• Tools & Apps

Getting Creative with Online Payments

Paypal, Venmo, and Zelle – oh my! There are a lot of options now to accept payments, and as a current or new small business owner, you’ve probably been thinking about what method is the best for charging customers.

Nowadays, it’s becoming more common for a contractor or any other on-site sole proprietor to bring out their iPhone and quickly have a customer pay through a cashier-style app.

Even if you have to send an invoice before accepting a payment, moving that process online is something to strongly think about as you begin getting more clients and want to improve customer retention.

Put yourself in your customer’s shoes: you’re already feeling overwhelmed and stressed out by receiving another bill, especially if it was for a big service. On top of that, you have to go find your checkbook to make yet another payment. Sometimes, you have to pause before mailing out a check because you’re waiting for enough money to be in the spending or savings account you’re withdrawing from.

This whole process is just as overwhelming and stressful as it sounds, and a nuisance when you know there are much easier options for payments.

As a customer, it’s also super inconvenient to hear “I only accept checks or cash,” as many people don’t even own checkbooks anymore. Instead of immediately getting paid, you have clients running out to the bank or ATM trying to figure out how to pay you.

Accepting checks also poses a big risk for you – they can be bounced or fraudulent, and that would cost you a lot.

Envision this scenario: You’ve just finished working on a client’s site, and you fill out an invoice that includes your mobile payment apps’ username. Your customer is immediately relieved over the convenience, pulls out their phone, and pays you right away. With such a seamless process, they’re subconsciously beginning to think “this person is so easy to work with, I can’t wait to ask them for more services.”

You’ll also come across as an innovative business by being in-touch with the latest tech. Customers will think it’s super cool when you say “You can just Venmo me.” (Or whatever other app you choose to accept digital payments) People write online reviews, and this is an opportunity to let your customers say something such as, “This company’s service is great, and super cool that I could easily pay them from my phone. 10/10 recommend!”

Online payments make it easy and pain-free for customers to pay, which will boost your brand for being hassle-free. That’s why it’s becoming so incredibly popular and successful for all businesses, no matter their size. You may just land a repeat customer for the simple fact you make your business convenient with the payment process.

You’ll also enjoy how fast and easy it is to receive payments – if you can do it all in just a minute or two, what’s not to love about that? A check can take a few days to process, and you also need to wait for a customer to mail it to you.

There is something a little more serious and annoying that you can help to avoid by switching to a mobile app to accept your cash:

Late-paying customers.

According to a survey run by Entrepreneur, there is a severe trickle-down effect caused by receiving payments late. Since a small business owner is responsible for managing finances and providing the budget, receiving payments on time is crucial. Who doesn’t want to be paid on time or in a timely manner? You have bills to pay, food to buy, and other necessities for running your business and life.

Here are just a few major inconveniences of not getting paid (on time):

  • an interruption in your services (especially if you are constantly purchasing materials for the business you are in)
  • putting yourself in a tight spot of not being able to hire new talent (and adding more pressure on current employees)
  • not being able to invest in new essential equipment or other needs such as marketing and PR campaigns

The worst part, of course, is not getting a paycheck.

Finding the right way to get customers to pay is incredibly stressful in itself, and you’ll want to find a method immediately that gets people to send their payments in to you ASAP. The good thing is, customers are enjoying the way apps are being used to take payments, so you don’t have to worry about convincing people that it’s easier and overall better to use. Plus, they’ll feel more motivated to pay when it’s quick and easy – and right on their phone!

Here are some of the easiest to use and best rated apps/platforms for digital payments:

ZELLE

Venmo’s newest and biggest competitor, Zelle, offers one of the quickest and easiest ways to make payments by transferring money directly between almost any U.S. bank accounts. To sign up, you only need to provide an email address or mobile phone number. The Zella app itself doesn’t charge a fee to send or receive money, but you would need to check with your bank if 1. They offer the Zelle services, and 2. What their fees are for using it (if they have any at all).

