What kind of reporting should I include with my Selling Assistant client’s payment?
Before you send any kind of payment, you’ll want to give your clients a breakdown of everything related to their contract with you. How you draw up this reconciliation is up to you, but I think it’s better to err on the side of complete transparency when it comes to money (both what they owe and what you owe them) even if it means a lot of documentation. As long as you put the most important parts right up top where the client can easily find them, they can, and often will, skip the rest. So, while you technically could just give the client a single line with the total amount their items sold for, total fees, your total commission and what they are owed, it’s better to give them a list of each transaction individually so they can see exactly where the money went.
I used to spend hours on my client sheets, transferring each fee into neat little rows in a spreadsheet so clients could see the whole story of each item in fees and profits at a glance, but I finally realized that clients weren’t reading these details at all and were only focusing on the totals on the top unless they wanted to look up a specific item. I was wasting my time. Now, I just take my actual selling invoices, copy out only the transactions related to each SA client and just put those line items directly into a spreadsheet. I add the PayPal fees in manually, though you could likely do this in bulk as well by downloading your payment processing history and copying those entries over the same way. If I’m utilizing multiple marketplaces for this contract, the only other thing I’ll do is add a column to indicate which site each transaction was from, but I don’t bother if everything was sold on the same platform.
You may decide, for the sake of time, to add a clause to your agreement with your client stating that you will charge standard or posted selling and payment processing fees on each item. If you’re savvy with your spreadsheet program, you can write a formula to automatically calculate those fees for you, saving time. Instead of looking up each individual transaction, you’ll just bill the client the standard posted fees associated with a listing like theirs. But while this is a timesaver, you can often shortchange yourself because the standard rate may not take into account cross-border rates or other fees. It can also often result in overcharging your client. If, for example, a single buyer bought three of your client’s items and only made one payment for all three, you’d be triple-charging your client for the PayPal fees on that one item by only using posted fees.
Let me show you a small section of a reconciliation sheet I did for a SA client I sold some items for on eBay as an example:
I’ve blurred the item numbers and titles, but the rest are the real fees and final sale prices I copied over directly from my eBay invoice. EBay invoices download in your choice of either HTML or CSV. I choose CSV because they open easily in any spreadsheet program such as Microsoft Office Excel or free options like Google Sheets. Once in a spreadsheet, you can use simple formulas to do any calculations for you.
Next I add a few columns at the top.
- Total Fees is just a total of the column with all the selling fees.
- Payment Cleared is the total of the column where I manually input each item’s Final Sale Price once it’s cleared. This info already appears on the invoice, but it’s part of the Final Value Fee line, so you’ll need to retype it into its own cell if you want to be able to tally it using a formula. We’ll get more into how I determine a payment to be cleared in the next section.
- PayPal Fees is the total of the column where I input the PayPal fees. I input them on the same line as the Final Sale Price to make it easier for the client to follow.
- SA Commission is a formula cell that calculates my commission so it automatically updates as items sell. I charged this client a 20% commission, so that cell is showing 20% of Payment Cleared.
- Total Due Owner is another formula showing what I owe the client. It’s actually [PAYMENT CLEARED] – [TOTAL FEES] – [PAYPAL FEES] – [SA COMMISSION].
The Payment Cleared column will usually match the Final Value column. However, in the case of a non-paying bidder, return, or a partial refund, the amount the buyer pays may end up being different to what was expected, and this allows you to reflect this. Also, in the case of non-paying bidder items, this allows you to place zero in that column to denote that the sale wasn’t completed.
At the bottom of the sheet, I document any payments made. I list the payment dollar values, their check numbers, the dates the payments were issued and the balance of what I still owe the client. While clients with only a few items may get everything in a single payment, a client with many items or an extended contract may get multiple payments before we complete our dealings.
Though not reflected in my screenshot, I use a little color-coding to make a few things stand out, especially when sending out a partial payment. I put a key at the bottom of the spreadsheet and color certain rows to denote things such as sales that are still ongoing, items that were returned, or items that have been paid for but the payment hasn’t cleared. Even these minor extra steps only take a few minutes, and I’m able to give my clients a detailed reckoning that looks like it took hours though it really only took a few minutes.
If you’re charging the client for things I’m not, such as shipping costs or other fees, or if you’re not holding the client responsible for selling or payment fees, you’ll need to adjust accordingly.
I present my sheets sorted by item title then item number, which is why the dates jump around the way they do in the example above. But sorting it this way instead of by date, which is how they come from eBay, it more clearly tells the story of each item fee by fee. It also makes it easier for the client to see where all the numbers come from.
No matter how you decide to do your reporting, keep in mind three things:
- It should be simple and fast to do so you aren’t wasting your valuable time on something the client may never even glance at.
- It should be thorough just in case there’s a problem later so you have proof that you gave your client a complete record of all transactions and there’s a paper trail to protect you.
- And, lastly, it should be easy and preferably free to send to the client.
I usually just email my spreadsheet to the client directly as soon as I’m finished so I don’t have to pay for postage, but if you’re already sending a snail-mail payment, keep it light enough that you can include it in the same envelope without an additional postage cost. Google Sheets even has a simple sharing option that lets you share the live spreadsheet with the client directly instead of sending them a static copy.