Payments & Billing
Flexible Payment Options Your Design Firm Needs to Offer
Few architects spend their years of education and work to become licensed dreaming of the day that they’ll work to drum up new and repeat business, hope for referrals from satisfied clients, or chase after unpaid invoices to keep cash flow consistent. However, if billing and payments are the lifeblood of your cash flow, and therefore your business, getting money in the door consistently and predictably is absolutely essential.
As traditional payment methods and models have ceased to move the needle in a meaningful way, more and more professionals are turning to online payments as a way to deliver multiple convenient and flexible payment options to their clients. In this article, we’ll explore how the flexible payment options modern payment solutions offer are not just helping architects collect more of what they’ve earned, but drive higher client satisfaction in the process, all without disrupting their normal business processes.
Traditional payment models
Historically, architects have operated much like other professionals—accepting traditional forms of payment for their services, including cash, check, and bank or wire transfers. Unfortunately, as newer, faster, and more convenient payment methods have emerged, shaping the way consumers pay for everything from groceries to newly released movies to professional services and everything in between.
Consider the lifecycle of a check payment, for example. In most instances, a client will receive an invoice in the mail, find their checkbook, write a check for the invoice, and mail the check back to your office. In the most optimistic of circumstances, this process will take at least a week between the day you mail your invoice and the day you see your client’s payment hit your bank account. Unfortunately, in most instances, the delay is much longer. As fewer and fewer individuals use or regularly carry checkbooks, the delay in getting a check sent back to you could be substantial.
The effects of the past few months have had dramatic effects on other traditional forms of payment, as well. With the unexpected and unprecedented effects of the Coronavirus, people have become increasingly wary of in-person interactions and have maintained social distance whenever possible. This has led to a dramatic decrease in individuals executing bank/wire transfers, pay a service provider in person, with cash, and has also decreased the frequency of check payments as many individuals have taken fewer tips to the bank and store to procure mailing supplies, and considerable mail delays have resulted in lost or delayed deliveries.
Modern online payment solutions
Unlike these traditional payment methods, modern online payment solutions put the ability to pay directly into the hands of your clients. It also expands the number of flexible payment options available to your clients, once again enabling your clients to pay you with as little friction as possible.
The best modern payment solutions will enable you to accept in person or online credit, debit, and ACH/eCheck payments from clients. In the case of industry-specific payment solutions, like ClientPay, you may also have the opportunity to accept payments directly through the technology solutions you’re already using, like timekeeping, billing, or comprehensive practice management software.
By accepting these forms of payments, the door opens to even more payment options, like setting up future one-time or recurring payments. By enabling recurring payments, you offer both your firm and your clients the ultimate convenience by scheduling payments to run automatically at a schedule both you and your clients agree to.
This way, when payments are due, you get paid immediately without any action needed by you or your client. Additionally, your firm will receive the funding needed to keep your project on its projected timeline, and you’ll have more time to focus on the design and development work at hand. Additionally, breaking payments up into smaller sums increases accessibility for your services. Especially during times of financial difficulty, like those we’re currently experiencing, clients may be more likely to kick off a project if they pay as they go rather than face large lump sums phase to phase.
The benefit in offering flexible payment options
Despite the historical precedent of cash and check payments, the flexible payment options provided by online payment solutions are steadily growing in both use and popularity. The way most modern businesses run have shaped the way people expect to pay for goods and services. Indeed, few people who have grown accustomed to Amazon’s one-click checkout, delivery prescription medicine and pet supplies, and even city utility bills set up on recurring payment plans will be satisfied with having to pay for modern services with the effort required of a paper check or wire transfer. By offering more flexible payment options and scheduling recurring payments for customers, you give their customers' the experience they've already adopted from other industries and are most comfortable with using.
Additionally, as online payments increasingly become the norm, by NOT offering your clients these payment options you risk losing new business opportunities to a competitor of yours who does.
A recent Shopify study found that by 2023, 75 percent of businesses that sell direct to customers are expected to offer subscriptions. People want flexible payment options that fit their lifestyle, and having these dramatically improves the speed at which a client pays, as well as their satisfaction with a business. In fact, 70 percent of consumers surveyed by Fiserv reported that having multiple payment options increased their satisfaction with a business.
There are numerous best practices that architects have been utilizing to encourage payment from their clients for years now. Educating clients up front on the project timeline and costs has gone a long way towards keeping clients informed and engaged with both the project, and also their payments. Many have used money itself to incentivize payment, whether that’s in the form of offering discounts for up front payment or charging for late fees. Still more have relied on frequent up front and follow up communication to stay connected to clients and remind them of upcoming payments or past due invoices.
While these tried and true methods still hold a place in architecture firm business operations, one of the easiest and most affordable ways to streamline payments in your business while better serving your clients is providing flexible payment options enabled by modern online payment solutions. Delighting your clients and putting control in their hands won’t just help you develop a more consistent and predictable cash flow, but it will also create unmeasurable good will between you and your clients, making it far more likely that they will turn to you for repeat business and recommend your services to others. It’s truly a win-win scenario.