Here’s why this is important: Finding the right scheduling tool for your business can feel overwhelming – let me do the hard work for you.
Earlier this month (November 2020) MeetingBird, the trusty free scheduling tool that I have recommended to all my clients and community for the last two years announced it was closing in order to merge into part of Front.
MeetingBird was a fantastic free scheduling and booking tool that allowed you to set up a calendar to accept bookings for sessions or discovery calls, with automated emails and reminders and an easy way to embed the customisable calendar into your website.
It’s a big loss to those just starting out that want an automated way to take bookings and calls for their new wellness business in a free and simple platform.
Since the announcement lots of you have asked what alternatives I would recommend instead now MeetingBird is gone.
So I’ve done my research and put together some suggestions for you to explore.
There are loads of different software tools on the market that includes a booking calendar, but also offer other integrated facilities too like email marketing, CRM (client relationship management) functionality and project/workflow management.
If you are just getting started these tools are sometimes totally overwhelming and in my opinion, largely unnecessary. You can end up spending days and weeks setting up some complicated (and potentially expensive) system before you’ve even got any clients. If you ask me, that’s just a recipe for procrastination my friend!
Start simple. You can use a free email address, a basic calendar booking tool and things like Google Docs and SurveyMonkey to on-board and communicate with your clients. All for next to no money.
You don’t need an all-singing all-dancing set-up to get started. You need clients and to help people. Not to get sunk by tech.
I am all about using free tools and support in the early days of your business before you’re making real income. There are so many things that you can waste your money on that people tell you are ‘necessary’ or ‘must have.’
The information I’ve presented here looks at the free options where they’re available.
However – there are some things that just aren’t worth scrimping on. Some of the tools I’ve mentioned can be upgraded or purchased for really minimal investments; the kind of throw away amounts that you’d spend on a fancy coffee and cake once a month or a bottle of nice shampoo without even batting an eyelid.
Rather than trying to zero budget your whole business, try to see getting the right scheduling tool as an investment.
Your time is money; if this tool can save you time by avoiding ping-pong email exchanges between you and potential clients, get you more bookings and send reminders for you, that’s a huge amount of time back in your schedule that you can use to sell and build your business elsewhere.
That is seriously valuable and definitely not ‘wasted’ money in my opinion.
Please note I have only ever used MeetingBird and Acuity in my own business. Therefore I cannot vouch for or promise you which of the tools I have listed here is ‘better’ than the other.
Plus, what’s right for you will be entirely dependent on you and your business model and other elements of how you plan to work eg. Who your website host is, whether you need multiple types of bookings, if you’re doing group classes or 1:1 offerings, whether you have payment methods set up etc.
My intention with this blog is to round up the options I’ve heard about on the market to help you make an informed decision. But only you know what functionality you need.
This is something I constantly remind clients and my audience in all areas of making choices in their business, not just tech.
Try to remove the ‘I might get it wrong’ critic in your head and just make a decision.
Once you’ve made a choice there’s a series of actions that you’ll need to implement and from there you can see what works for you.
Don’t get paralysed – make the best-informed decision you can about which tool to go for right now in this moment and then try it out. You can always change later if you need to.
If you want to know specific experiences from wellness business owners who have used these tools, come and join us in the Just Start Now course and community and ask a question.
Prices and inclusions correct at November 2020
NB. I haven’t reviewed Front, which is what MeetingBird has been merged into. That’s because Front is billed as a “customer communication platform”, with the calendar function only being a very small part of the offering.
Whilst their starter offer begins at $9 p/m, it no longer fulfils the criteria of a simple online booking tool to help you get started. So in my opinion it might end up being more of a distraction than a help.
When I polled my Instagram and Facebook group about which scheduling tools they used, Calendly came up as consistently one of the most popular options. If you Google search ‘best appointment scheduling software for small business’ then Calendly comes up on page 1.
However the free option doesn’t have a couple of what I would consider ‘essential’ features: like automated email reminders (that save you so much time) and only one type of event e.g. you could only schedule 1hr sessions called ‘Coaching session’, not different topics with different lengths which you may need for your business.
Most people used the Premium version to access these facilities which is what I’d suggest you’d have to do in order to get the most out of Calendly.
I found Appointlet recommended in this blog post, and from the looks of the offering, the free version comes as close as you can get right now to what MeetingBird offered on their free plan.
With unlimited meeting types, ability to add your own logo, embed on your website and integrate with Zoom, the only thing missing from the free plan is the ability to customize your automated email reminders which is a shame, although the free plan does still send automatic booking notifications.
Personally for my own business after I decided that MeetingBird no longer had the functionality I needed (I wanted multiple event types all in one calendar and better control over my availability) I moved to Acuity.
Acuity is the most expensive of the options I’ve suggested here and I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s the easiest or most intuitive to get set up.
However because Acuity is integrated as part of Squarespace websites (which is what I use for my sites) it felt like the right move for me to keep everything in one place and the customer support, as with Squarespace, is very good, prompt and gets the answers you need to get you up and running.
Long-term I think it’s got great potential to add more functionality and can also take payments and deal with subscriptions.
So if you want to start with a tool that you can continue with long-term rather than needing to switch, Acuity might well be worth the investment from the get-go.
As I’m based in Ireland and many of my clients are too, I wanted to mention a local alternative called Booking Hawk that was also recommended when I did a call out to my audience for the tools they use for scheduling.
Whilst there is no free option with Booking Hawk, as a small business they do offer a 30 day free trial and personalised human help with on-boarding you so your set-up is all handled with support.
Booking Hawk is largely designed for yoga and Pilates teachers with classes on offer, but it can also be tailored for solopreneurs with 1:1 offerings.
If you’re a real technophobe and don’t want to fight with the computer to get your calendar up and running then this could be a great option for you. Speak to the Booking Hawk team to see if it’s the right tool for you.
I hope this round-up of online scheduling software tools has been helpful for you.