Don’t Play Secretary – Learn How To Streamline Your Online Scheduling
If you run an online business, you know how much it sucks to schedule meeting after meeting, across multiple timezones, through your email.
Here's a typical back-and-forth email scheduling thread you're probably much too familiar with...
The Standard Email Scheduling Run Around:
1 - Potential Client: "I saw your website and am interested in working with you."
2 - You: "Great! What timezone are you located in? I'd like to send you a list of appointment times I'm available to meet."
3 - Potential Client: "I'm in Phoenix, Arizona."
4 - You: "Alright, Arizona doesn't use daylight savings time, correct? In that case, I can meet with you this week at X, Y and Z times."
5 - Potential Client: "Sorry, but none of those times work for me. How about A?"
6 - You: "Sorry, but I'm already booked to work with a another client at A. How about B, C or D?"
7 - Potential Client: "C works for me. See you then!"
8 - You: "Excellent! Can I get your Skype details?"
9 - Potential Client: "Sure, my Skype handle is..."
10 - You: Great! I look forward to chatting on Skype with you at C!
Epilogue: The client is a no-show for the appointment because they forgot about it. Rinse. Recycle. Repeat.
10 emails for one no-show appointment? There's got to be a better way...
Email chains like the one above draw out the scheduling process into hours and days. They distract you from important work and are guaranteed to lose you clients.
If you're serious about growing your online business, you need a tech savvy way to eliminate this scheduling nonsense now. Even better, you can solve this problem for free!
In this post, we’re going to show you the free online scheduling tool we use internally at ActiveGrowth and Thrive Themes so you can stop playing secretary to get more profitable business done right now!
How To Use Calendly Step-By-Step
Calendly is a scheduling solution that allows you to set appointment times with clients and customers all in one go.
Here’s how it works:
Step 1 - Timezone Setup
Start by making sure your timezone is set to your current location:
If you're a frequent traveler, it's easy to modify this timezone setting whenever you relocate. Just make sure to update it and make the same timezone modification in your Google Calendar settings if you integrate it with Calendly to keep them accurately synced.
More on this powerful Google Calendar integration feature down below.
Step 2 - Create and Setup An "Event" Type
Now you need to select an “event type". An event type is just Calendly jargon for how long you want your appointments to last.
Most productivity focused solopreneurs try to limit the frequency and size of their meetings to 15-minutes so I'm betting you'll make that your primary event type. ;-)
Of course, if you're offering coaching or consulting, you can always setup 30-minute, 60-minute or custom length time slots as well.
The limiting factor in the free version of Calendly is that you can only have one event type active at any given time:
Step 3 - Set Your Calendly Availability
Once you've decided on your usual weekly availability, input those time blocks into each of your Calendly event type setup pages.
Pro Tip: If you're new to freelancing, coaching or consulting, it's a good idea to limit the times you're available to meet clients. This will help you convey a sense of scarcity and social proof to potential leads as they browse through your Calendly scheduling page.
You can do this by either:
- Limiting your availability in each Calendly event type setup page,
- Or by blocking off times in your Google Calendar once you've integrated it with Calendly.
You can also improve your scheduling game by setting pre-meeting and post meeting buffer times to prevent back-to-back appointment times from interfering with each other if your meetings go long.
If you're using the 15-minute event type, we recommend setting your availability increments to 30-minutes and event buffer times to 5-minutes before and after.
Another useful Calendly hack is to limit the total number of meetings that can be scheduled with you in a single day. You don't want to get distracted from important work by too many meetings or blindsided by a sudden spike in online traffic and respective jump in appointment signups.
Start by setting your max number of daily events to 3. You can always change this number later once you know how many events you can handle per day:
Step 4 - Google Calendar Integration
One of the greatest benefits Calendly provides is free integration with Google Calendar.
As clients sign up for appointments through your event link, those appointments will appear both on your Calendly Dashboard and Google Calendar.
Likewise, as you add new events to your Google Calendar, Calendly will automatically remove time slots from your signup page giving the Google Calendar events priority:
Furthermore, one of the ways Calendly helps cut down on no-show clients for you is by giving them the option to add appointments to their own Google Calendar on the confirmation page:
Step 5 - Embed Your Calendly Link Where Clients Can Find Them
Now, just embed your active Calendly event link into your business emails and website. This automatically directs your customers, clients, suppliers and interviewees to sign up for appointment times in a single, painless pass.
You can watch the GIF below to see a quick example of what the signup process will look like for your clients:
Now Your Meetings Schedule Themselves!
Wow...do you see how easy that was to automate your scheduling...for free?!
Embedding just a single link within your website and emails made your online meetings start scheduling themselves!
Your important client, customer and supplier meetings lock themselves in without needing to play a crappy game of back-and-forth email tag. That means less logistical headaches and more time spent doing value adding work for you.
Let’s now shift gears to look at some examples of how Calendly is used across a range of industries so you can immediately apply it to your own business!
Audience Outreach, Customer Development and Podcast Interviews
Customer development and audience outreach is an important market research strategy for any business. If you're not sure what customer development is and why it's so important for your online business, you can learn about it in our recent ActiveGrowth article about it here.
As a good example of how to use Calendly in the customer development process, think back to January of this year when Shane announced plans to launch a new ActiveGrowth podcast. He asked the ActiveGrowth audience if they would be willing to volunteer 15-minutes of their time on a Skype call. We wanted to chat with them about their online business experiences as a way to generate unique and valuable podcast content to benefit the greater audience.
The response was HUGE! We had over 66 volunteers sign up in under 24 hours!
Normally, responding individually to so many emails would take a massive amount of work. If we tried to schedule each volunteer's Skype call through email, it would have resulted in chaos. The typical email exchange method takes at least 5 or 6 emails per person to settle on a call time that works for everyone.
