Archive for the ‘Billing’ Category

Accepting Electronic Payments with Viewpost

Last year, Intuit discontinued its Intuit Payment Network (IPN), which was a convenient way to collect payments from clients inexpensively (only 50 cents per transaction).

Plus, even though it was a great option for receiving payment electronically from clients, there were some minimum financial benchmarks to meet in order to qualify for the service so it didn’t work for everyone.

Paypal is a handy, extremely easy-to-use backup and while any fees you pay are a business write-off (so I don’t sweat them), it still would be nice to have another IPN alternative.

So I was definitely interested when I received an email from my bank about a third party service called Viewpost.

I haven’t used it yet, but I have signed up, which was very easy to do. Here’s what I can tell you so far:

  1. It works with any bank in the U.S.
  2. There are no minimum financial qualifications or balances to meet to sign up and use the service.
  3. You can invoice anyone for free using the ViewPost invoice service. (Aside: I prefer my own custom, fully branded business invoices inside Quickbooks so I won’t be using this feature. I consider invoicing both an accounting and marketing function, and I’m VERY particular about how all of that is done and looks. While you can upload your own logo in Viewpost, their invoicing isn’t very sophisticated or customizable beyond that so it’s a no-go for me. However, I was informed that the service is compatible with Quickbooks if you like to automate the bookkeeping portion of it.)
  4. Clients can pay with bank account or credit card (all my clients prefer credit card because their payments to me earn them a significant amount of travel miles, hotel and cashback rewards). During the sign-up process in Viewpost, you’ll also have the option to sign up with Stripe which is the service that will give you the additional functionality of accepting credit card payments. If you sign up for Viewpost only, payment will only be bank account to bank account.
  5. You are not charged for any payments you receive through the service.
  6. For clients to pay you through the service, they will also need to set up an account. However, this is a one-time process and they can then use that account with other vendors as well as for themselves and their own clients if they so choose.

CAVEAT: While you pay no fees for any payments submitted to you, the client is charged 50 cents per transaction. Of course, 50 cents in the scheme of things is nothing; however, on principle, I don’t feel my clients should be charged any kind of fee to pay me. This is a pretty important standard to me so I don’t like this part whatsoever. I would prefer to be the one paying the 50 cents as I feel any fees charged are my business cost to bear. I consider my practice to be an upscale service and would never dream of charging or passing on chintzy fees like that to clients. I’m sure there’s some work-around I can figure out (e.g., reducing my invoice by 50 cents perhaps), though, knowing my clients, they aren’t going to care about paying an extra 50 cents. (But I care!)

All said and done, it’s still worth trying out as it would be nice to keep more of my own well-earned payments myself.

Check them out here: Viewpost

And their pricing page: Viewpost Pricing Info

Better yet, ask your bank if they already partner with Viewpost and ask for their special link/sign-up page as there might be some special advantage to doing that. I received my invite via my bank and there is a special $25 Amazon gift card sign-up bonus right now.

Have you used Viewpost before? What was your experience with it? Any other Viewpost info or tips you can share with us?

Do you know of a similar service that only charges 50 cents per payment transaction?

Let us know!

UPDATE 2/22/17:

Well, this has turned out to be a bit of a no-go for me. It occurred to me to ask about accepting credit card payments. I have most of my clients on auto-pay (where they sign an agreement and I process their payments to me automatically each month), and most of them prefer paying by credit card because they want the airline/travel/hotel/cashback points and rewards. I was informed that you can only accept credit card payments by using Stripe (which the Viewpost sign-up process has you sign up for as well) and their regular merchant account processing fees  (I think they said it was roughly 2.9%). I was also told that it would take anywhere from 2 – 7 days for those payments to actual process and be available to me. And while the bank-to-bank account payments through Viewpost, even though they would only cost 50 cents to the client who is paying, those would also not resolve for 2 days and could take as long as 10 days to finalize.

