Electronic Billing Puts Money In Your Pocket

Barbara Weltman The delay between completing and billing for a job and receiving payment impedes your cash flow. Open up the floodgates by emailing invoices. Doing so will:

  • Cut time between asking for payment and receiving it. It is estimated that the average invoice-to-payment cycle runs 41 days – cut it by 15% to 80% (depending on whom you ask) by sending invoices electronically.
  • Reduce costs – save on paper, stamps, labor and trips to the post office. Your savings may be as great as 50%. You can determine your potential saving with an online calculator at www.billtryst.com/costcalc.htm.
  • Improve your business image – be up to date with the latest billing method.

In-house e-billing
You do not need sophisticated software or tech staff to convert from paper to e-mail invoicing. Your current accounting software can serve as your e-mail platform – just attach your bill to a customer’s e-mail rather than printing it an mailing it. But this way of sending bills electronically, called “presentment,” isn’t the most efficient. To automate your e-billing, you need to use additional software or outsource your invoicing.

Intuit offers QuickBooks Deluxe Online Billing (http://quickbooks.intuit.com: under “QuickBooks Add-Ons” click on “Send Invoices Online”), an automated way to send invoices, statements and estimates, track customer responses and follow up with reminders. This service lets you set up pages to allow customers to view their billing history and make online payments. Cost: $14.95 per month (there’s a 45-day free trial period).

An alternative exclusively for time-based professionals is Timesolv™ (www.elite.com/eos), a Web-based software application designed to track and bill the hours of business such as law firms, accounting practices, computer consultants, management consultants and engineers. Invoices can be e-mailed as attachments or customers can be directed by an automated e-mail message to a URL containing their invoice. Cost: $14.95 per month (there’s a 30-day free trial period).

Review your current billing practices and software applications against the cost of adapting to online billing. A one-time cost (for example, to implement QuickBooks), may be easily recouped in savings from e-invoicing.

Outsourcing e-billing
You don’t have to handle the work yourself. If your time is limited, consider using an outside vendor to do your e-invoicing for you. For example, CompleteBilling from Bill Trust (www.billtrust.com) claims to save you between 30% and 50% of the expense of doing your own billing. Cost: 45 cents to 65 cents a bill.

Billing Pros (www.billingpros.com) is another outsourcing option that’s completely free and there’s no limit on the number of bills you can send via e-mail each month. As advertised, all you do is point and click and your billing statements are e-mailed immediately.

Payment options
To speed your receipt of payment, give customers the opening to pay you online rather than mailing you a check. Offer alternative billing options on your Web site, including:

  • Credit cards

  • Electronic fund transfers

While consumers are getting used to paying online via credit card, businesses are slow to adopt online payment practices. One company that facilitates online payments is Fidesic (www.fidesic.com), offering Electronic Invoicing and Payments (EIP). QuickBooks and Peachtree users use an add-on software module called “Print-to-Web service;” there’s a per-month or $1.50-per-transaction fee for invoicing.

Paying your bills online
Whether you receive your company’s bills electronically, through the mail or otherwise, you can also reduce costs by paying them online. Use your bank’s online bill paying option for this purpose. As with online billing, using online payment options serves you bill payment costs and reduces accounts payable time by hours each month.

QuickBooks users can pay bills electronically through CheckFree’s WebPay for Small Business (www.checkfree.com). Cost: $18.95 per month for 30 payments (50 cents for each additional payment).

The U.S. Postal Service offers USPS Online Payment Services™ Business Edition (www.usps.com/paybills) for paying your bills online. This option lets you schedule when bills are to be paid and set up automatic payments for recurring bills. Cost: $9.95 per month (on-month free trial).

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