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My Client just cancelled….now what?

I have just received a text from my client saying they can’t make their appointment.

Great – I have two hours to try and fill the space or else I’m missing out on an hours pay and left looking at an empty massage couch!


The problem is what should I do? Should I charge? Lots of us have a cancellation policy stating that we need 24 hours notice to avoid a charge but I sure I’m not the only softie that doesn’t keep to that.

This client has not cancelled on me before so I am giving her the benefit of the doubt that it’s a one off and hope that it doesn’t happen again. It got me thinking though – how should we deal with this?

Sometimes there are genuine reasons – sickness or tragedy has happened but also sometimes it can be the simple fact that massage is not seen as a priority so clients feel they can cancel last minute if they have more ‘important things’ to do, they don’t realise how it affects the therapist.

Fair enough if I was in a clinic or spa and hourly paid this wouldn’t be an issue – I would just have an hour to myself to have a brew, browse social media and chill but being self employed this is a different matter.

Speaking to another therapist about this and between us we realised that it is close friends or family that seem to be the worst offenders – this may be that they think that we will “understand” the reason for cancelling – one reason being they had to work late – does this make their job more important than ours? Sometimes they think it’s OK to cancel as we are doing it for free or discounted so we are doing them a favour therefore we would be happy not to have to or that we would only miss out on a small fee. What they don’t realise is they took the space of a full paying client, so yes we wouldn’t have made a profit or not much from them but they were also taking up our time which is worth more than they realise. Possibly our fault for not charging them full price.

I’ve heard clients cancelling last minute and reasons make you wonder if they knew before now and just hadn’t bothered to let you know, for example – sick child or plans changing – did it just happen a few hours before the appointment (or less) or have you just remembered to cancel?

The therapist I was speaking to is in high demand and is fully booked for three weeks, only yesterday she has had to disappoint a client who was in pain, they wanted an appointment that day but she couldn’t fit them in. Later she  had a client cancel last minute, annoyingly it was too late notice to try and contact the person in pain, plus they had probably found someone else by then anyway.

Not only was she left an hour unpaid but she had also lost a potential new client.

This leads me to think I need to be stronger about my cancellation policy. BUT – on the flip side, if I tell them they need to pay for cancelling as it was short notice, they may not rebook. If  I never see them again have I lost a possible good client that had a one off cancellation or is it a lucky escape from someone who would consistently mess me about?

Need to find a balance of being a nice and understanding therapist (lets face it things happen) and making a living.

Food for thought I think. Also, there are times when us as therapists may have to cancel last minute due to a sickness or family crisis. How should this be treated? Should we offer a refund, or discount? – I certainly wouldn’t as its would be out of my control and there would have to be no other option before I cancelled. So how is it different for our clients? Where is the line drawn? How can we decide who to charge or not?

I think for me I will see how things go and in the future if I have someone cancel on a number of occasions I might look into it again or refuse to let them book without payment in advance?

One therapist gets their clients to pay for the first treatment and then takes half payment for next appointment. From then on every appointment they have they pay the other half of payment for that session and then half of the next session – that way if they cancel last minute or don’t turn up she already has half the payment. Sounds like a great idea if you can get clients on board with it. I know for me some of my clients don’t rebook at the last appointment and prefer to wait till they are in need again before booking – but that’s another topic for a blog!

So what is the ideal solution? I did make use of the hour and caught up on paperwork and promoting myself so it wasn’t a complete waste of time. I would love to hear your experiences. Do any of you have the perfect solution to this?

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