So that was all a deal breaker for me. Why would I switch to a new system that creates more work and rigamarole (for me and my clients) and no cost savings when I can already have a system in place with the ease and convenience of instant payment with Paypal? Sure, I might pay the same fees to PayPal, but you’re going to pay the same (or more) to any merchant account service and the ease and convenience and instant availability of my funds is worth it to me. Plus, any fees you pay are a business write-off so I’m not worried about them. They help reduce my taxes.

Still, as with anything, there’s always a positive side. Now I know more about this particular service and even though it’s not right for me and my clients currently, there still might be some odd occasion where it can be handy, either for me or for one of my clients.

Why Should I Pay that When I Can Get a Temp or Offshore VA for $5 Bucks an Hour?

Ever hear a client utter these words?

It’s probably the most grating sentence in our industry today.

But what if you knew exactly how to respond?

What if you offered your services in a way that didn’t focus whatsoever on hourly rates?

Wouldn’t that be a total game changer?

It’s not so annoying when you actually begin to love responding to that question (or when you no longer get it in the first place). ;)

…If you frequently encounter price resistance with clients and want to know what to do about it;

…If you have trouble getting clients to commit;

…If you struggle with articulating your value to clients, talking about your fees, and feeling confident about them;

…If you find the whole topic of pricing difficult, I have the solution!

It’s my value-priced packaging and pricing guide, How to Price and Package Your Support Based on Hours & Expertise — NOT Selling Hours

Value-Based Pricing & Packaging Guide: How to Price and Package Your Support Based on Value and Expertise—NOT Selling Hours (GDE39)

This guide will show you how to:

  • Attract more clients, more easily;
  • Make more money;
  • Create an easier business to run;
  • And toss out those time sheets forever!

…all without discounting, bargaining, or justifying your fees whatsoever!

Dear Danielle: Do You Use PayPal?

Dear Danielle: Do You Use PayPal?

This was a question posted in my private Facebook community last November. With Intuit Payment Network (IPN) ending next month, it seems like a good time to revisit the topic.

Dear Danielle:

Do you use PayPal for invoicing and payments in your business? Do you recommend them? —GB

Yes, I use PayPal as a payment processor, but I invoice clients with my customized invoice in Quickbooks Pro (which is the comprehensive software program where I do all of my bookkeeping).

I’ve been using PayPal since 2000 and have never had a single problem. It’s super easy to use, integrates quickly and easily with web coding, and it’s established and trusted.

A merchant account is an alternative to PayPal, but I’ve always found them more complicated to use, and not necessarily any cheaper, and in my experience, you don’t get the same level of tech support that PayPal provides.

Personally, I could never be bothered with using them, and when I was still in the web design business way back when, I hated trying to integrate their coding onto websites. So convoluted and difficult and they don’t necessarily care about providing more than a superficial level of support.

Maybe that’s changed. And of course, I have  programmer now that I let handle that kind of work when it comes up.

The other payment processor I use is IPN which is Intuit Payment Network:https://ipn.intuit.com/.

IPN only charges $0.50 per transaction, which is far less of a fee than others including PayPal charge (although personally, I never sweat those kind of fees, they are pennies in comparison AND they are tax deductible business expense that you get to write off at the end of the year which lowers your tax experience).

The only caveats with IPN are:

1) If you are billing a client over $1,500 on an invoice, they will need to be on IPN as well (you can bill guests up to $1,500 though).

2) You need a checking account with unlimited withdrawals and deposit; and

3) To get approved you will need from 3 – 6 months of consecutive bank statements showing an ongoing minimum balance, the amount of which depends on what you expect to bill out via IPN each month. So, for example, let’s say you will be billing $2,500 a month via IPN. To get approved for an IPN account, you will need to keep a minimum balance of at least $5,000 in that checking account for 3-6 months. The minimum balance they’re looking for all depends on the amount you intend to bill and they have different tiers that you’d have to call them directly to find out what your amount would be specifically. But once you get approved, you don’t have to keep that minimum balance anymore because they don’t monitor your bank account.

