Invoicing Your Customers Made Easy
You have done the hard work. The customer is happy. You can rest easy. Afraid not!
Now it’s time to get paid. How easy is it? It should be simple but how often have you delivered great work and not been paid on time?
Follow these simple steps, make your life easier and keep your bank balance healthy.
Get Your Paperwork Signed Off Quickly
It’s so so important to get ALL paperwork approved by the client before you submit your invoice. Always include any client approved documentation with the invoice.
Some examples are:
- Delivery Note
- Expense Receipts
- Third party documentation
- Purchase Order
If you don’t you run the risk of the invoice being returned, or even worse put to the bottom of the “Queries” tray by the Accounts Payable department. Agree with the customer, in writing, what is required as backup and ensure this is provided for every single invoice you submit.
One way is to use an invoice template. You will find loads of templates online in excel or word format. Personally, I prefer to use excel as it enables easy summation of line items and sub-totals.
A more effective way to generate your invoices is using accounting or bookkeeping software. Invoices are easily generated. They are recorded in the sales ledger and debtors account, and automatically sent to the customer by email. You have real-time data and instant access to your debtors’ account. Remember the backup though!
- If you have a Purchase Order number, make sure it’s shown on the invoice. No PO will likely mean No Payment.
- Don’t Forget to State the Invoice Due Date. This might be upon receipt of your invoice or within 30 days. Whatever you agree in the contract state those terms on the invoice.
Keeping It Legal
HMRC require certain details to be shown on every invoice you generate. Follow the guidance and stay legal!
- A unique invoice ID number
- Your company name, address, and contact information
- The company name and address of the customer you are invoicing
- A clear description of what you are charging for
- A supply date (i.e. the date the goods/services were provided)
- An invoice date
- A breakdown of the amount being charged to the client
- The VAT amount if applicable
- The total amount
Sole traders also need to include:
- You name and any business name being used
- An address where any legal documents can be delivered to you
Limited Companies must include the full company name as it appears on your certificate of incorporation.
Include The Right Information
The information you include on the invoice will depend on what you are charging for and the customer requirements. It may be a simple one-line invoice for monthly services or three pages of line items to cover all manner of sales. Include relevant but concise information on the invoice.
Ensure the content is easy to follow and the format is clear and tidy. No one wants to waste time reviewing an invoice that is difficult to understand. Remember you want paid on time and without hassle!
When Should You Send Your Invoice?
This one is obvious – when the work is done! Don’t wait ten days….or twenty days!
Think of your cashflow. Get the invoice out and the money in.
Consider requesting milestone payments or payment in advance if the job is a big one and likely to stretch your own cash-flow.
Mistakes To Avoid
You will come across difficult customer in business. They may just be difficult individuals or perhaps their systems and processes are not as good as yours! It all adds to potential issues you need to aware of.
Here are some common mistakes you can easily avoid:
- Make sure you know who you should send the invoice to. Do not send your invoice to the wrong person.
- Double check that your invoice adds up properly. Multiple line items can lead to summation errors. And taxes such as VAT can lead to miscalculations. Check, check and check again!
- Your text and descriptions should be clear and understandable. If they are vague you are giving your client room for manoeuvre. Remember the key is getting paid on time.
The Follow Up & Getting Paid
If it is a new customer you are working with, give them a call a few days after you’ve submitted the invoice. Ask politely that the invoice has been received.
If the invoice has 30-day payment terms, email the customer a couple of weeks later to check on the invoice status. Ask whether the invoice has been approved and a payment date.
You will normally have your own suppliers to pay. Fair-minded customers will appreciate cashflow is important for your business too. Once payment is received send the customer a brief thank you email. We all like to be flattered. Being thanked for paying on time will improve the long-term relationship.
It can be hard work chasing payment. It is a waste of time and resources, and often a source of tension and stress. By following these steps and avoiding the common mistakes you stand an excellent chance of being paid on time.
You will improve your cash flow, reduce your stress, and have access to additional funds to improve your business. Sounds like a plan to me!