On this week’s podcast episode, I took a deep dive into online booking software. As you probably already know, there are dozens of different platforms out there, all with different features, price points and usability.
Rather than try out all of them – that would be a long-term project I think! – I picked some commonly used ones and went through all the features. So if you’re in the market for online booking software, or you want to switch to a different system, this post (and podcast episode!) is for you.
Before I get into all the nitty-gritty details: if you prefer to listen to the podcast rather than read a post, I got you! You can listen to the episode right here (just click the play button below), or search for ‘Life Beyond The Massage Table’ on your favourite podcast app. We’re now on Stitcher and Spotify too, so if you prefer those platforms, you’re good to go. But for those of you who prefer a more visual version, keep on reading.
By the way… while I know a lot of you are massage therapists, I also have quite a few non-massage people reading my stuff and listening to the podcast. So to try to serve everyone, we’re reviewing a number of different options that aren’t just massage-clinic specific. That said, any of the options could work for you no matter what career you’re in! It really depends on what type of environment you work in, what you want out of online booking software, and of course, local regulations around health-related data.
Important: If you are in a regulated health profession make sure you do check in to what your local regulations are around storing health-related data. Don’t commit to a system if it isn’t compliant with the rules you need to follow!
Ok, with all that said… Let’s dive in!
A great clinic option: Jane
Jane was designed with massage therapists and other clinicians in mind. So if you’re a massage therapist or other medical practitioner such as a chiropractor, physiotherapist, or if you run a clinic with those professions in it, it may be the system for you!
Jane is made right here in Canada, on the west coast in BC. So for anyone who needs a system that is Canadian-based, it may be a good option. Of course, you don’t have to be Canadian to use it!
I’ve used this one as a web designer setting up client’s websites and have also used it as a client booking appointments. I find it extremely easy to use on both sides of that equation.
- Easy online booking! For patients/clients, it suggests openings, shows what the next available appointment is right off the top, and allows them to book with one click if they are logged in.
- Ability to set up ‘rooms’ so that if you treat more than one patient at a time, you can book accordingly. For example, some chiros, physios or acupuncturists might book that way. It also handles shared rooms, to make sure that only one patient and one practitioner is using a room at one time. Always good not to double-book.
- A very customizable schedule. For example, allow or not allow same day bookings. Allow bookings only 6 hours ahead or more. Have 15 minutes between all clients. Have breaks between clients for one practitioner but not another. And so on.
- On that note, you can break your schedule into whatever timeframe works for you. If you’re a massage therapist who only does hour appointments, you can set your schedule to show hour timeslots only. Do note that this setting is for the entire clinic. If you’ve got one practitioner who does hour appointments only and then another who does anything from 15 minutes to 90 minutes, you’d have to break your schedule into 15 minute (or other) intervals in order for it to work for everyone.
- Appointment reminders by email and text message.
- Online intake forms and charting that can be super customized to your needs.
- Looks great on mobile devices and is still easy to use. No app, but fully mobile-friendly in a web browser.
- You can accept payments through Jane as well and can be integrated with a variety of insurance companies if you want to accept direct payment (works in both Canada and the US).
I will admit that Jane is a touch on the pricy side, which may take it out of the running for some of you. That said, it is priced very well for what you get!
Their pricing is a bit complex. For all of you as small business owners, you’d likely be looking at either their base plan starting at $74 Canadian per month, or their insurance plan which allows you to do the insurance billing I just mentioned starting at $99 Canadian per month. It’s important to know that on top of the base or insurance plan you also pay additional fees depending on how many full-time practitioners you have. Because of this, their pricing page has a handy little calculator on it to give you an idea of what costs you’d be looking at.
I like Jane a lot and highly recommend it if it is in your budget. It has tons of great features, looks nice, and is easy to use.
A great free option for solo practitioners: Square
Are you already using Square for payment processing? If so, they’ve got an online booking option that is free for solo practitioners!
Square is based in the US, however, they have a Canadian office or division if you will, so if you’re in Canada you’d be going through that. However, I don’t know if data would be stored in Canada or the USA, so do check on that if you need to know.
- Simple online booking calendar that can be integrated with Google Calendar if you’re a Google user and like having everything in one spot.
- Allows some flexibility with how appointments are accepted: on what time interval, how far in advance people have to book, how far in advance they have to cancel, and a few other little tweaks.
