Wednesday, 25 April 2018

Changes: Appointments Maximum 2 Months Ahead; No New Clients For Now.

For a long time I have been available for appointments 2-3 months ahead. All of eg July would become available on the 1st May, at which point a full 3 months was available to book, then this would reduce as I wouldn't take bookings for August until 1st June. I mostly was fully booked for 5-7 weeks. However I have been getting fully booked increasingly far ahead - and now I am fully booked for 9 weeks. I only have 2 appointments available, the last week of June. This lack of space and flexibility in my diary for 2 months ahead has been causing issues for myself and my clients.

The New System

New system - from Wednesday 2nd May (I am off work on Tuesday 1st May) I am only going to book up to 2 calendar months ahead, on a rolling basis. July will become available one day at a time, so I am always only bookable 2 calendar months ahead. Ie, on 2nd May, 2nd July will be available. On the 3rd May, the 3rd July will be bookable, and so on.

While this settles in I am closing my diary to new clients, to prioritise my longstanding and regular clients - see below for details and and an explanation for why I am making these changes.

The Rationale - Why the Change? 

For Myself

I feel one of the advantages of being self-employed is that you are able to have flexibility with your working hours. You may work really long days sometimes, but then be able to take a day or an evening off. However, increasingly, both for work and non work related events, I find out about things I would really like to do with much less than the 2 to 3 months notice I would need to adapt my schedule. Ie I have already booked appointments in. I am not prepared to mess people about by asking if we can try to reschedule. So I miss out on things and get a bit frustrated.  

For Clients

Some clients do like to book as far ahead as possible. But most of my clients liked how things used to work before I got so busy - being able to book the next appointment at each appointment. They have adapted to booking 2 or 3 or even 4 ahead because otherwise they risk not being able to get in when they want to get in. Some find it very difficult that I have so little flexibility now - ie nothing available for a long time. For example, some work varying shifts, and don't know their availability that far ahead. Others would prefer to be able to arrange an appointment when they get a pain flare up. 

I have been suggesting to people with the old system - contact me at the beginning of the month, when the full month after next became available. Ie, to people now, I would normally be saying, get back to me on the 1st of May, and all of July will be available to book. But, very few people ever do that - its just one more thing to remember to do in busy lives I think! 

So what happens is - those who see me at the beginning of the month tend to find it easier to book in. But when people see me nearer the end of the month, they find I have very limited appointments available and sometimes nothing to suit them. 

I do have a text list for appointments that come up at short notice (ie if I get a cancellation). However there are now 77 people on that list (!) and spaces usually get taken within less than a minute of my text, by people who are very quick to see their texts and reply, leaving others disappointed. 

No New Clients for Now

While I transition into this new system and see if it works ok ..

I will not be taking any new clients.
I will not be adding anyone on to my text list for short notice appointments.
I will not be selling any gift vouchers. 

This is to prioritise my longstanding and regular clients.

Exceptions to the no new clients rule:
 - people who are already on my text list for short notice appointments, even though they haven't been to see me yet
- people who have already received a gift voucher
- new clients who I have already booked in to April, May or June.

I will review both the new system and whether or not to open again to new clients at the end of May.

Thanks to all the clients I have talked this through with so far over the last week or so. 
Its been really helpful, and reassuring that everyone has been supportive.

Answers to Client Questions:

I emailed out about this today and got some helpful questions back. So here are some clarifications:

I am hoping that once things settle down, most people that come regularly and once a month or more, and who wish to do it that way, will be able to book appointments when they see me.

For those who are concerned about getting an appointment in, and will be contacting me to book:

  • I always note as best as I can the order in which people contacted me, and reply accordingly. Yes, it is first come, first served.
  • Please do not email me at 1 minute past midnight to be first in the queue for a particular days appointments! I don't want people sending me work messages at midnight, and I don't want anyone feeling like they have to stay up in order to do so! So, from 7.30am please. Though, to avoid having over a 12 hour day (Mondays and Thursdays I often don't leave work till 9pm) I am unlikely to reply until 9am.
  • Enquiries sent on Sunday, on a Saturday when I am not working, or later in the day on a Saturday when I am working but do not have time to reply, will be dealt with first thing on Monday - ie around 9am.
  • Text is always the best way to get me, emails don't always come through to my phone immediately. 

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