Scheduling meetings and appointments is an important part of any coach or consultant’s business, but it can sneakily become one of the most time-consuming tasks. Setting up one meeting is easy. Juggling many, with cancelations and conflicts and change requests, can add up; awarenow research suggests that the average coach spends a cumulative 50 hours per year on scheduling issues.
Because of this, many professionals turn to online scheduling tools, as Israel Gaudette, Founder of Link Tracker Pro, explains:
Time is gold. When it’s lost, it can never be returned back again, so effective scheduling is a must. Choosing which scheduler to use is a tough decision to make. Some offer a lot of useful features to make your life easier, but it all depends on your business’ and individual preferences.
Calendly might be the best-known scheduling tool and has a lot going for it but also significant limitations. We surveyed over 50 professionals from various industries to identify which schedulers they use and why they fit their unique needs to put this guide together. In addition to Calendly, respondents identified Acuity, HubSpot, Sprintful, YouCanBook.me, as well as all-in-one platforms like awarenow, as top options for their scheduling needs.
Whether you’re looking for alternatives to Calendly or seeking to upgrade, we have broken it down by cost and needs to help you find the perfect scheduler for your business.
Calendly: The Best You Can Get for Free (to an Extent)
If it’s a simple, free and efficient scheduler you’re after, Calendly “offers a lot compared to others,” according to Jeremy Harrison, Founder of Hustle Life. Hedy Zhou of Happy Hedy explains further:
Calendly does what it's supposed to do really well, from an easy interface for scheduling and managing the backend, to integrating calendars and sending email notifications. For a web/graphic designer like me that needs to schedule 1:1 meetings, Calendly's free plan alone is able to satisfy all my scheduling needs.
In addition to its robust features, Calendly’s free plan addresses issues that have become more common among global teleworkers. For example, Anjela Mangrum, President of Mangrum Career Solutions likes Calendly’s time zone detection feature “because it prevents scheduling conflicts and double-booking,” and Macbook user Annie Paripally, Founder of Spectacular Girl, found Calendly to be “the scheduling app that integrates best with Apple’s Calendar.”
Although Calendly’s Free Plan offers a simple tool for unlimited appointments and “checks all the boxes” for professionals like Chris Erhardt, CEO and Co-Founder of Tunedly, many also find it worthwhile to upgrade. Calendly’s upgraded plans (Premium or Pro) offer more event types, email and SMS notifications, removal of Calendly logo, adaptability to small teams, metrics and reporting, as well as limited integration with other common tools.
Daniel Carter, Founder of Zippy Electrics, is not alone when he concludes that “the best features on Calendly are only offered in the Pro Plan.”
However, Calendly is not without its limitations. Even the Pro plan lacks many features desired by professionals and organizations, such as customization to match their brands, a payment system, and a built-in customer management system (CRM). Another disadvantage of Calendly is that “it doesn't have a desktop application, and can get comparably very expensive for medium to large teams,” according to Chris Michael, Founder of Archisoup.
Should Calendly not be your cup of tea and you’re curious what else is out there for free, our survey also recommended HubSpot Basic Plan, PickTime, and MeetFox. For freelancer Geninna Ariton of Trendhim, the classic Google Calendar still gets the job done:
I have witnessed other people/companies use Calendly and I must admit that it serves a good purpose. However, I prefer Google Calendar. I have 4 work emails plus my personal email. I have access to all my scheduled meetings via Google meets all projected in one calendar, from 5 different emails. It cannot get easier than this.
Bottom-line: For something free and basic that your clients are probably used to using, Calendly remains a popular option. However, schedulers and integrated platforms can do so much more than even Calendly’s Pro platform and many users find that they quickly ‘graduate’ from Calendly.
Alternatives to Calendly, Part I: Standalone Calendars
There are a seemingly infinite number of alternative scheduling tools to Calendly on the market. In this section, we’ll review the standalone tools. In the following section, we’ll look at the increasingly popular integrated and all-in-one platform category. Note that most of the tools in both sections have free or trial versions as well as one or more paid or premium plans
The standalone tools are categorized by their primary area of strength relative to Calendly’s options.
Sleeker Interface Designs & Customization Options
For some, form matters as much as function. Valentine Okoronkwo of Passive Secrets prefers using Acuity because it has “a more modern, simple, beautiful interface.” Chris Erhardt prefers “the simplicity and user friendliness of calendar.com by a mile” to Calendly, prompting him to switch.
A big drawback to Calendly in this area is that customization options are limited to the removal of the Calendly logo, even with their Pro plan. Among the reasons Daniel Carter switched from using Calendly Premium to Vocus.io was to have “custom branding, custom domain, and custom form fields” for his scheduler - and it turns out that he paid less for it. For Sharon Van Donkelaar, CMO of Expandi, being able to customize the scheduler matters because it is a part of their brand experience:
Sprintful has lots of great features, which aside from the scheduling capabilities, can really make your schedules your own. Sprintful is on par with most of the scheduling apps on the market. It syncs with Google Calendar and Outlook, and has integration with Google Meet, Zoom, and Zapier. Sprintful also offers custom branding and domains for companies to use, making it a truly customized experience for companies and their clients.
