17 Hats for Photographers

I guess it's photographer week, y'all. Don't you love when I go on a rant about not writing for photographers and then proceed to write two posts in a row that apply to photographers? I'm a liar, obviously, so I guess take everything I say with a grain of salt ;)

I wanted to talk about 17 Hats for the same reason I talked about Squarespace way back in the day. I think a lot of us photographers look at business tools and automatically gravitate toward the ones created by other photographers or at least FOR photographers. It's logical to think those tools will be tailored to what we need in particular so they'll probably be the best. But it hasn't been the case in my experience. I've found the photographer focused products to be 1. MUCH more expensive, 2. Less user friendly, and 3. Far less versatile.

I don't want software that's great for scheduling and then software that's great for sending out contracts and software that manages my accounting and then software that organizes my to do lists. I want one thing that does ALL that efficiently and seamlessly.

17 Hats is business management software that allows you to do all of the above and much more. I was at a networking event last week where a few photographers were talking about how they loved the price tag of 17 Hats but just wished it could do things automatically for them. And I was confused because it CAN do that. So I figured I'd show you some of my favorite features!

Here's what it looks like when I log in. My calendar, to do list, recent activity, and pending items are all highlighted so I know right away where my focus should be today. The calendar is pulled straight from my Google calendar since that's what Erik and I use to keep track of each other like your everyday modern couple, but you can set up different options with other calendar systems. I like marking my Google calendar and knowing it will pop up in 17 Hats simultaneously.

When I click on my to do item, it says Premiere Session with Audra because that's the next step in my wedding workflow for Audra and Justin's wedding. I'll show you workflows in a second, but first let's start at the beginning. I'll use Audra as my example bride. Hey, Audra! :)

So Audra and I have been emailing and she says "yay, you're the best photographer in the universe, I want to book you for my wedding!" I say, "yay, you're the best bride! Now, sign this legally binding document and pay me please!" (I mean, let's be real here). I add Audra as a Contact, entering her name and email. And I then Add Project to her Contact page. For her, I'll call it Wedding since that's what she is booking me for. I'll use the wedding date as the project date... this is all pretty obvious I hope.

Here comes my favorite part of 17 Hats, but also the part that takes the longest to set up. IT'S WORTH IT MY FRIENDS. So worth it!

Workflows!

Workflows are awesome because they keep you on task with every client. They're huge, interactive checklists that you can tailor for your different kinds of projects. For example, I have portrait workflows and wedding workflows. I'll show you the wedding workflow because it's the epic one.

My wedding workflow is broken into four phases: Booking, Engagement Session, Wedding Planning, and Post Wedding. When each phase is completed, it pauses so that my "to do" list isn't overwhelmed with things that won't be relevant for several months.

You'll notice different icons beside each item in the workflow. Checkmarks are just "to do" list items that I check through as I go. Other icons are "action items" that DO things at a scheduled time. For example, when I activate this wedding workflow for Audra it will automatically send her my wedding contract for her digital signature. As soon as the contract is signed, it will automatically send her the invoice for her retainer. As soon as the retainer is paid, the system automatically sends my new client questionnaire... it's all automated, though I have most steps set to "approve first" so that I can double check that it applies to each client before it's sent out. You can forego this step and make it completely automatic but I like to confirm that everything's right and maybe add a personal note to the email.

Setting up an "action item" looks like this:

I want 17 Hats to remind me to send an email to my clients after they've received their order. So this is scheduled for 7 days after the Fulfill Order item.

I've always used email templates with Google, but Tokens are nice because they fill in client information, project date, whatever you want automatically so that your email really looks customized and not super robotic. But at the same time, you don't have to rephrase the same thing to every bride you work with. Best of both worlds!

Workflows are just da bomb. I can't even express how useful I've found them over the past few months. Even just the process of creating my workflow forced me to really sit down and think about WHEN I wanted to do each step and how I wanted to present that to my client.

Some other notable features are the bookkeeping options. The reports in particular are really useful for me. I no longer add up all my sales every quarter to send in my sales tax payments. I just select the months and get an automatic report.

The profit/loss report is mega awesome. As long as you keep up with categorizing each item from the bank accounts you sync, you'll get a breakdown of all your costs and easily see what your money is doing.

17 Hats just recently added a feature that automatically categorizes different transactions for you once it learns what you're categorizing them at. This is recent, so I can't attest to it, but I'm excited.

I like that all of my forms, contracts, invoices are branded the same way. My logo and information is on everything and I can even customize the button colors so that they match my brand. 

It's also nice that when I send an electronic invoice, 17 Hats will send automatic (customized by me) emails to remind clients of unpaid invoices and due dates. It makes collecting and keeping track of payments a lot easier. Especially for wedding clients who can just open their invoice at any time to make a payment. In the example above, look at the top right corner and you can see when payments were made, when the invoice was opened by a client (so that I know they've seen it), when a reminder was sent, and when it was paid in full. It's nice to have all of that information attached to each invoice!

All in all, I think 17 Hats is well worth the $13 a month that I pay. I did the two year plan, but the other options are pretty affordable as well. If you're unsure, try it for the 15 day free trial. From my experience, business management software all has a learning curve and it will take you a while of playing around with it to get the hang of it. 

Also 17 Hats did not pay me for this review, I just like having an easy link to send people when they say "why do you like ___ better than ___?" Basically I'm lazy. But if you sign up with this link, I'll get a referral bonus, so definitely do that if you found this post useful :)