Using the right tools will not only speed up your business, it will also:
- Increase productivity & consistency
- Eliminate mistakes
- Make you look more professional
- Move you toward your goals
- Cut down on your costs or be worth the expense
- Reduce your work or make dull work fun
What you’re doing, when you choose the right productivity tools, is letting technology do the ‘heavy lifting’ while cutting down on confusion.
Automating repetitive tasks can simplify them, allowing you to concentrate on the most important parts of your business.
And you don’t have to have separate systems for each specific task or function. For example, you can choose a scheduling and appointment system or software that includes and integrates other necessary tasks or functions: For example, automating payment options, sending client reminders, and automatically notifying you if a client cancels or changes an appointment.
You can make sure your chosen scheduler integrates easily with your merchant account. Or you instead of a scheduling app or software, you can choose a dashboard-driven, all-in-one coaching system that integrates even more tasks such as content delivery and management, membership portals, forums and more… as well as taking payments.
The trick is to suit the system to your needs.
Step One: Client Bookings & Applications
Booking and scheduling clients is first and foremost the most basic need of any coach or service provider, so much so it gets taken for granted. As entrepreneurs, we tend to think of this as a single process: “The client makes an appointment”.
A good scheduling tool will do much more than that: It will fully automate client interactions while making it feel more personal and attentive than you can realistically be in person.
The right scheduling tool will eliminate:
And so forth. It’s like having a super-efficient Virtual Assistant who works 24-7, providing top quality customer service while you concentrate on the things that personally fulfill you.
Features needed in a scheduling system:
And, kicking it up a notch, choose a scheduling tool that also allows you to designate different appointment types.
This is especially important if you offer more than one option. Perhaps you offer 30-minute consultations, 20-minute check-ins, half-day VIP spots, initial Goal Setting Intensives and so on. Choosing a scheduler that allows clients to select the type of appointment they need (with its own specific price point) ensures that your client calls flow smoothly from one client to the next, with exactly the right amount of time needed for each specific type of session.
Here are three of the best productivity tools to help you with these functions:
Acuity Scheduling is my favorite, and it’s very easy and intuitive to use. You can sign up instantly for a Solo account, which is free, but I do recommend the Emerging Entrepreneur account which is $10 per month so you can sync with Google. The first thing you do is set your hours of availability, which allows any client to:
- Instantly see which slots and days are available
- Self-book an appointment at the optimum time for you both
- Pay online
- Reschedule with one click
Acuity Scheduling walks you through a simple setup, where you simply assign your availability and designate whether or not these hours are regular or irregular.
In addition to selecting appointment types, you can also set up and personalize:
The forms are really easy to create. After you’ve typed in a client question and designated what type of response you want (e.g. multiple choice, yes-or-no answer, single text line, multiple text line) you get to see in real-time what your form will look like to the client. This makes it really easy to see:
In minutes, you have a perfectly customized form—without having to worry about formatting or accidentally having a glaring glitch on your form that you don’t catch until after it’s been released to the world.
You can also manage your users and sync with other calendars. Just make sure you have the right account package (for example, you shouldn’t add staff members if you only have a Solo free account).
Creating Packages and Gift Certificates:
Acuity also sets up an online store for you, if you want to sell packages and products. For example, if you are a Massage Therapist, you can include the sale of a specialty massage oil with the appointment.
Of if you don’t offer physical products, you can create packages by offering the sixth appointment free if they book and pay for five appointments, for example.
Clients receive an 8-digit code that will be generated and given to them. According to Acuity, “they can use that code to redeem for appointments immediately, save it for later and book over time, or give it to someone else to redeem if you’re using this as a gift certificate.”
Acuity also allows integration with the following:
For invoicing: FreshBooks, QuickBooks, and Xero
For email lists: Aweber, ConstantContact, MailChimp, Mad Mimi and several more. (No ConvertKit yet, but I’m hoping that will be added soon. However, you can use Zapier to add anyone who schedules to CK).
It also offers conversion tracking and analytics, syncing with:
For webinars: It integrates with several different webinar providers and software, including:
For affiliates: There’s also an internal Acuity feature called Referral Candy, which you can set to track and reward your customers for referrals.
For Shopping carts: It integrates with:
For web builders: It integrates with …
As well as Google Contacts.
For calendars: Acuity integrates with:
This is by no means the full list of all the apps, software, and systems that Acuity integrates with, so be sure to check out the 14-day free trial and find out whether or not the integrations you need are included.
Paid plans start at $10 USD per month for the Emerging Entrepreneur account, but if you want text messaging added to your Acuity account, sign up for the $19per month Growing Business account. The highest you’ll currently pay is $34 per month for the Powerhouse Player account.
This brings us to our next super-productivity tool…
If you’ve worked with me, you know I LOVE Google Calendar. If you’re my husband or kids, you know that if it’s not on my Google Calendar, it doesn’t exist.
Google Calendar has a web browser extension that you can easily install by selecting your browser settings, accessed via the three vertical dots at the top right of your browser menu bar in Chrome, or the three horizontal wavy bars in Firefox.
The beauty of Google Calendar is that it is clear, concise and integrates with other software and apps such as Acuity. In other words, if a client makes an appointment via your scheduling link, it will instantly appear in your Google Calendar, if you’ve synced it. So you don’t have to access Acuity to see if a client appointment conflicts with a webinar you want to watch, or another appointment you have since it will all be right there on Google Calendar. And it’s free.
And even see Google Calendar events on Apple Calendar.
You can also find out how to set up and personalize these features and more by simply looking them up at Google Calendar Help.
And if you want to take full advantage of all the apps and business functions Google offers, such as business Gmail and Google Docs and storage, check out Google Gsuite too.
This brings us to our final indispensable tool when it comes to client booking and scheduling…
Note: There’s a free version of this form builder plugin and a paid version.
You can easily install the free version through your WordPress dashboard by selecting “Add New” in your plugins directory and typing “Formidable Forms” in the text field.
The free version is for one site and gives you a maximum of six field types. Paid plans add one year of support and updates, plus more text fields, more sites, and more advanced features. The top plan, Enterprise, includes “Elite Support”.
Prices for the paid plan start at $49 USD per year for Personal, all the way up to $399 USD per year for the Enterprise plan.
You may never need more than the basic forms in Acuity account and your autoresponders, but if you do, and especially if you like to create content or blog posts from your web form data, then this is a powerful plugin with flexibility, functionality, and clean styling.
*This post contains an Acuity Scheduling affiliate link. I love Acuity and use it daily and only recommend things that I love.
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