[This article was updated in Feb. 2021 to include new salon appointment and hairstylist app recommendations. We also added financial app recommendations for self-employed business owners.]
When you’re running a salon, spa, or studio, having access to the best salon software and apps makes all the difference.
Often, it’s a juggling act where you’re trying to sync up your appointment scheduling software over here and your payment processing over there, all while attempting to remember which supplies you need to reorder and—wait, which Thursday did you volunteer to host book club this month?
Whether or not you go in for the whole New Year’s resolution thing, a new year is still the ideal time to get your business and life more organized. That’s why we’ve rounded up the best salon software to carry you into 2021. Some of the apps and tools on our list will help keep your calendars in order (and bonus: cut down on no-shows), while others will help you double-down on marketing efforts. Some will just help keep your mind in order. Mix and match however you like — they’re all great resources for running your business better.
In this article:
- Best Appointment Scheduling Software and Online Booking Apps for 2021
- Best Productivity Apps for Salon Owners, Solo Stylists, and Salon Managers
- Best Marketing Tools for Stylists and Salons
- Best Finance Apps for Hair Stylists
The Best Appointment Scheduling Software for Salons: 2021 Edition
Whether you’re running a 20-person team at your salon or you’re a stylist flying solo, every hair and beauty business can benefit from an online appointment scheduler. Using one makes the process much easier for your clients, but it also saves you time. No more returning phone calls between appointments or setting aside time to call clients to remind them of their upcoming hair cuts. No more awkward double bookings or three-hour gaps between sessions.
If you haven’t taken the plunge yet, 2020 is the ideal time to choose a new online appointment scheduling software, so you’re all ready to start booking better come 2021. Below are our thoughts on some of the most useful ones on the market, including — cough — the one we think is the absolute best.
Any salon business from solopreneurs to multi-location chains. Especially great if you want to run your business all in one place from one account and/or the control to mix-and-match features.
Why we’re best for salons specifically:
Look, we can’t write an article on software for salon businesses without covering our own. We happen to think it’s the very best appointment scheduling for salons and stylists because we started in the trenches with businesses just like yours.
Schedulicity was originally built for salons, barbers, and spas, so we know our stuff. We’ve also prioritized customer support from day one, which means that rather than doubling-down on hiring Sales teams like many of our competitors, we’ve instead made sure there’s a friendly team on-hand to answer our customers’ calls any time they run into trouble. (You’d be surprised how uncommon that is.)
Over the last couple of years, we’ve also expanded beyond appointment scheduling. We offer our own built-in payment processor, Schedulicity Pay (we’ve got Square and Stripe integration, too!) for contactless payment, automated marketing tools, plus a brand new iPad app. And we have big plans to launch even more features in 2021.
All the tools, plus a human touch. That’s us.
- We’re an all-in-one platform, so you can run everything from your marketing to your payment processing from one account
- Our add-on pricing model means that you can pick and choose from the features you need — and skip the ones you don’t
- Payment processing at industry-low rates (Schedulicity Pay starts at 1.99%)
- A direct line to our full-time support team
- As a salon on our platform, you’ll also get the opportunity to apply for #SchedulicityCares grants, which we provide to businesses that could use some extra support
- Scheduling: appointment and class scheduling, workshop booking, customizable personal time off, option to manage multiple staff members’ schedules, and more
- Marketing: Facebook Book button integration, automated email marketing (like birthday discounts), access to our Marketplace where local customers can discover you, our special Fill My Book feature and other customizable incentive and discount programs
- Pay: Built-in payment processing with Schedulicity Pay (includes free reader, daily deposit emails, and access to analytics), which we provide at the lowest rates in the industry, as well as Stripe and Square integration
- Automation: Client text and email reminders, online waivers and waitlists, package management, and more
- Apps: We offer both a handy client and consumer app for iOS and Android
Read all about Schedulicity’s features here.
Free (up to 10 bookings per month). New businesses can sign up for all our tools for free through 2021. We then offer an add-on model, so you can pick and choose whichever advanced features you need starting at $20 per month.
Proponents of minimalism, salons that already use Square for processing payment, and for individuals who want to dip a toe into online booking with a free appointment scheduling software.
- If you’re already on Square, you’ll find that the payment processing is built right in, which certainly keeps things simple
- The free plan is definitely a good “get started” option for new salon business owners, although you’ll pay more for payment processing long-term (see under Cons)
- You’re locked into Square’s pricing for payment processing, which is currently 2.6% + $.10 for individuals on the free plan and 2.5% + $.10 for teams of 2-10. (As we mentioned above, Schedulicity Pay starts at 1.99% + $.10.)
