A lot of places don’t pay for the long hours you spend there.
It’s illegal to require your presence without paying for it, but some business owners don’t even know that; or they don’t care.
As soon as you’re out of that day spa, you’re likely to go to the other extreme and you don’t take appointments on short notice.
It’s understandable–you want to plan your day and do other things than just sit around and wait for the phone to ring. After all… isn’t having your own business all about making your own schedule?
Seasoned therapists will tell you that the best clients are happy to plan ahead, and that you should train your clients to respect your time. Be careful with that kind of advice.
You’re building a business, right? You want good, regular clients who recommend you to their friends and neighbors.
Potential new clients procrastinate that first call. Even if they fully intend to make an appointment. It takes several reminders by the friendly neighbor, and they still need to wake up with a sore neck. Now they’re calling you.
And you don’t pick up. Here’s where you lose 60% of potential business. The other 40% leave a voicemail. You don’t feel like calling back? You lose those as well. By the next day the neck feels better, your potential client is back in her busy schedule, you leave a friendly message, but she never calls you again.
I know a lot of very good therapists with great reputations (yup, the one who gave you that great advice earlier) who still don’t get their business off the ground. Why? Because they’re never available on short notice, and new clients want to come in right away.
Today is when that client has time, when he needs your treatment. Otherwise he wouldn’t have called, he would just have procrastinated for another month.
So here is my solution:
Set yourself work hours. Think about how much you really want to work, how many massage hours you can do in a day, how much rest you need.
Now plan a schedule that gives availability in at least two evenings, one or both weekend days, and otherwise the times when you’re at your best.
I’m available for appointments Wednesdays 7am-1pm, Thursdays 2pm-8pm, Fridays 7am-3pm, Sundays 10am-5pm. Yes, I can get away with offering only one evening… but if you’re just starting out, you can’t.
Go to work at these hours, and when you’re not scheduled for appointments, work on your website, follow up with clients, read blogs about marketing and business development, play around on social media, join discussion groups… you get the idea. And of course answer the phone right away, whenever you can.
Once you get busier, start using an answering service–some of the online scheduling systems have operators; you just forward your phone to them. That way you don’t need to invest in employees (yet).
I’m fully booked for the next 4 weeks. Does that mean I don’t take appointments on short notice?
No. It’s still the same thing… new people want to get in right away. If my staff wouldn’t pick up the phone, I’d lose the business. Fortunately there are always a few cancellations, so that’s where we fit new clients in. If I wouldn’t take them, I’d be busy for the next month… and then I’d suddenly have a lot of free time.
Please share your experience as a service provider or as a client. What do you think of my experience? Is yours different? I’d be grateful for comments!