By Inna Kaushan, co-founder of Solna
Sending out clear, concise, well-designed invoices is very important if you want clients to deal with them quickly. Making it easy for your clients to pay you is necessary to get you paid on time.
Good invoicing can be achieved quickly and to help you here is our handy guide:
What should an invoice include?
An invoice is an important accounting document that requests payment in return for goods or services. This means an invoice should always include:
- The word ‘invoice’
- The date of issue
- Your name or your business name
- The client’s name or their business name
- Yours and your client’s contact information
- A unique invoice number (for good bookkeeping)
- The amount your client owes you
- Your payment details
- Your payment terms and conditions
If you want to get paid on time, make sure you use a clear and concise design. It helps if your client can identify important information quickly.
What format should an invoice be in?
Many freelancers and small businesses send their invoices out as a Word document, PDF or even Excel (we wouldn’t recommend this as it’s harder to brand and a little accountancy-like) and others make use of available invoice templates – more on that below.
If you use an Office application for your invoices, make sure they are saved in the Open Document Format, so your customers can actually open them. We’ve often seen late payments occur because invoices can’t be opened. We also recommend making your invoices read-only to avoid invoice fraud (when someone changes the amount due).
Good design is also important to make a professional impression with your invoices.
A beautifully designed invoice adds a finishing touch to your service. We recommend you go down the customised route, and invoicing software is a great place to start. Services like Solna have templates to use which you can customise, brand, and download as PDF or send through the platform. It beats slogging it out on Word.
Invoice payment terms
Net payment terms are very common. Net 30 means you request payment within 30 days of invoice receipt. Net 7 is 7 days, Net 10 is 10 days. You get the idea. The issue with these terms is there’s no guarantee the customer will pay.
Upfront payment, or payment in advance, safeguards your time and cashflow. Some businesses aren’t comfortable with it, so it’ll be up to you to forge trust in the relationship and win them over. If they won’t pay you upfront, you should perhaps question if they would have paid you at all.
With recurring customers, you have two choices: raise invoices manually or invest in software that’ll automate the process for you. Automating the sending of invoices will free up your time and give your customer continuity.
Whatever terms you choose, make sure you keep on top of who’s paid and who hasn’t . You might need to do this manually depending on the system you use. If you’re using invoicing software, you should get alerted when you receive payment or if payment is overdue.
How to send your invoice
It is standard practice to send invoices via email with a High Importance tag. In Outlook, you can request a read receipt which is a type of delivery notification – but it should be said this is self-enrolling, so the receiver can just say no to it. If you do send your invoices by email, then ask your client to confirm receipt.
Make your email header clear. Here’s a good example:
Solna.io, Invoice, December 2018
This is absolutely perfect – brief and absolutely clear.
Your email should also have a short and concise message body.
It’s important to keep accurate records of your invoices with back-ups. Store them locally on your computer for off-network access and in the cloud for access anywhere. If you’re using an invoicing software, you’ll probably be able to save them there. If not, there are good (and free) cloud services like Dropbox and Google Drive. Microsoft OneDrive is a good choice because it syncs with your desktop folders.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Inna Kaushan is co-founder of Solna, a smart invoicing platform powered by credit score data. Solna speeds up the invoicing and payment process for freelancers and small businesses. Through leveraged credit data that is overlaid on the platform’s invoicing and reporting functionality, users get a clear picture of their customer’s financial health and their overall exposure to risk. The system’s automated credit control functionality automatically chases overdue invoices – freeing up time and ensuring faster payment.