As a business owner, I’ve found myself going down the endless research rabbit hole often. You’ve been there… What bookkeeping software should I use? How should I send invoices? What’s the best project management software?
Over the next few weeks I’m doing a deep dive into client on-boarding (or Client Relationship Management CRM) softwares. I’ve done the testing + comparing for you over the years, and narrowed it down to my top 3 recommendations.
Let’s dive into the software that I’ve used to run my business for almost 4 years — 17Hats.
Part 1: What are my favorite features unique to 17Hats?
Seamless quote, contract + invoicing
No longer will your client need to navigate through various links or platforms, with 17Hats your client can be presented your project quote, then once approved with a click of a button, the contract will prompt for signature, which is then followed by your invoice (set to your preferred payment schedule if needed). It’s the most seamless way I’ve come across to integrate your quote, contract and invoice.
I can attest that this feature alone has led to increased client bookings for Spruce Rd. — worth it!
Optional add-ons to quotes
Along with the seamless quote, contract and invoice feature, adding optional add-ons to client quotes is my favorite feature. I can honestly say this is worth the investment alone, and what has deterred me from venturing elsewhere (even though I’ve done all the research into alternative softwares).
For example — if your client mentions a potential need for icons, business cards or a newsletter template, you can add this as an option below your primary package. It would appear as your standard branding package (not optional), with optional add-ons below for the client to select and approve for that quote. I’ve had many clients add collateral upon seeing the prompt for add ons. One add on from one client could pay for 17Hats. I haven’t seen this option offered as smoothly as 17hats.
Links are available for quotes, questionnaires, etc.
Though I love an all-in-one solution, I also love the flexibility 17Hats offers as it provides the option to send a URL to your client as opposed to forcing its users to message clients directly within their platform.
For example — When sending a potential client the quote/contract/invoice, I can simply reply directly from my inbox in the same email thread with a link to approve the quote. Once again, it’s seamless.
Though it’s not often I invoice clients hourly, I have taken advantage of the 17Hats time tracking system and enjoyed it! It allows you to track your time live (rather than simply recording hours already logged) and will add the hours to your client’s invoice. Easy peasy!
Part 2: How much does it cost?
17Hats has two payment options — $17/month for a one year subscription or $11/month for a 3 year subscription (save $199). With each plan you get access to a 30-day money back guarantee to test out the platform to make sure it’s the right fit.
As a 17Hats partner, you can save 10% off of your annual subscription through signing up from my referral link. I’m all for saving in our businesses :).
Part 3: How well does 17Hats work?
Let’s take a look under the hood of 17Hats and rate each of the features as a designer we would use most in our business.
Client intake forms (grade: A): Easily add a contact form to your site to capture new leads. Once a potential client completes the form, 17Hats notifies you via email. You can either reach out personally to your potential client, or establish workflows to automate a bit of the process. It’s flexible to your needs.
Quote, contract, invoice (grade: A+): As mentioned above, I haven’t seen another software with a more streamlined quote, contract and invoice feature. This alone is worth the investment!
Questionnaires (grade: A+): Create templates for any client questionnaires and send to your clients with a few clicks. One feature I love is that your client can “save as draft” and revisit the questionnaire if needed. This is essential with deeper questions that clients might want to ponder rather than answering within one sitting. It’s also great that you can save a PDF of the questionnaire if needed.
I used to use Typeform (love the design!), however this was the main drawback I heard from clients — the inability to save their questionnaire to revisit later.
Time tracking (grade: B+): The time tracking component of 17Hats is pretty straightforward and easy to use. You can record time live, and automatically add to a client invoice for billing.
If you’re looking for a more robust time tracking that includes reporting, categories where your time is spent, etc. — 17Hats won’t cut it. I’d recommend Toggl (free) for an in depth look at your overall time tracking not exclusive to client billing.
Overall — 17Hats has exactly what you need for billing hourly clients using their time tracking feature.
Projects at a glance (grade: C-): This isn’t 17Hats’ strength. Though you have the ability to view leads, documents and your dashboard of current leads, quotes that need approvals, or overdue invoices, I wouldn’t rely on 17Hats to help keep track of your projects.
Instead, I recommend using a one page Excel or Airtable sheet for your “at-a-glance” view, or if you’re in my Share-worthy Design for Freelancers course you can use my exact Project Log (within the freelance organizer). Either way, you’ll need something to supplement 17Hats when staying on top of multiple client projects.
Easy for clients to use (grade: A+): 17Hats is the most straightforward for my clients to use. No login required, no 17Hats branded emails, just links that I provide directly from my inbox or Basecamp (my project management system). You also have the option to
How is the design? (grade: B): As with each platform I’m reviewing in this series, the design is minimal — which blends in and doesn’t distract from your visual identity. Could it be better? Yes. But does it conflict so much to deter me from the better features? Nope.
If you asked me a couple years ago how I would have rated the design, it would have been much lower. However, 17Hats has poured in a lot of effort over the years to clean up the user interface and I’m oh so happy they did. They continue to enhance this part of the software which has me encouraged!
How is the support? (grade: A): Stellar service! There’s a chat window to easily talk to customer service, as well as many help docs, webinars and videos to follow.
How easy is it to set up? (grade: A-): It’s pretty intuitive to set up your templates in 17Hats. I would say it can get overwhelming seeing all of the provided features (as with many of these platforms), so if you know your priority features, focus on those first and you’ll get it set up in no time.
What are the 3rd party integrations? (grade: A): I’ve never had an issue with integrations and 17Hats, so it gets an A in my book. Here are a few integrations they provide: Google Cal, iCal, Stripe, Square, PayPal, and Authorize.net. I use Quickbooks to manage my bookkeeping, which integrates with 17Hats through my Stripe payment processor.
Is it friendly to use once it’s set up? (grade: A): Let’s just say after a potential client phone call, I’ll have a custom quote, contract and invoice sitting in their mailbox within 10 minutes of wrapping up our call. It’s a breeze to use, and cuts down delay time between you and a potential client.
Part 4: My take away
What I love about 17Hats:
Quote, contract + invoicing: This is their strength, and the primary use for my brand.
It’s easy to use: Plain and simple, I’ve yet to have an issue navigating 17Hats. Of the many platforms I’ve looked into, 17Hats is less intimidating.
Contacts: Since I work with many clients beyond the initial project, I love that I have easy access to managing my contacts through 17Hats.
Who has viewed the quote?: Maybe a little sneaky, but I appreciate that I can see that the client received my quote through a timestamped history on the form. It takes the guesswork out of those clients who might be a little delayed in responding ;).
Quote expirations: With each quote, I appreciate that you can set a quote expiration date of your choosing. That way a quote sent a year ago to a client will be expired (in case your pricing has increased).
Workflows: Admittedly, I used to take advantage of these more and found them to be a great feature! You can set automatic workflows when a client books, for instance, to send them next steps, a questionnaire, or confirmation. Great feature in the client experience!
What I think could be improved:
Design: I’d love to see the design improved a bit more — specifically typographically.
Projects at a glance: I wouldn’t hate it if there was a better “projects at a glance” feature on the homepage, rather than the current dashboard.
Overall, I highly recommend 17Hats! If streamlining your quote, contract and invoicing system to on-board clients as smooth as possible is your primary goal — 17Hats is your best bet.
You can receive 10% off your subscription through my referral link if you enjoy the platform, as well as take advantage of the 30-day money back guarantee if it’s not the best fit.
(Full Disclosure: As an affiliate, I receive compensation if you purchase through this link.)
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