Additionally, if multiple volunteers ask for the same time slot, only first responder gets the spot while the others would have to start the entire email scheduling process over again.
We never went down this rabbit hole however, because Shane insists on using systems that eliminate grunt work to prioritize value creation. In fact, by using Calendly, we arranged all of these podcast development Skype calls via a single email!
Here's How We Scheduled 66 Development Calls in Minutes Instead of Days
After readers expressed interest to speak with us through an in-content opt-in form at the bottom of Shane’s ActiveGrowth rebranding blog post, we sent them a follow up email explaining the next steps. Notice how we embedded our Calendly scheduling links in the email below:
We simply included a few well placed links to our Calendly, 15-minute event page with a strong call-to-action to click through and sign up for a time slot. Volunteers who took action instantly locked-in an available appointment time.
Pro Tip: We required volunteers to share their Skype details on the appointment signup page. This eliminated the need to reach out to each volunteer later for that crucial piece of info.
In fact, you can collect any information you need for your meetings by including extra “Invitee Questions” in the event type setup page:
With these simple steps in place, showing up on time for our podcast development calls was pretty straight-forward. All we had to do was check either our Google Calendar or Calendly dashboard at the start of each day to see what appointments had been scheduled by our volunteers:
Scheduling Your Podcast Guests:
If you're a podcaster, Calendly is a great tool to help you schedule higher profile podcast interviews because it respects important people's time by its very nature.
If you make potential guests go back-and-forth ten times with you to get an interview scheduled, you're going to come across as unprofessional. Either that or your message thread might get lost in an overcrowded inbox.
Important people problems...
If you do manage to grab a high-profile guest's attention, Calendly will help you lock down that interview fast by sending them to your signup page as soon as they agree to participate.
Pro Tip: If you typically use the 15-minute event types for your online meetings, make sure to setup a longer, custom event time to send your podcast guests to.
If you pay for the premium version of Calendly, you can have both your 15-minute and custom podcast interview time slots active simultaneously.
Calendly for Freelancers, Business Consultants and Online Coaches
If you’re a freelancer, business consultant or online coach, streamlining your scheduling process with Calendly can seriously boost your bottom line through an increased volume and frequency of client meetings.
The simple convenience of having a place online for people to reserve appointments with you could be the deciding factor that makes working with you the "right choice” over your competitors.
In our on-demand world, customers and clients are impatient. The convenience of locking-in appointment times on the fly is a strong benefit for them...especially compared to a competitor that makes potential clients do all the heavy lifting by only offering a contact phone number or email address.
By using Calendly, you’re also eliminating the frustration caused by multiple clients attempting to book the same time slot with you. In a first-come, first-serve scheduling system, you better be prepared to accept some logistics rework and at least a few entitled clients feeling pissed off.
As a coach, business consultant or freelancer, that lost time and frustrated clientele becomes lost money! Let's not throw away money like that, okay?
Let's just agree that all of these back-and-forth communication scenarios amount to bad business in 2017.
Instead, you can streamline your client scheduling with Calendly by:
- Using opt-in forms on your website to collect new leads and then sending them autoresponder email with your Calendly link embedded. This will give those potential coaching, consulting and freelance clients instant access to book with you while the desire is fresh.
- Embedding your Calendly event link directly on to the contact page of your website so potential clients are given the convenience of instantly booking when the desire to connect first strikes.
- Training new and old clients to always use your Calendly event link so:
- They have a convenient way to arrange meetings when you're both available
- They aren't wasting your time with scheduling questions
- You never miss an inquiry for an appointment in your overcrowded inbox
- You always have a record of appointments for administrative purposes
What’s more, no matter where you and your clients live around the globe, Calendly automatically converts timezones so each party only deals in terms of their local time.
For chronic travelers and foreign-based consultants, this timezone conversion feature removes a MASSIVE headache when trying to manage online appointments with geographically distant clients.
So far, we've only discussed using Calendly for purely online based services and meetings. However, it's important to mention that Calendly is also a great tool for in-person service businesses as well.
Here's a simple in-person service example:
If you're a professional photo geek that gets paying clients to shoot studio-based or on-location photography, embedding your Calendly event link directly to your website will help new and old customers reserve available time slots with you instantly. The instant gratitude generation will love for it!
Go ahead and take this a step further by asking customers on your Calendly signup page about where they want to do their photo shoot when signing up for an appointment so you can plan ahead.
Free vs Paid Calendly Plans
Lucky for you, the free version of Calendly is powerful enough to cover most of your online scheduling needs. It comes loaded with a powerful integration to Google Calendar which is all you need to kick some scheduling ass with Calendly.
However, if you’ve got money burning a hole in your pocket and want to upgrade, spending $8 a month (paid annually) gets you access to:
- Different event types offered simultaneously (a.k.a. different appointment lengths)
- Automated reminders sent to invitees
- Customizable email notifications sent to invitees
- GoToWebinar and Zapier app integrations
- The removal of Calendly branding on your event signup pages
If you’re getting too many appointment no-shows or need to offer various appointment lengths to clients, the upgrade may be worth it for you. In the grand scheme of online tool costs, $96 a year is chump change that will pay for itself through a single additional client.
But, don't go spend money for something that you don’t need. Start by giving the free version a try.
Pro Tip: You can switch back-and-forth between the different length event types (i.e. 15-minute and 30-minute events) whenever you need to.
Want To Give It A Try?
Because the free version of Calendly offers so much usability for the average user, creating a Calendly account for your business is a no brainer.
You can click the button below to get started:
Let us know how Calendly works for your business by sharing in the comments below!