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Running your own small business or being self-employed is never easy, especially if you’re a busy mama – juggling a family, your work, and wearing way too many other hats.

It can be even more challenging when you’re first getting started with a new gig or business.

According to the Kauffman Foundation, only 52 percent of women in their first year of business last year felt it performed well. That’s compared with 67 percent of men. A recent Harvard Business review article, meanwhile, likened life as an independent consultant or freelancer to life as a trapeze artist. The key to success: The safety net beneath you while you’re flying high.

Whether you’re a business owner or a solo entrepreneur, making sure you get paid (and fast) is one of the most essential parts of that safety net. If you’re like dozens of entrepreneurial working women we talk to at Intuit, unless you are an exhausted new parent, cash flow is what keeps you up at night. One of the biggest reasons small businesses fail is that they can’t get access to cash and they don’t have enough cash flow to cover vital costs. In fact, a recent study we conducted with Wakefield Research found that 61 percent of small business owners have had issues with cash flow. And among those who have had issues with cash flow nearly 1 in 3 have defaulted on a loan, could not pay company vendors, or could not pay themselves (or their employees).

And the best way to improve cash flow – and get paid quickly – is to go digital.

Sure, perhaps you first started by emailing an Excel invoice to your clients and then waiting around for them to mail you a paper check – or even hand it to you in person if you run a service gig like dog-walking.

You should get out of that rut right now. Inertia holds many of us back from making changes, even changes that can accelerate how we get paid. Getting out of the habit of paper invoices and traditional checks will immediately improve your time-to-pay and deliver more money to your pocketbook.

With that in mind, here are four strategies to get paid for the work that you do faster than you ever have before:

Go cashless. It may sound like a stretch, but going cashless is great for your business, and it’s how customers want to pay. Credit card payments grew 10.2 percent from 2015 to 2016, according to the Federal Reserve. And it’s easier than ever to explore digital and mobile transactions with all of the options out there today, from Apple Pay and Google Pay to Square and QuickBooks GoPayment.

Invoice “smart.” Two-thirds of small businesses have invoices that go unpaid for 60 days or more. See above for one of the major reasons – you’re most likely using an outdated, manual method. Now, with a tool such as QuickBooks, small businesses can create electronic invoices that are payments-enabled – some call this simple, e-enabled. With a simple click, a customer can pay electronically within the invoice. These invoices can be created in less than a minute and get you paid twice as fast.

Get banked – digitally. Online bank (ACH) transfers and eChecks can save you time and transaction fees – no more paper checks and hassle running to the bank.  ACH transfers and eChecks are part of the same secure funds distribution system that quickly moves money electronically. ACH is used for debit card transactions, payroll direct deposits and more. eChecks are an electronic way to send a paper check. Your customers provide bank routing and checking account details and the payment is transferred through the ACH Network.

Set yourself up to get paid. There are many options for accepting payments, whether on the go with with a mobile card reader like GoPayment or PayPal. With subscription-based businesses booming, you could set yourself up to take recurring payments with an app such as Rerun. One super simple way you can set yourself up to get paid is through Gmail. One billion people have a Gmail account. You can send QuickBooks invoices from within Gmail, view the status and get paid online even if you’re not a QuickBooks customer.

THE BOTTOM LINE

It’s probably no surprise, but that same Kauffman study that talked about first-year struggles found that confidence grows the longer you are in business. More than three-quarters of women running businesses that have been around for more than five years said they did well last year – same as men in the survey.

We all count on our revenue to keep the whole operation afloat, to pay bills and to pay employees and ourselves. Getting paid faster is one way to make sure your business gets to that critical five-year mark.

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