Even if your bank or credit union currently doesn’t offer the Zelle app, you can still download the app to use on your Android or IOS.

VENMO

You’ve probably heard it a lot – “You can just Venmo me!” or something along the lines of “Can I Venmo you for the tickets?”

Venmo has taken the world by storm. It’s super easy to join – you can even use your Facebook account to become a member.

A little different from Zelle, you can send money or receive money either using Venmo cash or linking a bank account to the app. Say you want to send an invoice after painting someone’s front door, you can send a request to your customers’ Venmo account that says “$120 for paint job and supplies” or any other message that you would want it to include.

After someone has sent a payment, it’s super easy for you to transfer it to your bank. Or, you can keep the cash in Venmo and use it to pay in other mobile apps. It’s free to use with a Venmo balance, bank account, debit card, or prepaid card. There is a standard 3% fee that applies to credit cards. If you are using it to make purchases in other apps, it’s always free.

APPLE PAY

If you have an iPhone, this may just be the easiest and best option for you. Apple claims that they have found a safer alternative to giving and receiving payments than with a physical credit card. As an extension to having an iPhone and an Apple account, you can send or receive money within a text – it’s as short and as simple as that. Ask Siri to send a payment right through your messages. If you’re charging customers, their payments automatically get added to your Apple Cash (and resides in your Apple wallet on your phone). You can either keep it there or transfer it to your bank. A lot of people are using Apple pay, so you’ll get major props by offering that option to customers.

CASH APP

Formally known as Square Cash, this app is very similar to Venmo and Paypal. However, instead of holding the cash within the app, Cash sends money directly to a debit account (which requires you to link it). You don’t even need to sign up – you can just enter your phone number and full name. A “$Cashtag,” which is a personalized payment url, will be made for you to use. From there, it’s pretty simple – send an email to whoever you want to pay, include how much, and cc [email protected] It’s equally as easy to receive payments – all you need to do is open the link sent to your email to begin transferring the payment to your debit card.

You can choose to download the app, but it’s not a requirement to send a payment. You do, however, need to download the app if you wish to activate a “cash card;” a cash card is a visa debit card to use for making and receiving payments (but you need to download the app for this option). However, there is a limit of adding or paying $2,500 per week and cashing out $25,000. You can receive an unlimited amount, which makes it a viable option if you prefer not to link your debit card. One other unique benefit to Cash is that you can use the app to buy and sell Bitcoin.

SQUARE

You may notice that Square has a strong presence in a lot of cafés and retail stores. Though you need an account and there is a 2.75% charge per transaction, this is a very strong option as it offers you the ability to accept someone’s physical credit or debit card. After joining, you receive a free magstripe reader that you can attach to your smartphone or tablet. Think about it this way – instead of filling out an invoice and waiting to receive a check, you can ask your client to pay on site with their credit card. Most people don’t really use a checkbook anymore, and they’d probably appreciate not needing write out a check to pay for your services.

Square also offers the option to make and accept payments through digital invoices. You can take payments over the phone or on your website, and your money can be deposited instantly for a 1% fee, or for free over the next business day.

If you have employees, Square also offers quite a few different services, including an online payroll service, which could make life a lot easier to keep your banking and payroll in one place. One other thing that makes Square stand out is that you can apply for a loan to grow your small business – if you are looking for a more hands-on option, Square is your best bet.

All of these payment processors are great options that make the invoicing process innovative and easy. If you’re stuck on which to choose, maybe try each one to see which you like best. Just make sure you are keeping track of payments and saving invoices so you are on top of your bookkeeping and ready to file your taxes!

Pauline Germanos

Written By

Pauline Germanos
When she’s not writing for SB, Pauline runs an intuitive healing business... and is still writing as she types up psychic readings! As she was raised by entrepreneurs, she knows what it takes to be a small business owner.

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