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The mission of the AIA Small Firm Exchange (SFx) is to advance the mutual interests of architects practicing in small firms. The objectives of the AIA SFx are three-fold:

1. Advocate the value of small firms, the national SFx, and local SFx groups, both within the AIA and to the public.

2. Curate and disseminate the most pertinent resources and information, from the AIA & elsewhere, that benefit small firms.

3. Inform the AIA of current issues facing small firms and areas in which current resources/information are lacking.

Approximately 75% of all firms within the AIA are small firms (less than 10 employees), which equates to 14,459 small firms within the organization.

~26.8% = sole practitioners = 5,173

~33.5% = 1-5 employees = 6,459

~14.7% = 5-10 employees = 2,827

We need to find ways to leverage that size for collaboration and influence, just like the individual large firms do.



  • 1.  Online Client Payment Options

    Posted 02-02-2022 02:39 AM
    My client billings request payment by check (personal, cashier's) or money order. Being able to copy those checks (when they do come in) as a record of payment is favored by my bookkeeping support.

    But in the digital world, it does seem to be a quaint request. Maybe it is time to accept electronic payments. I'm sure that many of you do so.

    I think my requirements are rather simple:
    1. Needs to go into my business account (so the person-to-person transfers are out).
    2. Needs to be easy for someone to pay, from whatever account they want to pay from.
    3. Should tell me when a payment has been made.
    4. Should be affordable. Paying 3% to a credit card processor is something I want to avoid. 1.5%, maybe.
    4a. If it could automatically charge the processing fee to the payer (many government online payments do this), that would be OK.
    5. Must be secure. I don't want someone draining my account.
    6. Ideally, when I send an invoice, there is a link built-in which the client can click and readily make payment.

    What am I missing?
    Which services seem to work?
    What practices have you used?


    Joel Niemi AIA
    Joel Niemi Architect
    Snohomish, WA
    Safety Assessment Program Evaluator Training 2023, December 6 and 7. Earn 6.5 LUs HSW

  • 2.  RE: Online Client Payment Options

    Posted 02-03-2022 05:27 PM
     We use "Client Pay".  We started with Client Pay because of an offer they ran with BQE Core (our time and billing program). Client pay also processes credit cards, but we don't use the credit card side of it because of the percent charges (as you noted). 

    With Client Pay, we pay a nominal flat fee per payment (vs a percentage of the deposit). The amount per check is less than paying a student worker to drive deposits to the bank. 

    We also get paid faster. All payments go to our account. Client Pay's fee comes out once a month. 

    Liz Harris
    Elizabeth Harris, FSDA
    Firm Administrator
    Kevin Harris Architect LLC
    451 E Airport Ave Ste A
    Baton Rouge, LA 70806
    tel. 225.924.7450
    fax 225.924.7441

    Safety Assessment Program Evaluator Training 2023, December 6 and 7. Earn 6.5 LUs HSW

  • 3.  RE: Online Client Payment Options

    Posted 02-03-2022 06:14 PM
    Edited by Lucas Gray 02-03-2022 07:52 PM
    We used Quickbooks Online to send invoices and receive electronic payments. If a client pays with a bank transfer (ACH), there was only a $1 transaction fee. If you enabled credit card payments then the fee was around 3%. We just kept the credit card option disabled. 

    The money would be deposited directly in any account we selected. 

    The only challenge was that a couple of times clients made mistakes typing in their account and routing numbers which caused payments to bounce. But we just notified them and they submitted the payment. Not a big deal. 

    I've also used to accept digital payments through websites, but it does charge a higher percentage fee - I think it is close to 3%.

    I'm not sure if this helps, but I think it is the right decision to move towards accepting electronic payments. Checks are too annoying!

    Lucas Gray, Assoc. AIA, SEED
    Charrette Venture Group
    Brooklyn, NY

    Safety Assessment Program Evaluator Training 2023, December 6 and 7. Earn 6.5 LUs HSW

  • 4.  RE: Online Client Payment Options

    Posted 02-03-2022 06:25 PM
    I am not sure if you are asking to move away from checks or your clients are asking. However, I still accept only checks with a few clients that issue an ACH transfer. I have no interest in credit cards, Venmo, or other digital methods. My bank doesn't offer Zelle or similar transfer yet.

