Use consolidated billing to manage client invoices
Adobe will stop hosting existing sites on Business Catalyst on June 18th, 2019. Adobe encourages customers to download their data and migrate to other systems well before June 18th, 2019. For detailed how-to information and assistance, see the Business Catalyst FAQ.
The consolidated billing feature helps you streamline operations when billing your clients. It facilitates the process of invoicing your clients each month and provides a central and secure interface to manage payment collection. It effectively eliminates the time consuming task of manually generating invoices and tracking the payments you receive.
With consolidated billing, you can set your own hosting and maintenance fees in the form of subscriptions. You can send invoices to your clients using your own company's brand and logo and receive the funds directly deposited into your bank account. When you use consolidated billing for all your client's sites, you also receive a single invoice from the system each month. It covers all of the sites hosted under your Partner account.
The following key features are available when using consolidated billing:
- You receive one consolidated bill for all your sites.
- You can set your own subscription fees.
- You can invoice your web clients using your branding and logo.
- You receive the payments from your clients via direct deposits into your bank account.
- Your clients can use your 30-day trial online tool to create, upgrade, and pay for sites.
- You can configure the system to automatically disable sites to help with collecting payments.
To use consolidated billing, it's necessary to fulfill the following requirements:
- You must be a Premium Rebranding Partner.
- You must register a valid credit card on file so the system can automatically charge you for your sites.
- You must set up an account with one of the following supported recurring payment gateways: Authorize.net, PayPal Website Pro, eWay or SagePay. For more details, see Collect real-time credit card payments.
- Your merchant account must accept payments using Visa, MasterCard, and Amex. It is not possible to customize consolidated billing to support only two out of the three card types. All three of these card types must be supported in order to work with consolidated billing for your Partner account.
Considerations when using consolidated billing
The following list contains important items to consider before using consolidated billing:
- You can choose to sell sites to your clients on a monthly or annual basis. The system will always bill you for the full wholesale monthly rate. Additionally, if you cancel a site mid-month, you are only charged for the portion of the month used. (The hosting charges up to the date of the cancelation.)
- Your existing paid sites will continue to be billed in the same manner as before. You cannot transfer existing sites to the consolidated billing system; only new sites can be added.
- All sites set up on consolidated billing cannot switch to one of the other three billing options offered by this system:
o Invoice clients directly
o Invoice me directly
o Invoice me for the first year, and then bill the client thereafter, beginning with the second year
The consolidated billing option is set during the process of upgrading your client's site. Once a site is added to consolidated billing, the payments must remain using the consolidated billing mechanism. It is represented as the last option when you upgrade a site:
Converting a site that uses consolidated billing to a different billing option
Although it is not recommended, if you must switch a site that has already been upgraded from consolidated billing to one of the other three billing options, follow these steps:
Create a backup of the site before proceeding.
Access the Partner Portal and select My Sites > Create New Site.
Migrate the content of the old site to the new trial site. Test the staged version.
Upgrade the new trial site to live and select the correct billing option (one of the first three listed above) before you cancel the existing live site on consolidated billing. This will minimize the disruption to your client's site by reducing the length of down time.
In the Admin Console, using DNS tools, remove the domain name from the original site.
In the Partner Portal, cancel the original site that is currently using consolidated billing.
Back in the Admin Console, use the DNS tools to update the new site to use the previous site's domain name. This system will allow you to reuse a domain name, once the previous site that was using the domain name has been deleted.
Understanding consolidated billing
As a Partner in this system, you gain access to the Partner Portal and receive a free Partner site to operate your web company's business and sell the platform. Your free Partner site is a critical component of working with the consolidated billing feature. If you choose to enable consolidated billing, this system will use your free Partner site as the eCommerce engine when selling sites to your clients. Your free Partner site will also handle all invoicing and payment collection using the functionality built in to your Partner site. This system itself uses the same functionality when billing Partners for the hosting fees.
There are two ramifications of enabling consolidated billing that are important to note:
After enabling consolidated billing, any trial sites created on your Partner account display an Upgrade button. (It is visible to your clients when they log into the Admin Console.) Your clients can click the button to upgrade their site, based on the pricing and hosting plans you have elected to offer. The charges from these upgraded sites are combined to create the single consolidated billing invoice you'll receive each month.