UPDATE: Intuit is discontinuintg their popular IPN (Intuit Payment Network) come April 2016. The company is encouraging users to move over to their Quickbooks-integrated merchant account product, Quickbooks Payments. There are two plans to choose from to fit your business, and you can also get mobile credit card processing if that’s of interest to you.

Personally, I probably won’t be switching over as PayPal meets all my needs. It’s easy, I trust it, and the costs are comparable.

Dear Danielle: Client Thinks He Shouldn’t Be Billed for Time on the Phone

Dear Danielle: Client Thinks He Shouldn’t Be Billed for Time on the Phone

Dear Danielle:

Do you bill your clients for time that you speak with them on the phone? I have a client who wants to have phone meetings twice a week. A phone meeting with him can run from 15 minutes to an hour. Yet, he feels that I should not bill for that time. Instead, I should only bill for the time that I am “actually doing work.” (His words…not mine.) —Anonymous by request

Warning, this may be a little ranty, lol

And just to be clear, it’s no way directed toward the person asking the question. I give them all the props in the world for having the courage to ask. That’s how we get help, by asking.

What gets my dander up is more about the ridiculous, ignorant information that continues to be spouted out by business morons that create this kind of thinking in clients and colleagues in the first place.

The idea that in this day and age people in our industry are still asking questions like this as if they need permission from anybody about what they’re allowed to do in their business tells me there’s still an insane amount of employee-mindset going on.

NEWSFLASH: Talking with clients IS part of the work.

When you talk with clients on the phone, that’s part of the service you’re providing to them. And you’re in business to be PAID for the service you provide.

You are expending business resources (your time) and that time comes at a cost to your business.

You are being a brainstorming partner and sounding board. You’re also presumably offering your own input, ideas, opinions, feedback and expertise in those conversations, which are aspects of the service and value your client is benefiting from.

So, um, yeah, you should be charging for that. And it’s not up to ANY client to dictate what you do or don’t charge for or how you charge. If he doesn’t want to pay for it, then he shouldn’t be given it. And if he doesn’t like that, he can go somewhere else.

Now, all that said, this question points out a few things that are going on in this person’s business that need to be addressed.

  1. This client sounds like he thinks you’re some kind of employee. That means YOU haven’t done a proper job of educating him before ever working together about the fact that you are an independent professional—ahem, a BUSINESS—providing a service and expertise, no different than if he were to hire an attorney or an accountant or a coach, etc. You have GOT to set your prospects and clients STRAIGHT about this right from the get-go (which means you have to get this straight first yourself). You are not an employee. Period. End of story. That’s not how business works. There is no such thing as a 1099 employee. When clients are operating under no delusions about this, they approach the relationship with a more appropriate professional demeanor and respect, and they expect to pay for services they are provided.
  2. You haven’t defined your policies and procedures and your boundaries and parameters thoroughly. This is really business planning 101, which makes me wonder if you’ve done any of that. If you haven’t, go back now and do that. It’s important if you want happy clients and a happy, profitable and long-lived business! How you bill; what you bill for; what is included in the service and what is not; how many phone calls a client is allowed each week; what time limit they get per call; whether or not phone calls are by appointment only and need to be scheduled or not; how regular communication is to be conducted (e.g., email only)… these are just some of the things you need to clarify in your business. And then put all that information in a Client Guide to be given to every new client at the start of the relationship. (By the way: Set-01 The Administrative Consultant Business Set-Up Success Kit in the ACA Success Store includes a New Client Welcome Kit guide and Client Guide template to help you get this sorted in your business.)
  3. The fact that this client is complaining about being charged for phone calls now tells me you did not properly inform him upfront, before working together, how things work in your business. Of course, when you haven’t set your policies and procedures in the first place, how can you inform them upfront, right? Which is why you have to get clear about them first (see #2). You want to eliminate any misunderstandings and surprises as much as possible because those all too frequently become relationship killers.

