Invoicing is a key part of financial management that’s important to get right. Every business deserves to be paid for their hard work. But what do you do when you notice mistakes on your invoices?
We’ve pulled together the ten most common mistakes you’ll find on invoices that you can fix easily, and our advice on how to avoid them in the future:
- Sending the invoice too quickly or too slowly
- Not specifying a payment date
- Sending the invoice to the right person, but they are the wrong person
- Not using an itemised list
- Forgetting to clarify the terms
- Not following up on unpaid invoices
- Making it simple to pay
- Including unexpected charges
- Having mistakes in the text
- Not being courteous
Sending the invoice too quickly or too slowly
In your haste to get paid you may have made a typo or missed some important information, so always pause and double-check it before you click send.
Conversely, you can also be too slow to send invoices. Never wait for a client to ask for their invoice, it’s best to send it straight after you finish the work for them or they receive the work, or a day later. The sooner you send the invoice, the faster they’ll pay it, so don’t wait around too long.
Not specifying a payment date
Don’t use language such as ‘upon receipt or ‘as soon as possible’ when confirming when the payment should be made, as these are open to interpretation. In the UK an invoice must be paid 30 days after it is sent, and so be clear about this payment term in your invoice, unless you have agreed on other terms with the customer, then specify your agreement instead.
Doing this can help you be paid on time, within a reasonable time frame, and might save you from chasing invoices later down the line.
Sending the invoice to the wrong person
First check you have actually sent the invoice to the correct person, and have their correct contact details.
There is a second meaning to this point though — you may have sent the invoice to the correct person, but are they the right person to deal with the invoice in their company? You might find that if they are a bigger firm with a finance team, and your contact has to go through several people to get the invoice signed off and paid. So you might be paid faster if you send the invoice straight to the finance team or the correct individual in that business, instead of your client contact.
Not using an itemised list
Make it a habit to break down your costs on an invoice, as many clients may need it, or simply prefer it, for their own records. If you put it all together into one total, the customer may be more likely to question the amount, so be clear about every cost included in your final bill.
Forgetting to clarify the terms
A common mistake is not stating payment terms on an invoice — for example, a client may come back to you after you have invoiced them, requesting you to revise some work or make changes to the work already completed. But this extra time should also be billed unless you’ve agreed in your contract terms to doing extra changes or amends on the work you’ve done. Be careful as this could damage your relationship with the client unless you’ve stated your terms from the off.
Not following up on unpaid invoices
77% of small businesses say they are worried about chasing invoices and damaging their relationships with their customers by doing so. You need to be paid for your hard work, and you can follow our guides on how to chase invoices without being too pushy.
Making it simple to pay
So you’ve invoiced the customer, but there’s one problem. They don’t know how to pay you.
On every invoice, include your payment details. This could be your business bank account details, whether you take cash or card, or even who to make a cheque out to. Make it simple for the customer to figure out how to pay you for your work, and you’ll find yourself with less invoice admin to chase up.
Including unexpected charges
No one likes hidden costs, so if there are extra charges for your time or work that you need to put on the invoice, always speak to the client about it first, so it isn’t a surprise when they come to pay you.
Having mistakes in your text
When creating your invoice always check that the following things are correct:
- Reference/invoice number
- Payment details
- Your business contact details
- Costs that went into the work (i.e, your itemised list, detailing your hourly charge, any parts or products you’ve sourced, labour costs etc.)
- The total cost of the work (including VAT if that is applicable).
Always check your spelling and grammar too before you send, not only does this give off a more professional image but you don’t want your client to delay payment based on errors of your doing.
Not being courteous
One final error to consider is the tone of your invoice. Always include a short ‘thank you for your business’ sentence when you send emails, and ensure that you use a friendly tone when asking for payment on the invoice. This could contribute to a positive experience for your client when working with you, and a positive overall customer experience will help to bring them back to you for future business.
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