7 Best Practices for Sending Invoices
Posted March 14, 2011 in Accounting/Bookkeeping
Sending invoices is one of my favorite freelancing activities, second only to actually receiving payments.
What few freelancers may realize, however, is that invoices are not simply instruments for getting paid. They’re part of your business communication, branding, and marketing.
Imagine if you were a designer and you send generic invoices from PayPal. Or a writer and your invoices have typos. That may cause your clients to doubt your abilities.
In contrast, one of the graphic designers I work with uses PayPal to invoice me, and she has the loveliest headers on her invoices and receipts. Even though I’m in the PayPal interface, I see these cool headers, and they remind me of why I hired her. In fact, they make me excited to work with her.
In this post, I’ll share seven techniques to make your invoicing practices really stand out.
Before You Send Your Next Invoice
To make sure your invoices reinforce rather than ruin your reputation and chances of getting paid, here are some of the best practices for making and sending invoices:
- Include details of what your client is paying for. Make an itemized list of what you’re billing your client for. This should match the contract or terms of agreement you have with your client.
Use exactly the same language you used in the contract. In fact, why not copy and paste from the contract? This will reduce any possibility of misunderstanding and miscommunication about what you were hired to do, and what you actually delivered.
- Make sure everything is accurate and error-free. Double-check your invoice for typographical and computational errors. If you work with clients in other countries, make sure you’ve included what currency you want to be paid in. Nothing’s worse than getting paid the wrong amount — or in the wrong currency — because you were careless with your invoice. So double- and triple-check everything before you send it out.
- Make it easy for your client to pay you. Indicate how you want to be paid. If you’re going to be paid by check, say clearly what the payee’s name should be. Otherwise, clients might make the check payable to your personal name, for example, when it should have been paid to your company name. If you’re sending a digital invoice by email, add a link your client can click on to pay you immediately. PayPal, FreshBooks and LessAccounting, for example, allow you to do this. It’s also important to tell your client when payment is due. Be as specific as possible. For example, a particular due date is better than saying “due in 30 days.”
- Make it trackable. Aside from the date, give each invoice a tracking number. If you’re creating invoices from an invoicing or accounting software, it will generate invoice numbers for you automatically. Otherwise, the invoice number can be any number of your choice. For example, you can include the year as well as a project or client code. The invoice number makes it much easier to record, monitor, and follow-up on payments. This is especially important if you work with a lot of clients, or have plenty of projects.
- Keep marketing. Your invoice is a marketing tool. Include your logo, tagline, and contact information. The look and language of your invoices should be consistent with the rest of your marketing materials. In addition, you can use the invoice to ask for feedback on your services. You can even include a short testimonial on each invoice.
- Send it on time. Don’t be bashful about sending invoices. Send them as soon as you complete each milestone of a project. Sending invoices promptly increase your chances of getting paid on time as well. On the other hand, late invoices will definitely mean late payments.
- Send it to the right person. If you’re invoicing a company or multi-person office, make sure to address the invoice to the correct person. This may not be the person you’ve been coordinating with throughout the project. Ask to be sure you know who needs to get your invoice in order to get paid.
Share Your Invoicing Tips
Invoices can be a business-building tool. They reflect your professionalism, reinforce your branding, and help keep your clients happy.
How do you make and send your invoices? What other invoicing tips do you have? What changes did this post inspire you to make?
Share them in the comments below.
Image by cybrgrl
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