We originally published this piece a few years ago, but there are always new trainers just getting set up, and this article has lots of good information:
It is exciting when a new potential client says “yes!” to working with you but before you get to the really fun stuff – coaching the client and training dogs – we need to make sure to get the business stuff out of the way.
An important first step is sending contracts or agreements that outline the responsibilities and expectations for both our business and our clients. These written agreements are meant to protect our business and personal assets from potential mishaps.
Now that you’ve made the sale and gotten the paperwork out of the way, it is time to collect payment. We recommend always taking a deposit or payment in advance to avoid headaches later. In today’s fast-paced digital world being ready and able to accept alternative forms of payment is becoming increasingly important.
Even if you aren’t selling digital courses or virtual consulting, it is a good idea to be able to accept credit card payments, digital money transfers or bank transfers. This makes getting paid easier and more convenient for both the consumer and the business.
When accepting payments for our business, we must make sure we are using alternative payment options responsibly and as intended. This means not using personal cash apps or options for business use.
We’re going to walk you through the top options for accepting digital payments for your business. You may choose one of these as the best option for you or decide that having multiple options makes sense after weighing the pros and cons of each.
Likely the option you are most familiar with is PayPal which offers both business and personal accounts so you’ll want to make sure you are opted into the business account. Since it is widely known, it is also a trusted payment option for consumers and would lead to little resistance.
Some additional highlights of using PayPal for accepting payments in your business include:
- You can set up and send invoices for the desired amount
- Consumers do not need a PayPal account to pay you via invoice
- Gives the sense of security and confidentiality
- Create a customized PayPal.Me link for clients to pay you directly via the link
- Setting up a business account also offers Seller Protection for if a client doesn’t pay you or in the case of a return needed
- Offers a card swiper for on-the-go
- Easily add “Pay Now” buttons to your website
- PayPal offers “Bill Me Later” financing to consumers which allows you to be paid up front and your customer to pay PayPal over time.
- Processing fees are 2.9% plus $0.30
- Allows money to be withdrawn immediately for a 1% fee or no-fee within 1-3 business days
- Has debit card options for quicker access to funds
- Provides business owners with a 1099-K come tax season
- Signup is free
Draw-back: In our experience, when there is a dispute over payment, Paypal will often side with the consumer and refund payments, rather than side with the business owner. On top of that, they do not refund their processing fees in the case of a refund.
Perhaps the second most popular option among small businesses is Square. Square goes beyond just accepting payments and really is an all-in-one solution that provides online appointment scheduling, payroll, benefits and capital.
Additional information about using Square for payment processing:
- Take payments in person, over the phone or send an electronic invoice
- Gives the sense of security and confidentiality
- Create an online store
- Money is deposited next day into your bank account
- Has a business debit card for immediate access to funds
- Processing fees range from 2.6% – 3.5% depending on how payment is received
- Allows money to be deposited immediately for a 1% fee
- Signup is free and doesn’t require personal credit check
- Square also offers a gift card program. Suggesting that clients offer friends and relatives gift cards for “make-up” or new training can help with the post-pandemic recovery time.
- Square Installments allow your customers to make payments but you to receive the full amount up front. (Note: This program is on hold during the pandemic)
- Access to Capital Funding after a period of time
- Refunds processing fees for refunds or returns
Draw-back: We’re honestly big fans of Square and don’t have much bad to say about it. Most of the criticism we’ve found is regarding their point of sale system which likely isn’t an issue for most dog trainers. If taking payments in person, their card readers can be difficult to keep connected as they rely on bluetooth. Additionally, you’ll want to familiarize yourself with the fees for keyed or card on file transactions as they can be much higher than swiped or invoice payments.
You might be familiar with Stripe if you’ve taken a lot of online courses or bought through merchant websites. It is the most popular option when processing with WooCommerce on the WordPress platform. While it does have invoicing capabilities, the site is a little less than user friendly and does require some coding knowledge to integrate with your website.
Let’s get into the details of using Stripe:
- Signup is free
- Take payments via your website, invoice or in person with the app
- Processing fees are 2.9% + $0.30 for all charges
- First payout is held for 7-14 business days
- Payouts are then approximately every 2 business days
- Works with a variety of ecommerce plugins
Draw-back: While Stripe can more easily integrated on a website, it is not as easy for the DIY business-owner, as the controls are all API and web development code. Additionally, their payout time is much slower than other options.
Venmo for Business
Most likely you’ve used Venmo to send friends or family members payments. Venmo is owned by Paypal and does have a business app. It is important to not use the personal version for your business. Some reasons why you might consider using Venmo:
- Easily integrated onto your website
- Can send payment via phone number, email or personalized Venmo link
- Uses the third-party processor Braintree for processing
- Processing fees are 2.9% + $0.30 per transaction
- Requires proof of business entity for use
- Familiarity and ease of use among some consumers
Drawbacks: While Venmo can make accepting payments quick and easy, it is another app to keep track of and doesn’t have any reporting capabilities. We recommend having it as an option but wouldn’t be our main source of processing payments.
If you use Quickbooks as your accounting software you might already be aware that they offer invoicing and payment processing. With this option you can accept credit cards, debit cards and ACH payments. Using Quickbooks for invoicing and payments does require a monthly subscription in addition to processing fees that range from 1% for ACH transfers to 3.4% for keyed transactions
Wave is another accounting system that is free to use and works well for most solo business owners. They also offer invoicing and payment processing with a pay-per-use feature – no monthly subscriptions required. Fees range from 1% for ACH payments to 3.4% for certain transactions.
As you can see, there are lots of options available. It is important to note that this is not an exhaustive list and that there are other industry specific programs for client management and scheduling that likely also offer credit card processing.
Looking for scheduling and payments all in one?
If you’d like an all in one solution where clients can sign themselves up for lessons or classes, you might consider using Acuity.
Acuity Scheduling is a favorite among dog trainers. It is easy to setup and allows users to self enrol in classes and includes the ability to complete contracts or accept terms of service on screen.
Acuity integrates with Stripe and Square to accept deposits or full payments when scheduling.
When searching for a way to accept payments take a look at the systems that you are already using and see what can work well together. Looking around for the lowest fees isn’t the best strategy since ease of use for both you and your customers should also play a role.
Saving a couple of hundred dollars per year in fees might not be worth the headache of having to spend several hours setting up or losing out on disputes and refunds. The top options for payment processing are all similar in fees so pick what works best for you. If you are a high volume client, there is always an opportunity to reach out to your payment processor and negotiate a better rate.