What’s the best way to take payment for your services? Obviously, that will depend on your business, the industry you work in and the expectations of your customers. In this article we’ll look at the options available so you can choose the best ones for your small business and steer your customers towards them.
Cash and Cheques
The use of cash and cheque payments has been declining steadily in recent years, and the pandemic accelerated the adoption of “non-contact” alternatives, but there are some businesses where these methods of payment are still common.
The upfront costs are lower than online and card payments, but there are costs in terms of manual accounting processes and the time required to pay them into the bank. Depending on how much cash your business handles, there may be security costs as well.
For contractors and freelancers, email invoicing is often the easiest payment method to employ. You can embed payment links into your emails after completing the work, and direct your client to a payment page so it’s easy to submit their bank or card details. The main disadvantage of this method is that your clients have to take manual action to pay you, which can lead to late payments and associated cash-flow issues.
Direct Debit allows you to pull payments directly from your customers’ bank accounts, using the secure BACS network for bank-to-bank transfers. This makes Direct Debit an extremely streamlined and secure method of payment. It allows for one-off payments, and you’ll avoid the high transaction fees sometimes associated with card payments. Direct Debit payments can also be scheduled to pay automatically on due dates, which eliminates the danger of late payments.
Direct Debit payments will take at least three working days to clear your account, unless you combine them with Instant Bank Pay, which will allow you to access instant payments.
The vast majority of consumers prefer to pay by card, and in 2020 an estimated 78% of all retail transactions used a debit or credit card. Depending on your business, not accepting card payments could see you missing out on valuable business.
Card payments do come with a downside, though, with relatively high transaction fees, and the possibility that your customer’s card could be declined. Fraud is also a real concern, and new identity checks came into force in 2022 to combat this. As a result, you’ll need to ensure you’re using a secure payment gateway to protect your customers’ details.
Digital wallets like Apple Pay and Google Pay are becoming the payment-method of choice for service-oriented industries and smaller start-ups. You’ll need a mobile point of sale system to store client details and issue receipts, but that’s all you need to get started.
Digital wallets are very convenient for customers, but they do come with relatively high charges. There are also a number of different wallets to choose from, which can take time and money to integrate. You’ll also need an up-to-date reader that can handle NFC payments.
Online payment gateways
An online payment gateway allows you to take online payments directly from your website. Be sure to do your research and compare options carefully, as there will be a vast difference in price structure and the type of payments accepted via the gateway. You may also need to hire a developer to integrate the payment gateway infrastructure into your website.
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