You have your day set—you’re all booked up and ready to go. But then: Boom. You get an alert that someone canceled. Ugh.

A no-show throws off your entire day—and your mood. You now have a gap in the day, and instead of focusing on your next client, you’re thinking about how you can fill the spot. You’re probably pretty frustrated.

It doesn’t have to be this way. There are systems you can put in place to help limit this from happening. Because without them, you’re losing money.

I know, I know. You want to be nice and don’t want to rock the boat with your clients. But you have to protect yourself and your business. 

Let me ask you this: How many clients have canceled last-minute or not even show up in the last month? Have you tracked this? I know massage therapists, hairstylists, barbers, and estheticians that are losing $400-$800 a week just on no shows alone. That’s an incredible hit to a small business. 

And if you’re losing $400 a week on no shows, that’s $19,200 a year.

Imagine what you can do with that money. You can invest it back into your business. You can take more classes. You can put money aside for vacation. You can upgrade your business furniture. You can pay off debt. Every single dollar counts in this business.  

Now is the time to really start to implement some systems that will help you reduce no-shows. Here’s how I cut down on cancelations using my scheduling software app, Schedulicity.

1. Define—and announce—your cancelation policy.

What is your cancelation policy? 24 hours? 48 hours? Decide which is best for you, and then be sure to announce it to your clients! 

This can be done through email campaigns, picture frames with the announcement on the desk, and on social media. And be sure to have this on your website. You can add this information on your Schedulicity online booking system so your clients understand exactly what they are getting into when they schedule with you. All you have to do is go into the appointment policies and set your time frame on your cancelation policy. I recommend having at least a 48-hour policy. This way if someone cancels, you have time to reach out to your waitlist or post on social media to fill it.

2. Set up protections with new clients.

If you are feeling a little uneasy with allowing new clients to book online, you can also set up your policy under general policies in Schedulicity and check off the box that states they must see you first one time before they are able to book online. You can also set up “consultation appointments” as a service listing for first-timers. 

This is brilliant because no-shows and cancellations typically come from new clients, not existing clients. Protect yourself. Set up the systems that work best for you.

3. Take deposits.

Do you have a deposit policy in place? 

You have to decide if this works for your business. If it does, decide what the deposit will be. Half of the service? A flat fee? Is it only applied to large-ticket services? These are some of the questions to ask yourself. 

This is largely personal and based on your business model, but here are my general recommendations: 

  • Hair Stylists: I would take a flat fee deposit on tickets that are over $100. You can set this up in general policies as well. Just check the box that states the client must enter their credit card number to book the appointment. If you have been burned with new clients, take a deposit for every new client. 
  • Barbers: If you are a barber, and no-shows are an issue, I Recommend taking a deposit for all new appointments. 
  • Massage therapists: I recommend taking deposits for all appointments as well. I know some massage therapists that have the client pay in full. I have had to do that many times in booking with spas etc. This is the way of the world right now. 

And again, once you’ve set a deposit policy, be sure to communicate this with your clients!

4. Send text and email reminders out at least 48 hours before their appointment.

This is a big one. I started to do this when I owned my salon, and it was a total game-changer. 

People get busy. They forget. Life happens. This is one way for them to simply be reminded with enough time for you to fill your book if they have to cancel or reschedule. Hop back into general policies and set up your email and text reminders for at least 48 hours. Some like to do 72 hours. 

This is your livelihood. You can’t afford to have a no-show and lose money every week. Are there some exceptions to the rules? Yes! Emergencies happen and for sure you have to be understood. But if this is a constant thing you are struggling with, I highly recommend sitting down and coming up with a plan of action to start to limit the risk of no-shows and cancelations. You will feel so much better about your business having structure and systems, and your business will run so much smoother.

About the Author: Nina Tulio is a former salon owner and stylist that has been in the industry for 23 years. She now owns a consulting business and travels the country educating salon owners and stylists on how to grow a successful, sustainable business.