It’s no secret that getting paid as a tradesperson can be a real pain. With 50 percent of people carrying cash with them only half the time and the use of checks in rapid decline, oftentimes tradespeople are relegated to leave a job with their pockets empty and send an invoice in the mail instead. Not only can this cause a delay in payment, but it also makes it difficult for many tradespeople to get paid at all.

While technology and the rise of diverse payment methods is the culprit for tradespeoples’ woes, it’s also the solution. It’s here plumbers, electricians, and HVAC experts alike have the opportunity to take the bull by the horns and adopt payment methods to improve their chances of getting paid. Here’s a few tools to consider:


U.S small businesses in general are owed a whopping $825 billion in unpaid invoices, with the average company in the construction industry waiting on $110,348. Unfortunately, once a tradesperson leaves the premise, invoices become out of sight and out of mind for many customers. This mindset does have a real impact on the well-being on hardworking tradespeople.

Invoicing products, such as ones by Quickbooks, InvoiceOcean, or Tidal Commerce, lets tradespeople email customers invoices on the spot. Many also enable customers to simply click on the link featured in the mail and pay directly with a credit card or check. Even more, utilizing an invoicing tool is actually cheaper than mailing a paper invoice.

While each transaction via an invoicing product generally ranges from 5 cents to $1, a mailed paper invoice can actually cost upward of $1.50 — that’s taking into consideration postage fees, the time spent by a tradesperson to fill the invoice in, etc. Better yet, using an invoicing tool also reduces the amount of touchpoints on sensitive card data, as the only people handling the data are the customers themselves.

So, what do tradespeople need to look for in an invoicing product? For one, it must be secure and easy to use. Mobile systems tend to work well for tradespeople on the go. It’s also important that the tool feature a vault to store recurring customers’ data, and features both the option to pay with credit card and check (ACH). It’s about 30-50 percent cheaper to process a check transaction than one made with a credit card. 


When it comes to accepting quick debit or credit payments, mobile swipers and readers offer a great solution. Tradespeople simply only need to plug the device into their phone’s headphone jack, or connect with Bluetooth, to let clients pay via a portable, point of sale (POS) terminal-style card reader. The devices are also pretty cheap. A wireless one will go for $200 while a non-wireless reader costs $30-$70. Really, that’s the price of one unpaid invoice.  

Even more, the fees associated with mobile swipers and readers are actually cheaper than those of the above mentioned invoicing products. With invoicing products, tradespeople are charged card-not-present transaction fees, which are almost double the price or, an extra 1 percent. For card-present transactions, a good payment processor will charge an effective rate that’s between 2-2.25 percent. As a reminder, the effective rate is the processing fees divided by the total sales volume.

And since the cardholder is present to undertake a transaction with mobile swipers or readers, they’re also more secure. There’s less chance of fraud occurring, or of consumers’ card information to being stolen online. Overall, through leveraging mobile swipers and readers, tradespeople are able to go back to way things used to be: they’re able to get paid on the spot.


Anyone who leverages digital payment tools requires a certain knowledge of how fraud occurs. One of the most prominent types is called ‘fraudulent chargebacks.’ Essentially, this is when a consumer makes a purchase but then disputes a ‘mystery’ charge on his or her statement. The fraudster’s goal is ultimately to have the money returned all while still getting to enjoy the product or service they purchased.

To avoid having to foot the bill, it’s imperative for tradespeople to leverage card-present payment devices that are Europay, Mastercard and Visa (EMV) compatible, meaning they feature a chip reader. The U.S. Fraud Liability Shift states that merchants are now liable for any counterfeit transactions made with a chip card if the card reader is not EMV-compliant.

But, remember: Friendly chargebacks can occur too. A consumer might not remember having made a purchase, panic, and then request the money back right away. Thus, tradespeople should talk with their payment processors to ensure their descriptors are accurate. Some companies use the name their business is registered under instead of the name consumers recognize, for example.

It’s also a smart idea to include the company phone number or address in the descriptor. That way, if a consumer gets confused, he or she can just give the tradesperson a ring. All in all, it’s prudent to work with a payment processor that has a deep knowledge of fraud and can support a tradesperson if anything occurs.

With invoicing products and mobile swipers or readers on the market, there’s no reason tradespeople should need to go around chasing payments. The tools make it simpler than ever to get paid on time if not on the spot.

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Publication date: 05/24/18