When I first started my business, it was just me, wearing many hats, and perennially running from one task to the next. I was responsible for: calling clients, booking clients, consulting with clients, emailing, follow-up phone calls, admin, reviews, sending client mail, meeting with product providers, sending invoices and on and on…
In short, I was busier than a one-legged man in a butt-kicking competition, desperately trying to win enough points (cash) so I could hire someone else to take on some of those administrative tasks for me.
Back then, outsourcing was un-heard of by anyone smaller than an international bank. Technology was in its infancy, and I was either desk-bound or helpless; setting up a program to forward office email to my new mobile smartphone cost my company almost $600/month.
Since then, technology has become smarter, cheaper and faster. What Microsoft Exchange did back then for $600/month, Google now does for free. I can access my calendar, email, notes, contact lists and more from my smartphone, and data is synced with the cloud and my PC every 15 minutes. Even if I dropped my phone or PC into a pool and ruined it, I’d still be able to access my data from another PC or another phone, and not lose a valuable client or a day’s work.
Nowadays, not only can I access my calendar on the go, my business partners and even my clients can too. (I use a calendar masking system, so clients can’t see who I’m with or where I’m going, they can only see times as “Free” or “Busy”.)
What this does is save me a whole lot of time on the phone. Clients don’t have to waste 15 minutes of mine or my PA’s time, asking, “Are you free on Tuesday? No? How about Thursday? OK, 10am? Not afternoon, as I have a thing… How about Friday lunchtime?” If you have similar conversations six or more times a day, (or your secretary does), you know how time-consuming and frustrating it can be!
The beauty of the above is, there are now meeting scheduling apps available at pretty much every price point which means every soloist has access to these hugely time-saving tools. Here are some of my favourite meeting scheduling apps:
I found this to be handy in the early days when I was dealing with less than 100 mostly local clients, and only booking a week or two ahead. The free edition allows only five appointments a month, with minimal customisable features, but it’s good if you’re just starting out in business or just starting out with the new system.
This is the most user-friendly of all the schedulers I’ve come across which is important when it comes to getting your clients to actually use it. The free version of this software is pretty limited but you do get a full 14-day trial and at $10/month for the full version, it’s pretty easy to justify the cost.
This is arguably the Rolls-Royce of meeting schedulers as it’s designed to replace your calendar scheduling, client booking AND your billing system. This is the tool with more bells and whistles than you thought you’d ever need. It’s more of a scaled down CRM system and highly integrated: clients can book a time online, pay their invoices and you can share documents, keep notes on sessions and more. The free basic version offers just the bookings, and then you can add more features for $12-36/month.
This is my current favourite and I find it a great option for optimum calendar features at an affordable price; I can have unlimited scheduling, use my own logo and it’s free from ads. The system automatically sends reminders to the clients of their booking seven days in advance, three days in advance, and then a 24 hour reminder or reschedule email. There’s also a reminder SMS, plus a follow-up thank you e-mail. All automatic. It handles time zones perfectly for my international clients and is very user-friendly. (Note: It does not do online invoices for international clients (I use Paypal for this), but at $9/mth is a great alternative to the feature-heavy vCita.)
So where to start when it comes to seeing how much time a calendar/meeting scheduler app will save you? I would advise jumping into a free trial with TimeTrade or MeetMe, and test it out with a few friends or family for a couple of weeks. Once you’ve used these consistently for a month I’ll be surprised if you ever go back to the old “telephone-tag” way of doing business again.
Enjoy your free time, use it productively, and allow technology to simplify your life: after all, isn’t that why we have these devices?
Do you use meeting scheduling apps? We’d love to hear your favourites below!