17hats is a software system that people in the business world call a client relations management system. If you’ve not heard of the term CRM before, it’s basically a way to describe software which helps anyone who works with other people to effectively manage those people and to further take care of them when they become clients. CRMs are systems which are designed to manage all areas of client relationships from enquiries from potential clients to receiving payments from clients and having ways to safely store information about them and the work you’re doing with them. There are lots of CRMs on the market, all doing similar and also different things and some are more suited to specific businesses than others.
This post however is dedicated to 17hats because this is the software used and loved by both Claire and I, and which we have made ourselves unofficial ambassadors of!
What is 17hats?
17hats is a CRM which originally was aimed at small business owners to help them run their growing businesses. It quickly became popular within the wedding business, as the flexibility of the software allows it to be used by most service-based professionals, and so it's great for photographers, celebrants and officiants, wedding and event planners.
The concept behind 17hats is that, most busy self-employed people and entrepreneurs already have their hands full doing the work that they love, but as their businesses grow, they seemingly become even more busy with all of the admin that comes with growing a business that they love!
This is where 17hats gets its name from, the idea that as business owners we’re already wearing lots of hats and juggling lots of plates, and on top of that we’ve got to wear a PA’s hat, a bookkeeper’s hat, a credit controller’s hat, and all other manner of administrative hats. They reckoned that sometimes in one day alone you could be wearing at least 17 different hats! We know this don't we?
So 17hats was designed with this in mind. To relieve business owners of the everyday admin that they have to do, which as they grow, they can get bogged down in.
How can 17hats work for celebrants?
As celebrants we are of course people, persons. We need people in order to do our work. People become our clients who then embark on a working journey with us, which we have to oversee from start to finish. That journey has many stages that start with an enquiry process and finish shortly after the delivery of a ceremony. 17hats is popular with wedding celebrants and wedding officiants because the journey with wedding clients is typically a longer one with more stages to it, but there's not reason why funeral celebrants with lots of direct clients or celebrants who work with non-wedding clients couldn't use 17hats either.
17hats helps you with the majority of these stages by allowing you to automate and streamline your admin. And this means, giving you more time to work on ceremony creation and less time preparing quotes, contracts, booking agreements, questionnaires, invoices and scheduling appointments etc.
Once you sign up for 17hats, you will access your account which becomes the hub for all of your activity, and where your clients' admin info lives in their own designated project spaces. From here you’ll set up your account and start putting all of your processes together. I was excited just to customize my dashboard and give it a hot pink makeover, the same as my branding!
Let’s take a look at some of 17hats’ main functions (and this isn’t even ALL of them!)
Lead generation (how you receive enquiries)
17hats allows you to embed your own customized contact form on your website, your Facebook Page and anywhere else where you can embed a form. Now whilst most websites have the ability to publish a contact form, what’s different about the 17hats contact form is that it is then connected to your 17hats dashboard where you can then access the information and begin your next steps via 17hats. You can also add to it whatever fields you wish but most importantly the information collected in those fields will be useful to you afterwards for your next steps.
As an example, if someone contacts you via your 17hats contact form. If you set 17hats up so that it automatically sends them a response in return for submitting the form, 17hats will take that person’s name and use it in the auto response. And will start the email with “Hello Hayley, thanks for contacting us!’ Or whatever you choose to say! My autoresponder is set up to give people some useful information and links to articles (on my blog) that they might want to read, whilst they're waiting to hear back from me. It's a great way to keep them engaged and connected with you.
The 17hats form enables you to populate information that you will use further down, which helps you to bring a personal touch right from the start but also is super handy for when you’re creating other documents, as will be explained.
17hats also has an area on your dashboard where you can review all of your enquiries and make a note of warm enquiries that you’re still warming up or you can archive ones that have not gone any further.
And another great thing, if you offer more than one type of ceremonial service, you can add a different contact form to the relevant page of your website. So a separate form for funeral enquiries, baby naming enquiries etc, which really is super useful when you want to use your form to generate as much information about the enquirer as possible.
Automated email responses
The main idea behind 17hats is that if through the course of your work you are doing or saying the same things on repeat, then these things can be automated or templated. With 17hats you can set up a series of pre written emails which you send to your clients at different stages, which can be automated if that’s what you want to do, or others which you can send manually but already have been written and perhaps need topping and tailing to suit your clients needs.