- Does email or text message reminders (or both).
- As mentioned, integrated with Square payment processing so you can not only accept payments but also have someone prepay, or have a credit card required to book in case of no shows.
- Can block time automatically between appointments for cleanup or charting or whatever you need to do between clients.
- Can be used to accept mobile appointments – that is, if you’re someone who visits your clients at their location rather than having them come to yours. You can also set up availability for both types of appointments – travel to them or at your clinic.
- You can set up a ‘fake it’ filter if you want to appear busier than you really are. I know some people don’t like it when clients can see just how busy or not busy they are, so this gives you a bit of privacy. It removes some available appointments from the client’s eye but still allows you to book them yourself.
- Square also has a pretty easy to use app which can be used to manage your bookings.
This is free for individuals! In other words, if you’re a solo practitioner, or if you’re at a clinic or studio or office where everyone handles their own bookings, this could be a great fit for you.
Note that if you want to process payments with Square that does have a cost associated with it, which is a percentage of the transaction or a flat fee depending on how the client is paying. Of course, you don’t have to use Square for payments if you don’t want to, you can just use the booking features.
This one isn’t as full-featured as Jane but hey, it’s free. I am not a Square payments user and yet I was able to set up online booking in no time. Their interface is easy to use.
A full-featured option at a lower price point: Bookeo
Bookeo is one I’ve seen a number of people using so I thought I’d give it a review. They’re based in Australia!
- Software features are based on what it is that you do. When you sign up, you are asked to choose what type of business you run… so that can be primarily classes, or primarily appointments of some kind, or a bit of both. Note that this seems to be best for a business that primarily does one or the other and not an even mix of the two.
- Integrates with a number of payment processors such as Stripe, Square and Paypal.
- Also has integration with some accounting software like Xero and Quickbooks.
- For marketing and your website, it integrates with Mailchimp, Wix and WordPress. I will note that all the other systems I’m talking about can also be integrated with all three of those. But it’s cool that they’ve made it easier for you by having built-in ways to integrate your online booking with your website or email newsletter software.
- Lots and lots of settings including setting up your own colours, logo, sending reminder emails to people, sending thank you emails, sending emails to clients that haven’t been in in a while… and so on.
- Allows you to set how far in advance people must book, and also how far in advance people must cancel if they are going to – just like the other systems.
- If you do workshops or classes, there are extra settings for that. For example, you can choose to show or hide classes that are already full.
- A feature I saw that I liked was that you can set it up so you must approve every appointment before it is confirmed. Obviously this has pros and cons and may deter some clients, but it’s a good option to have as it allows you more control over your schedule while still allowing online booking.
- Like other systems, you can also do things like set up a break between every appointment for setup or cleanup time or whatever you need. You can also book off vacations or other such things quickly and easily.
Ease of use:
I didn’t really comment much on the ease of use of the other systems we’ve talked about so far, because honestly, they were fine. Very easy, very clean. But Bookeo feels a bit… Windows 2000. It didn’t feel as modern as the first two systems I’ve talked about and was a bit clunky to use. It does have lots of features but they’re not always easy to find where to set them up.
I will also note that on the client-side of things in mobile, at least when I tested it, it was a bit confusing to book. It brings up a screen that is very minimal with only a few suggestions for appointment times. Even though there is a ‘pick date’ button at the top, it sort of looks like there are only a couple of available appointments at all, until you try choosing a specific date. It isn’t as intuitive as other systems.
This is where Bookeo becomes a good option for some of you. It’s pretty affordable at $14.95 USD a month for the smallest plan, which they say is suitable for a solo practitioner.
Did I like it? Well, it was pretty decent but not as nice to use as Jane or Square. It has more features than Square on the practitioner side of things, but it also isn’t free, so keep that in mind! But price-wise it’s right in between Jane and Square so might be worth checking out – as long as you don’t need insurance billing or online charting.
A great option if you do online consultations: Youcanbook.me
Youcanbook.me is based in the UK! It’s fun that we’re covering options from different countries here. That wasn’t on purpose, I just made my list of things to review based on what I’ve actually seen people using.
Now, this one is interesting in that it requires you to integrate with some sort of external calendar. For example, linking up to your Google Calendar or Microsoft Calendar. That might seem complicated, but it’s easy to do (just click a few buttons) and allows you to see the calendar right from your phone or laptop. It also allows you to book other things into the same calendar so you don’t end up with an ‘oops I double booked’.
