Time is of the essence, especially when you’re a small business owner. Managing your time efficiently can greatly impact how you run and grow your business. Creating effective workflows to streamline daily tasks will encourage more productivity throughout your day. One way to do this is by utilizing scheduling software or scheduling apps to help manage meetings.
Acuity (also known as Acuity Scheduling) and Calendly are two popular scheduling apps that provide meeting scheduling functionality. The ability to automate upcoming appointment reminders, calendar updates, and time zone correction can save business owners time and energy. With the help of these scheduling apps, you can focus on your clients and build those relationships. Keep reading to learn more about Acuity and Calendly and how these tools can help your business.
What to Look For in an Appointment Scheduling Tool?
Appointment scheduling software is one aspect of your business’s overall client relationship management—or CRM—workflow. You may already use a CRM platform (like Practice) to help manage your clients and day-to-day tasks. Appointment scheduling tools enable you to accurately book appointments without the need to manually schedule meetings yourself.
First and foremost, you want to ensure the scheduling tool provides automated booking capability for meetings and appointments. This includes sending out reminder emails for meetings or payment notifications. These features alone will save you the time you could put toward other areas of your business, like client acquisition or marketing. Other features to keep in mind are customization of booking pages, calendar sync and integration, time zone adjustments, and payment processing tools.
As with any CRM tool, the interface design can greatly impact the user experience. The scheduler should be easy to use by both business owners and clients, with a straightforward design and easily accessible functions—this could include drop-down menus, time zone selection, and confirm buttons. Before selecting an appointment scheduling tool, see if you can take advantage of a free trial or live demonstration with a member of the support team. This will allow you some time to explore the platform and gain first-hand experience with the tool.
Depending on your specific business needs and any outside platforms you currently use, choosing a scheduling software with app integration may or may not be as crucial as other features. But it’s important to note that the ability to integrate specific apps could come in handy further down the line in your business as you continue to grow and expand. Google Calendar and Zoom are common apps that many entrepreneurs use, so check to see if your scheduling tool allows this integration. Here are some other apps to consider when looking at integration:
- Outlook Mail or Gmail (for email communication)
- Google Meet (for video meetings)
- Mailchimp (for newsletter and email campaigns)
- ScheduleOnce (for lead generation)
- Hubspot (for marketing)
- Salesforce (cloud-based CRM)
- Stripe and Paypal (for payment processing)
- Microsoft Team (for team organization)
Not all CRM platforms come with built-in scheduling software, so you may need to budget for a third-party tool in order to book appointments. Many tools like Acuity and Calendly offer tiered pricing plans with a range of features depending on which plan you choose. Take advantage of any free trial period to test out the software before committing and paying for a subscription. This is a good time to look out for specific features or app integrations you’re interested in while using your free trial to ensure you’ll get the most out of it for your business.
Many appointment scheduling tools are straightforward to use with simple features and functions. However, if you do happen to come across an issue or need help with the platform, you want to be sure you’ll have access to a customer support team to troubleshoot your problem. Check to see if there is any live phone support, chat capabilities, or email support. You may also be interested in online Help Centers with articles and tutorials in case you need assistance outside normal business hours.
What is Acuity?
Acuity Scheduling (formerly Squarespace Scheduling) is an online appointment scheduling software that automates meeting and appointment booking. Acuity also offers a variety of client management features such as automatic appointment confirmations, reminders, and intake forms to help streamline communication. You don’t need a Squarespace website in order to use Acuity, however, if you do have a Squarespace website, you can embed the tool on your website using the scheduling block feature.
Compared to other appointment scheduling tools, Acuity is considered more of a personal assistant tool than strictly a booking software. Many of the features go beyond your typical scheduling tool. Users have more control over customization (thanks to open API support), access to payment options, and accounting tools to help with taxes. Larger businesses and companies can take advantage of pipeline integration for sales and marketing, as well as access to more than 500 apps through Zapier. You can also offer memberships, subscriptions, and gift certificates to your clients through the Acuity platform.