For example, I have a pre-written ‘thank you for your payment’ email, so the moment a client pays their invoice (depending on how they pay) it either generates an automatic personalized version of my thank you email, or I simply press send on the email from within the account once I see that a payment has been made and this will send a 'thank you' email. It’s so simple and beats having to write that same email every single time.
Depending on how you work as a celebrant you may send a quote to a potential client before they book you. 17hats helps you to set up beautiful, branded quotes, which if accepted by the client will automatically become an invoice ready to be paid! The great thing with 17hats is that if a feature doesn’t apply to you or doesn’t work for you then you don’t have to use it. Claire uses quotes all the time, whereas I mention the pricing in an email and generate an invoice when my clients are ready to book.
Via 17hats you can add your contract terms and conditions to their ready-made contract templates. If your contract is the same then you only need to do this once, and 17hats will populate your contracts or booking agreements for each couple. So no opening up a word or spreadsheet based invoices and adding clients details manually, 17hats does this for you! And one of the best things about 17hats contracts is that it allows clients to sign virtually. Yay!!! Clients can print off the contracts too for their safe keeping, as can you. Otherwise they will sit in the dedicated project that you have for each client. Our clients sign up in minutes because it’s so quick and easy!
Once you have created your invoice template or templates (if you have different offerings and services) in 17hats, you’ll never have to touch them again unless you change your prices or update your terms and conditions. 17hats will create lovely branded invoices for you, including your clients details, invoice number, sales information all at the click of a button. And they have a great feature where if you connect your invoice to a payment processor such as Stripe or PayPal your clients can pay the invoice directly via the invoice itself. Helping you to help your clients pay you more easily.
You can also set 17hats up so that if the payment hasn’t been made by the due date, an automated reminder can be sent to your clients to prompt them to pay. How cool is that? You own accounts' ‘person’ chasing payments for you? And you can even set it up so that an email is sent before the invoice is due to remind them that payment is due soon.
As with the contracts, 17hats does away with the need for having manual documents. So if you currently use a questionnaire that is in a word or similar document and your clients have to either print the document off to complete it or open it in an application to type into it, then 17hats will revolutionise this process for you. Any 17hats questionnaires that you create live online and can completed online by your client. They can save it as a draft too, so that they can complete questionnaire in stages and when they've fully completed it and submitted it, you'll be automatically notified. It's very exciting to see that a questionnaire is complete and ready to be worked on.
This is one of the newest features of 17hats that we love. Even though confusingly it’s called bookings what it actually is, is an online booking system where clients or potential clients can book appointments with you. You sync your everyday calendar with 17hats and set the rules for your meeting times i.e. how long they are, etc and from there it creates a booking calendar that allows your clients to book a time and date for a meeting with you. It works around the events you’ve already got on your original calendar, so if set up correctly, it won’t allow a meeting to be booked in a timeslot where you already have something going on.
Once you’re notified that someone wants to have a meeting with you, you can either automatically accept the meeting booking or have it ‘pending’ until you check the booking first. Then once confirmed you can set it up so that a sequence of emails are sent to confirm the meeting and send out all of your meeting info. Ie if it’s online, you can send your Zoom or Google meet info and some tips on what will happen in the meeting etc. You can have your booking calendar embedded into your website if you don't mind it being public or send it via a link for your clients or potential clients. This is one of my favourite features as I absolutely hated the back and forth emails trying to find a suitable date and time to have a meeting with my clients, and this makes it some much easier. Clients get to see when you're available and select a time and date that is good for them too. Ta-dah! Job done!
The Celebrants Collective
I honestly don't know how I ran my celebrant business before I started using 17hats, and actually I don't want to remember! But I do know that all the admin things I used to do before 17hats were quite painful. I hated the old way I had to manage my couples' contracts, doing it all manually. Ugh! It always ended up being quite a messy process and I felt bad giving my couples extra work to do just so that they could sign my contract! 17hats is a gamechanger for your business. Not only does it make life easier for your business behind the scenes, but for your clients it looks like you are running a really modern, professional and efficient business too.
17hats has a stand-alone bookkeeping system which records your sales and other forms of bookkeeping and accounting and if you want to, you can connect it to other third party accounts software so that your sales are synced up. I currently don't have my 17hats account connected to another accounting software, and it does wonders for me as it is. It just depends on your own needs, so it's great to have the flexibility.
