We’ve already shared some tips and strategies for super-charging your invoices to help you get paid faster, strengthen your brand presence and keep you top of mind when clients need to get a job done. Today we’re taking an even closer look at how you create, send and follow-up on every invoice. Do it right, and you’ll realize your humble invoice is, in fact, one of the most powerful tools at your disposal.
Let’s start at the very beginning (a very good place to start)
Clean, clear and consistent. Your invoices should be clearly organized and thoughtfully designed with easy-to-read fonts and colors. Your contact information and payment terms (more on this below), as well as your logo or business name should be obvious, even at a glance.
If you’re not already creating invoices using an automated template, consider switching to one, pronto. (Good news is almost every financial management platform offers a variety of templates to choose from.) The more professional and consistent your invoice looks, the better it will be received.
Prompt and punctual. Send every invoice as soon as it’s due. Depending on the terms of payment you and your customer have agreed on, this schedule may be weekly, monthly or bi-monthly. Or, for a big project, you might agree to half the total payment up front, with the remainder due upon completion.
Regardless of how often you expect to get paid, this is worth repeating: send your invoice as soon as payment is due. Too many folks who work for themselves admit they’re a little lax when it comes to invoicing on time. The simple fact is that if you don’t send your invoice on time (or, gulp, ever) you won’t get paid on time (or, gulp, ever). Enough said!
Polite and persistent. One more thing to file under “Obvious.” If you’ve sent your invoice but the money has yet to materialize, your job is to follow up. This does not mean asking your brother-in-law’s cousin’s uncle to uh, pay your client a late-night visit. It does mean taking a deep breath and reminding your customer in a friendly, professional way that payment is due (or, perhaps, now overdue).
If this task seems daunting, remind yourself that you deliver high quality work – and you deserve to be paid for it.
Now that we’ve reviewed some of the basics of invincible invoicing, let’s explore seven tips to bring billing to a whole new level.
1. Pay attention to details. Expedite your payment processing by making sure your invoice goes to the right person in the right department. Remember, the person who cuts checks in the accounts payable department is unlikely to be the point-person for your graphic design project or the one who placed that corporate-sized order for your homemade bath salts.
Another critical detail: do you need to include a purchase order on your invoice? Find out – or risk having your precious payment get snarled in some very sticky red tape.
2. Make “sending” a snap. When it comes to getting paid, “sending” means two things. First, you should be able send your invoice in an instant. Second, your client should be able to send your payment just as fast. A digital financial management platform makes it quick and easy to create, send and track your invoices online. Just as important, you can set up your bank account to receive payments electronically. You’ll get an accurate, real-time picture of your finances – and you’ll minimize payment hassles for your customer.
3. Go mobile. Speaking of painless processing, mobile payment technology lets you swipe a credit or debit card anywhere, any time. On-the-spot payment (no invoicing required!) is particularly useful for small business owners who deliver products or services directly to a home or office.
4. Know your terms. No one likes to nag a customer about a late payment. The best way to avoid it is to negotiate terms up front – and in writing. Whether you expect payment upon receipt of your invoice or 10, 20 or 30 days out, make your payment terms clear. Be sure to build in a meaningful penalty for late fees and – now here’s the hard part – enforce it.
5. Be flexible (to a point). Before you add “henchman” to your resume, let us remind you it’s okay to be flexible with your trusted paying customers. If a valuable client is waiting to get a new round of funding, for example, you can show good will (and great customer service) by offering to temporarily renegotiate payment terms to ease any financial burden.
Other flexible spending options:
6. Keep it in the cloud. You may be planning a much-deserved tropical vacation, but there’s no need for your invoices to take any time off. A cloud-based management solution lets you send invoices as always. Best of all? You can receive payments while you surf.
7. Show your appreciation. In business, like just about everything else, little gestures go a long way. Here are three worth tips that could help you get paid faster:
The bottom line is this: happy customers are more likely to be paying customers. When every part of your invoicing system is clear, streamlined, easy and efficient, you make the payment process as painless as possible – and that’s a formula for long-term financial success.
Before you go
QB Community members, has your approach to invoicing evolved since you started your business? Please share what you’ve learned!
Want more insights about invoicing? Financial guru Dawn Fotopulos shares her insights and answers members’ questions in this post.
And here’s some tips for creating a great invoice in 90 seconds flat!
Customers that are happy with the service you provide are paying customers.
Customers that are engaged with your brand will ask you how they can refer people and where to leave an online review for your company (after they've rushed you the payment).
Do better than expected.
Send your product and invoice on time.
It's the same thing Horst Schulze - the former CEO of Ritz-Carlton - says about how to be an excellent customer. I heard him speak a few months ago and radically changed the way I treat my clients. The results have been incredible…
Concentrating on investing in existing clients, has helped me in keeping my clients engaged in my brand. This means that even those who found me on a Google search, while looking for a (generic) photographer, are loyal to the point where they push to hire me and not some other vendor, even though that vendor may offer a significant cost saving.
Brand loyalty is not that difficult to build, all it takes is a little more. Just like Mr. Schulze is found of saying.