Take a look at some of the features included in every Acuity plan:
- Unlimited services and appointments
- Clients self-scheduling capabilities
- Automatic confirmation, reminder, and follow-up emails
- Automatic time zone conversion
- Payment processing through Stripe, PayPal, or Stripe
- Google Meet, GoToMeeting, and Zoom integrations
- Google Calendar, iCloud, Office 365, and Outlook sync
- Embedded scheduler on your website
- Mailchimp and AWeber sync for newsletters and emails
- Accounting through QuickBooks and Freshbooks
Interested in Acuity? You can try any of their plans with a free 7-day trial. Users have the option of subscribing to a plan and paying on a monthly or annual basis—if you pay annually you’ll get 20% off the total cost. Acuity also states there are no hidden fees (such as set-up fees and no cancellation fees), but keep in mind the prices listed don’t include taxes. Here is a breakdown of each tiered plan:
- Emerging Plan: $20 per month (1 staff member)
- Growing Plan: $34 per month (up to 6 staff members)
- Powerhouse Plan: $61 per month (up to 36 staff members)
Who Is Acuity For?
Acuity offers more than your standard appointment scheduling tool. With added marketing features and customization capabilities, Acuity can fill in the gaps in other areas you may be interested in to help support the growth of your business. In particular, this can be a beneficial scheduling software for businesses with multiple-member or larger teams.
What is Calendly?
Calendly is an automatic online scheduling platform that removes the tedious and time-consuming task of back-and-forth communication. Users can send invitees a link to access their Calendly calendar to instantly book a meeting or appointment. What makes Calendly a go-to choice for many small business owners is its simple interface design and minimalist approach, making it extremely easy to use.
Like Acuity, Calendly also provides Zapier app integration to connect your account with other platforms like Google Calendar or Microsoft Calendar. Users also enjoy the fact that Calendly offers a completely free plan—and it’s free for life. Their Basic Plan provides just enough access to one calendar and one event type to get you up and running.
Calendly users will gain access to these standard features that come with every plan:
- At least 1 calendar connection
- Unlimited one-off meetings and polls
- Google, Office 365, iCloud, and Outlook calendar sync
- Google Meet, GoToMeeting, Zoom, and Microsoft Teams integration
- Automatic event notifications
- Branding customization on booking page
- Embedded scheduler on website
- 24/7 access to email support
Calendly forgoes a free trial and instead offers their Basic Plan for free. This plan will give users access to one calendar connection and one event type for their clients to choose from. Of course, if you upgrade to a paid plan you’ll have access to advanced features, such as unlimited event types, automatic email reminders and follow-ups, plus payment processing with PayPal and Stripe. Calendly also offers monthly and annual billing, with 20% off annual fees. This is how Calendly’s plans are priced if you choose to pay monthly:
- Basic Plan: Free
- Essentials Plan: $10 per month
- Professional Plan: $15 per month
- Teams Plan: $20 per month
Users have 24/7 email support if they need to contact the customer service team for any reason. Calendly also provides a digital Help Center with useful articles and tutorials to troubleshoot any issues you may have. Like Acuity, the Calendly Help Center library is broken down into categories for each specific topic, like using Calendly for mobile devices and integrations and automation.
Who Is Calendly For?
If you run a small business and need minimal appointment scheduling features, Calendly’s free Basic Plan is a great place to start. Its simple design and straightforward approach make sharing your availability as easy as sharing a link to your calendar.
How Do Acuity and Calendly Compare?
Both Acuity and Calendly offer automatic appointment scheduling to streamline your client workflow. With some variation in degrees of advanced features and client management tools, one software may be better suited to your business needs than the other. Let’s take a look at how these two tools compare.
