Online services help you get paid right now

With many small businesses just trying to stay afloat following a deep economic recession, waiting around to get paid just shouldn’t be an option, according to one financial software company.

Intuit Canada, makers of accounting and tax software QuickBooks and TurboTax, says that far too many SMBs are waiting far too long to be paid, especially when it comes to business-to-business transactions. Its solution came in August 2010, with the launch of Merchant Service for QuickBooks, one of the company’s core software products.

“Small businesses that don’t manage their cash flow well struggle,” says Chris Davey, a group manager with Intuit. “The ones that are growing and thriving tend to use products like QuickBooks,” he adds. “If you don’t manage your bookkeeping well, you get confused,” he says.

Merchant Service aims to kill two birds with one stone by integrating the debit and credit process into a small business’ bookkeeping process. When a business processes a credit card or debit transaction, it is automatically inputted into QuickBooks, which makes it easier to keep track of how much you owe and who owes you, Davey says. He compares it to the dashboard of your car-without one, you wouldn’t know how fast you’re going or what direction you’re moving, he says.

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Many small businesses currently invoice other businesses that are offering them services and have to wait up to three months to get paid, often by mail, according to the company. They usually invoice on a 60-day or 90-day agreement and have to be paid within that time, he says. But with Intuit’s product, business owners can get their money within two days, he says.  

Christine Moffit, owner of Christine’s Touch Gardening Ltd., based in Toronto, used to use another company for her debit and credit transactions, but switched over to Intuit when the company offered its beta version of Merchant Service.  “I am the office staff,” she says, so her time is very limited.

“The merchant fees are slightly less, but my time commitment is significantly less,” she says. “It was an enormous administrative pain,” Moffit says. “It just was time consuming,” she adds.

Naturally, there are several competing companies on the market, offering hardware and software for processing payments, but they don’t integrate with bookkeeping software the same way that QuickBooks does, which in turn saves business owners a lot of time, he says. 

The product differs from online payment systems like PayPal, which typically focuses on transactions from consumers, not other businesses, he says. Business owners can take advantage of Merchant Service with business-to-business transactions, not just customer payments.

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“In our case you don’t have to go with any hardware,” he says, but that’s only for credit card transactions. Accepting debit cards, though, has to be done as an in-person transaction and the software doesn’t integrate with online shopping carts, although that might be a future move for Intuit, he says.

Your business might not need to accept both credit and debit though, he says. Some businesses may only need to use Merchant Service for a few transactions over the year, but they may be worth a great deal of money, he points out. In those cases, you wouldn’t want to wait a few months to get paid.

There are other software services that can save your business money through invoicing as well. Toronto’s 2ndSite Inc.’s FreshBooks is an online software-as-a-service offering that automates the invoicing process.

“Focus on your work not your paperwork,” is the idea, says John Coates, a communications manager with FreshBooks. Once the invoice is done, businesses can still be paid through debit or credit, but the idea is to simply lay out what work has been done.

Users can input their time and billable expenses into a simple user interface, and then their invoice is set up automatically. FreshBooks also automatically sends payment reminders, which saves business owners time in following-up, he says.

“People put off invoicing because it’s a pain,” Coates says. “If they send that invoice way faster, that client can then pay them faster,” he adds.

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