Review of 17hats for Freelancers – Updated!

I recently received a Tweet from 17hats letting me know that they have added several new features to their client management system for solopreneurs. They more than hinted that maybe I would like to update a post that first appeared on Freelance to Freedom November 2014 in which my good friend Morgan of A Little Creative reviewed and compared 17 Hats to a competing system, Motiv (which is now out of business).

Well why not? I know from the comments some of you left in the original post that many of you are still “on the fence” about whether to go with 17hats or not. This time, I’ve asked another friend and colleague, Sarah Noked who is an experienced Online Business Manager to weigh in with her impressions of the system since the new features were added. Here’s what Sarah has to say.

Workflows

For sure, the number one most useful addition to 17hats is the continued development of their workflows feature. It’s important to keep in mind that 17hats is project based at its core with everything else supporting the smooth flow of projects that you do for your clients.

Setting up custom workflows is what allows you to automate your business processes. And we all know how central this is to our sanity. 17hats suggests that you create a workflow for each of the 3 stages of a project: pre-sale, during delivery and post-sale, and then create one or more phases within each of these workflows. Typically, phases will include to-do items (which are really reminders), action items (where using templates is super powerful) and pause items (when you are waiting on a reply from your client). Once you understand the logic behind workflows, setting them up is simple and straightforward. Oh and by the way, they have a great video that explains this all in about 4 minutes.

Time tracking

Adding a time tracking feature was high on the user list of new feature requests and has been in place for a while now. It allows you to include a billing rate and description and even if and how you want to round out your billing time segments (by 15 minute intervals, for example). Once your time is recorded, it’s easy to invoice your client for just the billable hours, with the un-billable hours showing up in your own internal report for that client. 17hats will even group all the billable hours for a certain task (like photo editing, if you’re a photographer) into one invoiced item, if you choose that option.

Lead capture forms

To help with the marketing of your business, 17hats added a lead capture feature that allows users to add forms to their website (as a popup or embedded on a page) or Facebook page. The contact info captured on these forms is pulled directly into the leads section of 17hats. What’s great about this feature, is that its setup routine was designed with the solopreneur in mind. You don’t need to know too much about online marketing to get this up and running on your website fast. With this feature, 17 Hats is also a mini-CRM (Customer Relationship Management) for one-man businesses.

What’s in the works

A mobile app is the most requested feature that has not yet been implemented according to the 17 Hats User Voice forum. But they are working on it, with launch planned for the end of this year (2015). As they point out, you can currently use 17hats on mobile devices through your browser.

Another much requested, missing feature is an online scheduling app so that your or your clients can schedule appointments and meetings directly into 17hats. The development team is aware of this, but have not yet committed to when it will be available. In the meantime the work around is to use your Google Calendar (which integrates with 17hats) and connect it with a third party scheduling app.

Over 700 17hats users have requested a client portal where clients can see the details of their project, such as billing statements, open and closed tasks, signed contracts, questionnaires, and even a place to pay their bills. Again, the 17hats team is looking into this and promise this feature will be coming soon.

The biggest drawback

Definitely the major disadvantage right now is that the free trial period is still too short at 14 days. Most entrepreneurs need at least double this time to complete a project lifecycle with their clients in order to really get a feel for the system and whether it right for their business or not.

Superb customer support

It’s a no brainer that getting customer support right is what makes or breaks a company today, especially a young SAAS (software as a service) startup that will surely have hiccups along the way. And this is why 17hats has a real shot at leaving the competition behind to eat their dust –their customer support is excellent! They are helpful and responsive, so even if the system does not work perfectly, you know there is someone to talk to and get the problem fixed.

What it’s not

17hats in its current form is not a do-it-all system that can handle all your business needs. It is not a collaboration or project management system, like TeamWork, Asana or Basecamp. It’s for solopreneurs (one man businesses), helping them with their recurring admin processes and internal workflows. It streamlines the management of clients through the normal lifecycle of a project.

I don’t think there is an all-in-one system out there yet, and on reflection, this may be a good thing. If such a system fails, even temporarily, it would be that much more disastrous for your business. Separating project collaboration from internal client life-cycle management may not be such a bad idea.

What do you think?

P.S. If you want some help learning about the different steps and tools you should be streamlining in your business, grab Leah’s free Freelance Process Checklist!

Sarah Noked is an MBA graduate, Online Business Manager, and Digital Marketing Strategist with more than 10 years’ business experience. Billing herself as the “Entrepreneur’s Online Business Manager,” Sarah and her team help clients stay on track and grow their businesses by managing their projects and teams, and implementing systems and automation. In turn, her clients gain the much needed time to focus on their big picture, revenue-generating ideas. Check out her website and while you’re there grab the free toolkit download “Implementing Systems and Virtual Teams Guide” complete with a ready-to-use Standard Operating Procedures template. Connect with Sarah on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

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{ 15 comments… add one }
  • Awesome, good to see/read about the latest updates. I still haven’t tried them, because the one drawback as you said, the free trial limit. I’d like to start the trial when I know I would be able to plunge in right away. They did say too, that if 14 days isn’t enough, we can write to them and they would extend it for longer. I think though as a rule of thumb, they should just provide a 31 free trial as the standard.

