Jeff asked 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 long time 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 lock box 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:
These days real estate photographers can accept credit cards to collect their shoot fee right on site from their clients. I talked about his a year ago. Early adopters were already doing it then but now it's become very routine. The way you do it is with this little free swipe gadget that attached to your iPhone or Android smart phone. There may be others but this is by far the most popular.
Here's why you want to accept credit cards on site:
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 many 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 whom you shoot for that continually need reminding to pay, collect up front.
Braulio recently asked about how to take credit cards on his site:
I have been looking at the PFRE to find out a way to charge on my website, I have used Paypal and Stripe and they all charge 2.9% + 0.30 cents. Is there a cheaper way to charge on my website? Please, I need your help.
Yes, I agree, I don't particularly like PayPal either (for many other reasons than their cost per transaction). I use them for e-book transaction processing just because they have the best worldwide coverage (works in all countries except a handful of African countries) but if you are doing business just in the US or Canada I recommend you take a look at Squareup.com.
Squareup has a low per transaction charge (2.75% per swipe) and, their SmartPhone/Tablet Apps give you the ability to either take credit cards at a shoot or send an email invoice to the agent so they can pay afterwards with their credit card. This approach is much more effective than taking the payment on your site, although if you can also do that too with Squareup. Taking credit cards at a shoot is a huge advantage and will cut down your accounts receivable, yet you still have the choice of emailing an invoice to the client that they can pay with credit card. Also, they have a very nice dashboard on their site for each account that tracks a lot of useful things. I've noticed recently that many restaurants and other small businesses are using squareup.com.