changes on the invoice or your client makes some unscheduled payments along the way.
Your existing data works seamlessly with the new payment schedules feature. Old Sale records will display a single “100% of the remaining balance” payment step with the same due date and amount that you had in previous versions of Light Blue.
For online invoices, your clients have simple options to pay each instalment when it’s due, or to pay the full unpaid amount if they want to do it in one go. You can choose which online payment options are available for each instalment, so you could ask them to pay part of the invoice by card and another part by bank transfer.
For online payments, payment records are now created automatically in Light Blue. The payment will still appear in the Inbox so that you can see it’s arrived, and accepting the payment via the Inbox will offer to create a Purchase record for the transaction fee.
All of Light Blue’s built-in quick queries and reports have been updated to work with payment schedules. The “Overdue Payments” quick query in the Sales section now shows you any Sale records that have any overdue instalments. Reports such as “Contact Statement” now use the next payment due date to sort invoices, and for your old invoices this date will be the same as the old “payment due date” field. “Next Payment Due Date” and “Final Payment Due Date” fields are available to use in your own queries and reports.
If you don’t want to ask your clients to pay you in instalments, you can ignore payment schedules. The main change that you’ll notice is the new “Payments” tab on Sale records.
- Using a payment schedule with a single instalment of “100% of the remaining balance” is much the same as the old way of doing things. You have options to set the payment due date relative to the date of the invoice, the date of the linked shoot, or manually select a date.
- A portrait photographer can ask a client to pay for a large order in any number of monthly instalments.
- An event photographer can ask for part of the balance before the shoot and a final payment on completion.
- A photographer who runs their business on a cash basis (i.e. using the payment date rather than invoice date to record their income) could use a payment schedule to set up instalments for a booking fee and as many balance payment instalments as they like. If you run your business on an accrual basis, you might still prefer to raise a separate invoice for the booking fee and balance if the tax points are months apart.
Automated payment reminders
Our new payment schedules feature has given us an opportunity to build another popular feature request: you can now have Light Blue send automatic email payment reminders to your clients. You can set up simple rules for your reminders and your personalised messages will help you to get paid on time.
Payment reminders are set up in your payment schedules. Even if you don’t want to ask your clients to pay your invoices in instalments, you can still use a payment schedule: you can have a payment schedule with a single “100% of the remaining balance” instalment.
You can send a payment reminder before the due date, on the due date, and every X days after the due date if it hasn’t been paid yet.
Payment reminders include a link to view the invoice online, so Light Blue 2020.1 automatically makes invoices available online when you click the “create invoice” button. You no longer need to specifically publish an invoice to make it available online. Online invoices use a randomly generated ID number in their URL so clients will only be able to see an invoice if you send the link to them or set up payment reminders. The online version of the invoice is automatically updated as soon as you make any changes to it in Light Blue 2020.1 and it syncs to your account.
Percentage booking fees
Quotes can still be split into separate invoices for the booking fee and the balance. This is especially useful if you want to have separate tax points for the booking fee and balance.
Booking fees can now be a fixed amount or a percentage of the quote. You can set up a default booking fee for each of your price lists, and when you raise a quote from a shoot Light Blue automatically fill in any booking fee you’ve set up for the price list you’ve chosen for that shoot.
Other financial changes
Online invoices now have a handy “Print This Invoice” button to make it really easy for your clients to print or save a PDF copy of your invoice for their records.
Clicking the “Mark As Paid” button on a sale now displays the payment in a dialog, rather than taking you to the Payments section.
You no longer need to specifically publish an invoice to make it available online. Online invoices use a randomly generated ID number in their URL so clients will only be able to see an invoice if you send the link to them or set up payment reminders. The online version of the invoice is automatically updated as soon as you make any changes to it in Light Blue 2020.1 and it syncs to your account.
The “payment received with thanks” page for online invoices now displays the full invoice details.
The online payment receipt email now includes a link to the online invoice instead of including all of the invoice details in the receipt email. This helps to protect your clients’ privacy against email services that scrape the contents of incoming emails, and also avoids problems with displaying the invoice in some email clients. If your client wants to view or print the invoice, they can click that link.
The old “online invoice publication email” and “online invoice payment receipt” templates have been replaced by email templates. Your old templates are automatically converted on upgrading. You can choose a different publication email template for each payment schedule and different receipt templates for each instalment (e.g. so that you could use a different receipt template for the final instalment).
Email event tracking
When you send emails from Light Blue’s email servers, you can now track whether those emails have been opened or if the links in them have been clicked. This is optional, and you can turn the feature on from the “Email” section of the Preferences window.
To see whether an email has been opened or a link clicked, open it up from the Outbox or the relevant Activity panel. You’ll see a summary of the tracked email’s status that you can expand to see more details, including when the event happened and the IP address that triggered it.
