Is Your Business Leaking Dollars and Time? How to Fix It.
The Solopreneur Rite of Passage
For most coaches and creatives it’s almost a rite of passage to set-up getting paid through one of the well known online invoicing systems when you start your business. We’re far beyond the time when people type out invoices by hand and pop them in the mail. However, while there are easy, electronic ways to send an invoice these days, using the “send an invoice, wait to get paid” method still takes a lot of your attention and can waste a bunch of your time.
You might still be learning how to talk about the money part of your offerings. It can seem easiest to say “I’ll send you an invoice” and leave it at that. But I’m hoping that eventually you’ll get better at speaking to your clients about how they can pay you, and you’ll be able to migrate away from a payment system that’s costing you time, money and hassle.
When you get to this point, it’s going to be so much easier, I promise. And here’s why I want it for you…
If you’re using one of these popular “starter” ways of getting paid online, it means you’re losing multiple hours a month that could be put to better use elsewhere in your business – like making room for another client in your roster (uhm, yes please!) or following up with that amazing person that you’d love to work with.
Don’t get me wrong, when business owners first start out, it makes a ton of sense to pick the easiest path to getting paid that also happens to be free. (A lot of online entrepreneurs like PayPal for just that reason.) But as you grow and work with more people, using a simple online payment system like this can do you a disservice as it allows your time, effort and money to leak out through all of the follow-up and babysitting this kind of process creates.
How Time Leaks Work…
Just like running the air conditioner with the windows cracked open means you’re wasting precious resources (aka: money and time), using a one of the “starter” online payment methods (called money exchanges) causes leaks in your solopreneur system, too.
Meaning, they create unnecessary people-chasing. Like when your invoice email lands in your client’s spam folder, for example.
Your client has to remember to go online and pay the invoices you send, not accidentally delete them or let those emails get buried in the the chaos of their inbox.
People might forget to pay you (things sometimes just slip people’s minds) or they just got behind on their to-do list but really want to work with you.
It creates extra steps for you because you have to remember to log-in, generate and send your client an invoice, and follow up or worry about getting paid if it falls off your new client’s radar.
Having a process where you can take and run a credit card (using a “merchant account”), after your client agrees to work with you on the phone or video conference, is a step up from the usual “cash exchange” platforms that allow you to send invoices or have “pay me” buttons but not take credit card numbers on the fly.
Setting up a non-leaky process for getting paid is so important that it’s one of the first things I do when onboarding my clients and I’ve noticed it streamlines everything for them, which makes them happy, and it actually helps them focus on the work we’re going to do together.
Getting Paid for One-to-One Work
If you’re a coach or a creative entrepreneur, you probably offer a good amount of recurring monthly packages, services and programs that are high touch for your clients.
So, say you’re going to do 3 payments over 90 days which costs a little more. If your client pays in full instead, that saves them some money (and you time!). Yes, some clients may be okay with the high cost of the payment plan but be sure to ask and point out the benefits to them of fewer payments: time managing payments, having to think about your financial arrangement, instead of being able to focus fully on your work together, making sure they’ve got room on their credit card, etc.
Expand this idea. If you’ve been sending monthly invoices of say $500 every month you can streamline it for you and for your client by taking it down to one or two payments every six months or a year. This saves you time and brain space.
For them, it’s a benefit because they don’t have to remember or think even about paying you. It’s another boring to-do item that you’ve just helped to take off their list. You’d love for someone to do that for you, right?
How Can You Start Using this Approach?
Get them to pay you right after they’ve said they want to work with you. Use a merchant account to take their payment over the phone instead of invoicing them later. This is easy to set up and is the gateway to creating a happy client from the start.
It might feel different or even a little stressful to approach streamlining your payment process this way at first but before you know it, it will feel like, “This is just how I do business.”
When they say yes to working with you, which is often on the phone or Zoom (or Skype), you can tell them, “I’ll take your card number now and charge you again in 30 days” or whatever your payment plan is.
Your client has already said yes to working with you so there’s no good reason not to give you a credit card. It’s happens to be the next step in the process of working together. And if you can cut out the hassle of remembering to pay you, you take on the onus of doing it for them, and they will LOVE you for it.
It shows that you’re engaged in your process, willing to work for the client, and that you’re prepared and ready to help them. You can show your clients true leadership by steering the car when it comes to the payment process, and as an added bonus, you make sure you get cash in had a lot faster.
If people push back about this payment approach, I’d argue that they’re probably not your ideal client. I’d say that you shouldn’t bring them on or chase them.
If they’re pushing back on paying up front and/or your payment process, it’s a red flag. Not just because they won’t “play ball” with your onboarding process, but because it’s an indicator that they won’t listen to what you’re trying to teach when you do your work together…
- If they’re pushing back in this way, how much will they learn from you?
- How successful with they be?
- Will they give you a great testimonial or referrals in the end?
They tend to be the ones who push and push and rub against your process all the way through your working together, doesn’t get them results, and isn’t much fun for you.
What To Tell Them?
For all the clients that are a fit, it’s easy to take control and responsibility for getting paid up front through your conversation after they’ve said they want to hire you. It may take a little practice but keep in mind that getting paid up front is now a regular part of your process, just like invoicing used to be.
At the end of your call, when they’ve agreed to work with you, show your excitement and start your client onboarding process right then. Here’s an example of what you can say:
“I’m so excited to work with you! I’ll take your information to get us started.” (Get their name address, etc.)
“What card do you want me to charge this to?” (Take down the credit card number, expiration date, and associated details.)
“I’ll run your card for $XYZ after we hang up and I’ll run it again every 3 months to complete your payments. You’ll get a note letting you know your card has been charged.”
Or, “I’ll send you our contract so you can you review it. I’ll run your card after you sign off on the agreement.”
Or whatever you want your process to be.
This way you get paid up-front, clients don’t have to think about it again, and they can be excited and looking forward to working together now that the financial part is taken care of. It also means that they won’t get distracted or have cold feet and fall out of your sales cycle at the last moment.
Big Love for You
Creating amazing service starts right away and makes for happy, satisfied clients. It allows you to deliver your work with confidence and to get the scary part of talking about finances and getting paid off the table early.
No awkward conversations at the end or hunting people down, only big client love for your work after you’ve done a great job for your client. Glowing testimonials sound good, right?
So consider ditching invoicing altogether and take control of your process to avoid leaking too much precious time, effort and hard fought money from your business.
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