As a Partner, you may still optionally choose to upgrade sites manually by clicking the Upgrade button available in the Partner Portal. However, you should take care when using the Partner Portal interface, because it presents you with four billing options. Three of the four options have always been available to all Partners and these will remain active for you even if you enable consolidated billing. And if desired, you may continue to select one of these three options when upgrading client sites in the future. However, if you do not choose the consolidated billing option (the fourth option, labeled: Invoice Me on Account) at the time you upgrade the site, its hosting charges will not be included in the single invoice you will receive from the consolidated billing system. Instead, you'll receive invoices based on one of the other three billing options you selected:
o Invoice clients directly
o Invoice me directly
o Invoice me for the first year, and then bill the client thereafter, beginning with the second year
If you choose the fourth option: Invoice Me On Account (the consolidated billing option), then the hosting fees for the upgraded site will be added to the consolidated billing system. As noted previously, it is difficult to switch between using one billing option to another billing option after the upgrade process is completed. So, choose carefully while making this selection.
Choose the last (fourth) option if you want the upgraded site to use consolidated billing. Otherwise, choose one of the top three options to be billed separately for hosting fees.
Enabling consolidated billing in the Partner Portal
To turn on the consolidated billing feature, log into your Partner Portal. Click the billing tab, and then select the option in the left sidebar titled Consolidated Billing.
Verify that you meet all the requirements (as described earlier in this article and as displayed in the Partner Portal). Specifically, you'll need to ensure the following has been completed:
Set up the plans and prices offered on your free Partner site (as described below).
Update your credit card details, to ensure the card on file is valid in the system.
Note: As the number of paid sites increase for your Partner account, your consolidated monthly bill will also increase. Please ensure that the credit card you have updated for your Partner Account has sufficient funds and the limit will cover the charges. Failure to provide valid credit card details on file may result in your client sites being disabled.
Setting up the available plans for your site in your Partner Portal
When you enable the consolidated billing feature, the system will automatically create a number of products in your free Partner site. To review the products, choose E-Commerce > Products.
You will see two products for every plan that this system offers. The first product in each set represents the plan based on monthly sales--the second product in the set represents yearly sales. It's up to you whether you want to allow your web clients to buy a plan on a yearly basis. However, you must offer the product plans on a monthly basis. The monthly offering is mandatory.
The list of products is based on the available plans that you choose to offer. The names of the products themselves are not customizable.
Note: Regardless of whether you charge customers monthly (or monthly and yearly), you'll always be charged the full wholesale monthly hosting fee for a site. This system does not offer the 10% discount for annual payments submitted through consolidated billing.
You can use the list to choose which plans you want to offer to your potential web clients. To see the full list of available plans with the latest partner pricing, see the Business Catalyst pricing page.
For example, the full solution is generally offered in a 3, 5 and 10 user configuration. However, you can choose to offer just the 3 and 5 user plans and not offer the 10-user option on your site.
Note: You cannot vary the user limits on the plans. For example, you cannot offer a 20-user plan.
To configure the list of plans you offer, log into the Partner Portal. Select the Billing tab, and then choose the Consolidated Billing section.
To exclude a plan type from your free Partner site, use the Ongoing menu to set the fee price to Don't Offer.
Setting prices and the currency used for your site
This system automatically assigns the default product prices for each plan using the currency that corresponds to your Partner account (such as US dollars or Australian dollars). However, if the payment gateway you've selected allows you to process payments in a different currency, (such as GBP), then you can optionally choose to sell plans to your clients in that currency. See the list of supported gateways listed in the section titled Requirements section above.
To take advantage of this feature and sell plans in a different currency, follow these steps:
In the Admin Console, choose E-Commerce > Products.
Assign the relevant price for each plan using the corresponding country and currency.
Then, choose Site Settings > Site Domains and verify that the default URL of your free Partner site is set to the same country.
As you customize the prices for the plans you wish to offer, you can specify whether they should include tax or not. For example, in Australia you can specify that a 10% GST is added to any site plan. Use the Tax Code menu to set the tax, if applicable, for your site's products.
