"Friendly" clients are costing UK businesses almost £80 per appointment

Published 30th Oct 2023 by Kezia Parkins

A new study by Yell has found that more than 85% of businesses could be losing out on almost £80 per appointment with "friendly" clients as a result of not charging for additional time spent.  

The research, which surveyed small business owners from across the UK, also reveals that three quarters (75%) find it hard to set boundaries with their clients, with 98% replying to business queries during their personal time. 

Of those who’ve attempted to set boundaries with their clients, three in five (59%) have been met with negative responses.  

The study, which surveyed just over 250 owners of small businesses in the UK (up to 50 employees), sought to discover how business owners separate the professional from the personal, and the impact this can have on their finances.

With three-quarters (75%) of small business owners stating they find it hard to set boundaries with their clients, it’s clear that many have difficulty when it comes to drawing the line. 

It is very common for small business owners to engage with the same customers on a regular basis and go on to develop close relationships. This is especially true in the beauty sector where nail techs and hairdressers become not only friends but unpaid therapists… 

According to the survey, 86% of business owners work with clients that have become friends or already were, though these numbers rise to more than 94% for those in the beauty sector, and 90% in the trades.   

The vast majority (82%) of business owners admit that they take more time with "friendly" clients, spending an extra 25 minutes on average with each of them, compared to their usual work time. Though working with someone you consider a friend may seem like a perk, the reality suggests that financially, this may not be the case at all.   

Over three-quarters of small businesses lose money on appointments that overrun  
With 85% of business owners not charging for this additional time, this results in a considerable amount of unpaid working hours. Less than ideal at a time when the cost-of-living crisis has made things increasingly difficult for the self-employed, the extra 25 minutes could amount to an average loss of £78 per appointment (based on the average hourly charge of £188.44 revealed by the study).

This is a particular concern in the likes of the beauty industry, known for its high frequency of appointments and long-term clients.   

Megan, a beauty influencer and self-employed nail technician commented: “My services are often a ‘treat’ for clients, who will have finished their working day, which can mean they take time restraints less seriously, and don’t mind the appointment lasting longer than it should. For them, it might just be twenty more minutes, but they don’t see how this can impact my working day. After two years of being self-employed, getting customers to see this side of the extra time spent has been one of the hardest things to navigate.”  

Outside of lost earnings, the blurring of personal and professional has also been proven to take a toll on business owners’ free time; 98% of those surveyed admitted to replying to business queries within their personal time, with this number sitting at a staggering 100% for those in the beauty and trades sectors.     

This is likely down to many small business owners finding it hard to tackle the issue or having been put off from a bad experience when previously trying to enforce time boundaries or payment terms, with more than half (59%) saying they’ve received negative responses from customers when trying to do so. 

How do you set boundaries with your friends and friendly clients when it comes to your business? Let us know in the comments...

Kezia Parkins

Kezia Parkins

Published 30th Oct 2023

Kezia Parkins is the deputy editor of Professional Beauty. She has a background in medical journalism and is also as trained nail tech. As such, she is particularly passionate about all thing nails, as well as the science behind beauty products and treatments. Contact her at [email protected]

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