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Billing Mega Remix

There was a time, late last April, when I received some feedback about CoachAccountable’s system for client invoicing.

It was critical but fair, and pointed to a lot of the shortcomings one is bound to find in a system that presents itself as purposefully lean and minimal.  It was a reminder of a fact that I well knew but resisted: CoachAccountable client invoicing was a far cry from the level of polish and quality found everywhere else in the system.

To explain why, we need just a little historical perspective.  Client invoicing was truly the bastard step-child of the system, left over from the 1.0 days and never really given the sort of love of a re-write which most of the rest of CA received when I created version 2.  Prior to launch it was never important enough to prioritize among so much else to work on, and I was perhaps too sentimental to axe it completely.  In the FAQ’s I gave a small apology on the matter: in response to the hypothetical question “What about invoices with broken-out line items? Or taxes? Or reports for my accountant?” I wrote the following:

Sorry, the billing setup of CoachAccountable is deliberately lean and mean, and indeed will probably fall short for more complex scenarios.  CoachAccountable is not meant to be a full on invoice and accounting solution, so if these tools fall sort there are other great online options that do it better than CA ever could.  I’m a fan of Freshbooks myself.

Content as I was to not reinvent the invoicing wheel, I still found this particular earnest criticism of the neglected feature really cut home:

I understand the desire for the lean mean look, it’s strange but when people are spending top dollar for coaching, I like my invoice to reflect some care… just a thought.

CA invoices didn’t reflect any care?  “Holy moly he’s right” I lamented to myself.  I resolved that I needed to remove billing if this is what it’s like.  Then I looked into how many coaches were actively using it: about 30% of my then modest collection of customers.

“I should’ve removed it when I had the chance” I grumbled to my wife, always the sympathetic ear to my work musings.  Undeterred, I put out a warning notice to those customers that sometime in the next 6 months I was apt to remove client billing entirely.  For a while it was invisible to all new sign ups, and quietly removed from the product tour page.

Weeks passed and the sting of being called out on evident half-heartedness faded.  I relaxed a little, mulled on usage, and decided it could stay a while longer after all.  I still had plenty to do elsewhere in the system, I decided to let it limp on a while longer.

Fast forward to two weeks ago.  An email from a new user, Brandi Starr, asked the following:

Is there a way to schedule recurring invoices? It appears when I enter an invoice and hit “send to client” it sends it right away no matter when I set the invoice date for. Most of my clients are billed monthly and it’s a hassle to have to remember to go in and generate an invoice each month.

Such a simple and well-formulated set of questions and implicit requests.  My usual M.O. regarding billing was to point to it’s deliberate simplicity and acknowledge that there are better solutions out there, and I more or less replied as such.  Brandi volleyed with a simple observation:

…regarding invoicing even if it isn’t recurring it would be awesome if it wouldn’t send the notice until the invoice date.

That made a LOT of sense, and wasn’t too much to ask for at all.  In that instant I realized that, one, I was never going to take out billing completely, and two, I was officially tired of apologizing for the half-hearted billing system of CoachAccountable.  It was time to do something about it.

What followed was a week long complete remix of billing, including the following new goodies:

  • Line-item invoices, instead of a single amount plus one-liner description
  • Option to add tax as a percentage
  • Post-dated invoices with the option to schedule invoice deliver at the later date
  • Create a recurring sequence of invoices with just a few clicks
  • Spiffy new display of invoices visible to both coach and client, in-system and via email

Creating an invoice now looks like this:

Create invoice

Click the “I would like to make a series of invoices just like this one” and you see the following:

Invoice Sequence

Here’s what an invoice looks like, including payment history when relevant:

An invoice

Invoices play nicely with branding settings:

A branded invoice

I stand by my earlier view that invoicing is hardly central to supporting and doing great coaching (which remains my main concern for CoachAccountable), but I suspect that having a nice invoicing solution baked right in will be a useful perk for many.  In its shiny, new state I imagine that CA invoicing will be a viable option for many more coaches than before.  Since it will help a now substantial (and ever growing) group of people, I may as well go the last mile and get it to the “Yep, that’ll do for my needs.” state for a wide class of folks.

Accordingly it will be my pleasure to put finishing touches on it to have it really be complete, including exportable reports ripe for shipping off to an accountant and online payment methods beyond just PayPal.

I’m keen to hear of what (if anything) else is needed.

6 Comments »

  1. Brandi Starr said,

    February 25, 2014 @ 4:53 pm

    Thanks so much! So far my clients love using the system and I am able to engage with them on a more consistent basis which gives them added value (so they love me even more). The change to the invoicing makes my life so much easier, I had so many systems that weren’t connected and costing me money that I finally have made the effort to consolidate. With Coach accountable I now have my CRM system that I use to manage prospects, and CA to manage customers. My customers pay my invoices via PayPal which is auto synced with my accounting system (Wave). Three systems handling all of my kay tasks so I’m a happy camper.

    I also really appreciate how responsive you have been. Not that I always expect a developer to be able to grant every request but the fact that you genuinely heard my concern and responded in a timely manner is appreciated.

  2. John said,

    February 25, 2014 @ 4:55 pm

    Totally my pleasure, and great to hear the remix really hit the mark for you!

    Thanks again for the well-executed nudge. :)

  3. Alane Pearce said,

    February 26, 2014 @ 11:18 am

    Thank you so much for keeping billing a part of CA–and for the great updates! I was so sad when you “threatened” to get rid of that feature because it was working for me to have my billing in the same place as my coaching. I was happy when you just let it be and didn’t follow through with your “threat.” Now I’m even happier with it. I love the new features!

    I continue to believe that CA is the best coaching portal out there!

  4. John said,

    February 26, 2014 @ 11:29 am

    Thanks Alane!

    Wow, how about that. Your story is so delightfully validating of the tack I (eventually :) took on this front. Sorry I threatened to remove what was working for you, and I’m so happy I didn’t and moreover that the remix is a lovely win for you. Thanks for being part of that 30% which had me think twice.

  5. Craig Kennedy said,

    February 27, 2014 @ 4:48 pm

    Love the billing changes!!
    Thanks again for the frequent and useful upgrades

  6. Nicky Roberts said,

    March 3, 2014 @ 12:27 pm

    Yes, thank you for these additions to billing. I love that your platform is “lean and mean” and I love that you’re also willing to add extra muscle for those spots that needs it.

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