Automated appointment scheduling is the main focus of both Acuity and Calendly. These platforms incorporate simple booking features that allow clients to schedule meetings without the need for excess communication. Calendly allows users to send a link to their Calendly, while Acuity allows you to share the actual calendar of events—this is done as a security precaution. From there, clients can choose the date and time for their upcoming meeting. Calendars sync automatically as well, providing clients with the most up-to-date availability. Acuity’s starter plan includes confirmation, reminder, and follow-up emails, while Calendly’s users will need to upgrade to a higher-tiered plan in order to gain access to this feature.
Features and Customization
If you’re looking for a basic appointment scheduling app then look no further than Calendly. Many business owners enjoy its simple design and free plan. For business owners who want a bit more customization and flexibility with their features, Acuity may be more suited for you. Automatic time zone conversion, brand logo display, and group events are extra features Acuity members have access to. And, if you’re a health or wellness-based business, you’ll be granted HIPAA compliance if you sign up for its Powerhouse plan.
Acuity is much more robust in its app integration capabilities, allowing users to connect their accounts to other platforms such as Zoom and Google Meet for video conferencing, as well as Stripe, Paypal, and Square to accept client payments. Calendly integrates video conferencing apps along with Google, Outlook, and iCloud calendars. However, it lacks connection to apps such as Salesforce or Hubspot, and only users who subscribe to its highest tier will gain access to Stripe and PayPal.
In order to get the most bang for your buck, consider the must-have features you want out of your scheduling tool and go through each plan before deciding which to sign up for. Acuity and Calendly have paid pricing plans with the ability to pay on a monthly or annual subscription basis. Of course, the higher-tiered plans will provide you with more advanced features, so it comes down to what it is you need out of a scheduling tool.
Acuity offers users a 7-day free trial for any of their plans before they sign up for a subscription. Unlike Acuity, Calendly only offers a free trial for its Teams Plan—which is a good option for small businesses with multiple team members. This is because Calendly actually offers a completely free plan with the most basic features for appointment scheduling. The free Basic Plan may be a good choice if you’re a solo business owner and only need minimal features to help automate your scheduling.
Are There Other Scheduling Software?
Besides Acuity and Calendly, here are a few other options for appointment scheduling software you may want to consider:
- Simplybook: SimplyBook is an online appointment scheduling tool that automates reminders, allows booking through social media or your website, and offers clients a uniquely personalized client app to book their services. Users can also accept client payments through Stripe or PayPal, QR codes, and other online payments. If you’re just starting out, try their Free Plan, which will give you access to 50 bookings per month, payment processing, and a booking widget for your website or social media.
- Microsoft Bookings: For Microsoft users, Microsoft Booking is the built-in meeting scheduler that comes with the Microsoft 365 package. As this tool is already integrated into your Microsoft dashboard, it syncs with your Outlook calendar to provide clients with your updated availability.
- Doodle: Doodle is an online booking platform that allows you to schedule individual or group meetings through its system. Once you’ve updated your calendar, share your personalized link with clients so they can access your schedule and minimize back-and-forth communication. Choose from their Free Plan (with unlimited group polls and one booking page) to their advanced Pro, Team, or Enterprise plans for more advanced features—like unlimited bookings, Zoom web conferencing, and activity reports.
- Square Appointment: If you’re already familiar with Square and collect payments through its platform, you may want to look into its appointment scheduling software. Square Appointments is a free feature that simplifies the booking process. Clients can book their meetings through the Square app and receive automatic reminders of their upcoming appointment.
Which Tool Should You Choose?
Acuity Scheduling and Calendly both provide users with simple and easy-to-use appointment scheduling functionality—a necessary tool to help run your business smoothly. Deciding which software best suits your business depends on your needs and budget. For those who just need a reliable and easily accessible scheduler, Calendly’s Basic Plan is a great choice. Plus, it’s free. If you run a business with multiple team members, or you’re interested in a bit more customization and marketing features, consider Acuity’s scheduler tool.
Incorporating appointment scheduling software into your business workflow can help reduce time spent manually booking meetings and sending follow-up emails to your clients. It’s a useful tool to include in your overall client management strategy. Practice can help streamline your process and support the growth of your business. Find out more about Practice's client management software with a free 7-day trial.