    I also hope they will update their interface, because right now it’s still feels pretty meh from what I can see.

    • Michelle

      Hi there! I just came from the 2016 HOW Conference in Atlanta. The 17Hats rep at their booth willing to extend the trial to 30 days so in your case, I’m sure you can just call them and request to see if they work with you and extend it. I’m about to give them a shot so I hope they it’s as good as it seems!

  • I’m currently trialing 17Hats for my food photography business and agree that the 14 day trial is far too short in order to evaluate a tool efficiently. It needs to be at least 30 days.

    While there are some great features in 17Hats it is missing a lot of features I would have expected, such as email signatures and scheduling etc. Due to the lack of email signature and email tracking I’m manually sending emails in Gmail and find it frustrating I can’t easily grab the contract or invoice link and grab it to include it in an email. My current workaround is to email these items to myself, which is very clunky and inefficient.

  • Although, I have tried 17hats, I agree the trial period is entirely too short to determine whether or not the system will actually work well with my business & my needs. I also agree with the lack of integrations, I would definitely like a scheduling app or integration as I am tired of having to pay for all of these multiple programs. I also would like the e-mail signature and e-mail management system more advanced. An Evernote integration would also be nice as well as the mobile app and client portal.

    Overall, the system is nice but still has quite a bit of growth still left to do. Right now Teamwork has my love and comes closest to being an all in one.

  • Thank you for this review. It was very helpful. It looks great, but I agree, the trial period is too short for a true evaluation and in just 10 minutes of setting 17hats up I found reasons not to complete the 14 day trial.

  • I agree that the short trial period is a strike against 17Hats. I’ve been considering trying out the software for months but I haven’t done so because of the inability to use the trial to follow a project start-to-finish. However, the other features do sound appealing – so I think I’m going to give it a go now. Thanks for the thorough review!

  • Patrick

    I am a 17hats early adopter. Although I can say that 17hats, when I first took it on was a great and revolutionary help to my business, over time, I have found that I’m using about 1/3rd of it’s abilities due to the fact that it has so many flaws. The bookkeeping feature is all but useless in a complex multiple account world and gets a lot of it’s automation wrong, the workflows may work for wedding photographers but it’s not useful to the myriad of projects that a freelance graphic designer works on, the templates are buggy and it’s easy to overwrite something you spent many projects perfecting, your information is not your own but on their cloud server, I would be more comfortable having a database on my side of MY clients, invoicing has been, sometimes, difficult when refunds or mistakes are made, now they have released their mobile app and it’s an abomination that needs a lot of work. I am likely going to finish out my subscription and move on.

    • Victoria

      Hi Patrick, I read your honest review, when did you experience this and has there been any improvements? I’m currently researching this product for a freelance makeup artist, your reply is greatly appreciated. Thank you.

  • Thanks for this updated review. Consolidating features & decreasing the number of separate apps I need? Great idea. But I do both individual coaching and projects for organizations. I manage both by client and by project. I need a scheduling app – not a clunky workaround. I also need team communications, even though I am a solopreneur. I collaborate with others and have tried various apps for that, Slack being about the best that I’ve found. As this app becomes more sophisticated it will be more appealing. But as long as it does some of the stuff you need but not all of it it’s not much help.

  • The 14 day trial period is a major achilles heel, the freelancers who actually need this product are those who are very busy and who have no spare hours to test this out. So expecting them to be able to do test it in what is essentially 10 working days is both shortsighted and shows a naive understanding of their potential customer base. I speak from experience, I have attempted twice to trial the service, but I am so busy I think I only managed to delve into it a few hours each time. I asked them to extend the trial, but they only added 4 days, two of which were over the weekend ( I have kids ) so I failed miserably again. I have to say though it does look interesting, the financial side though is not well documented by video, I was unable to download my bank details as it is not supported, I failed to find the video for manual download. Also they have a video for quicken integration, which looked interesting. Quicken has a thirty day trial period, so I have signed up for that and am watching the Quicken online video series on Lynda.com which are easy to follow.
    I get enquiries every week and I put them on a spreadsheet, which is a nightmare, 17hats has a lead generator and classifies them as leads in contacts until they enter the workflow which is great. I have to say, from what little I saw on 17hats it seems like a good product. I am on their email list and they are adding new services all the time, which is very promising,
    Patrick

  • I have been using 17hats for over a year now and though i like it for the most part I am appalled by their lack of a true support ticketing system. I am surprised about your comment as support is really bad. Unless it is just a how do I do this or something simple but when you have a real issue or bug……………… I have had one ticket that impacted my daily business not fixed for three months, others several weeks or more. It is really frustrating. They have a group and if you mention you are having issues or that it is not being responded to, they kick you out of the group. It is really frustrating. I doubt the owner knows all this. There are a few of us that they did this to that are chatting on FB messenger and everyone is appalled.

  • The lack of calendar scheduling is the one thing keeping me from signing up for 17hats. I know I’m not alone in that as I saw it on a discussion on a 17hats message board.

    I think ultimately, my decision might fall down to how well the book keeping part of the app works.

  • Good assessment of the pros and cons for business owners! I will be advising some of our clients to use 17hats for admin and some customer relationship functions. Thanks for the review!

    Jonathan Patton
    Austin, TX

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