D.J. McPhee
31 January 2024
Posted inEconomics of Publishing Post authorD.J. McPhee
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Billing Infrastructure for Your Journal

A proper billing infrastructure is very important for your business. Any company, big or small, needs money to survive. Of course, journals can be quite profitable, but the way that income flows into the company (and back out) have to be very carefully managed. Years ago, you might have been limited to sending cheques in the mail to make certain types of payments. But times are different and there are many different ways that payments can be made online.

Just because there are many different options available, doesn’t mean that you want to use all of them. Because you want your journal to generate income, you need to make sure that you have a way to do this. This article aims to clarify some of the different types of payments, how they can benefit you, and how to manage them.

Billing departments

Logically, your company will need something that resembles a billing department. If you have a five-person team managing the journal, you might not have the resources to have a dedicated billing department. You’ll need to find ways to make the task easier.

Most importantly, you need a tracking system. And your tracking system needs to have backups.

Tracking systems for billing

If you’re handling a few payments a month, or even a few a week, you might not need an extensive tracking system. Something as simple as an Excel spreadsheet might be enough to start. There are many different pieces of software that you can get, basic bookkeeping software or more complex account management software that billing departments might use. In the end, you should always keep two things in mind:

  1. Use easy-to-use billing software;
  2. Your records should be backed up and transferrable.

Use easy-to-use billing software

Because your team is not yet divided into departments, you might find that different people will be doing different tasks. Sometimes, on task needs to be done by several people. Because of this, it’s important that the tasks be easy to perform and straightforward. If you’re using software (anything from a spreadsheet to accounting software), make sure that everyone understands how to use it. If these systems are easy to use, it’s better for your team.

The less time that you spend training your staff how to use overly complicated systems, the more that time can be spent on better things.

Your records should be backed up and transferrable

If you’re careful, and you can build your journal’s reputation, you’ll find that you need to upgrade processes over time. Billing (and the billing systems you use) will also need to be upgraded. A simple spreadsheet is fine if you’ve only got a couple of submissions to keep track of in any given week, but if you’re handling dozens of these every day, a spreadsheet will be bloated and unwieldy. Any information that you have should be easily transferrable to a new system.

If you don’t transfer your data over when switching systems, make sure that you have backups.

One way to make everyone’s life easier is to use a journal management system. Also, these systems can be highly customizable, and you can tailor your needs accordingly. While many people might think that these are only for the submission and processing of manuscripts, they can absolutely be used to send billing reminders, track coupons or vouchers, and assist in the billing process.

Common payment types

When it comes to making payments online, there are some methods that have been more broadly adopted than others. While a payment method might be popular in one country, that doesn’t mean that it’s a global system.

Credit cards

As close to universally accepted as any payment option can be. Credit cards are the lifeblood of online transactions. While many payment options have been developed over the years, credit cards have had a staying power that is unmatched. Mastercard, VISA, and American Express are generally considered to be the main options. When you are preparing your company to accept payment, look into each as they have different terms and conditions for vendors.

You may have noticed, that not all companies accept all credit cards. There’s a reason for this. Be sure to look into which ones are the best option for you.

PayPal

Often touted as one of the most flexible payment options available online, this money transferring service allows near instant transfers of funds all around the world. While there are situations where it cannot be used, it is more widely accepted than some of its competitors. Accepting PayPal is one way to make your journal a more flexible option to prospective authors.

PayPal does have some specific guidelines for businesses, and a conversion rate that might not be as good as what other financial institutions offer. This is often considered part of the “cost of doing business” with PayPal.

Bank transfers

A more traditional form of payment, the direct bank transfer can be used to transfer funds from one bank to another. One of the primary drawbacks is that it lacks the convenience of credit cards or PayPal, and often requires the person making the transfer to go to a bank branch. While this is not always the case, it can be the most inconvenient of the payment options listed. This does not mean that it is a poor choice. Nor does it mean they’re not a good idea to use. They can be perfectly valid (and notably quite secure) form of payment. The reason for this is because there is no third party involved, it is directly from the account of one bank, into the account at another.

How journal management systems can help with billing

As mentioned above, there are many complex issues to keep track of when it comes to billing. One way to avoid some of these complications, is to use a journal management system. These sorts of systems can help you to organize your billing cycles and keep track of outstanding payments.

Another important element of a journal management system is that they can also keep track of coupons or vouchers. While you might consider a client paying full price for a publication to be the ultimate goal, it’s important to remember that not all clients have the same means. Sometimes, offering clients a voucher (perhaps for participating in the peer review process or because they published in your journal) can help them to be more inclined to publish with you.

Making vouchers transferrable is also another way to expand your list of potential clients.

Remember, regardless of how you go about handling your billing department, you want to make sure that your system is straightforward, easy to use, and that you back it up often.

D.J. McPhee
31 January 2024
Posted inEconomics of Publishing
Post author D.J. McPhee
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