- Allow for multiple employees and calendars
- Set custom hours and block off personal time.
- Built-in payment processing with Square card reader or POS
- Automated text and email reminders
- No-show reduction features (you can charge in advance or charge cancellation fees)
- Google and Instagram integration
See all the Square Appointment features here.
30-day free trial, then $50 – $90 per month for 2 or more employees.
Fitness studios, particularly those who rely on Classpass for all or part of their client base. That said, Mindbody has recently expanded its features to appeal to salons, hairstylists, and spas.
- First off, Mindbody is beautiful. That’s not surprising considering it’s a brand built for yogis and fitness enthusiasts who care a lot about branding. But it’s an added bonus for potential clients who will love the aesthetically-pleasing scheduling app and website search functionality.
- Mindbody also has a partnership with ClassPass, so if you use that for your work (and now many salons and spas do), it’s an option to consider
- Mindbody is definitely built for and targeted at businesses that book classes and workshops, which is to say not salons or stylists. We’re curious to see the sorts of features they roll out in 2021.
- Mindbody is also one of the pricier appointment scheduling platforms on the market. So, while you’ll get some amazing features, it could definitely feel like a stretch for a small business (or solo stylist) on a budget.
- Mindbody is known for its strict contracts. That became particularly apparent at the start of the pandemic, when shuttered businesses weren’t able to pause their monthly payments (at Schedulicity, we waived our fees for all of our businesses for six months).
- Built-in marketing tools
- A native payment processing app (2.75% – 3.5% + $.15 processing fee, depending on whether you’re a qualified business), plus a $15 fee if you process less than $550 a month.
- Option to build your own customizable business app (you can also just list your business on their consumer app)
See all the Mindbody scheduling software features here.
Larger salons, especially those that use Yelp for a large portion of their business and/or salons with multiple employees
- Vagaro was built with scalability in mind. This is software that can handle a team of 20 (or 50) as well as multiple locations
- One of the most unique features that Vagaro offers is payroll management and clock-in / clock-out capabilities, which should appeal to salons out there with many employees
- If you’re a smaller salon or a solo stylist, Vagaro may offer more than you need, which could cause headaches — the more features, the more complicated things get (We recently had a new customer tell us that they switched to Schedulicity because we were more “intuitive” than Vagaro)
- Yelp, Instagram, and Facebook integration.
- One month free trial
- Vagaro also offers its own website builder (similar to the profile pages we offer businesses with our Marketplace feature, but with templates)
- Payroll and clock in / clock out capabilities
- Customer support via text, email, and phone
Sliding scale from $25/month for one person to $85/month for teams of 7 or more
Established salons and other service-based businesses that need more advanced, customizable features (including integration with external marketing and financial tools)
- Acuity is now owned by Squarespace, which recently launched Acuity scheduling integration
- Acuity offers more integrations than most other appointment schedulers, so if you’re someone who loves to use all the tools, this is great news for you. Think PayPal, GoToMeeting, Zapier, Mailchimp, Quickbooks, and more
- No phone support, which is a pretty big deal when you run into trouble and need help right now
- To get access to some of the more in-demand features (text message reminders, the option to sell packages and gift certificates, time zone conversion for clients), you’ll need to upgrade to the higher priced Growing account
- Options for multiple calendars and locations
- Appointment packages and gift certificates
- White-labeling, i.e. the ability to customize your embedded Acuity scheduler with your logo and company colors
- Ability to save client credit cards for later use
- Class and workshop scheduling
- PayPal, Square, and Stripe integration
- Syncing with iCloud, Outlook, Google Calendar and more
See all the Acuity features here.
7 days free, then anywhere from $15 – $50 per month (there is a free option for solo stylists that offers minimal features — e.g. no appointment reminders)
Best Apps and Tools for Salon Owners
Best for: Salon owners, stylists, barbers, and the like who need help managing all the other to-dos beyond client appointments. Todoist is like a paper to-do list taken to the next level. It will keep you on track with your errands, PTA meetings, grocery lists, you name it. We particularly like it for alllll the features it offers, including:
- Easily customizable to-do lists that you can categorize to your heart’s content (think: one for the salon, one for your personal work, one for your private life)
- Recurring projects that you can tweak all you want
- Recap emails to keep you on track
- There’s an integrated app as well as a website account, so you can jump between your phone and laptop
- Option for using with teams
- Templates for complicated projects
- Syncs with different apps including Google calendar and Dropbox
You can check out all the other Todoist features here.
