Using smart files in your HoneyBook automations is an amazing way to supercharge your process, showing off your brand and your business efficiency in one fell swoop.

Automations allow you to automate different steps of your client journey using certain criteria (e.g. sending a questionnaire 3 days after a contact form has been submitted, or sending an email 2 hours after the previous automation step is complete). Smart files contain one or more pieces of content and/or actions that you can share with clients (e.g. a contract to gather signatures, and/or a questionnaire for clients to provide important details).

Smart files, then, can be used in automations to let your client-facing processes fire with minimal effort, so you can spend less time on the back-end work and more time with the hands-on stuff.


This article references smart files, our newest file experience. If you still have legacy files in your account, you may see something a little different! Smart files are still in beta, but they’re coming soon and offering more power and customization than ever. Join the waitlist to get access ASAP!


In this article, we’ll cover:


Smart files vs. automations: what's the difference?

With smart files, you can craft experiences for your clients based on information you want them to review and actions you need them to take, combining and elevating elements of your customer-facing process.

Though you can create any number of smart files to align with different milestones of a project, each individual smart file will be sent to your clients via a single link, so they can review the information and take requested actions without needing to receive and respond to multiple emails or documents from you.

So, for example, you might send a single smart file that includes your business intro, some onboarding questions, and a contract to sign, allowing the client to submit their answers and contract back to you from one file in a matter of minutes.

An automation, on the other hand, allows you to facilitate your entire process, helping you manage both internal and client-facing actions.

In an automation, you can create a set of steps or actions that run automatically, but individually, and with cadences and timing you set up in advance. These steps might include client-facing actions, like sending a particular file; but they can also be internal actions, like creating tasks. This flexibility maximizes your business efficiency, while the automations help free up some brain space!

For example, you might create an automation that sends a new client questionnaire when a new lead comes in; automatically sends a thank you email 10 minutes after that questionnaire is submitted back to you; then automatically creates a task for you, as a reminder to follow up with the client in 3 days.


Using actions in automations

An action is the specific event that takes place in a particular automation step. In any automation, you are able to set the action as:

*PLEASE NOTE: Your account may look a little different, depending on whether your account can access smart files yet. If you do have smart files, you may not see the Send file via email option. Smart files are still in beta, but you can join the waitlist to get access ASAP!

Send email

The Send email action allows you to select one of your existing email templates, or create a new email template, to include in that step of the automation.

  • HoneyBook Tip: If you create a new email template at this step, it will save under your Templates page for easy future use!

After selecting or creating an email template, you can click Preview & edit > Edit This email to adjust the language of the email for this particular automation. Any changes you make to the email here will only affect the email in this automation—it won’t change your original template.

PLEASE NOTE: Editing an email within an automation untethers it from its template, so no future edits made to the original template will be reflected in the automation. If you opt to not edit the email within the automation, the selected email will remain tied to its template. Then, if you make changes within the original email template, those changes will be reflected in the automations in which that email has been left unedited.

If you wish to edit the email that goes out from a specific automation without affecting the original template, make sure that you’re editing the email directly within the automation.

Create task

The Create task action is simply for you! This allows the automation to add a task to your private task list, using the trigger and timing to assign the due date. When the automation reaches that step and the trigger occurs, you’ll see the task appear. Your client will not be able to see your task list.

Send file via email

The Send file via email action allows you to select your legacy file template of choice (a brochure or questionnaire) for that step of the automation. You’ll also choose an email template for this step, since legacy files always need to be sent with an email.

As with the Send an email action, you can click Preview & Edit > Edit This Email to adjust the language of the email Template for this particular automation. At the moment, however, you will not be able to individually edit the legacy file template for individual automations.

PLEASE NOTE: You may not see this option if your account already includes smart files.

Send smart file via email

The Send smart file via email action allows you to select one of your existing smart file templates to include in that step of the automation. You’ll also choose an email template for this step that will go out with the smart file.

As with the Send an Email Action, you can click Preview & Edit > Edit This Email to adjust the language of the email template for this particular automation. At the moment, however, you will not be able to individually edit the smart file template for individual automations.

  • HoneBook Tip: Don’t see one of your smart file templates as an option to automate? If your template contains a contract, it won’t appear in the list, as these require extra customization and are not currently supported in automations.

PLEASE NOTE: You may not see this option if your account does not have access to smart files yet.


Using triggers in automations

Triggers allow you to dictate which event causes a step in an automation (the action) to occur, and when the action should fire.

PLEASE NOTE: At this time, some triggers are available only for smart files, and some only for legacy files. An even wider set of triggers for your smart files are coming soon, but for nowif a trigger is available only for legacy files, there will be a note below.

Once you’ve added an action to an automation, you’ll need to select the trigger. You can choose to have your selected action occur any number of minutes, hours, days, or weeks:

After activating the automation

The action will trigger a set amount of time after the automation has been activated in a project. An automation can be activated automatically when a contact form is submitted, or you can activate by manually applying it to an individual project.

Before a project date / after a project date

The “project date” will either be the single date associated with the project, or the start date (if an end date is set). The action will trigger a set amount of time before or after the project date occurs, as it is set in the project details.

Before a project end date / after a project end date

The “end date” will need to be specified in your project details, in conjunction with a start date. If an end date is set, the action will trigger a set amount of time before or after the end date occurs.

