This blog post contains affiliate links, which means I may earn a couple bucks if you decide to sign up for premium services.

If you own a small business, chances are you need a way for people to book appointments with you.

There are several ways of doing this, from hosting a solution on your website, to signing up with a service that’s already built.

There are pros and cons of each.

Hosting Your Own

You may be able to build a booking calendar on your WordPress website using a booking plugin.

Pros

  • May cost less (or nothing at all).
    If you’re using a premium plugin, you may get all the bells and whistles you need without paying a monthly fee or annual subscription.
  • People won’t leave your website.
    In my opinion, this is a HUGE pro. In most cases, with the services we look at below, you may only get a personalized scheduling link with a free or basic account. The advantage of creating a calendar on your own website is you get people to stay on your site.

Cons

  • May have limited functionality, especially if you’re using a free plugin.
    You might get the plugin to write to your Google calendar, but you probably won’t be able to sync calendars, so you may have to enter a set availability schedule.
  • Requires some technical knowledge (or patience to follow instructions).
    If you’re not familiar with WordPress or updating your website, it may be challenging for you to set up. (You could always hire an expert like me to set it up and then you can manage it moving forward 😉)

I know that doing it yourself is not for everybody.

I took an in-depth look at the common scheduling platforms and compared them for your convenience. In this Smackdown, I compared the price, number of users, and number of bookings, as well as the features of free and basic premium plans on some popular scheduling platforms.

Scheduling Smackdown

Acuity Scheduling

Price for a basic paid account: $15 dollars a month or 165 a year

# of Users: 1 user

A free account with Acuity Scheduling gets you:

  • Unlimited bookings
  • 1 user
  • Scheduling form (personalized link)
  • Set availability
  • Appointment types and classes
  • Custom intake form questions
  • Custom confirmation email message
  • Limit booking window (no same-day appointments)

A basic paid account with Acuity Scheduling gets you:

  • Form embed
  • Automatic reminder emails
  • Google calendar sync + iCal feed
  • GoToMeeting, Join.me, and Zoom integrations for online meetings
  • MailChimp, AWeber, Constant Contact, ConvertKit, and MadMimi integration for bulk emailing
  • Integrate with 500+ other apps through Zapier
  • Accept payments and deposits through PayPal, Square, or Stripe
  • Save credit cards for charging clients later
  • Tipping
  • Coupons and vouchers

Pros
Payments offered through basic paid plan, which is a level up feature for many of their competitors.

Cons
Their paid plan kind of expensive in comparison to their competitors.

Affiliate link: http://bit.ly/nthacuity

Calendly

Price for a basic paid account: $8 a month per user or $120 per user per year

# of Users: 1 user

A free account with Calendly gets you:

  • Unlimited bookings
  • 1 service
  • 1 calendar integration
  • Scheduling form (personalized link)
  • Custom intake form questions
  • Limit booking window (no same-day appointments)

A basic paid account with Calendly gets you:

  • Multiple Services
  • Remove branding
  • Customizable email notifications and reminders
  • Group events (for tours, webinars, classes, etc.)
  • Add links to event confirmation pages
  • Zoom integration

Pros
Calendly’s platform is very intuitive and user friendly.

Cons
Calendly’s basic paid plan doesn’t include payment processing, an offering of many of their competitors.

SimplyBook.Me

Price for a basic paid account: $9.99 a month or $99 a year

# of Users: Unlimited

A free account with SimplyBook.Me gets you:

  • 50 bookings
  • 1 custom feature
  • Scheduling form (personalized link)
  • Scheduling form embed
  • Limited customization of automated messages
  • Reoccurring services
  • Automatic reminders

A basic paid account with SimplyBook.Me gets you:

  • 3 Custom Features
  • 100 bookings
  • Syncing service providers’ accounts to Google calendar
  • Custom intake form questions
  • Accept payments
  • Group bookings
  • Service Categories
  • Managing bookings for multiple locations

Pros:
lot of functionality with free plan

Cons:

  • Dashboard is kinda clunky
  • Only get 3 custom features with basic upgrade (ideal combination: classes, payments, and calendar sync)

Affiliate link: http://bit.ly/nthsbme

Picktime

One reason I love Picktime is it’s COMPLETELY FREE.

# of Users: Unlimited

A free account with Picktime gets you:

  • Unlimited bookings
  • Service Categories
  • Scheduling form (personalized link)
  • Set availability
  • Appointment types and classes
  • Reoccurring appointments
  • Multiple team members
  • One-way integration with google calendar per team member

Pros:

  • FREE
  • You can have more than one business within an account
  • Works well if you have a set schedule for coaching hours
  • Will work well for you if you use DIY CRM (That is, you handcraft confirmations and reminders and send invoices manually instead of relying on automated lead magnets and sales funnels).

Cons:

  • No rescheduling option – they have to contact you and you have to go in and change the appointment.
  • 1-way sync means things don’t get added TO your calendar and it doesn’t check for conflicts– you have to add all new bookings yourself and set up the connection info.
  • No way to prevent same-day bookings
  • No reminders – you’ll have to set up your own.
  • No SMS (yet)

HubSpot

Meetings is a feature within HubSpots’s larger Free CRM platform.

Price for a basic paid account: $50 a month or $480 a year (Remember, you’re getting way more than just meeting scheduling)

# of Users: 1

A free account with HubSpot gets you:

  • Unlimited Meetings
  • Scheduling form
  • 2-way Google Calendar integration with 2 CALENDARS
  • 1 service (different lengths available)
  • Automatic Reminders
  • Automatic Confirmation email
  • Zoom integration

A basic paid account with HubSpot gets you:

  • Remove all HubSpot branding from your booking page
  • Create team meeting links
  • Embed your booking link
  • Custom form fields

Pros:
Comes with part of a larger package of tools for marketing

Cons:
Can’t customize link without paid plan
Can’t customize emails
Only allowed one service/meeting

Affiliate link: http://hubs.to/zSQwG
(Sign up for HubSpot CRM Free)

Install a Booking Plugin on your WordPress Site

This booking calendar was built with a WordPress plugin. It allows people to pay for their bookings. Customers and service providers receive customized email confirmations.

Booking plugins can be installed and configured at very low or no cost. If you’re on a shoe-string budget, this may be the option for you.

Contact nth degree if you’d like to explore a booking solution for your own WordPress site.

View the full smack down here

The winner?

I have been using Picktime for a long time. I recommend it for anyone who is looking for a way to let their clients book appointments, as long as you have a fairly set schedule.

A contender for me was the Meetings feature in HubSpot because I needed 2 calendars integrated – my own personal calendar and my business calendar. Also, it is part of a larger CRM system that I can use to mange my leads and interactions.

One day, when I am not busy doing work for clients, I will set up my own hosted booking solution right here at nthdegreedesigns.info. After all, that’s my preferred way to go 😉)

Do you have a favorite scheduling platform? Drop it in the comments! I’d love to hear your experience.