17hats Review

In 2014 I used Bidsketch (see my review) to do all my estimates and FreeAgent (no review for this one) to handle the invoicing for my projects.

As I said in my Bidsketch review, one downside to using this pair of tools was that I was left with double entry for all my contacts. I’d enter a prospect into Bidsketch then when I won the project, I’d have to re-enter the contact in FreeAgent.

In reality, I faced triple entry because I also put these people in my Mac contacts because I don’t pick up calls that aren’t in caller ID.

All of that duplication is, simply put, stupid.

One other complaint I had was that I could have an estimate accepted but still have to re-enter cost information on the project into FreeAgent. More duplication.

So for 2015 I was looking for a solution that combined estimates and invoices, which would mean single entry for both client contact information and project costs.

Enter 17hats

I first heard about 17hats sometime in the middle of 2014, but since I don’t switch tools in the middle of the year I just passed the information off to Evernote for later use.

Start by taking a look at the video below to get an idea of what 17hats can provide for your business.

The Good Parts

For me, the biggest selling feature of 17hats was no more multiple entry on contacts, projects and estimates. There is simply no need for me or anyone on my team to waste time re-entering information on a regular basis.

Let’s take a look at the components of the workflow that I actually use.

Update: After I wrote this and just before it was going to publish 17hats added workflows. They look super interesting but I haven’t had a chance to try them out yet. I’m planning on trying to integrate them with project start (for getting FTP, WP login..) and exit (sending clients a questionnaire, asking for testimonials…).

Estimates -> Invoice Workflow

This, for me, is the bread and butter of 17hats. Having the client creation, estimate creation, estimate options, contract signing, and invoicing all in one smooth workflow is a huge time saver for me.

Let’s say you have had a call with a prospect and you want to move forward with an estimate. Your first stop is to create a contact in 17hats. Once you go to the ‘Contacts’ section of the app, just click the little ‘+’ at the top right of the page and you’ll get the contact add pop-up.

Adding a contact in 17hats

From there you’re prompted to create a new project for the client. In 17hats everything is centered around a project which is fine, but not great, as I’ll talk about later.

17hats project creation prompt

Once you’ve created a project, you have a bunch of options for next actions for that project. Maybe you need to log some information from a client call (and you store notes in 17hats, not Evernote, like me), well that’s an option.

17hats options for next moves with a client

Maybe you’re storing client files, or need to send the client a questionnaire. Or, like we’re going to look at, send them an estimate.

17hats pricing options for estimate

One of my favourite features in 17hats estimates is the variety in pricing options you get on your estimates. One option is to send a ‘standard’ quote, you know something like “$3000 to build a theme” and that’s it. They can take the estimate or leave it.

I hope you don’t just do that though, but that you provide options for the pricing of your services. With 17hats you have 2 pricing options.

You can either put a ‘Choose One’ option on the estimate — which means the prospect has to choose one of the options when they accept the estimate — or you can use a ‘Choose Any’ option, which means the prospect can pick and choose between the items available on the estimate.

I use both of these depending on the initial project discussions with the client. Lately I’ve had most success with the ‘Choose One’ option in that clients tend to pick higher-priced packages, which usually translate to more profit for me and higher value for the client.

Once you have your estimate all set you can then choose to include the contract (which I do) and convert directly to invoice (which I do).

Converting directly to an invoice means that you don’t have to take any other action once the client has accepted the estimate. You just get an email notification that they accepted and paid.

When creating a contract to go with an estimate you have a number of options related to the signature. I always set it up to sign right away since ‘counter-signing’ means the client drops out of the automated workflow through to payment.

17hats contract signature choices

Once you’ve got your full estimate and contract created you can also set a term for how long an estimate is valid (I choose 10 days), and if there are any payment terms.

17hats payment terms screen

If you choose payment terms you can easily automate up to 4 payment milestones, without having to worry about the invoices being sent again.

After estimate creation it’s really a simple process of sending the estimate to the client and them accepting it and paying for the work to start.