And while it’s not any client’s business to tell you how to run yours, this does point to several of the reasons I don’t advocate selling hours as a billing methodology:

  1. It puts your interests at odds with each other. You only make more money the more hours you charge, and clients don’t like what they view as being nickeled and dimed.
  2. If you work fast, you are penalized financially while clients are getting the value and benefit of that speed without paying for it.
  3. Everything becomes a transaction which becomes the focus instead of the results, goals and objectives that together you wish to achieve.

Learning how to price, package your support, and talk about fees with clients is an area of business education in and of itself—part art, part science. There is a way to make sure you are paid for the time and value of the service you provide to clients without using time as the measurement and without clients feeling like they are being nickeled and dimed.

I teach a methodology called Value-Based Pricing that unties your earning ability from the hands of the ticking clock, and brings you and the client’s interests back into alignment so you can begin working more truly together with the same goals, intentions and motivations.

The fantastic byproduct of this methodology is that clients never again complain about being charged for this or that because it’s all part of the package.

You can learn more about all that and get my Value-Based Pricing and Packaging self-study guide here >>. (Be sure and watch the video!)

If you have any questions about any of this, please post in the comments and I’m happy to keep the conversation going there.

Hope this helps! (And if you have your own question on a different topic for me, please feel free to submit it here.)

How Billing by the Hour Is Killing Your Business (and What You Can Do About It)

Here’s a video I made a few years ago to help people understand how billing by hour (selling hours) is keeping them broke and killing their business.

This can be a difficult concept to understand at first. For many folks, it’s not until they’ve been in business for a bit that they realize the dilemma. It’s usually then that things finally “click” and they get it.

Then, there are people who understand the problem immediately and want to avoid it altogether in their practice.

Whatever camp you’re in, my Value-Based Pricing and Packaging Toolkit will show you how to stop selling hours (and selling yourself short) and learn how to price and package your value and expertise instead.

I’ve been practicing and studying this methodology since the 90s and been teaching it to our industry since 2004. I introduced the concept and adapted the methodology for our industry and I’m really the only person in our industry uniquely qualified to show you how to implement in your practice.

Dear Danielle: What Is a Retainer?

Dear Danielle:

I am fairly new to the business and have a few clients I know and trust, but am branching out and will be acquiring clients I have no prior experience with. Do you have any recommendations or suggestions on how to deal with billing new clients who you have no prior working relationship with?  When billing a monthly retainer package of $1,000, for example, if you do a month’s worth of work, then send them the bill, and wait another 30 days to get paid, you could potentially be working for 60 days before you get paid.  Do you recommend asking for part or all of your monthly fee up front or would you bill at the end of the month? —LB

This is a great question because it’s another reminder for us veterans that we can never take for granted that everyone knows what we think are commonly understood principles or details in business.

So, the first thing I would explain is that a retainer is a monthly upfront fee paid in full and in advance of service. And the service for which retainers are charged in our business is a month of ongoing administrative support.

The idea is that you and the client are entering into a relationship. With the retainer, they are securing a spot on your roster, reserving your time and preserving their priority over any other side (non retainer) clients or project work you do in your business.

With retainers, they are generally billed with due dates of “on or before the 1st.” There are no “deposits” toward a retainer because it’s not a layaway plan. They either pay beforehand or they don’t receive services.

In my practice, I have clients sign a credit card authorization form (AGR-30 in the Success Store) so that I can automatically run their credit card when it’s time for them to pay their retainer each month. So essentially, I pay myself, and my due date is the 25th of each month (and I never pay myself late, lol).

I do this because:

  1. the 1st is one of the busiest days of the month for me and for my clients (and most people running businesses, I think). I don’t want my money and being paid held up in any way; and
  2. if I happen to do billing for any clients (i.e., invoicing their clients on their behalf), I don’t have my business’s billing and theirs all trying to compete for my attention on the same day.