It’s important to note that email open tracking might not be 100% effective, for a variety of reasons. For example, some email providers and email apps can block email open events from being reported back to us. We’ve also heard of email open events being triggered by some automated content filters. If you CC or BCC yourself into emails, be careful not to trigger open or click events yourself!
We’ve also been working hard to make sure that the deliverability of emails that are sent from our own servers is high, and this includes providing personalisation of the address from which these emails are sent. If you’re sending emails using our servers then we’ll use your unique @lightbluecustomermail.com email address, which you can personalise via your account page (e.g. firstname.lastname@example.org).
Behind the scenes, we’ve created an email suppression list to avoid sending emails to recipients that either don’t exist or have told you that they don’t want to receive emails from you. We’re automatically adding a recipient to your email suppression list if they (or their email provider) send a complaint to us or we receive a permanent bounce notification. Just like opens and clicks, bounces and complaints can only be tracked for emails sent via our servers. If you try to send an email to an address that’s on your suppression list, you’ll be warned and the email address will automatically be removed if you ignore the warning. You can remove an email address from your suppression list by going go the relevant contact record and using the cog menu that appears when you hover your mouse cursor over the email address.
Storing copies of client portal emails
Copies of emails that are sent for Light Blue’s contact forms, questionnaires, contracts, and online invoices are now recorded in Light Blue’s Outbox and the Activity panel for the relevant records. We’re still CCing a copy of these emails to you so that you get an instant notification when your client has done something, but this gives you a clearer record of all of your communications with your client.
If you no longer want to have a copy of these emails CCed to you, there’s now an option to switch that off in the Email section of the Preferences window.
No more “add email template to found set”
Light Blue is designed to send “everyday” emails to your clients and is very good at doing so: dealing with new enquiries, responding to your clients’ messages, automated appointment reminders, and so on.
However, when you’re interested in sending a message to a large group of contacts at once (we’re defining ‘large’ as anything more than about 20 contacts in this context) then specialist marketing tools are a better fit for making sure that those messages reach your audience. Sending lots of marketing emails from your own email address risks damaging the reputation of your email account, making it substantially less likely that your prospects (or paying clients) will receive your messages, that’s why it’s best to use a tool that’s designed for the job.
It’s easy to export email addresses from Light Blue to use with a dedicated email marketing tool.
We’ve removed the “Add email template to found set” command to make it less likely that someone could get themselves into trouble by trying to send lots of emails from Light Blue.
As always, we’ve included as many new features, customer requests, and bug fixes in this release. Here’s a list of the biggest changes.
Inbox, Outbox, and Activity
- The speed of loading or searching the Inbox has been massively improved for customers with large numbers of incoming emails, text messages, and forms.
- Client portal emails sent on your behalf (e.g. when publishing a contract, or when an enquiry fills in one of your contact forms) are now recorded in the Outbox and linked to the Activity panel of any related records.
- If an error occurs when sending an email or text message, you’re now notified by a dialog rather than have to spot the error badge appear on the Outbox. Email and text message sending errors are highlighted in red on their parent record’s Activity panel, as well as in the Outbox.
- Added a button to the Outbox and email dialogs that allows you to dismiss email and text message sending errors. This will remove them from “Errors” category in the Outbox and also stop them from counting towards the count that appears on the Outbox’s badge, but leaves them in your database so that you can refer back to them in future. e.g. if you receive a hard bounce from an email that you send, you might want to have a record of that but not have that bounced email count as an error once you’ve dealt with it.
- Added an “Automatically CC Client Portal Emails To Yourself” preference.
- Added French and German translations of Light Blue’s contract signing service terms & conditions.
- Light Blue’s contract signing service terms & conditions now refer to the text of the “submit” and “save” buttons, if you’ve customised or translated them.
- Added an option to display your booking fee description on the “pay booking fee” step of online contracts.
- Removed the indent and outdent buttons from the email editor toolbar. This is because the HTML and CSS used to implement this feature is not supported by some popular email clients (e.g. Gmail’s web interface) and we don’t want to encourage you to use formatting that might not appear correctly in all email clients.
- When you create an email from a template, we’ve reduced the amount of vertical space between email template body and your default email signature.
- Fixed a bug that could leave the old signature in place when you select a different email signature while composing an email.
- Draft emails now appear in the “To Do” section of the “Activity” panel instead of the “History” section.
- Clarified the warning that’s displayed when you delete an item from the Inbox or Outbox to make it clear that it will also be removed from any linked records too.
- Contracts and forms can now be sent to contacts that don’t have an email address of their own, but belong to a group of contacts whose head has an email address.
- You can now include VAT number in the list of contact fields that you can include in online forms.
- Light Blue can now split name & email address combos of the form “Your Name >”
- You can no longer include the “confirm email” field in a form that does not include the “email” field.
- Fixed a bug where the “Accept Contract” dialog could open behind the contract dialog when you try to accept the signed contract from the contract dialog.
- Checking and unchecking the “preview mail-merge tags” checkbox when editing one of the emails in the contract setup dialog now reloads the dialog much faster.
