Never automate something that can be eliminated, and never delegate something that can be automated or streamlined. —Tim Ferriss, The 4-Hour Workweek
Not all time is equal.
It's no secret that time is every service professional's most valuable asset, especially if you're being paid hourly. If you're not working, you're not making money — and not only that, it has to be paying work. Much of the work that practitioners do every day is essential to keeping the business afloat, but isn't paid: everything from accounting to the subject of this article, appointment scheduling.
Wouldn't it be great if someone else could do that other work for you?
If you work in an office with other practitioners, you might already have access to an assistant, paralegal, or office manager who does this kind of work — someone who manages your calendar, screens calls, etc. But if you're a solo, chances are you don't have much help, and the costs of bringing someone on, even part-time, are daunting.
Consider the argument that a professional who charges $200 an hour shouldn't be doing work that someone else could do for $25 an hour (plus payroll expenses). If you can replace that time with paid work, that's theoretically $175 per hour (minus payroll expenses) that you weren't making before. However, you have to build in the overhead of training and management — and perhaps most importantly, many solo practitioners really, really love the freedom of working alone. I know I do!
What if I told you that you can delegate unpaid work and earn more money without hiring a single person?
Some functions can be automated.
Some (but not all) of the work you're losing money on doesn't have to be done by a human. Depending on the tools you use, appointment scheduling might be one of them. If your calendar is hosted online, particularly by Google, there are easy-to-use services that allow clients to schedule their own appointments, with little-to-no interaction required by you. That means fewer interruptions and more time available for paid work.
Rest assured — online scheduling services don't offer clients unrestricted access to your schedule. In addition to respecting times that you've already blocked off, you can define useful parameters and restrictions, such as:
- Hours of operation
- Appointment length (which may be different for different appointment types)
- Buffer time before and after appointments
These services can also provide helpful ancillary functions, like:
- Requiring clients to provide contact and other information at the time of scheduling
- Follow-up emails with additional instructions
- Automated reminders to clients
Again, all of this can happen without any effort on your part.
What if a client calls or emails?
If you're on the phone with a client and they're ready to schedule right away, by all means do so. Online scheduling doesn't have to be an all-or-nothing proposition. But if a client calls and isn't prepared to schedule, consider taking their email address and sending them a link to your online scheduling system. Likewise, if a client emails you about setting up an appointment, send them the link. You will make the process incredibly easy for them, while saving yourself the time and hassle of back-and-forth emails to determine everybody's availability.
Delegate without hiring.
Online scheduling is only one area where you can delegate without hiring, but it's an important one. This very easy process will undoubtedly save you valuable time, avoid costly interruptions, and simultaneously making it easier for clients to get in front of you at a time that works for them. To see how I've implemented online scheduling (using Calendly), feel free to visit my appointment scheduling page... but please don't make any appointments!
Give online scheduling a shot and let me know how it works for you!