A Question for the Masses Regarding Payment Options

I seem to have a difficult time getting the Realtors I shoot for to pay in a timely manner.  Some pay right away, some take weeks, others...months.  I hear things like "I never got your invoice," "the check has been in my purse for weeks," or "didn't I pay you?"

I still carry a real estate license and have a "box" at the brokerage I worked at for years.  A lot of those agents are loyal to me but prefer to just leave a check in my box...when they get around to it.  The problem with that is the checks get left in the wrong box, an agent will pick up my mail by mistake and fail to return it to me, or they say they left a check, but never did.  No really, it happens!   I went to the office yesterday to pick up checks from 4 agents.  Only one had actually left a check in my box. One had placed my check in someone else's box, the other two apparently lied to me last week when they said they left payment.

I carry an MLS keypad, and agents love that they don't have to be present for the photo shoots.  Invoicing is a necessity.  I use Quickbooks for my accounting.  I used to send an invoice and an electronic payment request via Paypal through Quickbooks as soon as I posted the tour and emailed their MLS images.  No one likes to pay electronically; they have to write those checks!  And, they have to leave them in my box so that I have to drive up to the office and get them.  Ugh!

After spending weeks chasing a few agents that were eluding payment (agents I no longer shoot for) I decided that's it, no payment - no tour, no images.  Instead of releasing the tour and images, I release an invoice and my electronic request for payment.  When I receive confirmation that payment has been received (instant) I release the goods.  Don't want to pay online?  Fine.  Come to the shoot and pay me then.  Some could care less.  Others were miffed about this. Guess what?  They're also the same ones who don't pay in timely fashion and they're also the ones who didn't feel when I announced this change that it applied to them.

How does everyone else handle this?  I guess my mindset is that I don't want to finance these agents' tours until the house sells.  You hired me, I did my job and made your listing look beautiful, now pay me.  If you're not going to pay in a timely manner then everyone pays before they get the product.  

Am I off base here?  

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Mark,
I have to say I have been rather lucky in that 95 percent of my clients have paid without followup calls or emails. Maybe I have just been lucky. I do invoice via email after the job is complete.

How did you set up electronic payment without having a visa/MC business account that charges so much? Most of my clients will still pay by check, but I would love to offer electronic payments if it doesn't cost me too much.

I think what you have requested is very reasonable....and I would completely insist on that esp with those clients who are always tardy. Maybe its not worth having them as clients any longer.
Carol,

I use PayPal for the electronic payments. It's about 3.5% or close to that. I hate giving up that fee but it's worth it to me to not have to spend time (money) and energy tracking down payments. Once deposited I've got access to the money via a transfer to my bank acct or with a Paypal debit card. I love the Paypal debit card. I use it for the majority of my purchases because it sends you an email receipt every time you use it (great for keeping the account balanced) and there's a 1% cash back bonus every month. Not much, but I'll take it!

I've just discovered an app called "Square." It's for iPhones and Androids. You can accept a credit card on the spot by tapping in the amount and credit card info, have the client sign with their finger on your phone and it goes right into your bank acct. (www.Squareup.com) There's also a dongle you can plug into your headphone jack that allows you to swipe a credit card. If you swipe it's 2.5%, plus 15 cents. I should have the dongle in a week or so.
Thank you' Mark
I am going to check out PayPal. Sounds like you don't have an annual fee like one does with credit card companies.

I'll check out those other items as well
You guys should check out Square, a new mobile payment solution. It's not terribly expensive and it allows you to run credit cards from your mobile phone!

I do like the idea of not "releasing" the tour until it's paid for, that's really nice. Maybe we can add some integration support for that on TourBuzz in the future.
Yeah, I talked about Square above. I just set it up a few days ago and dying to put it into action. I've mentioned it to a few of my clients as a payment option and they just look at me like I'm a little weird. I am, but that's beside the point.

Alan, do you follow the Photography for Real Estate Blog? I subscribed a few weeks ago and have found it pretty useful. I think some of the TB folks would too. Seems like there's a new tip delivered everyday. That's where I heard about Square. There was an interesting dialog a few days ago about what it costs to show up for a shoot. Check it out if you haven't already. www.photographyforrealestate.com
Had a chance to use Square today for the first time. Agent was out of town and wanted to pay me. She gave me her credit card info, and I tapped it into my phone. Within seconds she got an email for receipt and I got an email indicating funds would be posted at midnight into my acct. Slick!
How about net 7 days and 10% added every 7 days after that.
Square is not getting the best of reviews on PFRE. They are new according to the forum, so maybe they will get it all together.
PayPal is the way to go. 3% on incoming transactions and nothing on purchases. I have not tried it but I would bet that PayPal would work via any Internet capable phone.
The terms I used put on my invoices were "due upon receipt." I even had a banner at the bottom in big red letters that said "if payment is not received within 7 days your tour will be deactivated and a $10 reactivation fee will be applied to your outstanding invoice." That didn't work. I had to deactivate a few tours and they never noticed until I brought it to their attention. Paypal is higher than 3% but still worth it.
Ah Mark! You are talking about cash Flow! That probably matters more than if joe blow paid. So, if you can keep them admitting they owe you are guaranteed cash in the future and that is what matters. Don't let some loser interfere with your other relationships. K
Keith, I'm not talking about cash flow. I'm talking about responsible business practices and honoring an agreement to pay someone as promised for a service they performed. I don't have the time or desire to keep reminding them that they owe me for a shoot(s). It's only my reminding them and sometimes forcing the issue that gets me paid. If I were to stop the reminders and not be persistent in my "collections," I would not get paid. Ever. My good clients, the one's I have great relationships with, the ones I would move heaven and earth to please, are okay with payment prior to releasing images. They know my work, they trust me, they know that they're going to pleased with the final results and are more than happy to pay immediately. I haven't burned any bridges with them. It's kind of a "natural selection" type process. If those that choose to ignore my invoices don't like my payment practices, they'll go elsewhere. I'm okay with that. That leaves me more time to better service my faithful clients and they far outnumber the bad.
Mark,

You are not off base. I don't think you can afford to work for people you have to chase down.

One thing you might try is putting on your invoice that if not paid within 30 days you will charge 9% per month interest. This is something I have seen on other photographer's invoices. (You might check on whether 9% per month is permisible by law first) Perhaps that would get the attention of a few slackers.

You might try reminding them that the other guy (nationwide company) whose product is not nearly as good as yours, expects to be paid by credit card, not when the tour has been shot, but before the appointment is even set up and that you might have to resort to this (for some people) because you simply have to get paid in a timely manner.

I don't know if I believe that making credit card payments online is so foreign to them. I think some of them are just using any means available to delay you as long as possible.
Just wanted to add a post to this discussion about using Square. I received the dongle for my phone a few days ago and have tried it out. It works great! I've had the opportunity to use Square several times both by tapping in credit cards and by swiping using the dongle. I am sold on this process. If you have an iPhone or a Droid, this app is a must have. I have found that agents I am shooting for who don't understand the online payment process or are hesitant to use it, are more than willing to give me their credit cards over the phone. They even want me to keep them on file so I can pay myself whenever I need to! How great is that!?

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