Accurate and timely invoicing is an essential element of your business. If you don’t send invoices for your services, you don’t get paid. If your invoices are unclear or inaccurate, your payments may be delayed and you can lose professional credibility. Setting up a reliable, streamlined system helps to keep money coming into your business to cover your expenses and continue growing. A template can make the invoicing process much easier to save you time and get the invoices sent faster.
Choosing a Template Creation Method
Before you can create your template, you need to decide how to do it. You have two primary options for setting up an invoice template: Microsoft Office software and a cloud-based accounting system, such as QuickBooks Online. Some small businesses that already use the Microsoft Office software package can use a variety of invoice templates already available within the program. This may seem like a reliable, efficient choice since you already have the software, but the era of cloud-based computing expands your options with extensive customization to fit your invoicing needs. While many accounting software packages include basic invoicing capabilities, discrete invoicing software provides an expanded range of invoicing features. Cloud-based invoicing platforms deliver a more convenient and secure way for you to speed up your billing processes.
Using an Office Invoice Template
Microsoft Office includes multiple invoice templates in Excel and Word. You can download and install these templates to your computer or server and prepare the bills you then send via email or postal mail. Even though these templates seem easy since they’re ready to go, they usually require you to do a lot of manual data input. You may need to pull data from other software platforms, such as your accounting software. That means you’re working in multiple programs and taking more time away from other business activities just to handle your invoicing. You also spend more time monitoring those invoices to make sure they get paid on time. If you have a client who misses a payment, you’re responsible for manually sending reminders and following up. All of those manual activities cut into your schedule or require you to hire someone to handle them for you. In the long run, it may not save you any money, even if you already use Microsoft Office.
Security Advantages of Cloud-Based Invoice Systems
Cloud-based accounting systems such as QuickBooks online let you create templates and customize them to your business. It’s a straightforward process that allows you to include the information you want on your customer invoices. On top of the customization options with cloud-based accounting, you also get an extra level of security beyond manually emailed invoices. Most cloud-based platforms send data to and from the cloud in an encrypted format, unlike most email. That means you can create templates and send invoices with confidence. When selecting a cloud-based accounting or invoicing system, make sure it uses encryption.
When you store important invoicing data on your office computer, you put yourself at risk of losing that information in the event of a virus attack or a hardware system breakdown. Theft of your server or billing computer would cause a loss of crucial data and compromise confidential client information, such as bank account numbers. Most cloud-based platforms conduct frequent backups of all system data and provide security updates. For example, QuickBooks Online accounting software offers cloud-based invoicing, and the system performs data backups on a daily basis. That cuts down the risk of lost data.
Cloud-Based Invoice Systems Boost Your Cash Flow
Cloud-based invoicing systems automatically send customizable payment reminders to your customers. These reminders can include gateways for making immediate credit card payments. You can automate recurring monthly charges to customers, with any unpaid balance reflected in the total due. You can save time because you don’t have to input the outstanding balance manually or pull from multiple programs, as is often necessary when using installed invoice templates. QuickBooks makes it easier to connect with your accounting information. Plus you can sync QuickBooks with other invoicing apps for easy management. For example, you can skip duplicate entries when you use your QuickBooks Online accounting software with FreshBooks invoicing software, because the information is shared between the two platforms on the cloud. Invoiced, another cloud-based invoicing platform, seamlessly integrates with QuickBooks Online. Invoiced also accepts bitcoin payments. All of these options streamline your invoicing process and make it easier for clients to pay you quickly.
Creating Your Invoice Template
Regardless of where you create your template, you need to include key pieces of information throughout to make your invoices effective, accurate and easy to read. By creating standard invoicing templates with the necessary information, you save time when you need to bill a customer. You know the information they need is already there, so you don’t have to worry about any confusion or missed detailed. Every invoice should include a heading with important business details, a body with a breakdown of the charges and a payment information section that clearly outlines how clients can take care of the payments.
Heading of the Invoice
Since the header is the most prominent part of the invoice, you want to use it to capture important details that help your clients recognize what it is and who it’s from. Your clients probably get a lot of mail, some of which is junk. Writing the word “”Invoice”” at the top of the page makes it easily identifiable and helps the document stand out from the rest of the mail. This helps your clients take note and pay attention so they pay faster.
You want to number each invoice using a system that works for you and allows you to easily track past and current invoices. Some businesses simply begin by allocating number 000001 to their first invoice and continue in consecutive number order. Others prefer to add a code to identify each client. For example, James Baker’s first invoice might be JB00001, Jayne Brown might be JYB00001 and so on. It doesn’t really matter how you number your invoices so long as you’re consistent and give each invoice a unique identifier to keep it all straight.
