The Best Free 17Hats Alternative Analyzed

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Table of Contents

If you’ve been looking for a 17Hats alternative and all you could find so far were meritless lists of different tools with short, general descriptions, we feel you.

In this article, you’ll find an exhaustive analysis of one, ultimate 17Hats alternativeZendo.

We’ll cover things like features, ease of use, and costs, but also compare the flow in some of the crucial cases when working with both software, and shed light on what you’re actually getting for your money.

Let’s get started.

What Is 17Hats?

17Hats is a client management software that comes with an array of different features, from task management to online scheduling, invoices, contracts, and payments.

We have already taken 17Hats for a spin where we closely compared it with Dubsado, and we especially enjoyed the client and task management side to this software.

Another cool thing were 17Hats email templates that you can schedule to be sent out automatically, or the platform’s project management, which may seem simple, but is ultimately pretty effective.

However, there were also quite a few downsides to this particular business management solution, which may force you to look for an alternative tool.

PS: if you’re already familiar with 17Hats’ cons and know exactly what made you frustrated or just didn’t sit right when using this software, feel free to skip to the next portion of this article for the analysis of our 17Hats alternative proposition.

17Hats Main Cons

The cons that stick with us the most when testing 17Hats were the following:

Lack of intuitiveness/steep learning curve

17Hats is a software with some unpleasant surprises. Even though the main area of the platform has been built in an Asana-like way and 17Hats doesn’t hold a record for the most tabs and sections on the navigation panel, the tool is still unintuitive.

We think that what contributes to its unintuitiveness is its old-fashioned UI, lack of useful guidelines and tooltips, and the fact that some features are hidden in remote recesses of the software’s settings.

But besides the fact that you have to turn over every rock you see in the software, some features that have been put forefront also don’t work as smoothly as we would wish for them to.

For example, we have workflows that are pretty tricky to set up even though they’re made up of just two types of actions: a to-do item and an email to choose. What’s particularly frustrating with 17Hats’ workflows is choosing an email template to use and setting it up to actually work within the workflow.

17Hats has been in the business for almost a decade, but doesn’t seem to go with the changing times. Even some of the crucial links on their website’s homepage lead nowhere, instead of pointing us in the right direction.

Very short free trial period

Previously, 17Hats didn’t limit the access to the software based on time constraints, but rather limited it to 3 projects, which was a great option to actually test it out.

Sadly, that changed and we now have a very short free trial period of only 7 days.

7 days is not nearly enough to properly test out any software, let alone one you ultimately share and use with your clients. Transferring your data to the platform could take up the whole free trial period.

The 7 days would maybe be enough to test out the software on example data, if the tool would be intuitive and easy to learn. Unfortunately, it’s not, so the one week period is just not enough, not even when using dummy data for testing.

Not-the-most-professional of looks

17Hats UI is definitely not current with the times, which may affect the way you’re presenting yourself and your business to the clients.

It’s best visible on the client portal that you of course share with your clients. The end result is just a bit too simple, making it feel a bit empty and uninviting.

But besides the old-fashioned look, there are also a few limitations in terms of brand customization, even for paying users.

For example, users on the basic Essentials plan don’t have the option to customize the colors on their platform, remove the 17Hats branding, or switch up the fonts; such options are available only on the higher-tier plans.

17hats branding options in different plans

Complicated pricing that adds up

17Hats’ pricing is pretty complicated. Despite having only three plans, which is a standard number of plans in similar software, 17Hats’ creators put all of their thinking hats on to complicate those three plans as much as possible.

All jokes aside, the plans in this software have numerous little differences, and analyzing which one is actually beneficial, takes a hot minute.

We’ve decided to be brave about it and tackled analyzing 17Hats costs in a separate article. Long story short, it’s the Standard plan that’s the most beneficial and worth considering, just because the basic Essentials plan lacks some essential features, like proper branding or a client portal, and the highest tier plan may come as a bit too expensive in the long run.

Don’t take a deep breath just yet, because it’s not the end of the money-matters complications in 17Hats. If you’ve ever used this software, you would know about its abundance of templates. But the catch with the templates is that not all of them, more than half to be exact, are available for free, even for paid plans users.

So even though you commit to subscribing to one of the paid 17Hats plans, you have to add the costs of the templates, which some of them are pretty pricey. Not to mention the additionally payable add-ons, even for users on the Premier (highest-tier) plan, such as time tracking.

Collecting payments

17Hats makes it possible for you to collect credit card and ACH payments online, on top of the possibility to manually mark the invoices paid by wire transfers as paid.

