Your job is done and it’s time to get paid.
But how do you get from finishing the job to seeing money in the bank?
You send an invoice!
That’s simple right?
Well yes, but actually no.
It’s easy to send an invoice, but many businesses get the little things wrong and end up biting their nails waiting for the payment.
Or even worse don’t receive a payment at all!
We love getting paid faster so we tried a couple of techniques to entice our clients to part with their money sooner rather than later… and it worked!
Our invoices usually get paid in three days so feel free to steal these gems and send invoices which put money in your pocket faster.
Before Sending an Invoice
It’s awesome when you get a new client but don’t let the excitement get in the way of discussing the “boring stuff”.
Discuss Payment Terms
You need to agree on payment terms before you make a deal.
Just as you wouldn’t do a job and set the price after it’s done you don’t set payment terms on the first invoice your client sees.
Specific payment terms you need to discuss:
- Number of days to get paid
- What are the different payment methods you offer
- Will you offer discounts for early payment
- What happens if the customer doesn’t pay on time(interest fee for late payments)
Discuss these topics openly and don’t hide behind terms and conditions page or fine print as you want to build a sense of transparency and trust with your customers.
Agreeing on your preferred terms of payment helps managing cash flow and reduces boring procedures you wish to avoid(going to the bank to cash a check instead of online payment).
If your contract doesn’t include payment terms writing them down in an email is enough to be liable in court.
Comply With Their Procedures
The easier you make it for the customer to pay the sooner you’ll see money in the bank.
Ask the customer whether they need any peculiar information, such as:
- Do you need a purchase order (P.O.) number or is an invoice number enough?
- Do you need an Employer Identification Number (EIN)?
- Do you need a detailed breakdown of services or will a general description suffice?
- Is there any individual or a third party entity I must direct the invoice to?
- Is there anything else I need to know before sending you the invoice?
Asking these questions shows dedication from your side and experience in dealing with different businesses.
Customers will feel more trustworthy with your business and will take you more seriously because they can see you are thinking from their perspective and that you care about their process.
Making a Professional Invoice
The difference between good and bad invoices is accuracy, clear structure and clarity of information.
Professional invoices are structured in an order so our brains can pick up the natural pattern of information and answers the questions
- What is this thing I am looking at? – an Invoice
- Who is this from?- seller’s details
- Is this really for me to pay? – buyer’s details
- What am I paying for? – description of goods and services
- How much do I need to pay? – amount due
- How and until when can I pay this? – payment terms
- Is there anything else? – notes
Let’s break it down further:
Use the Word Invoice
It’s not required to write the word invoice and you could name it anything you want. But putting “Make it rain client!” in the invoice header is not something we recommend.
Your Business Details
The customer needs to know exactly who he is paying. Include your full name/company name and address
Their Business Details
List the full name/company name and address of your customer so there is no doubt in their mind that the invoice is referring to them.
An invoice number is used for tracking and managing your invoices.
Read more about invoice numbers and different numbering systems
Invoice date/Due date
This is the day that the invoice was created and it is critical to include it because it starts the countdown for when the payment is due for the buyer.
Itemized list of goods/services
Remind the client what specifically they are paying for.
The more descriptive you are the better, because even though they know they have to pay you, giving them a clear reminder of the scope of the work makes the client feel more at ease to part with their money.
Payment terms/Due date
List the different payment methods clients can use to make a payment, whether it’s cheque, cash, bank transfer, Paypal, or credit card. If you are accepting bank transfers include your account number, sort code and what payment reference you want them to use.
For the due date simply write “Payment is due within 30 days” and avoid using net terms(net 30, net 14, negative net 30…) as this has shown to prolong the time to get paid.
As we said, the due date should be visible next to the invoice date, but it’s nice to have it in plain words also.
Most countries charge some form of sales tax on transactions involving taxable goods and services.
You will need to consult with your local tax bureau to make sure you are charging the right tax in the right amount to your clients.
Once you know how to structure an invoice you can make it clear and pretty.
How to Send an Invoice
1. Send the Invoice by Mail
Arguably the worst way to send an invoice.
It takes you more time to send it and it takes more time for the client to receive it.
The invoice could get lost on its way and it’s hard to track the exact moment the client received it.
Use mail to send an invoice only if you absolutely have to.
2. Email the Invoice
When sending an invoice through email you simply write an email and attach the invoice.
Don’t type the invoice into the body of an email and avoid sending editable documents as attachments(word, excel) as fraudsters can intercept and change the contents.
Attach the invoice as a PDF as this also fixes the formatting issues if they decide to print the invoice out.
Here is a good example of an invoice email
Subject: Invoice[number] for [customer’s business] from [your business]
Hi [Recipient’s name],
Attached is the invoice [number] for the amount of [X amount] due on [X date].
Please process payment on this invoice within [X days].
If you have any questions I am just an email away.
Thank you for trusting us with your business!
Tip: you could make an email account such as [email protected] to give your business a more professional appearance.
Send invoices through this email only to declutter your inbox and keep invoicing more organized.
3. Send a Link to the Invoice
When you use invoicing software there is usually an option to send a direct link to your customer which takes them to a webpage with their invoice.
This is the best option, and if you accept online payments you can embed a button directly on the invoice.
When clients click the button it takes them right to the platform and makes the payment so much easier for them.
And you haven’t even heard the best thing yet!
With online invoices you can be 100% sure whether the client saw the invoice or not. Well, at least if you use Invoice Quick.
It’s true that you can track email opens when you send invoices through mail, but you can’t track if the client actually saw the PDF or not. And even then, a client may block trackers in their email client.
There is no way to block our trackers and we can even tell you exactly how many times someone viewed the invoice and at what time.
And if clients are too bothered to use email you can send the link through any messaging app.
When to Send an Invoice
This one is easy – ASAP.
Remember, when you should send an invoice is something to discuss before doing the work.
It’s best to issue the invoice as soon as you can after the job is done.
Imagine sending an invoice from your phone in two clicks… As if you could just transform the estimate into an invoice and send it right away…
And if you’ve negotiated an upfront deposit you would’ve sent the invoice before starting the work and requested the balance after the work is complete.
What to Do After Sending an Invoice
First off, don’t wait until the due date to ask about the payment!
If this is your first invoice for the specific client call them on the same day(or the next) after issuing an invoice and ask if they received it or if there are any questions.
This is not pushy, that’s just good customer service.
The next step is to send a reminder five days before the due date and the day before.
Don’t feel bad when sending reminders, it’s just that people are people and we forget things.
Some customers will even thank you for reminding them.
If you don’t receive the payment, inform them that you haven’t received the payment and ask when to expect it.
If they ignore you or miss the agreed deadline this is how to collect a late payment.
Know that the worst case scenario is that you write off the debt as delinquent and stop working with this customer.
The most important thing when sending an invoice is not how easy it is to read or how pretty the template is.
Accuracy and attention to detail are crucial. Miss out on this and you will prolong the payment since you will have to reissue the invoice.
Set the terms before the work and get all the details from the client on what needs to be on their invoice so there are no excuses.
Once you have every bit of information you need make a clear and concise invoice.
And if you can make it look pretty at the same time try to decorate it to your brand’s style for the extra level of professionalism.
We have integrated all of these techniques into Invoice Quick so that our community of thousands of small businesses like yours can spend less time doing what they have to(but don’t like to) and do more of what they love.
Invoice Quick is totally free, with no time restrictions, credit card requirements or hidden fees.
You should try it yourself and see if it fits your needs.