The next piece of information for the header is your business contact information. This makes it clear who sent the invoice. It also makes it easier for customers to contact you if they have questions about the bill. Set your business name, address, post code, phone, email,= and website address in a letter-style block format and add your Business Number, also known as your GST Registration Number. That way, your client has everything to facilitate prompt payment or to contact you with any queries.
You also need to add contact information for the person you’re billing. Include your client’s name, address, post code and Business Number for your own records and to make sure your invoice reaches the correct destination. This helps you track your invoicing and helps you get paid faster since the invoice can be delivered properly.
The heading is also a good spot for dates. Add the date you prepared the invoice and the payment due date. If you don’t already have standard invoice payment terms in place, it’s a good idea to create them. This creates consistent handling so you customers know what to expect and so you can create a follow-up system when customers don’t pay on time. Allow for a sensible time frame when choosing invoice payment terms. To state “”payable on receipt”” is not user-friendly and can cause problems, as you have no way of knowing for sure when your client actually receives or sees the invoice. A due date 30 days after invoicing is a common option that gives your customers enough time to pay the bill. Whatever you decide, make the due date clear in the invoice heading area.
Body of the Invoice
The body gives you a place to break down the charges so customers know what they’re paying. You want to be clear about what you’re charging your client and why. At this stage, there should be no surprises. You should already have an agreed-upon hourly rate and number of hours for the services. If you need to exceed the agreed-upon budget, make sure your client knows and agrees to the changes.
List a brief description of your goods or services along with dates and hours worked. Don’t forget to add any incidental expenses you incur on behalf of your client, such as fees, postage or essential purchases. Display the amount due as a subtotal before taxes, add any relevant taxes, and show the total sum due on the invoice.
A Brief Note About Taxes
A small business’s tax situation varies from province to province, and different rules relate to the Canadian sales tax requirements, including the Goods and Services Tax, Harmonized Sales Tax and Provincial Sales Tax. The Canada Revenue Agency offers advice on taxes for small businesses and also offers an online GST/HST calculator to help you calculate how much to charge. Your invoice must clarify exactly how much tax you’re charging your clients, as they need this evidence to support their claims for input tax credits/rebates for the GST/HST. It also helps you keep clear and accurate records, as you’re required to hold this tax in trust until you send it to the CRA.
If your business revenue before expenses over the previous four calendar years amounts to a relatively small sum, $30,000 or less as of April 2017, you do not have to register for or charge GST/HST. Even so, you might choose to register to claim input tax credits. If your business is based in a province that charges GST and PST, you might qualify for a provincial small supplier exception. Consider consulting provincial tax information bulletins for up-to-date information.
You want to make it as easy as possible for your customers to pay their invoices quickly. You can do that by explaining your payment options and expectations in your invoice template. Beneath the total sum due, indicate your preferred payment method to make it easy for your clients to pay you promptly. Include banking information, the name that should appear on any cheque or alternative payment methods.
Consider adding a note about any additional terms and conditions, such as discounts for prompt payment or penalties for late payment. A polite reminder that “”prompt payment is appreciated”” often helps speed up the process, as does thanking your clients for their business.
If you send your invoice through the post, some clients appreciate a cut-off slip with your name, address, invoice number and amount due so they can use this to slip in the envelope with a cheque.
An effective invoicing system helps you quickly identify clients who haven’t paid by your deadline. Don’t assume the worst; if they’re unhappy with your work, they would most likely tell you. Some customers are just busy and forget to pay. Others may have personal situations that distract them or financial difficulties that make it challenging to pay immediately. Sending out a friendly, personalized email or text reminder with a duplicate invoice in case the original was lost can gently encourage payment. If the invoice remains unpaid, give the client a call before escalating your collection activities.
Paper vs. Digital
If you are committed to keeping your office as paper-free as possible, you can choose to keep the whole process digital by creating invoices online and emailing them to clients as attachments. This saves the need to organize mountains of paperwork and avoids the risk of your invoice getting lost in the post. There are numerous software packages designed to ease the process of invoicing. You can customize these to your specific requirements and add your logo. Some let you create and send from mobile devices; this is handy for invoicing on the go. Others sync with your accounting software and update your books automatically as you issue each invoice or mark it paid.
Whatever method you choose, setting up an easy-to-use invoice template and a robust file system lets you keep on top of your admin and projects a professional image. It also helps ensure you get paid in a timely fashion and maintain the cash flow that’s essential for your small business’ survival. QuickBooks Online helps you create and send smart invoices that help you get paid 2x faster. Try it free today.”