However, the 17Hats payments feature is not the most viable option out there. And that’s because 17Hats adds its own fees on top of the regular Stripe fees.

Plus, the fees differ depending on which 17Hats plan you’re currently subscribed to. The least-beneficial option is for users on the Essentials plan, paying a fee of 4% + $0.30 for each transaction handled through 17Hats.

Why Is Zendo The Best 17Hats Alternative

Zendo is one of the best 17Hats alternatives for a few reasons, among which is offering features and functionality that patch the holes made by 17Hats shortcomings described in the previous section.

Catered to any service-based business, Zendo comes with efficient solutions, such as a service creator, a customizable Service Catalog, in-chat payments, modern client & team communication, or workflows with statuses and triggers, to help sell & deliver your services online in the best way possible.

It brings many benefits to service sellers while remaining easy-to-use and modern-looking.

But besides the great features and intuitiveness, Zendo also comes with a free forever plan that covers all the essentials for service selling and an affordable paid plan with even more benefits!

Feature Comparison

Having the main idea on why Zendo should be your number one choice to substitute 17Hats, let’s jump into specific features and compare them with that of 17Hats to get a full picture.

Client communicationBased on emailsBased on a real-time chat, with the possibility to reply using email
Team communicationInternal team notes in the chat
Client portal✔️✔️
Automated communicationScheduled emailsAutomatic initial messages in the chat
AutomationsAutomatically scheduled emails, created invoices, or contracts based on triggers, recurring invoicesAutomatically changed order status based on triggers, automatic initial messages, automatically issued quotes, invoices, and payment requests, automatic billing for subscriptions
Custom domain✔️✔️
White label✔️✔️
Creating services✔️
Service Catalog✔️
SubscriptionsRecurring invoicesSubscriptions as a separate service type, with different billing cycles, free trials, highlighting favorite packages, request limits, and more
Order forms✔️
Payments17Hats payments based on Stripe, with additional 17Hats feesStripe and bank transfers, with no additional fees from Zendo
Different roles & permissions✔️✔️
Online scheduling✔️
Filtering & Saving Views✔️
Project StatusesOnly four, visible to the service-provider, not to the clientYes, visible to the client, customizable, you can create as many order/project statuses as you’d like

Flow Comparison

We think that a simple overview of the features is not enough to decide on a software. 

That’s why, in this portion of the article, we’re going to compare some of the flows and scenarios you can create in both apps, to see both tools in action.

Scenario #1: Setting Up A Service

In 17Hats

17Hats doesn’t offer a service creator per se, but rather works on a project basis. So, to add a ‘service’ to 17Hats, you basically have to add a new project.

Despite the fact that there’s a separate Projects tab in the software, adding a new project surprisingly happens through the Contacts tab. Remember about what we said about the unintuitiveness? Well, there’s that.

Once we’ve created our project for a specific client, we can add different workflows, tasks, notes, documents, files, and more, within it.

17hats project items options

The main problem with this solution is that you can’t really reuse the projects you create for new clients, instead, you have to create a new project for every client, even if the service you provide is the same.

So in the long run, there’s more repetitive work that needs to be done, which could be omitted with a different software on hand.

In Zendo

Zendo gives you actual possibility to set up your service and add it to the software, which makes it easy to create new productized, custom, free, and subscription-based services, and reuse them no matter if the client is new or returning.

Adding a new service in Zendo — choosing the service type

The most systemization is achieved with the productized and subscription-based service types. And that’s because productized services let you specify everything from the concrete items you want to include in the service, to their price, order quantity limit, add-ons, and more.

Zendo as the best 17hats alternative - comparing creating a service

While subscription-based services give you the option to add different packages, price them per preferred billing cycles, add request limits, as well as highlight favorite options to make the choice for clients a no-brainer.

Creating subscription packages in Zendo

The custom service focuses solely on the creative freedom you need to handle bigger projects like a pro. In such a case, you usually talk with the client first, and then draw a quote. That’s why, adding a custom service to Zendo is based on the customizable order form you create for that service to make sure you gather as much information prior to estimating each project as possible.

But, of course, all service types allow you to work on an order form.

Free services are also focused on the customizable form you connect with them, because their main purpose is to easily collect any requests or inquiries from clients.

Once you add your services to Zendo, you can show them off on a professional Service Catalog and stand-alone pages for clients to browse through and make orders.

