I know. A “client portal” sounds boring and corporate, and may seem to be overkill. But what if I told you that it’s one of the easiest ways to save yourself hours of time and separate yourself from the competition?
And even better, it’s free and takes just a couple of minutes to set up.
If you ever got this email you know what I’m talking about:
Hey! Could you send me the download link and contract again? I can’t seem to find the email anymore… Thanks! – The Client
Although it might take me only half an hour to read the email, go look for the download link and documents again, and then reply, this starts to add up after a while.
It also throws me off focus and keeps me from doing other useful things.
So in this guide, I’ll go over how I set up a client portal for my clients and how you can do too. As I said, it’s free and easy, saves you time, and will make you look much more professional.
Let’s get started!
Table of Contents
What You’ll Need
To set up your own client portal you’ll need just 3 things:
We’ll go over how to download and install everything later in this guide.
Now, none of this will work if you don’t have your own WordPress website. Go read my guide about photography websites to see why I think it’s the best option, and how to set one up.
If you have a WordPress but don’t want to do this yourself, you can just buy and install this Client Portal plugin.
That said, you can just save the $199/year and do what I’ll show you in this post. (Or get some of my courses instead and still have money left to go out for dinner).
The End Result
Ultimately, what we’re creating here is a private password protected page for each of your clients.
This way, you can gather everything for a certain client in one spot, organized however you want.
Because even for small projects there are quite a lot of documents and links that need to be communicated. Things like contracts, project briefs, mood board, image download links,… and so on.
Things that most photographers just email.
To save my clients the headache of collating all of this themselves, I just give them an area on my website where they can go to to find everything related to the project(s).
I like to keep the design fairly simple, and just list everything out per project. I’ll show you below where those links are pointing to.
And like I said, no more emails later on from them asking to send something again.
They simply go to mydomain/clients/their-client-
I also adds to the whole premium experience I’m giving my clients.
I’m showing them that I’m someone who’s done this many times before and giving them something that they probably haven’t had with other photographers.
The goal is to make their life easier and stay top of mind when anyone asks for a referral or when they need a photographer again.
Setting Up Your Client Portal
1. Create A “Group” For Each Client
The main “tool” we’ll use is the free Groups plugin.
Groups is a powerful and light-weight solution to control access to certain pages on your website based on the group a certain user belongs to without any coding.
As you might have guessed, we’ll create a group for each client and use that to give them access to their specific page.
Not only is it free, but also very flexible. And as multiple users can belong to a certain group it’s easy to give different employees of a client or firm access to the same page.
Let’s start by installing the plugin.
So click on “Add New” in the plugins menu.
And search for “groups”.
Then, install and activate the plugin.
Next, go to the Groups plugin.
And add a “group” for each of your clients (or just start with one). As you’ll see, the plugin creates a default “registered group” to which every user is added automatically.
Optionally you could start with a group called “Clients” to put all your other groups in. This way you could easily create a page for all your clients if you ever wanted to (for example to give them access to a promo).
Lastly, go to the Groups options page.
And click “Show groups in user profiles”.
2. Create A Private Page For Each Client
Alright, next we’ll go over how to create the private client pages and how to restrict access.
First, you need to create a “Clients” page.
You’ll only have to this once, but it will be the main page where clients can log in.
So go ahead and add a new page and call it “clients”
You only need to add one thing to this page:
This shortcode renders a login form, where the user can input the username and password to log in when they visit yourdomain.com/clients.
Great! Now you can send all your clients to this page. We’ll make sure they’ll be redirected to the right private page in a bit.
Let’s add a private page for a client.
Add a new page and name it after your client. I’ll keep using the Starbucks example here.
By adding the Groups plugin there will now also be a new panel available on the right of your dashboard. Here you’ll find all the groups you’ve created earlier as a dropdown. By selecting a group, you restrict the access to this page so that only users belonging to that group (or clients in our case) can see it.
So go ahead and select the clients’ group.
Optionally, you can make the “clients” page we’ve created the parent page for all your private pages. This organizes everything nicely as yourdomain.com/clients/client-name, otherwise, these pages will be at yourdomain.com/client-name.
That’s it, so go ahead an publish the page.
Use an incognito browser window or log out and then go to the URL of the page you just created.
If everything went right, it shouldn’t be accessible without logging in.
3. Send Your Clients To The Right Page
Before we add our content and clients we have to set up one more thing.
First, install the plugin “Groups Login Redirect”. It isn’t on the WordPress plugin directory so you’ll have to download it from here.
Click “clone or download” and download the ZIP file.
Go to your website and add a new plugin.
Only, this time choose “upload plugin” and upload the ZIP you’ve just downloaded.
After you activate this plugin, there will be a new menu “Groups Login Redirect”.
Click on it and you’ll get the screen below. For every group (client) add the URL of their private page, which should be /clients/client-name if you added the “clients” page as a parent above. Add /wp-admin as the default and /clients for your “clients” group if you created it earlier.
Now, when a client logs in they’ll be sent to the right private password protected page.
Remember to add a new link here every time you create a new group (client).
On to the last step!
Time to start adding content to the private pages of your client portal.
As I said above, I like to keep it simple and just list everything.
You can upload everything to your website, or just create links to your mood boards, contracts, and images.
Bonus: Get my free mini course to learn how to efficiently organize your projects.
Then, the only thing left is giving your client access.
Go ahead and create a new user.
Just give them a username and fill in all the other details, and leave their role at “subscriber”.
The most important part here is to select the right group (client) at the bottom, giving them access to the private client portal page.
Save the user by clicking “Add New User” and they will receive their username and password by email. As soon as they log in they’ll be redirected to the right client zone.
Repeat the above step for every person at your client that needs access.
And that’s it!
Your clients will be thanking you for making their life easier, and you just saved yourself from having to reply to many pointless emails.
And you’ll look more professional in the process.