Note: Regardless of the currency you choose to charge your clients, consolidated billing will charge you either US$ or AU$, based on the location you selected when you created your Partner account. Partners in Australia are charged in AU$; the rest of the world is charged US$.
You can customize the invoice your customers receive in the Admin Console.
Select Site Manager > System E-Mails.
In the list of System Emails that appears, click Invoice.
Update the System Email Details page, to adjust the appearance of the Invoice. For more details, see Customize system pages and emails.
Additional benefits of using consolidated billing
One of the other benefits of using consolidated billing is that you have the ability (if desired) to charge your clients a setup fee whenever they create new trial sites. For example, whenever one of your clients signs up for a 3-user plan you can charge them:
- US$49 setup charge
- US$49 monthly recurring charge
When this system charges you for the 3-user plan:
You won't be charged a setup fee since this system does not charge a setup fee for any of the hosting plans. You effectively make US$49 profit.
You'll be charged US$39 for the 3-user plan for monthly hosting. You effectively make $10 extra profit each month. You also earn 20% commission on the US$39/month, which is redeemed through the existing commission process. Remember that regardless of whether your client buys their plan on monthly or yearly basis, we will always charge you the full monthly fee in arrears for as long as the site is live. If you cancel in mid-month, you'll only be charged up to the date that you cancel the hosting plan.
Updating the monthly hosting fee you charge your clients
When you or one of your clients upgrades a trial site that is covered by consolidated billing, your client will be charged the prices that you have setup for the plans you are offering. They will also receive an invoice sent via email. You can vary the amount for any specific invoice, although you'll need to edit it manually, after it was generated. Follow these steps:
Upgrade a trial site using the consolidated billing interface. An invoice is generated and sent to your client; their credit card is automatically charged.
To adjust the invoice amount, log into the Admin Console of your free Partner site and choose CRM > Orders to locate the relevant recurring invoice.
To change the amount of the charges, click the Edit button below the invoice.
Edit the invoice and click Save.
After updating the invoice, if the charges have increased, you'll manually process the difference to charge your client. Follow these steps:
Log into the Admin Console using the secure URL with the https prefix, so that you can work with your client's credit card data. For example, the link to access the Admin Console looks like this:
Choose CRM > Orders to locate the relevant recurring invoice.
Click the Recurrence/Direct Debit section. Scroll to the bottom and click the Edit button to see the payment fields of the transaction appear.
Click the Process Now button.
Note: When you click the Process Now button, the system will only process the difference owed by your client. It will not charge the full amount again. Verify that the payment was successful by selecting the Payments tab. You should see two payments listed. The first invoice with the original amount and the second invoice you just created with the difference of the amount to charge your client.
If the adjustments you made to the invoice have lowered the price of the invoice, follow these steps:
Void the initial payment via your payment gateway.
Choose CRM > Orders, open the order and scroll down to the payments section.
Click the Delete link to delete the initial payment.
While you are in the Order Details for the customer, click the Orders tab and then click New Order.
Using the interface that appears, create a new invoice for the full, adjusted amount.
When finished, select Email > Email Invoice to send the amended invoice to your client.
Once the change to the recurring invoice has been set, this total will apply to all future invoices generated for that product using consolidated billing.
Understanding the billing terms for your Partner account
This system will charge you at the end of every month for any existing live sites, including any sites that were upgraded last month. The billing algorithm automatically prorates the hosting cost based on the date each site is upgraded.
You'll receive a detailed invoice at the end of every month. The invoice will be sent via email to the primary email address on your account.
Note: If you need to update the primary email address for your account, log in to the Partner Portal. Select Settings > Partner Settings from the menu on the left.
Update your partner email address and click Save at the bottom of the page.
This system only accepts payment using credit card. We accept Visa, MasterCard and American Express cards. At this time, the system does not accept any other forms of payment to process your monthly, consolidated bill.
Regardless of whether you have sold sites to your clients on monthly or annual basis, you'll be charged on a monthly basis. If one of the trial sites for your account is upgraded mid-month, you'll receive a prorated bill for the partial monthly charge.
As mentioned previously, you are not eligible for a 10% discount if you sell a site plan to your clients on an annual basis.