Zendo's Service Catalog example

That gives your clients more transparency and you, as a service provider, more time on your hands, since you may skip the daunting back-and-forth emails explaining what your services even include.

Scenario #2: Communicating With Clients + Client Portal

In 17Hats

Client Portal

The client portal in 17Hats is one of the more complicated features to get into in this particular software.

As we already mentioned when discussing the main downfalls of 17Hats, some features in 17Hats are hidden in the crevices of the software’s settings, and the client portal feature is one of the hidden functionalities.

Once you manage to find the client portal settings, you can go ahead and customize it by adding a background image, a custom welcome message, and a logo.

And the end result basically just shows your invoices, quotes, questionnaires, and contracts on a different page, with your custom header image, welcome message, and logo, if you’ve added those.

The whole thing looks simple enough, but is not very impressive or professional-looking, again, because of the not-the-most-modern UI of the software.

17hats' client portal example

But besides just the looks, 17Hats client portal is also quite limited. The only function of this feature is for the client to look up their documents (quotes, contracts, invoices, and questionnaires) in one place. There’s no way for your clients to view files pertaining to their project, unless you go out of your way to use a workaround, for example, inserting a Google docs document in the client portal’s welcome message.

Your clients won’t be able to get in touch with you through the client portal either, since the client communication in this software is based solely on emails.

The thing we have to praise 17Hats about though, is definitely the fact that you can customize the client portal per each client, setting a different password or a custom welcome message.

Client Communication

As was already mentioned, the only way to communicate with your clients through 17Hats is with emails. And 17Hats emails have a few benefits to them.

For example, you can use different email templates available in the software and create your own, and you can use different tokens, for example client’s first name within the created emails that help in automating the little parts of the whole process.

But, it’s the end result that has us disappointed with 17Hats once again.

The emails you send to clients through 17Hats unfortunately come from weird or even suspicious-looking email addresses. For example, when we were testing 17Hats emails, they were coming from the following email address —

Which you may hope that your client won’t notice, but if a phishing alert shows up with the email, as in our case it happened, they will definitely notice.

So not only is the email communication inconvenient and easy to get lost in, the emails sent through 17Hats may make you look unprofessional. 

In Zendo

Client Communication

Zendo knows just how important client communication is, and focuses very much on making that communication as easy and efficient as possible with its powerful chat.

Zendo’s chat ensures real-time communication with your clients that smoothly combines messages, mentions, emojis, but also file sending, quotes, invoices, payment requests, and even payments themselves.

Zendo's real-time chat from a client's POV

What’s also amazing about Zendo’s chat is that it also allows you to communicate with your team through private team notes. The internal notes are not visible to the clients, giving you space to discuss any requests, projects, or issues, in the same space that they happen in, for all the context you need.

Client Portal

But don’t think that Zendo’s client portal is just its multi-functional chat!

Your clients also get dedicated dashboards with all their recent activity, including requests, subscriptions, files, and quotes & invoices.

Main dashboard in Zendo's client portal

There are also separate tabs for quick access to all files and quotes & invoices. The remaining tabs include Requests — giving our clients the aforementioned chat for effortless communication, but also the possibility to view their request from a table or kanban perspective, a separate page for easy access to your Service Catalog to make new orders, and a Subscriptions tab to manage their subscriptions and make new requests within them.

And if you’re curious as to how the client’s view presents itself in Zendo, you can take advantage of a feature called Impersonation.

This lets you easily impersonate your clients or other team members to check how the platform looks from their perspective, but also helps in assisting your clients in any issues. You can perform certain actions for them or impersonate a team member to substitute them, without making it confusing or unprofessional for the client.

Scenario #3: Quote Approval + Invoice

In 17Hats

Even though you can save the quotes you create in the 17Hats’ business management platform as templates for future use, each time you’re working on a new one, the whole process is pretty tedious to complete.

You can add a new quote from either the Contacts, Projects, or the Documents tab. To start, we have to click on the Create new button and choose Quote from the dropdown list.

Then, we have to set a few options for the quote, such as its expiration date, adding tax, discount, title, or if we want to include a contract, invoice, or a payment schedule with the quote.

And then, we’re getting into adding the specific items. But, each item is composed of many elements, including a display name, an internal name, price, quantity, category, and more, which makes the whole process exhausting.

Adding items when creating a quote in 17hats

What’s nice is that besides adding regular items, aka the parts of your service, you can also add optional items, in the form of single or multiple choice fields, which you can use as add-ons.

