Especially in this troubled economy, many small businesses and freelancers try to supplement their work with recurring revenue opportunities. This regularly billed income can help to ease the cash flow problems that are common with freelance work.
Managing and processing the billing can be a challenge, however, and while some invoicing services do provide basic recurring billing featured, the functionality tends to be limited, and the process daunting. Chargify, a new hosted payment processing solution, hopes to change that by providing an easy way for companies to implement recurring billing.
Unlike Paypal or many of the invoicing apps we all know and love, Chargify lets you tie this subscription and billing process to your own signup page, with your own products and plans. Alternatively, you can create a hosted signup page and let Chargify handle the whole process. The more technically-minded folks can integrate the service with their own app or website via the API.
Chargify is primarily designed for subscription services, and the options available for setting up your various products and plans are extensive. You can include setup fees, free trial periods and expiration periods to customize your plans and pricing.
Setup isn’t a horribly complicated process, but there are a lot of options, and you obviously want to verify that the billing process is working using the test gateways before you start collecting and processing payments with live cards. A dashboard gives you up-to-the-minute views of revenues collected and a slew of useful reports.
Chargify doesn’t replace your merchant account and gateway, but rather supplements them, providing additional functionality including analytics, payment and credit card expiration reminders, metered billing and coupons and discounts.
Using Chargify doesn’t exclude you from paying the standard processing fees that you normally would incur from your merchant account and gateway. It does, however, let you choose among different processors to take advantage of the one that is giving you the best rates.
One of the concerns that a lot of freelancers and small businesses have is how to manage and process payments, and how to handle the risks associated with storing credit card information. In this instance, neither you nor Chargify actually store the credit card data, it all goes through Authorize.net, which is fully PCI Compliant.
I’ve focused primarily on using Chargify in a small business environment but it can also be used by developers who are looking to add payment functionality to their applications without wanting to build a solution from scratch.
Chargify plans vary in cost, depending on your requirements. For small shops selling hosting or recurring services, your first 50 paying customers can be managed for free. The jump to the next level is a bit pricey at $49 month, but supports up to 500 customers, while additional plans for larger accounts are also available. Each level also includes 1000 non-paying customers; useful if your business has a corresponding free plan or “freemium” model.
What tools do you use to handle recurring billing?
Related GigaOM Pro content (sub. req.): Enabling the Web Work Revolution