Learn how accepting online payments can help you master the accounts aging report, save you time and help you get paid faster.
As a business owner, you might not get the thrill you felt from your very first paycheck. But there’s still something satisfying about getting paid—especially when your clients pay in full, on time.
One of the best ways to make sure that happens? Making it as easy as possible for your clients to pay you.
The smoother the transaction process, the faster you get paid. You’ll be better equipped to take care of your team, and your clients will be happy that paying you takes literally a couple clicks of a button.
4 Different Ways to Accept Payments
There are a number of different ways for you to get paid. Some are more convenient than others—both for you and your clients.
There’s a certain simplicity when it comes to cash and check payments. They’re:
- A form of payment that most people and businesses have used
But in the 21st century, they’re not particularly convenient. Getting paid in real life means change on hand and trips to the bank to make deposits … not to mention the risk of a lost check or a check returned due to non-sufficient funds (NSF).
2. ACH Transfer
With Automated Clearing House (ACH) payments, customers give you permission to pull funds directly from their accounts. This can work:
- For one-time payments
- On a set billing schedule for recurring payments
It can be set up online and it’s convenient for you and your customers, especially for recurring billing as the process is automated and requires little attention beyond the initial setup. But there are more up-front steps, and not everyone is comfortable providing their banking information.
Plus, if something goes wrong, support is on you—and who wants their team spending valuable time on the phone with the bank?
3. Electronic Funds Transfer
Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT) payments work on the same system as ACH payments. However, the process is managed through the bank, so no account information needs to be exchanged—only contact information.
With EFT, funds are taken directly from the customer’s account and placed into yours. Many banks allow for recurring or scheduled payments to be made as well. But because the process is typically initiated through the bank’s online system or mobile app, it’s an extra step for your customers. EFTs often have fees attached as well.
And, once again … you’re the support team if anything goes wrong.
4. Online Credit/Debit Card Payments
Online credit card payments are the most convenient and straightforward method of accepting payments. They are:
- A common and familiar way of making payments
- Easy to set up
- Automated to accept payments as soon as they’re made
- Just a few clicks for your clients
For most businesses past the fledgling stage, it’s the best option for accepting payment from clients.
As a merchant, you’ll have to pay fees on transactions, but the added convenience (for you and your customers) will outweigh the costs. Bonus? The right online payments solution should offer you and your team world-class support. So when something goes wrong, there’s someone there to figure out how to make it better.
Benefits of Online Payments for Growing Businesses
Being able to say yes when a client asks, “Do you take credit cards?” is just one of the benefits of accepting online payments. Here are a few more:
Online payments let you manage multiple clients more easily.
They’re especially useful when you have different clients on different billing cycles. You can easily set up a billing schedule for each client’s individual payment cycle. This is convenient for clients who want to automate payment of regularly recurring bills.
And if a one-time client turns into a recurring client? You’re ready to go.
Depending on your accounting software and how your team is structured, you can also provide access to different individuals or groups to manage their own billing needs.
Simplicity and Convenience
Once you’ve set up your online payment system, there’s very little overhead on your end. Especially if the system is integrated with your invoicing and accounting system: Payments will be recorded automatically and you’ll always have up-to-date records.
For your clients, it’s also a great deal. Credit cards:
- Are an easy way to float cash without immediately dipping into funds
- Are secure, offering strong protection from fraud
- Offer bonuses like reward/loyalty points on card transactions
- Allow clients to align with company procedure, should protocol be that cards are used for all external expenses
- Can make it easier for your client’s accounts receivable team to bill, compared to cutting a check or facilitating a bank transfer
Finally, if your clients are in a different country, using a credit card online allows them to pay in their local currency without having to determine the exchange rate.
Online credit card transactions often process seamlessly. Plus, funds are deposited into your bank account quickly. No more waiting for a check in the mail or for funds to clear.
It’s faster for your clients, too. Instead of writing out a check or filling out a bank transfer form (or going to their accounting department to do so), they just need to provide their card info. Even better? This information is often saved for autofilling on their computers or phones, making data entry a snap.
More Time to Focus on What Needs Attention
A credit card transaction, especially compared to a check or cash, is way less of a time investment.
An online payment doesn’t get lost in the mail, doesn’t require a call to a bank, and gives your clients the opportunity to pay directly on the invoices you send. That means fewer barriers between you and your pay.
And with automated reminders, you’ll spend less time chasing down payments. That’s more time you could be spending figuring out how you’ll invest the money you’ve made!
How to Accept Online Payments
There are a few steps you need to take before your business can accept online payments.