If you are billing after the fact, that is not a retainer. For the reasons you recognize (and that fact that you’ll run into far more nonpayment issues with nothing to mitigate your losses), you will have all kinds of financial problems if you bill at the end of the month for services already rendered. The last thing you need to be in is the credit lending business (which is basically what you’d be creating by billing after the fact and waiting to be paid).

How you bill in your business becomes part of your business management and systems for success. It should be given as much careful thought and consideration as every other planning and operational aspect of your business.

This is also an example of the kind of things I will be sharing with attendees at my business management systems class this coming August 22. Check it out!

It’s Not About the Hours

Here’s a question posted on a public forum that came to my attention via Google Alerts:

I have a client who just opened a new business. He wants to utilize our support options, but isn’t sure how many hours per month he would need us. He is asking about buying a bank of hours that could be rolled over to the next month if unused. Also, we bill in 15 minute increments and he is concerned that a lot of time would be eaten up with us replying to emails. Has anyone dealt with a situation similar to this?

This is just one of the many issues you encounter when you price your services based on selling hours. You don’t know how long things will take going in and clients worry about their hours being frittered away and what their bill will be afterwards.

Do you see how the focus is all on the time?

Achieving results for clients should be the focus of your work, not watching the clock, having your hands tied behind your back and having to stop in the middle of things because time has run out.

Guess what? When you learn how to utilize value-based billing in your business, hours don’t matter!

No one needs to know upfront how many hours will be needed or used… because the focus is on accomplishing the work and achieving the goals and objectives it is in support of, not the hours.

With value-based pricing, it doesn’t matter how many emails are sent back and forth with clients or how much time is spent reading them… because they aren’t paying for time and you aren’t selling hours.

EVERYTHING from your conversations with clients, to your work, to your administration is soooo much simpler and more streamlined when you utilize the value-based pricing methodology.

And clients are more attracted to this way of billing and working together. When you utilize value-based pricing, it’s much easier for them to say “yes” to working with you!

This is what I’m teaching this month in my Value-Based Pricing & Packaging class on June 27 & 28: How to Price & Package Your Retained Support Based on Value and Expertise—NOT Selling Hours!

I’m going to show you with step-by-step instruction how to price and create value-based packages custom-built for each client’s unique needs that make working together a breeze (not to mention help you earn better)!

The Early Bird discount is over, but you can still get in on some savings. Register by June 9 and pay the special rate of $147 (a savings of $50).

Click here to register and get more details >>

I’d love to see you there!

Dear Danielle: How Much Should I Charge This Client?

Dear Danielle:

I have a potential client I am having discussions with right now. He projects giving me various tasks requiring from basic assistance up to project management skills involving analysis and online business management. I have been asked to quote one rate per hour regardless of the complexity of the task involved. I have also listened to your recording of charging value added pricing which makes sense to me. Ordinarily I charge £25 per hour for basic VA services up to £65 per hour for more complex tasks inclusive of research, marketing and analytical tasks. This potential client operates internationally. How much would you charge based on value added pricing? I would truly appreciate your help in this. Thanks and regards —LG

Thanks for the question. 🙂

Unfortunately, due to antitrust laws, I can’t tell you what to charge. That’s really something you have to come up with on your own according to how you value yourself and what your business needs.

I will say though that anytime you start itemizing individual, line-item tasks and assigning a hierarchy of importance, it has the effect of commoditizing yourself and what you offer.

That’s not something you want to do in your business because it comes around and bites you in the rear when you need for clients to understand that the value isn’t in the tasks, it’s in how the tasks help them move forward in their business and what those tasks allow them to accomplish or gain or achieve.

When you understand that perspective, you see that there’s no reason to itemize or value one task as more or less important–they are ALL important to the big picture of the client’s business.

