August 19th, 2015
Jeff posed the following question:
Right now I mostly do a net-30 payment policy with my existing customers, and up-front payment for new clients and “other” (FSBO, rental properties, etc). But I’m wondering if an up-front policy might just be the simplest and best way to handle payments across the board. I like the idea of giving my longtime customers the flexibility of delayed payment, but it takes up time to write up an invoice and send it, keep track of paid vs unpaid shoots, and do follow-up calls and emails when payments are nearing their due date. There are even a couple clients who are so forgetful that they’ve just given me their cc info so I can automatically charge them after a shoot.
With all that said, can you suggest an ordering system that would work well for receiving up-front payments? I can use my square reader when a client is at the shoot, but what about lockbox shoots where the client doesn’t meet me? I’m thinking of an online ordering system that I can push to new and existing clients, and preferably something that is VERY SIMPLE to use for my more techno-challenged customers.
Yes, we’ve talked about this issue before and many real estate photographers have complained about the issue of managing their accounts receivable. Many, as you say, just use a Square reader to take credit cards at the shoot. There are a couple of options to take care of the situations where the agent isn’t at the shoot:
- For those situations where the agent is not at the shoot to pay, send the agent a request for payment (Invoice) via PayPal or Square.
- For those situations where the agent is not at the shoot, you could simply take their credit card over the phone or keep it on file.
- Use a service like PaymentTab.com to get payment at delivery of the photos from everyone. This is pretty general and works in all situations and doesn’t cost that much.
- Collect the shoot fee at scheduling time on your website by just putting a PayPal or Square button on an order form. This is not very difficult. You can get a few lines of HTML code for a payment button that you can paste on your web page at PayPal or Square.
I would argue that allowing your best, trustworthy customers to pay any time within 30 days is a customer service benefit. But they should have to demonstrate their trustworthiness. I think, like may aspects of this business there isn’t one best way to collect payments. If you shoot for agents that are good business people, they will appreciate being able to pay when and how they choose. On the other hand, If you have a bunch of agents that you shoot for that continually need reminding to pay. Collect up front. Be prepared to deal with each kind of client!