Obtain a Merchant Account or Payment Service Provider
There are two ways you can accept credit cards as a business:
- A merchant account is what allows you to securely accept card payments. You can obtain your own directly through your local bank. You’ll need to know what types of cards you want to accept, and have a detailed accounting of your company’s financial history before you visit the bank.
- Using a payment service provider offers a little more “plug-and-play” convenience over a merchant account. Once integrated with your website and/or invoice system, the service will process the online payments for you. Note that some payment service providers still require you to have a merchant account, but many do not, making this a much simpler process.
Choose Your Type of Payment
There are several types of online payments that you can use, and more than one may be applicable for your business:
- Online shopping carts and order forms: The equivalent of brick-and-mortar transactions online
- Invoice payments: Your clients can pay via a link directly on the electronic invoice you send them
- Recurring payments: Automatically charge clients for recurring bills or subscriptions, without the need to send an invoice that requires immediate attention
All of the above can be set up to work via mobile device as well, including one-touch options such as PayPal and mobile payment services like Apple Pay.
Let Your Customers Know
Once you’ve set your payment system up, you’ll need to inform customers of their new options. A few simple ways to do this include:
- Sending an email blast to all clients
- Adding a message/instructions on future invoices
- Adding a “payment options” section to your website or FAQ
Creating a dedicated customer service email (such as firstname.lastname@example.org) can also be useful to answer any questions.
Accept Payments and Scale Your Invoicing Process with FreshBooks Select
At FreshBooks, we design our payments process for business owners—and their clients. With FreshBooks Payments you can accept credit cards online, safely and securely. American users can also accept ACH transfers online with FreshBooks Payments.
Here are some of the convenient features available with FreshBooks Payments:
Online Payments for One-Time Clients
When you send a client an electronic invoice, they have the option to pay directly via a live link on the invoice itself.
This is a simple, straightforward way for them to pay that delivers the funds straight to you, without either of you having to deal with checks or transfers.
For example, if your agency has completed a website development project for a client and it’s time to settle up, you simply build your invoice as you always do. Be sure to set the “Accept Online Payments Option” to YES, and email your invoice to the client.
When your client opens the invoice, they will see a “Pay by credit card” field on the upper right, where they can enter their card information and pay the bill.
Learn more about setting up invoice payments with our support article, “How do I enable FreshBooks Payments on Invoices?”
Online Payments for Recurring Invoices
Did you know that you can add automated billing to recurring invoices?
By saving your client’s credit card information, every recurring invoice can be automatically paid. This ensures you get paid on time with each invoice, and your client doesn’t have to worry about taking immediate action every time your invoice appears in their inbox.
As an IT services company, for example, you may bill retainer clients the same amount every month for an ongoing service package. Instead of sending them an invoice that they have to process and send you a new check or transfer for every month, they can authorize you to charge their card for the same amount at the same time each month. It’s less work for you; it’s less work for them.
To set up your recurring online payment, set up a recurring invoice template the same way you normally would, and set the “Accept Online Payments Option” to YES as outlined above.
In this case, the next time your client receives an invoice, they’ll see a payments section on the upper right. Only this time, it will say “recurring payment.”
As long as your client checks the “Save this card for future payments” option, their card will be automatically billed each time you send them this invoice. For full instructions on setting up recurring payments, see “How do Recurring Payments work?”
Saving Payment Details
For regular clients who are not on a specific, recurring billing cycle, saving their payment information can simplify future billing. You can easily do this with the FreshBooks Advanced Payments add-on feature.
You’ll need your clients’ permission, and they’ll have to provide you with their credit card information over the phone or in person. (It’s never a good idea to send credit card information via email.)
There are a few ways to save payment information, including directly from an invoice and from a client profile. You can find all of the details in our support article, “What are Advance Payments?”
Once you have the information saved, when a client returns for a new one-off project, you can create an invoice with their saved card and charge them straight away. (With their permission of course! A simple “Can I charge the same card you used last time?” should do the trick). This saves you both time and speeds up the payment process.
Scale and Get Paid Fast with Online Payments
Accepting payment online is fast and convenient for you and your clients:
- It’s easy for you to set up, and it’s an easy way for your clients to pay
- It’s convenient for you, as money goes directly into your account, and it’s convenient for clients, many of whom prefer to use credit cards
- It reduces stress and puts time back in your day, and for clients, recurring payments in particular remove the hassle of responding to every invoice and worrying about what’s paid and what isn’t
Accepting online payments means you can stop sweating the details of where payments are coming from, and focus on the important things—like finding your next great project and growing your business.
about the author
Josh Kern is a writer and B2B marketer based in Toronto, with client-side, agency-side, and freelance experience. Josh specializes in content marketing, and helping organizations determine the right content for their audience during each stage of the buying journey. You can find Josh on LinkedIn.