Once you’ve taken your time to configure the whole document, you can save it or save it as a template, and then share with your clients via email or the client portal.

And the end result, just as previously, is simple enough, but not super impressive.

17hats created quote example

Now, when sharing the quote with the clients, we have to use an email, which we can schedule to be sent later or send it immediately. We can also use a handy email template for sharing the prepared document.

The document then reaches the client via email, which, as we already mentioned, doesn’t give you the most professional of looks. If we decide to turn a blind eye on the suspicious-looking emails, the document itself looks okay, especially when paired with a contract and an invoice, which gets sent in a package, creating a nice flow for the client.

17hats quote - contract - invoice flow example

In Zendo

Zendo makes quote creation a bit more simple, especially with its automatic quotes.

Automatic Quotes

When you create a fully defined, productized service, each client’s order is followed by an automatically generated quote.

Zendo's productized service order form

Automatic quotes pop into the chat with the client and are also sent in PDF form to the client’s email inbox.

The flow then can include a payment request with either a direct pay now button for Stripe payments or a message with your bank details for bank transfer payments.

Zendo - 17hats alternative - in-chat payments

After that, an invoice based on the quote sent earlier is sent in the chat and to the client’s email inbox in PDF form, to complete the whole process.

💡 If you choose to sell subscriptions using Zendo, your invoices will be automatically generated by the platfrom on a given billing cycle you specify while setting up the service.

Manual Quotes

Of course, you’re not limited to only automatically-generated quotes. You can also create manual quotes from scratch or base them on your added to Zendo services and spice up and change those templates as you want.

You can find the quote creator in the main space of the app — the chat. Specifically, on the right-hand info panel that’s available right next to each conversation thread.

And the quote creator is just as simple and easy to use as the whole platform. You just add your items, specify the price, the invoice and payment request settings, all in a transparent view.

One thing you can also do with manual quotes is ask clients for approval by simply hitting the Send and ask for approval button instead of the regular Send quote button.

The client then sees that an approval action is required and they can view and either approve or reject the sent quote right in the chat.

quote approval in Zendo

Costs Comparison

Let’s not kid ourselves, no matter how great a software is or how simple or modern-looking it may be, the price will play a huge part in our decision-making.

That’s why, we’ve decided to put together a quick costs comparison of 17Hats and Zendo, to really seal the deal.

Basic/EssentialsFree forever$13/month, one user, paid annually
Growth/Standard$19/month, per user, paid annually$25/month, per user, paid annually
Enterprise/Premiercustom$50/month, 3 users included, paid annually ($17 per user, but you have the 3 users included. You can’t choose to pay only for one)

One of the best things about Zendo, besides its great features, functionality, and the professional look it gives you, is the fact that it ditched the whole free trial idea.

Instead, you get access to a free forever plan that includes all the essentials to sell your services online in the best fashion. So you’re getting the possibility to set up different types of services, the customizable Service Catalog, the chat, the quotes, the invoices, the payments, and more, completely for free, forever.

On top of that, you have the option to invite one more agent to collaborate on projects with you and take advantage of 5 premium tokens each month, to get a taste of the paid plan automation possibilities, including automatic payment requests and Zendo’s subscriptions.

And if you decide to go for the paid plan, Growth, you still won’t break the bank, because it costs only $19 per user, per month, on annual billing, which annually comes out to be $228 for one user, giving you everything and more. From complete white label to full access to subscriptions.

To compare, 17Hats middle-tier plan is still more expensive than Zendo, and doesn’t give you all the features it has to offer.

The Benefits Of Using Zendo

To quickly recap what we discussed in detail when analyzing the best 17Hats alternative — Zendo, we’re going to make a final list of the benefits you’re getting from using this software.

Free forever plan: the free forever plan does not only give you great possibilities to test out Zendo, but to actually use it to sell your services for free since it includes all the essential features, such as the Service Catalog, the chat, quotes & invoices, and more.

Affordable paid plan: those who long for a white labeled platform with additional automation options, can choose to go on the paid plan, which is still very much affordable, costing only $19 per user, per month, on annual billing. What’s important is that the paid plan doesn’t force you to purchase a set amount of seats. If you want to use Zendo only for yourself, you can absolutely do that.

Powerful chat: a very unique, rarely-seen in similar solutions feature — a real-time chat for communication is what should draw your attention to Zendo. This chat is your command center for all the crucial actions and gives you so many possibilities. From collecting payments, through messaging your clients and team members, to updating the status of your client’s order or sharing files!

