Here’s one thing just about all small business owners have in common: the need to send invoices. Whether you sell handmade products or offer targeted client services, invoices are key to keeping your business afloat. Problem is, plenty of folks who work for themselves don’t realize, or leverage, the true power of this all-important tool.
Sure, we all know invoices are a direct line to payment. But they’re also a critical communication device that can help you get paid on time (or even early!), every time. An effective invoice builds your brand, strengthens client relationships and keeps you at the top of the list whenever your customer needs help.
Not sure how to put the almighty invoice to work? Read on.
1. Make it personal
These days, information-overload is ubiquitous. No wonder it’s easy to overlook or ignore a standard grey email or a dull printed page. Good news is your invoice doesn’t have to be forgettable. In fact, it shouldn’t be. A personalized, thoughtfully designed invoice stands out in a cluttered inbox or an ever-growing pile of papers.
Here are two tips to help your invoice attract a whole lot of attention.
Name drop. Just as using someone’s name in conversation keeps people focused on what you’re saying and makes them more receptive to your message, personalizing your invoice helps it get noticed. Here are four names you should consider including on every invoice:
1. The company you are billing
2. The person processing the invoice
3. Your manager or point of contact
4. Your company and/or your self
Comment, please. A comment box is the perfect place to include a friendly but professional message (keep it short and sweet!) to your client or customer. Five ideas for filling the comment box:
1. Thank you!
2. My favorite aspect of this project was …
3. I thought you might enjoy this fascinating link to … (information related to the topic or industry)
4. Here’s the contact info for a professional [fill in the blank] I think you’d enjoy working with …
5. I’d love the opportunity to work together again in the future!
2. Make it professional
You may not have thought about it, but your invoice is your final point of communication with a client (before they hire you for their next big project, that is!). In this context, an invoice is an important tool for brand building, marketing and engagement. So it pays to make sure this document reflects your professional, organized, detail-oriented approach to work. Three things to keep in mind:
Design matters. A well-laid out invoice is straightforward, easy to read and enjoyable to look at (no matter how big your bill!). When it also showcases your logo and reinforces your brand presence, your invoice keeps your business top of mind – so you’re already a step ahead of the competition.
Readability matters. When it comes to choosing fonts and colors, make sure yours are easy to read. Yellow is dandy for daffodils, and swirly scripts are sweet in a love letter – but keep ‘em out your hard-working invoice.
Mistakes matter. Typos, misspellings and other seemingly small mistakes indicate sloppiness, not professionalism. Check your invoice before you send it and catch those not-so-insignificant errors.
3. Make it work
Now that we’ve covered some invoicing fundamentals, let’s talk about how to leverage the full power of this awesome tool. If you’re using an automated money management platform you’ll be able to get loads of insights about billing patterns and practices, as well as easily track the status of your invoices. Here are our top six tips for getting the most out of every invoice:
Want to learn even more about effective invoicing and find out what challenges and successes other members of the QB Community have shared? Check out these helpful posts:
Before you go
QB Community members, when it comes to asking for (and receiving!) payment, what’s your biggest frustration? Thanks for telling us how you’ve dealt with this all-important aspect of your business.
QB Community members, when it comes to asking for (and receiving!) payment, what’s your biggest frustration?
Waiting and having to call for payment. Then being promised, but never receiving until have to call or email again.
BTW, great tips for invoices! :)
I'm surprised at how many small businesses don't invoice immediately after the job is finished or in my case - I don't start a job unless I have a 50% deposit on my estimate. Which is my first tip on getting paid (I wrote an article on my blog called "Getting paid: 2 surefire ways" that goes into greater detail.)
Invoices go out once the production is finished and I am in the position to show my customers the images and videos that they are paying for online, but I won't physically release the digital files to them until I have been paid in full.
There are some rare occasions, where some very large clients have rules in place that prohibit them from paying me before services are rendered. They issue me a PO (another great tool) and the terms of those jobs are due on receipt. Images or video files get released the day the wire transfer hits my accounts.
However, you have to ask for these terms. Some of my clients told me that their normal terms are 90+ days. Instead of accepting those, I spend some time up front to figure out what it takes to be the exception to this rule and trust me there is always a way to be the one company that gets paid on time.
And remember to include your terms and conditions in writing with your first estimate and final invoice. I actually believe in this so much, that I have my T&Cs attached to an email template that I send to all of my clients when I present them with their first estimate (You did say something about automation, right ?).
If you want to read the article I mentioned in this post, please go to my blog (the link is on my profile page) and type "Getting paid: 2 surefire ways" into the search field.
I would also like to add whilst we are on the subject of invoices, we have just started using an application called 'Satago' which links directly into QuickBooks Online. Even better than that, it is completely FREE!
It is a debtor management tool that can be fully personalised and be set up to automatically chase payment from customers.
I hope this helps quite a few of you. If anyone needs any help with it please do not hesitate to give me a message.