When I first started my virtual assistant practice, administration was a tricky business. I had to create an agreement in Microsoft Word, save it as a PDF, and email it to my new client. The client would then have to print it, sign it, and either fax it back to me or scan it and then email it back to me.
At the same time, I would create an invoice in Excel, save it as a PDF, and email it to my client, who would then send me a cheque or pay by PayPal. In some cases, the client would email to ask how to make a payment using PayPal, generating yet another step. If I knew ahead of time that the client preferred to pay by PayPal, I could use the PayPal invoicing tool, but then I didn’t have the option of including my business logo on the invoice.
Once Scott assumed responsibility for these tasks, the burden shifted to him. He tried using PayPal’s Payment Request Wizard for Outlook, but found that it didn’t really eliminate any steps, it just changed what the steps were. For myself, although I was freed from doing the work, I no longer had easy access to the information when I needed it.
Fortunately, I learned about some free online resources that have simplified both of these functions, and they just might work well for your business too.
EchoSign is a secure online signature service that makes things a little easier at our end, and a whole lot easier for our clients. We still create our agreements in Word and save them as PDFs, but after that, the entire process is automated.
When we upload the PDF to Echosign and enter the client’s email address, a copy is sent to him or her. Once they’ve reviewed it, they only need to click to indicate their acceptance, and a copy of the “signed” agreement is emailed to us. It’s that easy!
The only drawback is that the email shows as coming from echosign.com and not from us, and is occasionally blocked by our client’s spam filter, but it hasn’t been a big problem.
We’ve been using the free version for over a year, which allows for up to five signatures per month, but if at some point it no longer meets our needs, we will happily upgrade to the paid version, because it works so well. In addition to unlimited signatures, the four premium versions offer a variety of additional features to meet the needs of small business through to global enterprises. It can even be integrated with other applications, including Google Apps, Salesforce, and eFax, for even further streamlining.
If EchoSign is the best thing since sliced bread, then Billing Boss is the best thing since… bread. It is exactly the tool I’ve been looking for since day one.
With Billing Boss, you simply upload your logo and enter your business information, and you’re ready to start sending invoices. There are only eight styles to choose from, but some are quite basic, so with the addition of your own logo, it’s not hard to find one that’s suitable.
You can either import your client list or enter the information as needed. It will then be stored within the application for future use.
Select the client, enter your invoice details, and send it by email. If you accept PayPal, there will be a space on the client’s copy where they can click to make a payment. Other online payment methods may be added with an optional upgrade. Mobile payment processing is another optional upgrade that would be useful for professionals who don’t always work from their office.
By using the system to track when you receive payments, you can see at any given time which invoices are outstanding or overdue, and generate reports to track your income. Because the invoices are all stored within your account, you can easily resend an invoice if the client needs another copy, either for payment or for year-end tax purposes.
You can also give read-only access to your bookkeeper or accountant, eliminating the need to hand over printed copies.
I am just thrilled at the ways these tools have streamlined our operations. In an ideal world, we could integrate the two processes, but who knows… that day may come!