This post has been a LONG time coming! We started using 17hats for our photography business over a year ago and it has done nothing but make our lives easier and give us back HOURS of precious time. We often get questions from other small business owners about wether we use an online management system, which one we use, and if it's "worth it." I'm here to say that YES we use one, it's called 17hats, and IT'S WORTH FAR MORE THAN WE PAY!
17hats is in NO way paying us for this "promotion." We just love the program and want to spread the joy around. We truly hope that sharing this post will help you get your life back! If one day we find something better, we will pack up, move on, and let you know. For now, it's the best out there, and we love it!
What we tried first
We were sold on the idea of an online management system long before we knew which one we wanted to use. The second someone told me that there were systems out there that could automate my workflow including contracts, invoicing, and client questionnaires, I was 100% "in." The real headache wasn't deciding that we needed one, it was deciding WHICH one we needed. We researched countless programs and tried SEVERAL before being introduced to 17hats.
Originally, we were stuck on this idea of using an online management system that was created by photographers, for photographers. Examples of these include ShootQ, Pixifi, and SimplyStudio. While none of these are terrible options (except for SimplyStudio... that, in fact, was a terrible option), we found that they were more expensive, too narrowly focused, and not user friendly. ShootQ started at $39.95/month!! I'm sorry, but our pockets aren't that deep! Pixifi was more reasonable, but we tried it for 3 months, and while their customer service was outstanding, it was incredibly complicated. We never made it through the set up! What we really needed was something intuitive and decently priced. This is when we found 17hats! Hallelujah!
17 reasons why we went with 17hats
- Easy of use. It goes without saying that an online management system should make our lives easier, NOT harder. 17hats was easy to set up, easy to maintain, and just makes sense! Going to this program after others was like switching from a PC to Mac!
- Online contracts and signatures. This one and the next one not only make my life significantly easier, they make my client's life WAY easier too! If you think about it, brides and grooms are going through contracts with all their vendors and it is usually a pain! In a world where many people are still using paper, faxes, etc, and we want to make sure our process is as simple as possible!
- Online invoicing and payments.
- Customization/branding. We paid a lot for our branding, because branding matters. We are thankful that we can add our logo and coloring to anything that is client-facing so they are always getting a consistent experience.
- Workflows. This is where the bulk of value comes from! We set up a wedding workflow that we apply to every client. Once we set it in motion, 17hats is either sending emails, questionnaires, invoices, etc, out automatically OR it is giving me my next "to-do." It has become my most reliable little secretary, and I wouldn't trade it for anything!
- Templates. We are a personal business, so while most of our emails are personalized to a high degree, a lot of what we send out tends to include elements of repeated content. We use templates for emails, questionnaires, quotes/contracts/invoicing, and workflows. These are vital backbone element of the workflow we talked about above and they save us HOURS of time!
- The price! We paid during a promotional period for two years at $269 (works out to a little over $11/month). The current pricing is not far off! I believe the options are $299/2 years (works out to $12/month), $199/year (works out to $17/month), or $29/month for a monthly subscription. I highly recommend one of the first two options!
- Bookkeeping. We are able to connect our business banking accounts to 17hats, categorize income and expenses, and export reports! BYE Excel!
- Profit and Loss Report. Not only can we categorize our expenses by type, we can also categorize them by client! This is hugely helpful when determining our net income per wedding!!
- Calendar integration. Will and I coordinate most of our business and personal lives via Google calendars so I'm very thankful that these calendars can be pulled into the 17hats calendar features!
- Lead management. Managing leads and inquiries is an equally rewarding and challenging part of our business. It takes a lot of time replying to inquiries, managing the state of leads, and following up during the different stages of our booking process. Since we get several inquires per week, it's been great having lead life cycles that automate part of this process and provide an overview of where we are with clients!
- Lead capture. This might be one of my favorite features!! We are able to add a contact form on our website that inputs directly into 17hats! Now when a bride submits an inquiry on our website, it automatically generates a contact in 17hats! This combined with our workflows makes managing inquiries SO much easier than the standard email reply. AND if the bride and groom decide to book with us, their information is already in our system for the contract! Brilliant!
- Regular updates. Even though we love using 17hats, I do NOT believe that it is perfect! There are a ton of features that we feel it's lacking (A MOBILE APP!!), but thankfully they are pushing updates out regularly. Just this week, they added life cycles and a few other features to lead management! There is promise of a mobile app coming soon and we can't wait! It's nice to know that our needs are heard and that we see results SO quickly!
- To-do lists. This feature helps a lot when I have to-do items that apply to our client management but that don't fit anywhere else. It also helps us keep track of items that Will and I divide up in regards to our business.
- Time tracking. We don't use this feature often but want to incorporate it in the future to determine how much time we are truly spending per workflow item. Ideally this will help us determine areas of improvement in our workflow and to define our future workload.
- The dashboard. It's great having an overview of all our outstanding items in one place. We can see an overview of EVERYTHING happening. The dashboard is also the place that feels most like I have a little secretary giving me my list of "to-dos" for the day!
- Project and client organization. Within each contact, there is a mini dashboard that shows important documents, projects, emails, and upcoming tasks associated with that client. Having everything in one place boosts our efficiency like crazy! Long gone are the days where we had to have 10 tabs open to track down all our client interactions!
This is VERY exciting! Since we have had so many questions around 17hats, we will be doing a 7 part mini-series on how we use 17hats for our business!! Look out for this FREE CONTENT on how we use 17hats every Wednesday for the next 7 weeks!! Feel free to drop us a line or comment below with any questions you may have!! :)