by Christine Mortensen on March 4, 2014
Client invoicing is not just about getting paid. It’s about building a relationship, opening the door to repeat business, and marketing opportunities. Set your business up to invoice like the professionals and you’ll rarely have to deal with an unhappy client or payment issues.
Start Out Your Relationship the Right Way
Whether you sell a product or service, the first time you engage a client begins the business relationship. You are entering into a simple arrangement — you provide a product or service and the customer gives you their money. It sounds simple, but confusion often happens right at this point. This is why you put everything into writing, suggests Graphic Design Blender.
Exactly what the customer will get, what you expect in the way of payment, and your policies on payment should be somewhere in writing. It could be on the product description or checkout page. It could be in an email statement of work or a formal job bid. At invoice time, many questions can be resolved by referring back to your earlier written documents.
If you do contract work that is subject to change, save all email correspondence. Summarize telephone calls in an email so you have a record of them, too. This will become information you can refer to if questions come up during invoice time.
In this age of affordable technology, there is no reason to manually generate invoices. Automating your invoicing with a software tool gives you a professional-looking product that you have more control of. You can find cloud software for invoicing that allows you to work anywhere, giving you access to customer and invoice information. If you bill by the hour, find an invoicing tool that ties into a time tracking application and save time doing both. Software that offers flexible formatting also lets you use the invoice as a marketing tool.
Creating the Best Invoice
There is a lot of valuable information on an invoice, so take some time to put it together correctly. Web Designer Depot suggests breaking the invoice format down into six sections:
- Your company information, logo and contact details — Refer to your business card to know what should be included and how it should look.
- Policy information — Include the invoice date, due date, payment terms and payment types accepted. They all should match earlier discussions about policy matters.
- Client’s information — This is the company contact information and the name of the person or department responsible for paying the invoice.
- Invoice number — Create unique identifying numbers for your invoices so when you get busy with clients, you’ll find previous invoices easily.
- Description of products or services — This needs to match exactly what the client received, otherwise they’ll have an excuse to delay or refuse payment.
- Miscellaneous info — This is where you print a “Thank You” and add marketing information such as upcoming sales, or an offer to discount the invoice 5 percent for early payment.
Follow Your Own Policies
Customers don’t like changes, says Hongkiat, so make sure that all terms on the invoice match all of the other information on your website. For example, if your website says you take PayPal but it isn’t listed on the invoice, your client may leave your invoice on his desk until the due date then call to complain that you don’t take PayPal.
Once you have your policies set, make them standard and stick to them. If you do make an arrangement with a client to do something differently, then create a special invoice for that client to match the new terms. Again, you want the invoice to match exactly what the client expects so they have no reason to question, and delay, the payment.