A sign at the flea market read "Creative Minds are Seldom Tidy." Do you ever feel this way? Do you ever wish you had a program that would help you organize your thoughts, your to-do's, your contacts, contracts, invoices even bank information? As a creative, often we get so caught up in our work that we forget to run our business like a business. Fortunately a new program recently launched that will help you get everything organized and automated in your business making more time for you to actually do the things you love.
Chances are you've probably heard the buzz about 17hats already. Over the last couple weeks word has been spreading rapidly about the lastest online studio management program for photographers. Invites into the program have been in high demand and people have been clamoring to get their hands on one. Fortunately I was able to get in about a week ago and give it a run and my initial impressions are all very good. For the last couple years I've been searching for the right business management program and have tried a number of them. Each time I've been frustrated by the set up process and complicated interfaces. That changed when I opened 17hats for the first time.
The program is designed to be easy to use. In fact, the team behind the program currently has 6 people working on it and one's role is entirely about the user experience. His job is essentially to make sure the developers don't make the program overly complicated and difficult to use. You'll notice from the first time that you login to 17hats that everything is laid out in a manner that makes it easy to find. The first screen you are presented with is the "Dashboard" where you can see your calendar (which was very simple to sync), your pending to-do's, client activity and more. It's a perfect summary for the day ahead.
Once I was in the program I quickly realized that 17hats does 'a ton' all in one beautifully designed program. This means I no longer have to login to one program to track leads, another to send contracts, another to create invoices, check my calendar or collect payments. It is all right there for me inside 17hats just a click away. The interface is easy to understand and runs fast on my laptop.
One of my favorite features that is built right into 17hats is the "Bookkeeping" section. Within minutes I was able to set it up to pull information direct from my bank accounts and get it organized all within the program. Now some of you might be a little skiddish of linking your bank accounts. But don't worry you are not providing the developers with your information. Instead they found a genius way of partnering with a company that has partnerships with over thousands of different banks to provide this information when requested. For example think about when you link your banks to a software to do your taxes or for programs like Mint. Same idea here but instead of having to log-in to yet another program to view that info you can see it all directly inside 17hats. In addition you can run a number of different reports including Profit and Loss Statements as well as Sales Tax reports. Your accountant will love you, or you might just love yourself for making the choice to get your bookkeeping in order.
I could go on about all the features 17hats has to offer but you really ought to check it out for yourself by visiting their website. (Note: continue till the end of this article to find a special link for Fstopper readers.) What I found different about the program versus other online studio management programs was its ease of use. Within minutes I was setting up contacts, assigning projects to them and creating my templates for quotes, contracts and invoices. In addition, the team has amazing customer service. Their goal right now is to answer all questions sent to them within an hour and so far they've done a heck of a job doing it. Each time I've asked a question using their contact form built into the program I've received a response within 20 minutes. Their team is online and ready to help between the hours of 7am to 7pm PST. As someone that likes to learn on his own I was a little surprised that I didn't find manuals or videos to walk me through all aspects of the program (though quite honestly it was easy to figure out on my own) but I do understand those visual help aids are on their way and should be up soon.
Couple other features I learned they are working on and will be added shortly include the abilty to integrate a lead form directly into your website or Facebook page. This way you don't have to enter contact info for a new lead as it will do it automatically for you. Also probably most exciting to me is a new workflow system will be coming as well. This will help you automate your business and keep a workflow system in place for each client. So as a wedding photographer I can assign my own custom wedding workflow to a new client and it will help me manage that relationship by sending out emails, questionairres, invoices or payment reminders as I want it to. I will also set it up to remind me to order wedding albums, send out coupons for prints, follow-up with clients on their 1-year anniversary and more. The possibilities are numerous for photographers of all types.
Watch their quick 2-minute video to get an overview on how 17hats works.
Before sharing about 17hats on Fstoppers I wanted to get a feel for the team and it's lead developer so I asked if they would be up for a call or video chat. After 45 minutes of conversation I was even more stoked about the future of 17hats. This isn't their first rodeo as the lead developer has another software that's been out for over 10 years serving our industry. The team of six are experienced and excited about the future of the company. In addition the lead developer's wife is a photographer that runs her own business so he has his connection to the industry and understands our needs. They were also very much open to ideas and suggestions from the program's users which is always good to see.
Well if you have stuck with me this far it's about to get even better. Over the last several weeks to get an invite into 17hats you had to know someone already using the program. Invites were in hot demand. During my conversation with the developer I asked him if he would be willing to set up something for all of you that would be interested in getting in. So he set up a hidden page that will allow you to get in without having to track down an invite. Click here to get your VIP access into 17hats.
It will give you a 15-day free trial so you can give it a run for yourself. In addition, they also set it up so that any of you that sign up before October 31st for the annual plan will only pay $13/mon (billed annually at $149) and they promised they'll never raise that price on you. So once your year is up you can be confident knowing the price will stay the same from year to year. But remember that in order to get this deal you need to pay before October 31, 2014. So for the cost of two lunches you are getting a program that is going to help your run your business much more effectively and free up more of your time! I'd say that's one hell of a deal. After October 31st the annual plan is $19/mon, semi-annual is $25/mon or monthly plan is $29/mon.
In conclusion, I've been very impressed with the ease and functionality of the program. I love having all my apps simplified in an all-in-one service saving me time and money. Also really enjoyed the Bookkeeping module to keep my finances organized. I'm looking forward to seeing them add the new features they are working on (namely the workflows) and the visual help guides or videos. But the program already consists of a ton of great features that are helping me in my business and I can't wait to see how it continues to get even better. Frankly I can't believe I'm paying less than $13/mon to be able to use it.