No Assistant, No Problem: Using a Calendaring Service

Last year I went out on my own and opened my own law practice. I’m currently an office of one which means I’ve had to rely on technology for administrative tasks and to increase productivity. One of the ways I’ve done that is by shifting as much of my scheduling as possible to an online scheduling service.

Soon after I went out on my own I found that managing and scheduling appointments and all the related follow-up emails and phone calls were wasting up a lot of my time. I was spending several hours a week scheduling appointments, coordinating schedules and sending out reminders. I also found that I was having a problem with no-shows and missed appointments when I forgot or didn’t have time to follow-up and remind people about their upcoming appointments.

I started searching for a service that would integrate with my calendar and automate as much of the scheduling and follow-up process as possible. After trying various scheduling services, I ultimately settled on Calendly for its ease of use, sleek appearance, and feature set.

Calendly connects with most cloud-based calendar services (iCloud, Google, Office 365 and others) so it knows your availability and can schedule appointments with you directly. You are then able to set up various appointment types and rules for those appointments. Rules let you set up your availability preferences as well as ask your invitee questions, and customize the confirmation and reminder email that is sent. This is great for sending your clients information prior to their appointment.

For example, I often meet with other professionals over coffee for networking and business purposes. I’ve set up a “coffee” appointment type with Calendly. I typically take these meetings between 8–9 am Monday, Tuesday, and Fridays and between 4–5:30 Monday - Wednesday. I’ve setup my availability preferences in Calendly accordingly so people can only schedule with me during these times.

There are a couple coffee spots in town that are convenient to my home and office. In addition to collecting contact information, I’ve setup Calendly to provide invitees with a multiple choice selection of the nearby coffee spots so they can choose where they would like to meet (based on the options I’ve provided.)

When someone would like to get together for coffee, instead of the usual series of emails or phone calls to schedule, I simply give them my Calendly link. They then see my availability, are asked for contact information, to pick a coffee spot and then the event is scheduled. Both the invitee and I receive an email confirmation. The event is automatically scheduled on my calendar and the invitee has the option to add it to their calendar. The invitee also receives a customized follow-up reminder 24 hours before our event with the option to cancel or reschedule the appointment if their plans have changed.

At this point, I have about a dozen different appointment types setup and customized in Calendly. Each appointment has its own URL for scheduling, so as a bonus tip, I’ve set up a TextExpander snippet for scheduling with optional fields that pre-populates and email and allows me to select the appointment type that is most appropriate for the occasion.

I’ve setup event times for coffee, lunch appointments, phone calls, and various types of client appointments all with customized instructions and details. For an individual account, Calendly costs about $100 a year and for me has been well worth it.

There are a few quirks with Calendly. For example, you can only schedule appointments and pull availability from one calendar. This is difficult for me because my availability is different when scheduling in-office appointments (where I have to coordinate with a shared conference room) and personal appointments. Calendly also could use some more granular control over availability settings. However, they do have an active user community and seem to be regularly adding features.

One thing to be aware of is the impression you are giving your invitee when you use a scheduling service. I tend to use Calendly most often with colleagues and other professionals and simply offer it as an option on my website for clients who choose to schedule online. I’m careful not to force my scheduling service on clients who might find it off-putting or impersonal. For clients who prefer a more personal touch, I usually will either personally schedule (or have my virtual receptionist schedule) the appointment and use Calendly as the back end so as to take advantage of all the follow-up features and information I’ve pre-programed in the Calendly system.

This article first appeared in the April, 2017 Issue of ScreencastsOnline Monthly Magazine. ScreenCastsOnline monthly magazine is packed with hints, tips, articles and links to streamable versions of ScreenCastsOnline tutorials and delivered monthly. Find our more at https://www.screencastsonline.com/membership_benefits