    Lee Calisti AIA
    lee CALISTI architecture+design
    Greensburg PA

    Safety Assessment Program Evaluator Training 2023, December 6 and 7. Earn 6.5 LUs HSW

  • 5.  RE: Online Client Payment Options

    Posted 02-04-2022 05:31 PM
    I've been using quickbooks ACH for several years. The clients like the convenience, and I like the direct deposit. At $1.00 per transaction for ACH it is a no-brainer. Since I invoice via email through quickbooks, the money I save on stamps, printing and banking is more than offset! Since I made the switch I average about 12 check transactions a year.

    Robert Ross AIA
    Ross Design, Inc.
    Atlanta GA

    Safety Assessment Program Evaluator Training 2023, December 6 and 7. Earn 6.5 LUs HSW

  • 6.  RE: Online Client Payment Options

    Posted 02-04-2022 06:02 PM
    Thanks for the comments so far, keep them coming.

    A few clarifications:
    1.  We're still using ledger pads, pencils, erasers, and adding machine for the actual bookkeeping activity (old habits and practices die hard).  I do use excell for creating invoices and for the estimating of payments that I do.  So, integration with Quickbooks or a more automated system is not a requirement.
    2.  I definitely do not want any access to the client's account information.  Let the third-party provider deal with the risk of being hacked.  "Just send me the money."
    3.  No problem with still getting paper checks and making deposits.  I used to drive them over to the bank when doing other errands.  Now we use a cellphone-based scanning upload process.  Supposed to be less hassle than physically depositing the check, but getting the image accepted can take longer than the drive to the bank sometimes.
    4.  My bank doesn't allow use of Zelle for business accounts, which is unfortunate.
    5.  My thought has been to present electronic payment as an option in my Owner-Architect Agreements, perhaps with an attachment that clues the Owner in to the process, and has a place for them to affirmatively accept the conditions.  Maybe those conditions are a flat fee to be added to each electronic payment, or all of or a split of the processing fee (perhaps a split if they pay within 2 weeks of getting the invoice ... ) (having worked for some agencies which, by statute, were required to pay quickly if there was any reduction to the invoice if any discount was offered - so 0.5% would get you cash flow faster!).

    Bottom line, I would like to make it easier for people to pay me.  "Can't get owner's signature on check because he is out of country, but can pay by card" and "guess I need to order checks now, since I used them up and do everything on-line" is frustrating to hear.  On the other hand, "my bank will take about ten days to mail you out my authorized check" is fine.

    Joel Niemi AIA
    Joel Niemi Architect
    Snohomish, WA

    Safety Assessment Program Evaluator Training 2023, December 6 and 7. Earn 6.5 LUs HSW

  • 7.  RE: Online Client Payment Options

    Posted 02-04-2022 02:53 AM

    I had all the same concerns you did. I ended up contacting my bank, and they put me in touch with a company called Elavon that does online processing. Rules around fees vary by state, but here in PA we are able to have the client pay the 3.5% fee for credit cards. For debit cards, there is a 1% fee that by law we cannot charge the client, so we pay for those transactions.

    The system was a little bit of a challenge to set up initially, but the interface is customizable. When I send my invoices, I include a link to the payment system in the email. The system is totally outside of the office, so we never handle anyone's card information (a big plus, in my book). I get an email notification at the end of any day when there were transactions, and I can go to the portal and see who paid what. The money automatically transfers from their system to my bank account.

    I highly recommend contacting your bank to see if they have a relationship with something similar, or you may be able to contact Elavon directly.

    Good luck,

    Ian Toner AIA
    Toner Architects
    Philadelphia PA

    Safety Assessment Program Evaluator Training 2023, December 6 and 7. Earn 6.5 LUs HSW