If you haven’t yet, be sure and download our Pricing Calculator and go through those exercises.

This will help you get clarity around what you need and want to earn in your business. Base your decisions around that, not bending over backwards to customize your entire billing structure and business operations for one client. The tail will forever be wagging the dog otherwise (that is, the business and clients running you, instead of properly the other way around). You’ll never build an ideal practice that way.

How to Raise Your Rates in 2012

It’s time to raise your rates for 2012! I know lots of people cringe at doing this, but honestly it’s much easier than you think. So here’s what you do…

First, send out 30 or 60 day notices to all your clients giving them a heads-up that fees will be increasing. I would wait until January to do this rather than right now in the middle of the holidays. (And ideally for next year, plan on doing this in October/November instead of January.)

Not sure how to word your notice? Simple is always best. Here is a sample script you can use:

Dear [CLIENT],

This letter is to let you know that the fee for your support plan will increase to $[NEW FEE AMOUNT] per month effective [DATE].

It is such a pleasure working with you, and I really love watching you grow and move forward in your business through our work together. [HERE, INCLUDE TWO OR THREE MAJOR ACCOMPLISHMENTS AND GOALS YOU’VE HELPED THE CLIENT ACHIEVE. USE FACTS AND FIGURES, ESPECIALLY DOLLAR AND PERCENTAGE INCREASES, AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE].

I look forward to continuing our wonderful relationship and helping you achieve your goals and dreams!

Sincerely,

[YOU]

You notice that in the second paragraph, you should bring up a few of the significant accomplishments and goals you’ve helped that particular client achieve through your work together. You should include facts and figures whenever possible.

If you aren’t yet, start trying to track and identify dollar and percent increases that your work and support is directly or indirectly responsible for (e.g., how many more clients have they been able to work with? How many hours of time were you able to put back in their pocket? How much more money have they made since working with you? How much have their profit percentages increased since then?).

These things serve as a reminder of your value (in terms of how it relates to them and their business) and why they continue to work with you. This is the WIIFM (“what’s in it for me?”) factor.

Just remember, you don’t need to offer excuses or drawn out explanations. You’re not asking for their permission because you’re not an employee and it’s not up to them. It’s YOUR business and you don’t answer to clients when it comes to those decisions. You being profitable and making sure you are stable, secure and growing financially actually helps clients because if you aren’t doing well, you will not be able to help clients as well as you could be.

If you have any other questions around the topic of raising fees, please do post in the comments and I’ll try to help. 🙂

If you REALLY want to learn how to earn better in your business for 2012, in ways that are WAY more client friendly and attractive, get my pricing and packaging guide: “How to Price and Package Your Support Based on Value and Expertise–NOT Selling Hours!” Click here to check it out!

Dear Danielle: Should I Get Payment Up Front?

Dear Danielle:

I have a billing question. Should I ask for payment up front or after the work is completed? –KH

You don’t mention whether this is for project work or retained services. Either way, I have some advice for ya. 😉

If you’re doing project work, it’s definitely a good idea to get some kind of up-front payment. Here’s how I do it in my business… if it’s under $500, I tend to require full payment upfront. If it’s anything over that, I require 50% upfront.

Remember, you aren’t a client’s bank and they need to have some skin in the game. They’ll take you and the work you are doing for them more seriously. Plus, getting at least some payment upfront will not only help mitigate your losses should you end up with a dead-beat client, but it will help avoid working with flakes in the first place.

When it comes to providing ongoing support work, clients are usually charged an upfront fee called a retainer. By it’s very nature, it is upfront because they are retaining your services in an ongoing relationship and guaranteeing your time and their place on your roster. There is no deposit or 50% when it comes to retainers. It’s in full, upfront.

Here are some older posts related to this topic that I think you’ll find useful as well:

Help! Client Not Paying!

How to Avoid Getting Stiffed on Payment

You want to also check out these categories on my blog here:

Billing
Getting Paid

Hope that helps!