As some of you have read, I'm exploring online scheduling systems in the hopes of using it in my music studio (read Part One here). It is my hope that it will make rescheduling more convenient for my students' families without it being a headache for me to administer. Also, I want to be able to accommodate ad hoc coaching and make it easier for those students to drop-in.
My Online Scheduling System Wish List
Before presenting the second fleet of booking apps, here once again is my Wish List:
- Aesthetically pleasing and intuitive design
- Easy to use – both on the client end and the administrative end
- The ability to prevent short notice rescheduling
- Various options for reminder notifications that can be customized by each user
- The ability to synchronize appointments with several calendar platforms (e.g., iCal, Google Calendar, Outlook, etc.)
- The ability to collect and process payments (might not use this initially but I’d like to have the functionality in the future)
- The ability to customize the appearance for branding purposes
- Various privacy options so that the general public cannot see who I am teaching/consulting with
- Easy to reschedule appointments (client or me)
- The ability to handle recurring appointments for a set period of time
- The ability to allow group bookings with a cap
- The ability to set different availability for each day
- Solid tech support resources
- The ability to specify a time zone for appointments (not needed initially but will once I teach online)
- Viewable and usable on a desktop and mobile devices
- Advance scheduling
Let's get started, shall we?
ScheduleThing has a module just for music teachers. I really like how you can schedule multiple schools, rooms and various equipment. It also could accommodate multiple teachers' schedules. Very slick design. Lots of customization options.
Unfortunately for me, this online reservation system cannot handle payments. Nor does ScheduleThing sync with Google Calendar. So ends my exploration.
Cost: As cheap as the Free version and as pricey as $129/month USD. The free version is good for two resources and only one type of reservation (e.g private music lessons). Go up to the Small Business version for $19.95 USD/month and you get the first month free. You can use up to 10 resources and an unlimited number of reservation types.
Scheduly truly has a lot of bang for your buck For $9.99 USD per month, you get an unlimited number of appointments within an infinite time frame. It can synchronize with several calendar platforms. There are reporting functions, safety features, yadda yadda.
Sadly, it doesn't allow us to put start and end dates, for instance, for a music theory course. As for aesthetics? Well, I've seen nicer ones out there. Again, my search comes to a screeching halt. Next!
I didn't get very far once I learned that this online reservation system could not handle classes. It looked nice and easy to use, however.
The free version gives you one location, unlimited services and service categories, 50 bookings a month, mobile locations and services, booking widget and a customer database - standard fare for the freebie systems. You have to step up to the ClickBiz5 at $19.95 USD/month to get the online payment functionality as well the ability to export your customer history.
I really wanted Schedule Once to work for me. This online appointment schedule has a nice design, easy to use interface, decent tech support and the ability to handle multiple locations and resources. I liked how all bookings could be automatic or with approval.
Schedule Once cannot handle payamets, although the tech support team mention a good workaround. You can get a Paypal button widget which will post a button on your scheduling page that redirects a client to you pay you. The appointment doesn't get confirmed until you receive payment for the service.
Sadly, it does not handle class scheduling.
Plans are very affordable. After your 14-day free trial, you can sign up for the Basic (Free) version, which gives you group scheduling and appointment scheduling with approval. For $5 USD/month, you get group scheduling, booking with approval, productivity features and email reminders.
The Search is NOT Over
I just realized that although I visited SimplifyThis' website and read the features and testimonials, I did not take it for a test drive. It looked promising. However, my booking app search partner mentioned that the system seemed too simplistic. One thing that held me off from exploring it right away was the fact that I couldn't get my brain around paying $18 USD/month to use a system in which a primarily selling point (invoicing and handling bookkeeping) is redundant. Now, if SimplifyThis could talk to my QuickBooks...
There are two other scheduling programs I was thinking of looking at (GenBook and ScheduleVIEW). However, what is fast becoming clear is that I may need to rework my criteria for an online scheduling system. At the very least, I may need to rethink how I want to use the system. At any rate, I plan to take a break from these scheduling programs and instead, explore some of the WordPress scheduling plugins before making a final decision.