2016 marks the first year in a long while that I haven’t changed my billing system. I’ve used Billings, FreeAgent, Bidsketch and a whole host of other time tracking/billing/estimate software you’ve no doubt heard of. Every year I’d end the year with more frustrations than satisfaction with my choices and so I’d change again in the vain hope of finding something that didn’t have too many rough edges.

Often my frustrations would come down to a lack of features. With Bidsketch you can send a great proposal but then you’re stuck going to FreeAgent to generate an invoice for the customer to pay. It’s great to have a single purpose application because it does its one thing well, but when it increases the lead of your business administration it’s really just using up time better spent doing the work you’re being paid to do.

Well it seems my choice in 2015 was the right one because I haven’t been tempted to leave 17Hats.

The one rub

I only have one real complaint with 17Hats, so I’ll get it out of the way here and move on. My least favorite part of 17Hats is around the UI. To put it bluntly the overall design simply doesn’t appeal to me. It looks old and heavy and clunky. It doesn’t feel terribly clunky while you’re using it though, so my beef really comes down to a matter of personal preference.

Features I like

The biggest selling feature for me is that you can produce a great proposal and once the prospect accepts it 17Hats walks them right to the contract which they can accept. Then it moves them seamlessly to the invoice for payment.

To work them through that, all I need to do is check a few boxes and use a few content templates. 17Hats takes care of the rest without me needing to go back in and deal with anything.

The second biggest feature I love, and which has been added since my last look at 17Hats, is the workflows. Workflows are basic automation for your projects. I use mine to email my client a week before the project to remind them we are starting and tell them the items I need like access to their servers.

This saves me from needing to remember to send the email or even record it in my task manager. I simply set up the workflow for a project and let it happen.

[Tweet “A great application is one that helps me create a great client experience.”]

Stuff I don’t use

17Hats has a bunch of features I don’t use though. It has some CRM features, but really Contactually is much better, so I use that. The biggest reason that Contactually is better is that it really monitors email (at least for Google Apps like I use) and remembers when I’ve sent emails to clients. 17Hats doesn’t do this well when I’ve tried their CRM features.

Tasks are also a shortcoming of 17Hats. Here the biggest issue is that 17Hats really isn’t meant to support a team so you can’t assign tasks to another member of your team or to your clients. Tasks are the nuts and bolts of a project, and there are much better applications — such as Todoist or OmniFocus — for managing tasks.

No this wasn’t an in-depth review of 17Hats, but a quick status report for 2016. If you want more detail then go take a look at my big review from last year. Everything there still applies.

photo credit: horowisewolf cc