What is the Real Cost of Using Free Software in the Salon?

by laurahusband / last updated November 20, 2019

free software

There is a real cost of using free software because as the saying goes when it comes to getting things for free – if you aren’t paying for the product, you are the product.

Free software can be great for personal use. When it comes to running a salon business however, you need the best solution and this doesn’t come for free. Owning your own salon business often means that cash is tight and you’re looking for ways to save money wherever you can. This could lead to you using free appointment booking software that may not be the best option for your business.

As salon coach Larissa Macleman explains: “Not all software is created equal. Just because it says salon software, that doesn’t mean it’s what you need or want for your business. Do your due diligence.”

Here is Timely’s guide to the real cost of using free software in the salon:

1. Free software isn’t really free

It’s important for salon business owners to understand that although you may be saving money by using a free appointment booking software, odds are that if you aren’t paying for the product, you are the product. Think about any apps you download for personal use – the free version is often enough for what you want to do day to day, but access to all of the useful advanced features requires a one-off payment or subscription fee.

All businesses need to make money somehow – if your free appointment booking software isn’t charging you to use it, they are staying profitable at the expense of your business.

The most obvious revenue stream for free software is advertising. You’ll be bombarded with lots of ads and we don’t have to tell you how irritating ads can be as you try to navigate the software on a daily basis.

If your free booking software isn’t bombarding you with ads, it’s an even bigger red flag. Companies have to make money to stay afloat so if they aren’t charging you a subscription fee, they could be taking a bite out of your hard-earning bookings or they could be profiting from the data you’re putting into the software (possibly both). This means you are risking your client data being sold or worse you don’t own your client data at all. The marketplace model trades off driving your clients to book and become a customer of the marketplace. This means the marketplace is taking ownership of your client. At this point they’re open to being targeted with offers by other businesses, which could be your competitors.

The other downside of the marketplace is that not only are you in competition with thousands of other businesses, but the new clients you attract via the marketplace are generally less likely to be loyal to your business and are more likely to be bargain hunters searching for the next great deal.

In other words, if you aren’t paying for the software you use, someone out there is paying for the data you’re uploading.

As Pearl Blonde salon owner Tyson Mendes says: “When you’re getting something for free, it’s often too good to be true. When you look at the nitty-gritty, it’s just that – too good to be true. I can’t trust something that doesn’t tell me where my client data is going. I’ve worked hard to build up my client base so free software is not worth the risk.”

2. Powerful features don’t necessarily come for free

We’re in an age where people want their technology to handle any situation that life throws at them. The same goes for your salon business software. With free software you will often get one or two basic features for free, but you’ll hit a paywall for the features you actually want or need to run your business efficiently and to deliver an exceptional client experience and grow your revenue. Depending on how this paywall is structured, it could end up costing you more than paid software. For example, if your software provider charges you for every transaction made via online booking, it can work out costly.

As Russell’s Barbers Kyri points out: “I don’t want to pay a percentage for every customer that I worked hard for. Systems are there to support you, but they’re not the ones doing the hard work.”

3. Don’t sacrifice control over your brand

With free software platforms and software marketplaces in particular you’ll often lose control over your brand messaging. For example, clients that book appointments via a marketplace platform will become customers of that platform, rather than your salon business.

If you send reminder messages or booking confirmations those messages will often come from the marketplace provider and not from your business, which can be confusing for your clients. Any software you pay for would never insert their brand name between you and your clients. They are there to help you grow and not to grow their own brand awareness. If you’re getting in touch with your clients via SMS or email it should be from your business and you control that relationship.

The Beauty Loft salon owner Jenny-Louise says: “My clients are getting  reminder texts ‘from’ my software provider rather than my business and ignoring them as they are assuming they are spam.”

4. World-class support is worth paying for

Customer support should be an integral part of providing a software service. Imagine your business in the middle of a rush of customers when the software you rely on as a point of sale system suddenly freezes and you’re left with no way to check out your customers. You try and find a way to contact the software developer but alas, t hey have no support centre.

If you’re using free salon software chances are customer support isn’t high on their priority list. They could even charge you extra for it and it could be days before they read the email you end up sending them.

You need to ensure that whatever software you’re using for your business has a customer support team that are ready and waiting to help you out. Instant support such as live chat is a lot better than a flooded email inbox.

George & Ivy’s Paul & Catriona explain: “When we were looking to move from Shedul, we found the team very approachable, they made it easy to transfer all of our appointments over from the previous system. Timely is a company that has a human face that provides a seamless system to show all the business financials.”

5. Free software? Remember nothing comes for free

Many software platforms that claim to be free actually end up having hidden costs associated with administration and support.

‘Free’ software often markets itself as such but once signed up, you’ll soon find out it’s going to cost you big bucks to get the most out of it.

There’s no need to be locked into a long-term contract as you can easily find software providers with fair monthly rates where you pay as you go. Some even offer free trials, which are a great way to test if the solution is right for your salon.

As nice as free booking software sounds, you’re going to end up paying in the end so read the terms and conditions before diving in and choose a provider you believe you can  trust and rely on.

This is a sponsored post by Timely. 


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