Equine Accounting: Seven tips for getting paid by your clients on a more timely basis...

You've got a barn full of boarders and lots of lessons scheduled. Everyone's happy with your services. But you are having trouble collecting from those clients. What can you do to make collection easier and faster?

1. Bill your clients on a timely basis. Your invoices for board should reach your clients at least one week before their payment is due. Take the time to create an actual invoice - even if the amount due stays the same from month to month. If you don't have the time to bill your clients, hire someone to do it for you. You know that the reason that you don't have time to do the billing is because you are too busy cleaning stalls, turning out and doing all the other things it takes to make your clients and their horses happy. But the message they get when you don't bill on time is that the money isn't that important to you. So why should it be to them? 2. Have new boarders sign a contract that specifies when board is due and have current boarders initial the contract yearly. It may not have a lot of legal clout but it reminds your clients that you are first and foremost a business and operate as such. If you use this procedure with everyone, you aren't likely to get objections to doing so.
3. Ask for a security deposit from new boarders. This is standard procedure when you rent an apartment so why should it be any different when someone rents a stall from you? Having the security deposit gives you a little cushion should someone get behind. But never offer the client the option to apply the security deposit to an arrears balance unless it is their last month of boarding with you. If you increase your board, then the client must increase the amount of the security deposit. Your state may have regulations relating to maintaining security deposits so check with them before setting up any policy.
4. Have clients prepay your boarding or lesson fees. Offer them the option to "buy in bulk". This is especially effective for lessons. Offer a package of ten lessons with a discount for prepayment. Boarding barns can offer a discount when payment is made in advance on a quarterly basis.
5. Offer clients the opportunity to pay by credit card. PayPal and Intuit offer affordable credit card services that you can access from a smartphone or computer. There are fees involved but accepting credit cards can save you the time you spend chasing clients for payment. But I would not suggest maintaining credit card information on file. Massachusetts is in the process of implementing a new privacy of information law that includes security of credit card information and your state may have a similar law in place. Instead, explain to clients that they will need to provide their credit card for each charge. Some barns currently will only accept credit cards as a form of payment. This eliminates the need to make bank deposits and the problem of a check returned for insufficient funds.
6. For invoices for board, consider e-mailing the invoices rather than handing them out or leaving them in tack trunks. Clients are more likely to forget the invoice at the barn, in the car, etc than an invoice delivered directly to their computer. Checkbooks are usually kept close to the computer so it's easy to write out the check right then and there. For lessons, you should not have to be sending invoices, unless it is for a prepayment package. If the client does not prepay, then payment should be made at the time of the lesson. 7. Some barns charge extra fees for time spent holding the horse for the farrier, administering meds, etc. You may get distracted during the day and forget to make a note that the client needs to be billed for those extras. So consider either increasing the monthly board to cover all of the extras or offering an annual charge (to be paid at the beginning of each year) to cover all of the extras. The fee wouldn't be mandatory for all clients but by discounting it, you can make it attractive enough that many of your boarders will sign on.