Monthly consolidated billing invoice
When you enable consolidated billing, the monthly invoice you receive from the system will include a summary of all the hosting charged applied for the paid (upgraded) sites that are set up for consolidated billing on your Partner account. These fees will have already been charged to the credit card you have on file. The summary will include each site's name and the period of hosting for which you've been charged. At this time, the consolidated billing invoice you receive does not include other purchases made in the system, such as adding additional Admin users, sending a greater quantity of email newsletters, purchasing more disk space and others.
The billing system uses its own internal invoice numbering system; you should not expect these numbers to be in any specific sequence. However, if you need clarification and wish to create a case to discuss billing issues, you can refer to the invoice by name, which describes the period for which you are being charged.
Additional services and system purchases are not added to the consolidated billing invoice
If you choose to purchase additional services and/or features (such as adding more Admin users, adding additional email accounts, sending a larger quantity of newsletters, increasing disk space and sending more text messages/SMSs) these charges will not be included in the monthly bill you receive from consolidated billing. To purchase additional services, follow these steps:
Log into the Partner Portal and select My Sites.
Select the site you would like to purchase additional services for.
Scroll down to the System Usage section, and click Upgrade next to the service you would like to purchase.
Note: You will be invoiced for these purchases separately, based on the billing relationship you have selected in the system.
Defining the site hosting plans offered on your free Partner site
When you set up your free Partner site to promote your web business, one of the decisions you'll make is choosing which plans you want to offer to your prospective clients on your website. This system offers plans that include the WebBasics+, WebMarketing and WebCommerce plans.
Many Partners choose to offer only the WebCommerce plan to their web clients. This strategy makes your free Partner site easier to understand and it enables you to more clearly articulate the product you are selling. When you only offer the full solution, your web clients will be presented with a single option to sign up for a free trial of an online business with your web company. Free trial clients can later choose to upgrade their site and pay you directly for the hosting fees.
Workflow when your client creates a new trial site
When one of your clients visits your free Partner site and clicks the button to Take a Free 30-Day Trial, they are directed to the page where they can sign up using the online interface.
After completing the form, they'll automatically receive a WebCommerce site in the trial mode.
Workflow your clients will follow when upgrading their own trial site
When the prospect is ready to upgrade (green "Upgrade" button, top right corner of their site) they'll be presented with the various flavors of the Full Solution, such as 3, 5 or 10-user (see the section above on setting up prices and site plans). The system will guide them through the upgrade process.
Understanding how your clients are invoiced
As your clients sign up for new trial sites, they are automatically added to the Customer section of your free Partner site. Whenever trial sites are upgraded, an order is automatically created in your free Partner site for the relevant customer.
At any time, you can log into the system and review the list of invoices generated for a specific site. Follow these steps:
Log into the Partner Portal and click My Sites.
Select the site to view the invoices.
From the invoices section, you can view all invoices for this site. Click Email Invoice to send yourself a copy of the invoice.
Workflow for invoicing your clients
When a site is upgraded, the system creates an order and an invoice will be sent via email to your client. You can optionally choose to customize the appearance of the invoice to use your own logo and branding. You can also customize the name and email address (the From details) that are displayed when the invoice is sent. To update the invoice layout, log into the Admin Console and select Site Manager > System E-Mails. Select Invoice in the list that appears.
To learn more about controlling the appearance of the invoices you send to your clients, read Managing and customizing invoices.
Working with recurring invoices
It's important to know how this system handles billing frequency to understand the timing of invoice generation and payment collection. Here are some important details:
Any site upgraded today will generate a new invoice, which is sent via email to your client with today's date as the invoice date.
Recurring orders will always recur 14-days before the next invoice date. (For more details, click the Recurrence tab within each invoice). For example:
Imagine that an order set up to bill on a monthly basis was generated with an invoice date of September 1st (written in the system as: 1-Sep).
The next invoice is due on October 1st (1-Oct.) The system will generate this invoice 14 days before the next invoice date, which In this case is September 16th (with an invoice date of October 1st). Recurring invoices are always generated and emailed to customers 14 days before the next invoice date, so your clients have the opportunity to review their bill before they are charged.
