Invoicing & Banking

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Reader Question:

“Sometimes people feel a little overwhelmed about how to start their business. Like how to set up the banking  or, for example how to invoice the clients. These practical topics you need to know about  if you are  starting your PTOO (or any) business.”

Answer:

I would assume everybody knows what an invoice  looks like.

It is so basic, I assumed everybody would know how to prepare an invoice,  even if the only bill they ever saw was from their own MD or Dentist. If you want me to prepare & send you a sample bill for your particular services I certainly can do so (for Grandpa consulting customers).

But here is one example:

The only absolute essentials on an invoice are in red (below).

Can be communicated by e-mail, regular mail, or orally between PTs.

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To: (Customer Name, Address, Phone, Email)

Date: 5 January 2015

From: (Your details)
Subject: Invoice Number 12345. For : [Describe!] —Example:Consulting Services Rendered 1 July 1014 to 1 January 2015

(Amount -for example)                               :::::Two Thousand Euros (€2000):::::::::::

Terms:  Payable 2% Discount if Paid In Full Within 10 Days; Net 30 days. Note: Customers tend to pay faster if given a small discount for early payments.

Payment Instructions: (Give detailed & exact co-ordinates such as: Cash mailing Address, Paypal, wire transfer instructions, &/or ask for the customer’s Visa, Master-charge authorization & Info)

Grandpa Note:

In your invoice, you may want to use the”fine print,” to explain or clarify your refund policy for defective products, etc.

The only absolute essentials on an invoice are in red (above).

Comments & corrections gratefully received!

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As to banking services you set up, they should always be set up mainly for the convenience of the CUSTOMER.

Thus, it depends on your market. Online buyers of information products in my orbit don’t like sending cash in the mail, nor bank wire transfers that cost around €40 @. Bank wire transfers are too expensive  if one is dealing with a €100 product.
I personally don’t like my info to be semi-public, I prefer cash in the mail sent at my risk. Because my customers want it, we very reluctantly opened a PayPal account. It is similar to a bank  account and especially good for small transactions. PayPal will (upon application) even give you a credit card to withdraw cash from ATM machines or pay for gasoline,  restaurants, etc.

For you, for example, if your clients are big Chinese airlines, the obvious bank to receive wire transfers would be the local banks that they (the customer)  are familiar with. For your local bills, a local bank that does “automatic paying” of bills like utilities is almost essential. I don’t know how things are done in your neck of the woods, but the old expression is “When in Rome do as the Romans do!”

In the USA people mainly still use personal  checks and snail-mail to pay bills. But if someone like me in Europe gets a mailed USA check, it is a big hassle to collect , There can be several month-long delays and collection charges that can be $100 per check. Thus, I must always tell USA people that we can’t  accept personal checks drawn on USA banks. With “FATCA” we may see the USA Govt taking 30% out of every transfer destined for a recipient abroad. It is yet to be seen how this new law will actually work out. ONE WAY AROUND GROWING BB RESTRICTIONS ON FOREIGN TRANSFERS IS TO SET UP A USA ACCOUNT –if you have a lot of payments coming from there.

For merchants, of course arranging to accept the major credit cards is useful and probably necessary.

DISADVANTAGES:

The biggest disadvantages are that there are credit card charges which is the case of American Express can be as much as 6% of the bill. Plus, procedures to protect the customer may involve giving the customer an immediate refund or charge back, upon request. You may occasionally lose payments if the customer wants to dispute your charges. Additionally, the credit card company may cut you off and keep your money if they,in their sole discretion, decide your product/services are immoral (like gambling or porn) or fraudulent (too many customer complaints). To avoid taking stolen credit card number payments, you need to be sure that the name and mailing address of the customer agree. You must use other standard fraud prevention procedures. Bad checvks are common in the USA.

ADVANTAGES:The credit card companies usually deposit the full amount of the bill into your bank account immediately even though they may extend credit (at usurious interest) to the customer. Customers tend to spend more and more readily if they have the convenience of paying by card and using the credit facility.

BYE BYE P.T. LIFE!

It should be noted that when you are running a visible business and accepting credit cards, PayPal, etc. you are not going to be a low profile P.T. any more.

To stay in  visible business you will need to fill out a lot of bureaucratic forms, comply with a lot of laws & regulations that you may think are arbitrary & irrational. You will have to   with-hold certain charges & taxes on your employees; charge your customers appropriate sales or value added taxes and remit them to the designated recipients. And last but not least, you can’t usually avoid business licenses, permits, registration,  inventory & income taxes. Of course with good advice, most paperwork can & should  be delegated to your accountants and your taxes can be legally minimized.

Post your comments, thoughts, related personal experiences, corrections or questions below.

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