This is one of my favourite features about 17hats, although I think I say this about most of the features. You have the ability to set up client portals for each client that you work with. This means that you clients get their own 17hats account dashboard where they can login and find all of their documents. Their booking form, invoice, questionnaires, anything that you’ve created for them in 17hats that they either need for reference or to fill in, such as the questionnaires, or pay, such as the invoice. It can provide a really professional touch to your business and allows your clients to review all their documents in just one place. I get so many compliments from my couples at how having everything in one place makes wedding planning life so much easier for them.
You can set 17hats up so that you are notified about all the processes happening on your account. So if a client signs their contract, pays the invoice (via the invoice itself), accepts a quote or books a meeting with you, you’ll be sent an email, and if you download the 17hats app, you’ll get a notification via the app too on your phone. Or if someone contacts you via your contact form you’ll get a notification of that too. So any completing actions taken to any of the documents you have created, you’ll be informed of, almost instantly, meaning that you'll always know what activity is happening with your clients or potential clients. I’ve got to say, I love hanging out by my pool in the summer and seeing a notification that an invoice has been paid, and a ‘thank you for your payment’ email is sent without me having to do anything!
The 17hats app
The app is free and is linked to your main desktop account. It’s great to receive notifications on your phone and allows you to do the same things that you can do on your desktop but just on your phone. This is great if you need to do something when you’re away from your computer, or out and about.
We love that 17hats is a young, modern, proactive company. They love seeing their software evolve and through their active Facebook group for users, they offer insights and tips and are keen to hear from users about what new features they would like to see. As you can imagine the list is massive, but they do try to implement many new features and tweaks as much as possible. In both mine and Claire’s time with 17hats we’ve seen quite a few big and small enhancements made, which have all been very welcomed. And it’s good to know that the software we use will evolve with time and not just be a stagnant product which doesn’t change as businesses change and grow.
It’s obvious that we love 17hats and that in the grand scheme of things it really is a very good, comprehensive bit of software, but there are a few things that we recognise can go against it a little.
- It can be difficult to set up.
17hats, like any CRM, is a big piece of software. For it to be able to do ALL of the things that it does, it does initially require everything to be set up by you. You’ve got to set it up so that it works the way that you want it to work. This can be a frustrating and overwhelming process if you feel easily beaten by technology. However, this is true of any CRM and 17hats has a really comprehensive help section on its website and their live support is AMAZING and very helpful, as is its Facebook group. It can take time, and we recommend doing it bit by bit, but you will eventually get there, as you begin to understand how each function works and how you want it to work for you. Also within our Celebrants Collective membership, we have done a few video tutorials on 17hats and we discuss it a lot with members and pass on our own tips and tricks to getting things set up more easily.
- You can’t (currently) add additional documents to the clients portal.
This isn’t a huge thing but at the moment the only documents that clients can access through this portal are the ones that are created by 17hats. So if you want to attach a vow document for your couple or some funeral readings for a client, you wouldn’t be able to add them to their portal. However, there are ways around it, although it would be great to have this as a native feature. But in the grand scheme of things, this is really quite a minor minus!
17hats recently changed their pricing into a tier structure where you can purchase your subscription according to the features that you want to have access to. Claire and I are both on the old pricing system where we have all the features at a set annual price. So you have to decide if you want all of the features or only some of it. But there are provisions to upgrade, if you go for a lower tier and realise you need more features.
Throughout the year, 17hats also does great offers where you can purchase your next year’s subscription at a discounted rate, so there’s usually always a chance to get a discount somewhere. 17hats isn’t free or cheap (nor why it should it be?) but when you look at its daily cost and what it does for your business, we know that it’s worth every penny.
If you use this special 17hats link you will get a WHOPPING 50% off of your annual subscription. Yay!
17hats isn’t the only CRM to exist, but it is the one that Claire and I use and have done for a number of years, and as is evident, we love. Of course, there are lots more things we’d like it to be able to do and additional features we’d love to see, for example I’d love the ability to be able to email all of my clients in one go through 17hats, in order to run mail campaigns like a monthly newsletter which you currently can’t do. But these really are little wishes to add to an already fully comprehensive software product. Our advice is, if you are running a celebrant business where the admin side of things feels like a lot of work, and you are spending a lot of time dealing with enquiries and processing all of the admin related to onboarding your clients, then maybe it’s time for you to upgrade to a system like 17hats. At the end of the day we didn't sign up to become celebrants who are stuck with huge amounts of wedmin, we became celebrants to meet awesome people and create awesome ceremonies. Yay!
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