More Ways to Get Paid
Some value having a payment feature with their scheduler. For “a similar price to Calendly, Acuity can accept a wider range of payments and is easy to use,” shares Laurence Jones of KidsNaturally Photography, who uses his scheduler to take client calls for business.
Additionally, Acuity offers “the ability to charge for appointments and memberships, use coupons and gift cards, and complex appointment management,” according to Francesca Nicasio, Content Marketer at Payment Depot.
For those looking for schedulers that charge for meetings, entrepreneur Brooks Conkle recommends MeetFox: “I prefer meetings where I get paid. I love MeetFox because it allows your client to pay, schedule, and also hosts the call, all from its app.”
Work with AI
For those interested in investing in a scheduler that not only automates the process but learns from it, AI-powered scheduling software is becoming popular and relevant. Todd Ramlin, Manager of Cable Compare prefers using Zoom.ai’s “machine learning models to understand the user’s work habits, meeting patterns, and contact relationships, to make scheduling that much easier.”
Similarly, “Calendar.com, powered by AI, also offers a virtual assistant that learns your schedule and can eventually take over meeting scheduling and appointment changes and provide an experience tailored to you,” suggests Hosea Chang, COO Hayden Girls.
The Most Popular Choice: Acuity
If you are already paying for Calendly Pro and searching for a standalone calendar alternative, the most popular recommendation is Acuity. In addition to more payment options, sleeker designs, and other features not found with Calendly, Acuity satisfies a range of users based on our survey. Francesca Nicasio sums up why Acuity is her go-to scheduler:
I think Acuity Scheduling is a superior scheduling solution to Calendly. It’s super-easy to use, has a great interface, and offers advanced capabilities. You can set up available hours that change by day or week, and send email reminders to help prevent no-shows. On top of all that, you can embed your custom link into your social media profiles, as well as your website. With all these features that you can’t get with Calendly it’s almost a no-brainer on which product to use.
Alternatives to Calendly, Part II: Platforms
While many standalone calendars purport to offer integrations with other tools to handle invoicing and payments; video or voice-conferencing; and messaging, these integrations are not always reliable, customizable, or easy.
As such, many solo professional service providers as well as larger organizations are switching to all-in-one platforms where the various component pieces are designed from the start to work together. Dealing with integrations that don’t work exactly as desired can be extremely frustrating, as often both tools will blame the other, and hiring a specialist to create workarounds or resolve issues can be expensive and time-consuming.
As an analogy, anyone can build a computer from parts. A hard drive from this manufacturer, memory from this provider, and so on. Most people prefer the alternative of buying a computer where the parts are designed to work together, integration comes included, and there is a single point of contact if anything goes wrong.
For example, your business may need a scheduler that works as part of a customer management system. If you want to schedule appointments and meetings to generate leads, Hubspot is the most popular option, particularly for small businesses according to Ryder Meehan of Upgrow:
We originally used Calendly and found it to be a great tool. Once we rolled out Hubspot as our marketing automation platform, we decided to switch to the Hubspot booking tool instead since it was integrated with everything else.”
(That said, “for smaller companies that have no need for all of that, Hubspot’s basic plan is free and you still get all of the appointment booking functionality,” suggests Rob Delory, Owner of QuickSilver Agency.)
Often, teams that use schedulers as part of a larger marketing system, also value time and project management features offered by tools like TimeTap and Bitrix25. In addition to “the usual booking and scheduling features, TimeTap also monitors incoming work from my team and adds it to the mix, making it a really good management tool which is also reasonably priced,” shares Milosz Krasinski, Managing Director at web consulting company chillifruit.com.
As a platform created with coaches and other service providers in mind, awarenow swiftly brings a cutting edge tech stack to powerful scheduling options for individual sessions, group sessions, programs, and hybrid complex programs that mix pre-recorded content with live sessions. The company public roadmap announces Multiple Google Calendar sync and Outlook & iCal Calendar integrations in Q1/2021 with more flexibility on buffer time and working hours coming too.
For taking informed decision we recommend you have a look at the comprehensive features comparison that is available bellow between awarenow vs Calendly:
There are more options than ever before when choosing a scheduler. The default option in the marketplace remains Calendly: it’s easy to use, most people are familiar with it, and it serves its basic functions well. That’s why many, like Johan Hajji, CEO of Upperkey, endorse Calendly: it’s simply “good enough.”
When it’s time to graduate from Calendly (even its Premium or Pro options), you have a choice between a more feature-rich calendar, like Acuity, or an integrated all-in-one platform like awarenow or Hubspot. The latter has a built-in CRM system while the former is focused on the needs of coaches, consultants, and professional service providers and so includes tools for e-courses, coaching resources, HIPAA-compliant video conferencing, secure messaging, and the link.
At the end of the day, the pursuit for the best scheduler boils down to finding one that “uses as few apps as possible,” recommends Domantas Gudeliauskas, Marketing Manager of Zyro. After all, not only will such a scheduler be good for business, but also sustainable in the long-run, as Jeff Walker, CEO of Best VPN Canada points out: “managing your time wisely is a must in order to have an easier life.”