- Very simple calendar that would be good for solo practitioners who really don’t want fancy features – just a simple way for people to book online.
- Most of the features require a paid account… we’ll get to what that costs and what a free account includes in below.
- You can add padding after appointments for cleanup or prep time just like with the other systems.
- Can set how far in advance people need to book and how far in advance people are allowed to book. For example, you can require they book a minimum of 12 hours in advance and that they can only book up to a maximum of 6 weeks from now. Good for giving you some control over your schedule!
- Integrates with Stripe for payment processing, and Zapier for those of you who know what that is!
- My favourite feature: allows you to set the time zone and also have it automatically convert that time to the local time of the person who is booking. Great for those of you who work with people online or by phone and who might be in a different time zone!
- Mobile friendly so you and your clients can use it on-the-go.
There are two versions: the free one which is very limited, and the $10/month USD version which allows you to do a lot more with it.
The free version only allows you to book one appointment type and length (and price!) and doesn’t allow for most of the advanced features like adding padding after each appointment or password protecting your booking if you want to have more privacy. So if you are someone who only does one appointment length and doesn’t need extra features, that might work just fine for you. But if you want to set up a bunch of different appointment types and prices (and I know most of you do) then the paid version is what you need. That said, 10 bucks a month is pretty darn reasonable!
Did I like it? Yeah, I did, for the price it’s quite nice. On the client end, it was pretty dang easy to use. And the time zone conversion feature is a must-have if you work with people in other time zones.
A feature-rich option great for classes, appointments or both: Schedulicity
Schedulicity is another feature-rich appointment booker. It’s also based in the US.
- Book appointments and/or classes and workshops.
- Integrates with Paypal, Stripe, and their own payment processing system called Schedulicity Pay.
- Has email marketing features included (although I’ll note they’re fairly simple… but might be enough for what you need).
- Can automatically send out things like happy birthday cards to clients.
- Can have it automatically offer deals on hard to book timeslots to help you get your schedule filled. Great for some of you, but others might not want that at all (it’s optional, don’t worry!)
- Mobile-friendly for both the practitioner and the client trying to book.
- Can give text and email reminders to clients.
- Like the other systems, you can set up things like how far out clients can book, how far in advance they must book (is same day ok?) and setup time between appointments.
- Does not have online charting (this is booking software only).
This is a bit flexible! They have base plans and then they have addons.
For a solo practitioner, you’d be looking at $20 USD per month for unlimited appointments booked. If you want to add on, say, the automated emails like happy birthday emails, promotional emails to get more of your slots booked up … that’s an extra $25. Or if you just want to add on text message reminders to clients, that’s an extra $5.
If you’re interested in Schedulicity, I suggest you go check out their website for all the pricing details so you can see what might work for you.
If you are a solo or small clinic health care practitioner who would like online charting, I strongly recommend Jane. However, I know the cost can be a bit steep for some.
If you need something cheap or free, check out Square’s online booking. The interface was quite nice and it was quick to set up.
If you work with clients in different time zones, something like Youcanbook.me is the way to go for sure.
The only system I didn’t like much is Bookeo, but that was because it had a really old feeling interface. That said, it did seem to have tons of functionality at a good price.
And some honourable mentions…
Systems I didn’t get a chance to do a deep dive into, but might be a good option for you include:
Mindbodyonline: very well known for their class/workshop booking system but it can handle appointments as well. Worth checking out if, for example, you have a yoga studio that also has wellness practitioners working out of it. Based in the USA.
Acuity Scheduling: similar to Youcanbook.me but even more super-powered! Integrates with lots of different accounting programs and payment processors and allows you to book appointments and classes and also has the very handy time-zone conversion feature. Check it out if YouCanBookMe sounded good but it was missing one or two features you were hoping for. Acuity might have them! Based in the USA.
Clinicsense: great for massage therapists who want a fairly simple online booking option that also includes some online charting options. This one is very massage therapy specific. Based in Canada.
Soapvault: another good clinic-based option that also includes online charting. This one was originally designed for massage therapists but seems to have expanded to make it good for other professions such as chiropractors, physiotherapists and osteopaths. Based in Canada.
Phew, that was a lot of information for one post! If you’re read down this far, congratulations!