Documents: creating a quote or an invoice will no longer be a chaotic, pesky thing to do. In Zendo, you can easily systemize your quotes and invoices with preferred prefixes and suffixes, and chronological numbering. You can issue your quotes and invoices manually or automate this side of running a business. The documents you create reach your clients in both the chat you’re using for communication and in their email inboxes, so that they’re absolutely not losable. Moreover, the both you and your clients get a separate Documents tab to easily reach your quotes & invoices.

The client portal you need: Zendo’s client portal ensures your clients get dedicated dashboards with all the information they need easily available, while also providing separate tabs for their Requests and communication, files, documents, managing subscriptions, or ordering new services.

Services: with Zendo, you can create a professional service offer, with productized, custom, free, and subscription services that can be clearly defined, connected with workflows you create, and presented on a customizable Service Catalog. Your clients will get a clear view of what you’re selling and will have the ability to order your services on their own.

Automations: you can make service delivery a breeze with Zendo’s automations that take the form of customizable workflows, automatic invoices, payment requests, subscriptions, or Zenbot for automatic messages. The whole software gives automation nods to sellers here and there, to make the whole process as seamless and easy for both sides as possible. You also get customizable statuses that can be changed while the order delivery progresses, triggers for automatic status updates based on system events, custom fields to gather information, and more.

Modern & professional look: Zendo is a tool that launched in 2021 and it shows. Its modern look is not only pleasant-to-the-eye, but also makes using the software much easier, and ultimately makes you, as a service provider, look 10 times more professional. Plus, the tool definitely doesn’t stand still and keeps on growing, adding new features, functionality, and improvements to make the whole experience even better.

Reach For The Better With Zendo

Despite constant changes of the market, the service industry, and customer’s expectations, many CRMs seem to be stuck in the past. Whether that’s not changing the design to fit the modern standards, not adding new functionality, or not improving the existing features.

Zendo is a tool that is striking for the best when it comes to service selling, and wants to make your experience as pleasant as possible.

From being a great tool for simply managing customer’s requests to becoming the great powerhouse for service selling, Zendo proves that evolution is crucial and is possible.

So to get a software that will be your best ally in professional service selling, whether you dream of a productized, custom, subscription-based, or mixed offer, go ahead and create a free account to see just how efficient selling services can become!

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Frequently Asked Questions: 17Hats Alternative

What Is 17Hats?

17Hats is a software that helps out with managing your business processes and may also be labeled as a project management platform. You can find contact management, financial management, or workflow management features in this CRM software as well. But due to its lack of team communication features, 17Hats is rather dedicated to small business owners or even freelancers from all sorts of niches, from photographers to DJs.

What Are The Cons Of 17Hats?

The main cons of 17Hats as a Customer Relationship Management software are its lack of client communication other than emails, which may look unprofessional due to their long strings in the addresses, its outdated UI, which often leads to the tool being unintuitive and complicated, as well as its complex pricing and the fact that even users on the highest-tier plan still don’t get access to every 17Hats feature.

What Is The Best 17Hats Alternative?

We believe that the best 17Hats alternative is Zendo — a business management tool focused on making service selling effortless. Zendo makes up for the downfalls of 17Hats, offering efficient client & team communication through a powerful real-time chat, easy payments, quotes, invoices, payment reminders, workflows, and an actual service creator, and Service Catalog.

How Can Zendo Substitute 17Hats?

Zendo can substitute 17Hats in many areas. For example, if you take a look at the client portals found in both tools, you’ll see how 17Hats offers a bit too simple of a solution that comes with quite some limitations, for example for file sharing and client communication. Whereas in Zendo your clients have access to all the documents shared throughout the project, their quotes, invoices, but can also make payments, order new services, chat with you and your team, and more. Zendo also offers a great solution for setting up all kinds of services, from productized to subscriptions, and a customizable Service Catalog to give your clients a professional space to make orders.

Who’s Zendo For?

Whether you’re someone who creates marketing campaigns, sells their SEO optimization services, is a photographer, does website maintenance, or sells any kind of services online, Zendo will be your best business management software. Zendo has been created to make selling & delivering services easy, with features like real-time chat, easy payments, quotes, invoices, subscriptions, Service Catalog, and more. Plus, if you’re on a budget, Zendo offers a free forever plan, with the essential features for selling services available for free, for a total of 2 agents on the workspace.

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Aleksandra Dworak
Content Writer

Lifts weights at the gym and of off reader's shoulders to help them skip the daunting research part and get valuable information instead.
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