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5 cost-effective ways to streamline payments and billing in your business or firm

5 cost-effective ways to streamline payments and billing in your business or firm
TECHNOLOGY 6 mins 23 Mar 2022 by Francesca Nicasio
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Your business, or firm, can’t survive (let alone thrive) if you’re unable to get paid in a timely and efficient manner, which is why billing and payments should be one of your top priorities.

That being said, accepting payments involves a number of considerations. For starters, accounting and professional services clients today have a lot more options and preferences when it comes to how they pay their bills. Traditional payment methods like cash and checks are on their way out. Businesses, like accountants, bookkeepers or other professional services firms are increasingly opting to pay via credit cards and ACH.

Data from eMarketer shows a steady decline in cash and check payments in the B2B sector. According to the research, transaction values of cash and checks have declined 16% from 2018 to 2021. Meanwhile, transaction volumes for ACH and card payments have increased 47% and 19% respectively.

To that end, service-based businesses like accounting firms must have the right payment solutions and processes to support the modern needs of clients.

In this post, we’ll shed light on 5 tips to help you accept payments in an efficient and cost-effective manner.

You’ll learn why and how to:

  • Get your business and banking fundamentals in order

  • Adopt the right payment solutions

  • Maximize payment volumes to lower your fees

  • Reduce costs by supporting ACH or direct debit

  • Keep an eye on your payment notifications and reports

Let’s dive in!

1. Get your business and banking fundamentals in order

The first step to getting paid is ensuring that you have the infrastructure to do so. This starts with setting up a valid business bank account, says Jennie Moore, Head of Accounting at Ignition (Canada).

“That may seem pretty elementary, but when you're accepting payments on behalf of a business, you need to make sure that you're properly incorporated and you have a proper business account,” she says.

Most companies should already have this covered, but just in case, it doesn’t hurt to review your business and banking details to ensure that everything is in order.

In addition to verifying your business’ financial info, you must also do the same thing with your clients. Before proceeding with a client engagement, see to it that their payment or banking details are valid and you’ll be able to bill them with ease.

"Ensuring that the payment method works" is one of the first things businesses should do when starting a client relationship,” remarks Josh Lance, also Head of Accounting at Ignition (US).

“A lot of times, we recommend collecting a deposit or upfront fee in a proposal and then doing a project-based or monthly recurring payments after that. “Making sure the payment method works is essential because having a credit card number that doesn’t work or is maxed out doesn’t help you at all.”

Josh continues, “The goal is to get paid as you do the work and not have to be a collections agent to get the payment. So, collecting fees upfront as part of the engagement process is important.”

Fortunately, doing that is quite easy when you have the right payment platform. And this brings us to our next tip…

2. Adopt the right payment solutions

To run a successful firm, you need to spend as much time as possible on high-value tasks like:

  • Acquiring new business

  • Serving existing clients

  • Growing your company

If you’re an accountant, for example, you should devote more energy towards marketing your firm or looking after your clients’ books rather than admin tasks like sending payment reminders or entering credit card numbers.

This is why having a robust payment solution is key. Ignition, for instance, has client payments features that streamline the payment acceptance process and ensure that you get paid according to the terms of your agreement.

As Josh puts it, “If the client accepts your proposal, they can input their credit card information, and sign the engagement, all in one spot.”

In addition to streamlining client engagements, the right payment solution can also reduce liabilities for your business.

According to Jennie, solutions like Ignition can protect client data and privacy, in turn helping you stay compliant and limit exposure to risk.

“If we have the exact credit card information, that sometimes can pose a risk,” she says. “With technology, it’s helpful that clients can put in their information through a form, and that confidential data is blind to us. Perhaps we’d be able to see the last four digits of their card, but the rest stays private.”

“This provides both parties with more transparency, control, and trust. So that’s one of the things that accounting professionals should be looking for when implementing a payment solution in their firm,” she adds.

3. Maximize your payment volumes to lower your fees

Having to pay processing fees is a common worry that entrepreneurs have about accepting payments like credit cards and ACH. And while this is a valid concern, it’s worth recognizing that modern payment systems can actually save you money in the long run.

“The way I look at it is I would spend more of my billable time chasing down a check [without the right payment solutions],” says Jennifer. She states that the amount of administrative work involved with manual payments outweighs the disadvantages of accepting modern payment types like credit cards, ACH, or direct debit.

Joshua offers a similar sentiment and adds that modern payment solutions pave the way for streamlined client billing. A good platform lets you automate your processes and accept recurring credit card payments, which means you always get paid on time.

Businesses that want to streamline their payment collection can do so by partnering with a provider like Ignition. A recent accounting market study found that Ignition customers spent 6x less time and saved up to 32 hours per month billing, collecting and reconciling payments.

4. Reduce costs by supporting ACH or direct debit

Another way to lower costs? Offer the option to pay via ACH or direct debit. While your fees will vary depending on your provider, ACH and direct debit costs are typically much lower than credit cards.

At Ignition, ACH payment processing costs are capped. Unlike credit cards, which come with variable percentage costs, ACH transactions have more predictable fees that don’t increase as much when you’re processing larger amounts.

5. Keep an eye on your payment notifications and reports

Looking at your business’ payment data and reports allows you to uncover actionable insights that can help streamline your operations and save you money.

One example would be paying attention to credit cards that are about to expire. This enables you to proactively update the cards you have on file, so you can prevent missed or default payments.

This is something that Ignition does really well, says Jennie. “The software lets the practice owner know that something's about to expire so the issue can be followed up in the proper amount of time, giving them lots of lead time to have the new data and have the new credentials added by the customer.”

Final words

It’s not always easy to talk about payments with clients, but these discussions are critical to ensuring that you get paid for your services. It’s also important to adopt a platform such as Ignition, which can simplify your billing and client engagement processes. Having the right solution frees up valuable billable hours so you can spend more time on revenue-generating activities.

Watch a demo of Ignition or start a free trial and discover how our platform can take your business or firm to the next level.

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Meet the author

Francesca Nicasio
Francesca Nicasio

Contributing Author 

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Published 23 Mar 2022 Last updated 17 Mar 2023