I’ve received a number of compliments from the prospects I provided estimates to during December while I was trialing 17hats.

Templates

Another of my favourite 17hats features is the templates. I can put in my stock contract and then just use the contract template without needing to change it up for each client.

I also have templates for invoice emails, which means my assistant can send an invoice and the email content looks like it came from me. With a few simple clicks, she can set it up using my preferred process and language.

I template any text that I send more than a few times. At the very least, templates give you the foundation you need and can be refined to suit a particular project if you need to.

Payment Support

Nothing really special here in terms of support for payment providers. 17hats supports Stripe, Paypal and Authorize.net.

I use Stripe 99% of the time. In fact I don’t even connect PayPal unless a client requests it who has no other means of payment.

PayPal is just a pain in the ass and Stripe isn’t, so…

I’ve never used Authorize.net for my business billing.

The parts I don’t like

In spite of all the things I love about 17hats, I hate that everything is a project. I dislike that you have to create a full contact for every single person.

Here’s an example of why I don’t like this feature. When I receive an initial contact from a prospect, you know I send them my initial email templateI don’t even put their contact information or do any tracking to follow up until I have the initial questions answered.

If you want to use the questionnaire feature in 17hats, you not only have to add the person as a contact, you also have to create a project for them. This is a lot of work for someone that may not even become your client.

I know that 70% of the initial contacts I get don’t go past the first phone call. If I used the 17hats questionnaires feature, then I’d have data entry for 70% of people that I’m never going to work with.

Put tasks in 17hats??

The CRM features of 17hats allows you to put tasks in for follow-up on a client. I guess you could use it for a project management system if you wanted but since it doesn’t allow other users you can’t share anything with your clients or your team.

Outside of the total lack of collaborative features, adding tasks to 17hats means you have added an extra ‘inbox’ to check on with your weekly review. That increases friction and provides no benefit at all.

I keep all my client follow-up tasks in Todoist and from there I can follow up via the linked email features of Todoist and Postbox.

Of course this doesn’t scale fully for a sales team since they wouldn’t get the link to the Postbox email in my account, but the Todoist tasks would support a team.

I’m currently the only sales person within my company, so I don’t need a team solution.

No teams

I’ve already mentioned above that there is no ‘team’ with 17hats so you can’t really use it as a project management system, but more than that, the lack of teams is a pain.

I have a bookkeeper/assistant and she issues all recurring invoices for me. Since there is no ‘team’ in 17hats that means that she needs my log-in to access 17hats and generate the invoices.

Since I’ve given her access to my bank accounts, I obviously trust her, but I’d much rather be able to create a 17hats log-in specifically for her, which I could turn off if I needed to.

It’s currently feasible that she could change the password and reply email (for password resets), completely locking me out of the account until I bugged 17hats support.

That’s assuming that I could recover the account by talking to support.

Adding a log-in with limited access would go a long way in improving the functionality of 17hats, so let’s hope they make this update soon.

Email sync

17Hats can also ‘sync’ your email in to your dashboard. So 17hats can see what emails you’ve got and then can tell if you have heard from a client or not. Maybe you have a client email to reply to even, it will show up in 17hats.

If you’re using it as a hub for CRM stuff then great, but it doesn’t show up in your ‘sent’ folder in Google apps so it was just scary for me to send stuff and then not know if it sent.

Apps like Contactually (which I’m just starting to demo) actually copy the email to your sent folder and do way more than what 17hats does.

So the email sync is a feature but a half baked on at best.

Meh

I’m indifferent about the things below, but when I mentioned 17hats on Twitter people brought them up, so I’ll cover them here for the sake of clarity — just for you, dear reader.

Time Tracking

The most recently launched feature of 17hats is time tracking. We all know that hourly billing is stupid so I doubt any of you will be using this feature anyway, and I don’t use it at all. But it’s there if you want it.

To add time simply click their “1-click timer” and start tracking time.

You can have rates for each client if you want and assign the time to a project right from the little time tracking window.