Best for: Salon businesses and stylists that want simplified banking with lower fees for both their business accounts and their personal lives
It’s really hard to figure out which bank to go with especially when you’re starting a salon, hair, or beauty business, but more and more, financial experts recommend online banks to small businesses because their lack of overhead means they can charge less for banking — and often offer higher interest rates on savings accounts.
You’ll want to do some in-depth digging to determine the right bank for you, obviously, but both Azlo and Ally are intriguing options.
Azlo describes itself as “digital business banking for freelancers, entrepreneurs, small businesses, and non-profits,” which of course applies to salons and spas. Meanwhile, Ally is a great online bank to consider for your personal accounts because it’s ahead of the curve with its user-friendly mobile app.
Of course, it can be a hassle to move from one bank to another, but still worth crunching some numbers, especially if you’re often on-the-go and could use every extra $1. Those sneaky fees at national banks add up!
Best for: Salons and appointment-based small businesses that worry about the accruing cost of fees.
This is a bit of a cheat because Schedulicity Pay is built into our scheduling software (see the previous section), but hey, it’s our article. With Schedulicity Pay, we offer the lowest processing fees in the business, there are no hidden costs, and we now provide optional next-day funding. This is an ideal way to save money over time — and to streamline your booking and billing in one platform.
Best for: Busy salon owners who obviously get the whole “self-care is essential” thing but still struggle with making the time.
You work in the business of self-care, which means you know that you can’t do this work successfully without taking care of yourself, too.
If you haven’t tried Headspace or Calm for meditation yet, give one of them a shot. Both apps offer a free trial, and you can choose how much or how little time you dedicate each day. And while the apps started as platforms to encourage daily meditation, they’ve since expanded into sleep as well. As in, techniques for helping you get more of it. And you probably need more of it, right?
Best Tools for Marketing Your Salon Business
Best for: Newsletter lovers and those who love a clever sale email, including people who don’t know much about email marketing.
Look, Mailchimp is beloved for a reason. It’s straightforward, unpretentious, and patient. It’s also virtually fail-free. Use any of Mailchimp’s templates, and you’ll send a beautiful newsletter. Guaranteed. This is ideal if you’re considering sending newsletters to your salon clients on a regular basis in 2021. Mailchimp also offers templates for marketing emails including seasonal sales and so on. (Although, if your business is on Schedulicity, we’ve got similar email options built-in to our automated marketing…)
Best for: Salons and businesses that want more of a presence than a Yelp profile.
Squarespace is easy to use and intuitive (most of us already know this), but in recent months, the website building platform has also launched new features specifically tailored to small business owners including salons (here’s a list of their “Professional Services” templates). There are templates specifically designed for showing off your best work, curating client reviews, and even offering an online shop of your favorite hair products. Recently, Squarespace added Acuity integration for scheduling, too.
Best for: Salons that care about aesthetics — but don’t have the budget for a staff designer.
Think of Canva as an online Adobe Creative Suite — one with very little barrier for entry. Browse through tons of templates for anything from business cards to brochures to Instagram posts (including animated GIFs). Most templates are free, but a Pro account will only set you back about $10 / month.
Best Finance Apps for Salon Owners
We recently spoke with Michelle Lando, CPA a beauty world small business owner turned accountant and got her recommendations on the best financial tools for salons and independent hair stylists. You can read all her tips here, but here are her financial apps:
Best for: Simple, affordable bookkeeping that works for almost all hair and beauty professionals.
Says Michelle, “I just think they’re awesome. I generally recommend the Simple Start version online to my clients.”
Best for: Anyone who makes less than $72,000 per year.
“A lot of people don’t know this, but the IRS has free software out there to file your tax return. If you make less than $72,000 a year (and when I say ‘make,’ I mean your profit, not your sales), then there are free options for you,” says Lando.
Best for: Anyone who struggles with setting aside personal savings.
This recommendation comes from our Head of Content, Kit Warchol, who’s been using Digit for years. “You hook up your bank account to the app, and it pilfers a few dollars here and there when it knows you won’t miss them,” says Kit, “I’ve used it to save up for new furniture, for a vacation, and I’ve even used it to pay off credit card debt — there’s a setting for that.”
And don’t worry, Digit has an overdraft guarantee — it won’t take money when you don’t have any, and it will pay for an overdraft if it somehow does manage to cause one.