Sending an invoice — that’s the easy bit, right?
You’ve expended all that effort finding a customer, you’ve negotiated pricing and terms, gone back and forth over scope, produced the work and received great feedback. All you need to do is knock up a quick invoice and job done.
Well, not exactly.
Too many businesses take their foot off the gas once they’ve completed a project, forgetting that every step along the way has been for nothing if that invoice doesn’t actually get paid.
And there’s no guarantee that it will be paid, on time, or at all.
Mostly that’s down to problems at the client end — some are genuinely forgetful, some have cash flow issues of their own and leave paying until the last minute (or beyond) and some (thankfully few) have no intention of paying at all.
Much of this is out of your hands but if you find that you have to chase up most of your invoices, it could be because you’re making one of these common invoicing mistakes.
Too many businesses wait a couple of weeks after project completion to send the invoice, particularly if they’ve set aside a specific date each month as ‘invoice day’. But this isn’t the best strategy.
It’s a strange little psychological quirk, but people are more likely to pay your invoice in a timely manner if you invoice on the day you complete the project, partly because it rules out the forgetfulness excuse and partly because the project is still labelled by their brain as ‘open’; it’s right at the forefront of their consciousness.
Before you begin a project, make it clear in your contract that you will send the invoice upon delivery of the work — and then be sure you follow through.
Any invoice with ambiguous or missing information is far more likely to be ignored. Some things you should consider are:
Have you included itemised billing? If the requested figure seems wrong, clients are more likely to query it, which takes up valuable time. Or they may well put it to one side until they have the time to query the amount — again delaying the payment schedule and potentially damaging your client/supplier relationship.
Talking of the payment schedule, have you made the invoice due date clear? It can be a good idea to add a note about late fees here too, as an added incentive to meet the deadline.
Have you included information about how to pay? Clients don’t want to have to spend time searching your website for payment details or take the time to email you, so make sure you include all of this information on your invoice.
How easy is it for people to actually pay your invoices?
One of the reasons people delay settling up is that they find the process frustrating so it is worth considering offering multiple payment options if it’s viable for you to do so. If you currently only accept cheques, a bank transfer option would be easier for many clients who’ve more or less ditched their cheque book. Or could you look into accepting credit card or PayPal payments?
Anything that makes paying you easier is likely to shorten your wait time, and if you currently waste a lot of billable hours chasing invoices, any charges you incur for new payment methods will be well worth the expense!
This is a relatively easy fix. If you’ve been working with a single point of contact on a project, don’t assume that they’ll take care of the invoice too. Double check with your contact before sending whether they handle the financial side of things or whether your invoice should wing its way to the company’s billing department instead.
And if you do get passed along to another department, be sure to send your invoice to the relevant person within that department — if in doubt, just ask.
Your clients are likely hit with multiple invoices in any given week. Which ones do they pay first? The ones that look the business.
If you’re not currently using your branding on your invoices, you’re missing a trick. Including your company logo, and using your company’s fonts and colours on your invoices go a long way to making them look more polished and professional.
And while you’re at it, cast an eye or two over your formatting, spelling and grammar. Not only is this your chance to get paid for a job well done, it’s your last chance to leave a great impression of your business. Be sure you don’t fall at the last hurdle.
If you want to take the guesswork out of producing professional-looking invoices, why not try Countingup’s new invoicing feature, which makes it easy to create, preview and send beautiful invoices with just a few clicks. Straight from your account!