PLEASE NOTE: If no end date is set, steps with an "end date" trigger will be skipped.

After the previous step is complete

The action will trigger a set amount of time after the previous step in the automation has completed. This is the only trigger that is dependent on other steps in the automation.

After a contract is signed

The action will trigger a set amount of time after a contract has been signed by a client. If the contract includes multiple signature lines for multiple clients, the action will trigger after the first signature has been added.

After a questionnaire is submitted

The action will trigger a set amount of time after a questionnaire has been submitted by a client.

After the invoice is paid in full

The action will trigger a set amount of time after the final payment in a payment schedule has been made. If the payment schedule only contains one payment (versus multiple payments), the action will trigger after the sole payment. The payment smart file or legacy file must be active (i.e., not expired) in order for trigger to function.

If a file contains a recurring payment, the trigger will only occur after the final payment date, IF there is an end date set.

PLEASE NOTE: Manually marking a payment as paid will not activate this trigger. If needed, you can manually trigger the step.

If your automation includes BOTH a “first payment” and “paid in full” trigger AND the automation is applied to a project with a single-payment smart file or legacy file, both automation steps will trigger when the sole payment is made.

After the first payment is made

The action will trigger a set amount of time after the first payment in a payment schedule has been made. If the payment schedule only contains one payment (versus multiple payments), the action will trigger after the sole payment. The payment smart file or legacy file must be active (i.e., not expired) in order for the trigger to function.

PLEASE NOTE: Manually marking a payment as paid will not activate this trigger.

After a project has been moved to the “Completed” stage

The action will trigger a set amount of time after the project has been moved into the Completed stage in your project pipeline. Moving a project here will need to be done by manually changing the project stage.

After a brochure is submitted

The action will trigger a set amount of time after a brochure legacy file has been submitted by a client.

PLEASE NOTE: At this time, this trigger is not available for smart filesonly for brochure legacy files.

After a smart file is completed

The action will trigger after a smart file is completed.

  • HoneyBook Tip: A smart file is considered complete when all actions and mandatory questions in the file have been completed and the client has navigated to the final page.

After all required signatures are signed

The action will trigger a set amount of time after all of the required signatures in a contract have been signed.


Trigger rules & order of events

Each step in an automation will fire only once, even if the trigger applies to multiple smart files or legacy files.

For example, if the automation has a “first payment” trigger, it will fire only on the first payment of the first file. If there is a second file in the project containing payments, the trigger will not run again.

The order in which steps trigger will depend on the triggers themselves; since most are not dependent on other triggers, they may occur in a different order than the steps you have in place!

For example:

Automation Step 1: trigger an action 1 week after project date

Automation Step 2: trigger an action 1 week before project date

In this case, Step 2 will run before Step 1.

You also may find that one event in HoneyBook triggers multiple automation steps.

For example:

Automation Step 1: trigger an action 1 week after first payment

Automation Step 2: trigger an action 1 week after invoice paid in full (i.e., after final payment)

If you apply this automation to a project with only one payment in the payment schedule, both steps will trigger when that single payment is made.


Sending a smart file via automation

1. Within an automation, select +Add First Action to add the first action, or the plus (+) button to add another action.

2. Select Send smart file via email as the action.

3. Select the smart file template you’d like to send.

4. Choose the email template you'd like to send along with the smart file.

  • HoneyBook Tip: If you’d like to edit the email template that goes out with this particular step, select Preview & edit > Edit this email. This will untether the email from the original template, meaning any future edits made to the original template won’t update in the automation step.

5. Select your trigger and delay.

6. Select whether this email & smart file require your approval before sending.

  • HoneyBook Tip: If you toggle Require approval before sending to ON (blue), a task will appear in your project task list on the day your email should send (according to your automation rules). You’ll have the option to send the email as-is, edit the message first and then send, or delete the step (via the trash can icon). You will not be able to edit the smart file template itself. Note that if you check the task off, the email and smart file will send right away!

7. Add more steps by clicking the plus (+) button, or click Save if you’re finished editing this automation.

8. Once your automation is set up and saved, you can get started applying the automation to projects.

When the selected trigger date hits, your smart file and email will send out to your client(s) associated with the project or inquiry to which the automation was applied! The email will appear as though it came directly from the project owner.

And remember, if you need to make changes, you can edit automations once they’re applied to projects—or remove them entirely.


Example automation using smart files

Now, you can take things up a notch by sending a smart file in one or more steps of a automation!

When creating an automation, you’ll just select Send file via email for one or more automation steps, then choose what triggers those steps to occur.

For example, you might create one automation for when the initial lead comes in:

  • Step 1: automatically sends an Onboarding and Pricing Guide smart file when a contact form inquiry is received

  • Step 2: sends a “thank you, we’ll be in touch soon” email 5 minutes after the smart file has been completed

  • Step 3: creates an internal task to remind you to follow up in 2 days

Then, perhaps you end the project with another automation to offboard your clients, where you schedule your Offboarding smart file to automatically send a week after the project date!

PLEASE NOTE: Right now, smart files containing contracts cannot be automated through automations, as they contain smart fields.

Be sure to check out our Help Center for the full rundown on creating and activating automations!

Want to learn more?

Still have questions? Feel free to send us a message by clicking the Question Mark icon on any HoneyBook page. Our team is always happy to help!

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