Square: The Easiest Way to Get Paid

Accepting payments used to be a pain. If you weren’t an authorized business with a way of actually charging a credit or debit card, you were forced to only accept cash. As we continue to grow more reliant on online payments and swiping our plastic cards, this excludes a large number of people – like myself – that would gladly give you some money, if you would let me.

Enter Square. Square is an easy way to get paid, with a full, end-to-end system that will allow you to start accepting payments right away. Is Square worth your time, or is it another ‘easy’ payment system (ahem, PayPal) that promises the sky but fails to deliver? That’s what I’d like to discuss today.

What You Need to Get Started

The first thing that you’ll need to use Square is a bank account. As of this writing Square doesn’t have a way to get you the money you’ve collected without being tied to a bank account; I’m hopeful that they’ll be able to team up with a service like Simple in the future, but right now you’re stuck with your old bank.

Square's launch screen.

Square's launch screen.

Second, you’ll need an iPad. Given that this is iPad.AppStorm, I’m assuming that you’ve already got this bit covered.

The final thing that you need is the Square Card Reader. The Card Reader plugs in to the headphone jack of your iPad, and is what allows you to accept payments from someone’s credit card. While it is possible to accept credit card payments without the Card Reader, using the Reader is half the fun. Card Readers are available from the website and shipped free of charge, or the local Apple Store where you’ll pay $9.99 that will later be reimbursed by Square.

Getting Paid

There are a few ways to get paid with the system. The main choice, and the purpose of the service, is to accept credit cards, but you can also keep track of the cash that you’re bringing in as well. This is perfect for small businesses that may not be able to afford not accepting cash, and allows you to hit all of the market that might be purchasing your product.

The graphic displayed when you manually enter a card number.

The graphic displayed when you manually enter a card number.

Given that the app allows you to accept cash, it’s only appropriate that it can control all of your (compatible) equipment as well. It can control your receipt printer, allowing you to hand someone that might not have a cell phone or email address (see: the elderly) a physical receipt instead of no receipt at all. If you’re interacting with someone that does happen to have a smartphone or email address, you can then have a receipt sent as either an email or a text message.

Choosing how to give the customer a receipt.

Choosing how to give the customer a receipt.

In this way, Square really makes it easy for individuals and small businesses to get paid. By requiring nothing but a smartphone or tablet and giving you a free Card Reader, Square is bringing payments to the masses.

Stacking Your Shelves

Let’s say that you sell a variety of items at a fixed price. This is normal for a large number of businesses, and much easier to communicate to a customer than ‘I set the prices. That was a dollar. Deal.’ Square allows you to add items to a Shelf, giving you quick access to each item you sell. You can add a picture of each item to this shelf, giving you a visual indicator of what a customer bought.

The main screen's Shelf view.

The main screen's Shelf view.

Now, you might also run a special for a day, or sell something that you don’t have a lot of. In this instance it’s easier to just add the price of the item and, you guessed it, Square supports that as well. I can see this being most useful for individuals that might sell something on Craigslist or to friends frequently, giving you a way of guaranteed, secure payment.

Manually entering amounts to charge.

Manually entering amounts to charge.

Account Management

The Square app wouldn’t be a good central hub if you didn’t have access to other account features. By leaving the main screen you have access to a variety of account settings, allowing you to manage every aspect of your Square presence right from the app.

Setting the service up with my bank to get paid.

Setting the service up with my bank to get paid.

One thing that I really appreciate is the ability to connect your bank account to your Square account from directly within the app. This is something that would usually require a desktop browser, but Square has baked it right into the app for your convenience. There are also other merchant-serving features, including:

  • Choosing whether or not to always require a signature
  • Adding Sales Tax to your items
  • Allowing your customers to add a tip straight from the payment screen
  • Sales History

Everything is beautifully designed and usable, offering the least amount of friction possible so that you can focus on running your business instead of figuring out how to get paid.

Conclusion

Square is a beautiful service that is really helping small businesses get the money that they deserve. Instead of making something convoluted, with weird rules and restrictions (again, PayPal) Square is easy to set up and use and requires no maintenance.

The app is functional yet aesthetically pleasing, much like the Card Reader. It stays out of your way, allowing you to focus on what really matters: your business.

With the app being free, the Card Reader being fee, and Square only taking a very small portion of payments (considerably less than normal credit card services), there’s no reason to not start using Square today. It will make your life easier for little cost, something that can’t be said of most point-of-service systems. Give it a try.


Summary

Square is an app and service that allows you to handle the financial end of your business from a central and beautiful location.

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