The system will charge for the new invoice on the due date (October 1st.) To see the dates of the billing cycle, log into the Admin Console and choose Customers > Orders. Click the Recurrence tab and review the Direct Debit days.
If a payment cannot be processed due to credit card issues, you'll receive an email notification. However, the system will not attempt to reprocess the payment again. To resolve the missed payment, process the payment manually--otherwise the system will automatically disable the Admin Console access of the client's site when the payment becomes 7 days past due. If this occurs, ask your client to enter the details of a new credit card into the system, in order to process the manual payment. For more details, see the section below titled Suspending client sites due to outstanding invoices.
Note: Invoices for recurring orders are automatically sent via email to your clients. If you prefer that your clients do not receive a copy of the invoice via email please contact Support, and ask to disable this feature. This can lead to higher retention rates.
Suspending client sites due to outstanding invoices
If an invoice has an outstanding past due payment, the system will automatically disable the Admin Console of the client's site 7 days after the invoice's due date to facilitate payment. When the Admin Console is disabled, clients who log in will be presented with a list of outstanding invoices and the ability to make their payment online. A successfully processed payment will automatically re-enable the Admin Console for the site. Your clients can also choose to update the credit card details they have on file to cover future invoices.
If the site payment is not collected after one month, then the entire client site is disabled. This includes the actual site content, any email accounts and the Admin Console.
It's important to note that recurring invoices will continue to recur and it's up to you to manually stop them or cancel the site, because there aren't refunds on past transactions.
Follow these steps to cancel a paid client site:
Log into the Partner Portal and click My Sites.
Select the relevant site from the list.
Click the Delete Site button in the upper section of the screen.
Note: Once a site is cancelled, it is permanent removed from the platform and cannot be restored. Please make sure you back up this site first, because all data will be lost.
Workflow for your clients cancelling their own sites
Your clients can also cancel their own sites. The process is the same whether or not you enable consolidated billing.
Your client will follow these steps to cancel a site:
Log into the Admin Console and select Site Settings > General Settings.
Click Delete Site.
Note: When one your clients cancels a site, the system will automatically delete any future dated invoices already generated and disable recurrence on the main invoice for this site. Even once the site is canceled, you'll still be able to access the billing history for the site by choosing the Customers section of your free Partner site.
Workflow when you cancel one of your client's paid sites
If one of your clients requests that you cancel their site, follow these steps:
Log in to the Partner Portal and click My Sites.
Click the name of the site you want to cancel.
Click the Delete Site button in the upper section of the page.
After a site is cancelled, you can log into the Admin Console for your free Partner site and access the Customers section to see the following:
Any future dated invoices that the system already generated for the deleted site are removed from the CRM > Order section.
The recurrence on the recurring invoice for the deleted site is disabled, as shown in the screenshot below:
Checklist for setting up and testing the Online Business Builder
If you plan on offering the 30-day trial site creation tool on your site (which enables your clients to create trials, and later automatically upgrade and pay for them), then it's critical that you complete all the steps and fully test the entire process.
Follow these steps to set up and test the consolidated billing service:
Create an account with a supported payment gateway; add it to your free Partner site.
Log into the Partner Portal and enable consolidated billing for your Partner account.
Provide your valid credit card details so that the system can charge you each month for the sites you have set up using the consolidated billing feature.
Upon enabling consolidated billing, your free Partner site will be updated to include all of the site plans and default prices.
Log into the Admin Console and update the plans offered and the corresponding prices.
In the consolidated billing section of the Partner Portal, enable the plans you wish to offer (only offering the WebCommerce plan is recommended, because it simplifies the site).
Add a link to your free Partner site to enable your clients to create 30-day trial sites (if you've not already enabled the Online Business Builder).
For testing purposes, use your site to create a 30-day trial site and then log into it.
Click the Upgrade button (in the top-right corner) to see the relevant prices displayed.
This last step is not required, but you can optionally complete the process of upgrading, including paying for the site. Then, use your payment gateway interface to void or refund the transaction, so that you can test the entire upgrade process. You can also simply upgrade a site, and then login to the Partner Portal and cancel the site. This system will not charge your account for sites which were upgraded from trial to live and then cancelled immediately afterwards.
To learn more about setting up payment gateways, see Collect real-time credit card payments.