In the age of coronavirus, more and more skilled professionals have shifted to freelancing for different reasons. As a matter of fact, an Upwork study found that there’s an increase of two million freelancers in the US workforce since 2019.
With tougher competition in the market, it’s now more important than ever for freelancers to improve the quality of their services and book more clients to keep their business running. Before the pandemic, setting up face-to-face meetings with potential clients was a common practice.
Now, almost all business-related discussions are done online. Virtual meetings make it possible to connect and interact with clients and prospects in a much safer and more convenient way.
Back-to-back online meetings happen every day. As a freelancer, being fully booked is a good sign for your business. However, you have to be extra careful not to suffer from Zoom fatigue or the feeling of burnout caused by too much video calling.
One way to prevent that is by managing your schedule efficiently. Busy freelancers require an effective scheduling system to streamline workflow, improve productivity, and serve every client the best way possible.
In this article, we’ll discuss the common challenges in scheduling meetings and the difference between manual and automated scheduling processes to help you figure out which works best for your business.
What are the most common problems in scheduling online meetings?
To close deals and earn money, you have to make sure that the meetings actually take place. Unfortunately, there are different reasons why things don’t go as planned.
Sometimes the problem starts in the appointment setting itself. There are times when clients are given the same time slot for the meeting. Take note that double-bookings can lead to a bad customer experience.
Your clients might get upset or disappointed when you inform them that you have to move the meeting to a different time slot due to an error in scheduling. It will give the impression that you don’t value their time or they don’t get prioritized.
In other cases, the roadblocks come from the client-side. No-shows and cancellations are missed business opportunities. They not only result in loss of income but also loss of precious time.
You have no control over your potential client’s ability to make it to the meeting. They might have simply forgotten about their appointment or they have an emergency.
When meetings don’t proceed as scheduled, there’s nothing else that you can do but to follow up and try to convince your clients to have the meeting on another day.
With these issues, your fully-booked calendar will be in disarray. That’s why you need to implement a scheduling system that can help you keep everything on track even if unexpected situations arise. You have two choices: manual scheduling and automated scheduling.
In a manual scheduling system, someone has to be in charge of writing down meeting appointments. Freelancers usually do it themselves. However, this task is time-consuming because you have to monitor each communication channel that a client might use to reach out to you.
When a client is interested in your services, they might contact you via phone call, email, or SMS. Replying to all inquiries and manually inputting each appointment reminder in your calendar can be exhausting and leave you with no energy to do your actual work.
Some freelancers hire a virtual assistant (VA) to keep their calendars organized. The duties of a VA include handling phone calls and emails, managing a contact list, and performing other admin tasks. If you’re considering hiring one, keep in mind that the hourly rate of a full-time or part-time VA can cost between $1 to over $100.
Whether you decide to do it yourself or have someone else coordinate your client appointments for you, using the traditional method—which involves a paper schedule book, a physical calendar, or an online spreadsheet—can still cause major drawbacks to your business.
Human error is one key problem. Mistakes happen due to various reasons. It might be because of multitasking, distractions, or fatigue. If you want a more accurate and reliable scheduling process, it’s important that you think about how to eliminate or at least minimize this risk.
To stay resilient in the ever-changing business landscape, digital transformation is crucial—which is why freelancers should consider using online tools that can help them automate repetitive tasks and boost their productivity.
If you want to offer your clients the convenience of self-service when it comes to scheduling their meetings with you, you should take the time to shop for appointment scheduling software. There are many scheduling apps available in the market, and each has its own set of features.
To find the right one, take note of all the essential features that can help improve the scheduling process and overall business operations. Ideally, your chosen app should have everything you need so that you won’t have to use separate tools to gain access to different features.
Here are some features to look out for:
- Calendar integrations - You should be able to connect any online calendar (Google Calendar, Outlook Calendar, or Apple Calendar) that you’re using for better appointment visibility. This will also help you avoid double-bookings.
- Video meeting integrations - There are many video conferencing solutions out there. For convenience, choose one that allows third-party app integrations. This way, you can continue using the video meeting app you’re most comfortable with. For a better online meeting experience, make sure that you have access to functions like screen sharing and recording. Also, take note of the meeting duration and the maximum number of participants allowed.
- Payment integrations - Contactless payments make it easier and faster for you to receive your earnings. It’s a huge advantage to allow your clients to pay you directly through the app.
- SMS reminders - This feature will help your clients remember their scheduled meetings. It will also reduce the likelihood of no-shows.
- Email alerts - Just like SMS reminders, this feature prevents your clients from missing any meeting appointment.
- Meeting buffers - You need to take a break between meetings. This way, you can have enough time to prepare for your next appointment.
- Automatic time zone conversion - Having local and international clients is a great thing. For better customer service, make sure that you schedule the online meeting based on your client’s time zone.
- Shareable link - Your goal is to book as many clients as possible. So you should be able to share the link of your booking page anywhere—on your website, blog, social media, or email signature.
- Customization features - Your personal branding is very important. It’s how your clients can recognize you and set you apart from your competitors. Choose an appointment scheduling solution that allows you to personalize your booking page with your logo, name, and chosen colors.
As you can see, a feature-rich scheduling tool can do more than just keep your calendar organized. The good news is that you don’t necessarily have to break the bank to get one. There are many free options that have the basic features to help you set up an online booking system.
MeetFox, in particular, offers a free plan that enables you to have unlimited meetings, collect online payments, and use various app integrations. Of course, if you want additional features and more flexibility in using the tool, you should get a paid plan. It’s not that expensive. At MeetFox, you only have to pay as low as $10 per user per month on annual billing. It’s more cost-effective than paying an hourly rate for a VA.
Who uses online meeting scheduling tools?
Freelancers and businesses across all industries can benefit from online meeting scheduling tools. More and more entrepreneurs are seeing the potential of this technology to grow their businesses. In fact, by 2026, it’s predicted that the global market size for appointment scheduling software will reach $546.31 million.
Here are some of the professionals and top industries that have been reaping the benefits of automated scheduling:
- Medical and dental institutions
- Financial institutions
- Educational institutions
- Recruiters and Human Resources
- Real estate agents
- Developers and other freelance creatives
To give you an example of how powerful this tool is, let’s take a look at the healthcare industry. During this COVID-19 pandemic, providing telehealth services is more important than ever. Many healthcare providers are now doing online consultations via video calls.
Based on a report, telehealth consultations increased by more than 150% during the first quarter of 2021. Additional data also show that adults in more than 41 million households in the US had a virtual appointment with a health professional.
Just imagine setting up meeting appointments for millions of patients and keeping your calendar up to date. Without automation, it’s likely impossible to manage no-shows, cancellations, and rescheduled appointments and not make any mistakes.
Having a seamless scheduling system is beneficial to you and your clients. By choosing to adopt a cloud-based appointment scheduling solution, your calendar will be visible online 24/7 and your clients will be able to set appointments by themselves at any time, wherever they are. This level of accessibility can significantly improve how you provide your services, regardless of whether you’re a freelancer or a company owner.
About The Author
Mary Paulene Omae San Miguel is a content writer for RingCentral, a leading provider of global enterprise cloud communications, video meetings, collaboration, and contact center solutions. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Journalism and a great passion for learning foreign languages. She also has previously written for GreyCampus.