Really it’s all the features you’d expect from a time-tracking feature in an invoicing application.

The interface

I actually don’t have any issue with the interface of 17hats.

Sure, it’s a bit over-designed and ‘heavy’ compared to today’s popular design trends, but it works, so who really cares?

No, it’s not mobile responsive in any way. But I can’t think of a single time I ever invoiced a client from a mobile device.

I can’t think of a single time in the last 2 years where I tracked time via a mobile device, and before that I just remember vaguely tracking time in Billings, which I haven’t used in forever.

So I’m really just letting you know that it does not have a mobile application, in case you do use a mobile device to invoice and estimate.

There are still 2 things haven’t mentioned at all with 17hats:

  • Bookkeeping (never found this stuff more useful than what my bookkeeper gives me so I don’t bother)
  • Calendar (meh, just another place to see stuff I see in the Mac calendar, and I don’t use 17hats tasks so…)

Recommendation?

I obviously think that 17hats is good enough for me, so yes, I think it’s good enough for you.

If you’ve been using an estimate app (which you should be doing because it saves you so much time) and something separate for invoicing, then 17hats pulls all of this into one location for you and cuts your mindless data entry time.

On top of cutting the data entry, it’s going to cut your bill for 2 SAAS apps down to 1, and I don’t know about you, but my bank account isn’t full so the money can stay there.

photo credit: pasukaru76 cc

10 Replies to “17hats Review”

  1. I’m trying out the demo, too, but haven’t gotten to all the features you mention. The No Teams thing is not good…

    I also wish there was a way to mark Contracts as “declined” or “pending” (similar to Bidsketch). I don’t really want to delete a contract, but the “past due” nag is highly annoying.

        1. Hi Carrie,

          Thanks for the feedback. That is a good point, and something I’ll look into once I am back into the office next week. We’re still relatively new, and it is feedback like this that will allow us to improve quickly so thank you 🙂

          Donovan

  2. Hi Curtis,

    Thank you for the detailed review and the recommendation 🙂 We will work hard to improve on the items that are not quite there yet (teams and mobile support). I appreciate the feedback!

    Donovan

  3. Have you ever looked at or tried Blinksale (blinksale.com)? I’ve used Blinksale for years and it seems to work for me, but as I have made a concerted effort to learn from new sources such as you, I am learning that much of what I thought was “working”was really me spinning my wheels. Hence I’m trying to relearn everything. So I wondered if you had any thoughts on the tool I’m using and why I should, or shouldn’t, continue to use it.

    1. I haven’t ever tried Blinksale, though I’ve heard of it. Truthfully I never even looked at it for this round of changing up my tools.

      My initial thoughts from the ‘tour’ is that it seems to have all the features I use in 17hats. Something that always makes a tool harder for me to even try is the lack of a video showing off the workflow.

      Sure it has the features but how do they connect together? Is it a smooth workflow I’d actually use?

      I have no idea until I try Blinksale. I’ll certainly put it on my list as an idea to review one day but there is no ETA.

      One thing to remember is that just because you use my tools doesn’t mean you’ll see my success. I think these reviews are useful to other business owners because you can see what I value in a tool and see how it aligns to the things you also value.

      Certainly don’t jump on 17hats simply because that’s what I use. Make sure it works for you. If Blinksale works for you, then keep using it.

  4. Thank you Curtis for another great review. Since I am just starting out in the freelance space it sure helps to make a good choice from the beginning, and scale for the future. Currenlty I do have to track my time for some contracting gigs, so this newly added feature would be useful for me. I’ll bet since 17 Hats is new and engaged in feedback, we might see a on/off preference on having to creating a project for each contact, and a way to silence a nag as Carrie mentioned if it doesn’t make sense. Now, I’m on to investigate Stripe…….

    1. Stripe is awesome, I don’t offer PayPal anymore it’s just a pain and then add the fact that people can ask for refunds for like 6 months and as a seller I have no real recourse to dispute payments.

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