Is having too many clients too much of a good thing, or is it a good problem to have? Having a large book of clients can quickly become overwhelming, and if you don’t get yourself organized and manage your working hours efficiently, can even negatively impact both your farrier business and your personal life.
I see that complaint online quite often in farriers groups on Facebook. Someone ends up with a large number of clients, either because of their good reputation, or being handed down a big barn by someone else. Then, suddenly, they can’t get a handle on their scheduling, billing, and start spending long hours working themselves ragged. Having a lot of work is good, but there’s a point when it also becomes a problem.
So, how can you get your clientele under control, so you can get your life back? Based on my own experience as a farrier, I have three suggestions.
1. Take control of your schedule
As a farrier, you are responsible for providing regular hoofcare for every horse in your book. You are the one who does the work and knows what the horse’s needs are, and so you are the one best capable of deciding an appropriate shoeing schedule. Nothing will derail your planning like letting the client decide when they want to call you to get their horse shod, because then it’s your clients who are planning your schedule for you.
So my first suggestion is: never leave a barn without scheduling their next appointments first. This way you can plan your workload so you’re not overwhelmed, and also plan your travels efficiently (see the next suggestion). Having an appointment date for the next shoeing is good for everybody: you won’t risk forgetting to schedule the horses and the client knows when you’re coming back so they can plan for that too.
2. Travel efficiently
Driving around between stops can take up a huge amount of time in your day, and adds costs like fuel and wear and tear on your vehicle. So you should try to drive as little as possible and hit as many stops as you can.
You should plan your daily routes so you drive as little as possible. One way to do it is to separate your clients by area and try to schedule all your stops for the day in one area. That keeps the travel between stops short, giving you more time to work on horses or just get home early. Who doesn’t like that?
3. Keep good track of your invoices and payments
Having good recordkeeping is very important to make sure your farrier business is healthy. Poor tracking of invoices and/or payments can hurt you financially. If you have a lot of clients and can’t figure out who owes you and how much, you can find yourself in a situation where the balance of some accounts is too high for the clients to ever catch up… and so they fire you and move to someone else instead.
Keep good records of the invoices you write, of all the payments you receive and of all your client’s account balances. This is essential for the financial health of your farrier business.
Ok, but how do I go about doing that?
Different people do things differently, so there are many ways you can follow my suggestions. I’ve seen people use a few different approaches.
a) Just paper
For example, using a planner for the scheduling and invoices with carbon copies.
Pros: simple to use and cost little to nothing (although your accountant may charge extra to deal with all the invoices and receipts when it’s tax time).
Cons: nowadays, it’s really not a great way to keep records. It requires a lot of effort to keep your information organized and to collate it so it’s in a useful form. Keeping detailed records about anything else other than writing invoices requires a lot of extra time and physical notebooks or ledgers (for example, try keeping all your horse’s service histories and notes on paper). It’s also very insecure: if you lose your planner, for example, all your scheduling and any notes on it are gone forever.
b) Online/phone calendars and invoicing apps
For example, using a combination of Google calendar and a generic invoicing app.
Pros: can be free or very cheap. You can probably access it right on your phone. Some invoicing apps may accept online payments. Your information may be stored somewhere other than your device so you can recover everything if you lose it.
Cons: all your information is spread out across two or more apps that don’t communicate between each other, and don’t necessarily keep all the information you may want or need. For example, Google calendar doesn’t give you a way to keep detailed schedule information like the list of horses due, you have to keep typing or copying it in as a note. You could use recurrent appointments, but they are inflexible to handle last-minute changes or horses with different shoeing schedules. A client asks you when a certain horse, out of the 30 head they have, is due? Good luck finding that, especially if you forgot to add the horses name in an appointment. A generic invoicing app won’t let you easily list all the work you did for each horse, so it’s easy to look it up later, or tell you what was the last service you did on a horse so you’ll remember what you need to plan for this time. You can use them, but they’re simply not made to handle the specific needs of a farrier.
c) Farrier apps
As you can imagine, I am partial to using farrier apps myself, have used them since I started shoeing almost 2 decades ago, first on a laptop and later on my phones. There are a few of them out there, for laptops and phones.
Pros: they’re created to be used by farriers, so they tend to keep track of information that is useful to us in just one place. They’re all different in how well they do their job, but for example, you can usually list the work you do by horse when you’re writing an invoice, and they will let you schedule work by client or barn. Some of them keep the information on the cloud so it’s safe in case your device is lost or breaks. Some let you print some reports that will let you figure out the health of your farrier business. If you use a phone app, you have ready access to your schedule and other business info at any time and wherever you are, if you want.
Cons: it can take a little learning (or a lot, depending on the app) if you’re not comfortable using computers or phones, and some people don’t trust having their information somewhere else out of their control where it can become inaccessible, especially if the app is online-only. Also, they tend to be pricier than the other solutions above.
So, can we talk about the Best Farrier app?
I mentioned I have used farrier apps since I started my career as a farrier, but I was never completely happy with the ones I used or tried. I have a computer programming background (you can read a bit about it in the About page), so I knew they could do better. And after many years of paying someone else to use their apps, I decided to create mine and fix those issues.
The Best Farrier app was created to follow the same steps you already do during your regular workday. You write your new client info in your contacts, and add their horses too. You go to the schedule screen and write down an appointment for them. After you do your work, you write an invoice in pretty much the same way you would on paper: their name at the top, the date, then list each horse and what you did below that. Then you schedule their next appointment. And so on.
In addition, it will help implement all the suggestions I gave you above. You can schedule your next appointments in seconds, either manually or using the invoice you just created (coming soon, you will be able to separate your clients by regions so you can see it right on the schedule screen if they’re near each other and reorganize your planning accordingly).
You have full tracking of any money you are owed, and where every penny you received went: each invoice lists all payments applied to them (including any account credit used), each payment lists each invoice they were applied to. And you also have a number of reports that show you who owes you money and how overdue they are, how much you make in a month, what your expenses are, how much you’re driving, etc.
Best Farrier also keeps your data both locally on your device and as an online backup, so you know you always have access to it, no matter where you are or what happens to your device or our servers.
If you’re not a subscriber already, sign up for a free trial and see for yourself how much the Best Farrier app can help you.
As always, please contact me if you have questions or suggestions.
Farrier and developer of the Best Farrier app
Barn photo by engin akyurt on Unsplash
Planner photo by Eric Rothermel on Unsplash
Map photo by Pin Adventure Map on Unsplash
Man writing photo by Brad Neathery on Unsplash
Dog photo by Camylla Battani on Unsplash