How to Set Up Recurring Payments in WordPress
If you are conducting any kind of business online, you probably bill your users for your goods or services. Good business practices are often about establishing lasting relationships, and this often means multiple or recurring purchases, each of which requires billing and collecting. If you are selling a service or a regular supply of goods which requires you to bill your buyers with any frequency (say, a monthly subscription), you will find that, as your business grows and you take on more and more customers, billing takes up more and more time which could be put to better use. Setting up recurring payments in WordPress is a way to automate invoicing your buyers and saving you a lot of time and effort.
In this article, we will show you how to use a free plugin to set up recurring payments for whatever goods or services you are using your WordPress website to sell.
But first, let us discuss some of the reasons why you should be considering ways of accepting recurring payments.
What Are the Benefits of Recurring Payments?
The main benefit of setting up your account to receive recurring payments is saving time. Instead of sending each of your buyers, users or subscribers invoices for each interval, for instance, you can automate this process and invoice them monthly. They can in turn set up their accounts to pay you automatically, instead of addressing each invoice in person as it arrives. This way, a recurring payment setup saves time on both ends.
The online services which recurring payments would most benefit are subscription services, such as news websites and online magazines. Similarly, maintenance services, such as building and garden maintenance businesses, may opt to charge a monthly rate instead of a per-job price. But even new media, such as podcasts and individual creators, can benefit from a subscription model.
The more you automate, the more you reduce the slog of simply doing business – your customers will appreciate it.
There are any number of premium options for you to set up recurring payments. We have elected to show you a free way to do it – all you need is a PayPal account and a free plugin. A word of warning: a PayPal account itself is free, but it does apply a transaction fee in case you are receiving money for goods and services.
How to Set Up Recurring Payments Using a Free Plugin
The plugin we have chosen is WordPress PayPal. Of course, the prerequisite to using this plugin is a PayPal account. Once you have installed and activated the plugin, navigate to your plugin settings page by selecting WP PayPal > Settings from the left-hand side menu on your WordPress dashboard.
Once there, you will find the plugin’s few options.
Firstly, there is the Enable Test Mode checkbox. You can mark this box if you want to run some tests using the PayPal sandbox functionality. This way, you can check whether your setup works using a simulated transaction between a simulated buyer and a simulated seller.
Next down are your PayPal data. You need to enter your PayPal Merchant ID and your PayPal E-mail so that the plugin may connect with your account.
Finally, there is the Currency Code. The default is USD, for US Dollars, of course, but you can use any of the PayPal-supported currencies.
Once you have everything ready, all you need to do is Save Changes.
Now, this plugin supplies you with shortcodes for PayPal buttons you can use. You can find these shortcodes and their parameters on the plugin’s WordPress.org page. If you are looking to set up a recurring payment, you want the subscription button shortcode. The default version of the shortcode is:
[wp_paypal button="subscribe" name="My product" a3="1.00" p3="1" t3="M" src="1"]
This shortcode will set up a subscription button for “My product”. To configure this button, you need to change its shortcode. As is, a sale using this button means a recurring subscription for the price of 1.00 of your set currency, recurring, for one month.
The a3 parameter defines the price. To change the price, simply enter an amount up to two decimal spaces instead of 1.00.
If you want this payment to recur, the src parameter needs to be set to 1, as it is by default.
The t3 parameter is the period of recurrence for the payment. You can set it to D for Days, W for Weeks, M for Months and Y for Years.
The p3 parameter is the number of periods of recurrence for which the payment recurs. Its range of allowable values depends on the t3 parameter, and it is 1-90 for Days, 1-52 for Weeks, 1-24 for Months and 1-5 for Years.
Detailed instructions for the use of these parameters can be found on the developer’s website.
We will now place this button onto a page. You can, of course, place your shortcode wherever you like. First, we will create a new page and click the plus sign to add a shortcode block.
We will then simply populate the shortcode block by pasting the shortcode, and then save our changes.
And our page is ready to accept paying subscribers.
Clicking the Subscribe button will lead you to the (simulated, in our case) PayPal checkout, where your users can review the subscription they selected.
You can, of course, customize the button in several ways.
For instance, we strongly recommend you change the placeholder “My product”. To do that, you need to change the shortcode’s name parameter. Simply replace My product with whatever you want to call your subscription. You can generate multiple types of subscriptions this way, as each shortcode you use generates a different button. That way, you can, for instance, offer discounts to subscribers who subscribe for longer periods of time by offering them a better deal, or create subscriptions for multiple products or services on the same page, using a single plugin.
If you want the PayPal checkout to open in a new tab, you can do it using the target parameter, by adding target=_blank to your shortcode.
And if you want to change the look of the button itself to better suit your website‘s design or style, you can do that by adding the button_image parameter to the shortcode. Simply paste button_image=”XXXXXX” within the shorcode’s brackets, taking care not to disturb any of the other parameters, where you will of course swap the XXXXXX for the URL of your custom button image.
There are more parameters you could add to this shortcode which might be useful to you, but they go beyond the scope of this demonstration. The developers of the plugin have outlined them on the plugin’s WordPress.org page, and you can test them in PayPal‘s simulated environment to make sure that they function to your satisfaction.
As we have shown, setting up recurring payments in WordPress is easy and needn’t cost you a penny beyond transaction fees. If you are running a subscription service or a paywall-protected service, you can automate billing and avoid pestering your buyers, subscribers and/or tipsters with repeated invoicing and payment requests. And setting the whole thing up takes little to no shortcode parameter adjustments and virtually no time at all. If your business could benefit from it, there’s no reason not to try it.