- Added a “print this invoice” button to online invoices, so that clients can more easily print or save a PDF copy for their records.
- The sale “payment due” field has been replaced by the payment schedule features.
- Added more fields that can be used in queries, lists, and custom reports: “Shoot Start Date” has been added to the Quotes section; “Shoot Enquiry Source” has been added to the Sales section; “Most Recent Payment Date” and “Most Recent Payment Method” fields have been added to the Purchases section.
- Added new mail-merge tags: %SaleBillingTitle%, %SaleShippingTitle%
- Added a “Copy Link for Online Payment” option to the “Create Invoice” dialog.
- The “Export Financial Information” export now includes the purchase invoice number field.
- QuickBooks invoice exports now show “None” for items that have no tax applied to them, instead of a blank value.
- The “Mark Purchases As Paid” housekeeping command now offers you a choice of using today’s date or the purchase records’ invoice date.
- Online invoices now display the linked shoot’s reference number, if you’ve turned the shoot reference option on in Light Blue.
- The “Contact Financial History” report no longer shows a value in the “Days Overdue” column for invoices or purchases that have been marked as paid.
- Removed the “Financial Details” heading and “Included in the items above at the rate shown” text from quotes and invoices.
- Added a preference to include the purchase reference field in linked records and record selection lists that include purchases.
- Shoots now display payments for their linked sales in their “Linked Records” panel.
- The printed version of a shoot now includes linked resources’ full names, rather than their abbreviation.
- When you confirm a shoot that has a single linked quoted, Light Blue can now automatically change the quote’s status to “Accepted”.
- When you change a confirmed shoot’s status to “cancelled” or “enquiry”, the dialog that offers to tidy outstanding items now includes a clearer “Don’t Tidy” option.
- The various tools in the Housekeeping section of the Records menu for changing the status of batches of shoots have had their names tidied up, and we’ve added a new “Change Status of Found Shoots to Enquiry” tool.
- Fixed a bug where an enquiry with multiple sessions might not have its default workflow applied when a single session is confirmed.
- You can now save a shoot schedule step that doesn’t have a description. A schedule step requires either a description, time, or linked address to be saved.
- Fixed a bug where changing a shoot’s type from one that has a different default price list to a shoot type that uses the global default price list did not automatically change the price list.
- The ‘Finances’, ‘Printing’, and ‘Shoot Types’ sections of the Preferences window have been redesigned to make the options easier to find and understand.
- It’s now possible to export and import saved queries and custom reports. If you’re sending a saved query or custom report to someone else, please bear in mind that the way Light Blue handles links to related records means that you should design your query to work based on the name of the related record rather than selecting it from a popup menu.
- Improved the workflow and messages displayed when you’re going through the process of resetting a member of staff’s password from the staff login dialog.
- Improved the warnings that are displayed when you turn on the “require password” option.
- Our old static web gallery generator was deprecated more than two years ago and has now been removed from the app.
- The record selection dialog now defaults its height to just a tad less than that of Light Blue’s main window when you open it.
- When you go to related record, the first tab of that record’s tab panel is now always selected.
- The workflow export and import features now include the member of staff assigned to a task.
- The quick search feature now includes addresses in the list fields it searches.
- The bulk text message setup dialog now includes an estimate of the number of credits that will be used.
- Added the contact VAT number field to the contact import dialog.
- Changed references to “setup code” to refer to “one-time password” instead.
- Using the %BusinessAddressCommas% version of the %BusinessAddress% mail-merge tag now converts any paragraphs in the address into a single, comma-delimited line.
- Company contacts are now displayed in lists using their company name, rather than the value from the “company” field of their address.
- The list of localisations in the “Template Translations” section of the Preferences window is now in alphabetical order.
- Fixed a crash that could occur when typing a reply to an email that contains emoji. Also fixed an error that could change the font settings back to default after typing an apostrophe in the email editor.
- Fixed a bug that could cause the Inbox unread badge count to include text messages that don’t appear in the Inbox.
- Fixed an obscure bug that could cause a product workflow to be added twice when that product was added to a sale.
- Fixed a bug where duplicating an appointment with an appointment type adds the appointment type’s resources again.
- Fixed a bug where going to list view, then double-clicking on the same record to go back to detail view, would display a blank detail panel.
- Fixed a bug where clicking or tabbing into the “schedule step” field when adding a schedule step to a form would lose focus when there are unsaved changes in other fields.
- Fixed a bug that could prevent the invoice date in the detail view list from being updated when it’s edited.
- Fixed a bug where duplicating a shoot and using the “don’t group” option could still group the new shoot with the original.
- Fixed a bug that could result in upgrading from versions of Light Blue older than version 7 from upgrading workflows properly.
- Fixed a bug where adding an appointment via the calendar failed to display the full set of workflow options when you close it.
- Fixed a bug where the “you need to link some contacts to this shoot” warning was displayed in a form setup dialog when it shouldn’t have been.