I’ll be the first to admit that I am not a seasoned expert in the art of invoicing clients. Although the availability of easy-to-use online invoicing software has made invoicing easier, I’ve learned most about this delicate practice from my business-minded partners at Pelago. When a designer and/or developer, like myself, enters into the fray of managing projects at a creative agency, invoicing clients becomes a necessary component of our job description. Here are a few invoicing tips I’ve learned as a creative partner at a web design and development agency.
Embrace online invoicing software
When it comes to keeping track of all the time you’ve spent working on creative projects throughout the day there are so many great online apps to choose from. Traditional software such as Excel and QuickBooks are too cumbersome for the invoicing needs of a small business. Whereas online invoicing software is easier to use and provides a smaller set of features tailored more toward your billing needs. Find one that mirrors your billing requirements and sign up for a trial to see if it is a good fit. <Shameless plug>We recommend checking out our own online invoicing software, Intervals, especially if you need time tracking and project management alongside invoicing.</Shameless plug>
Invoice early and invoice often
It doesn’t really matter if you are flat bidding a project or billing for time and materials. Invoices are easier for the client to manage if they are in smaller amounts spread out over time. Break up your flat bid projects into two or three invoices due upon various milestones throughout the project, the final invoice being due upon project completion. Issue invoices on your time and materials projects when you’ve accumulated a large enough balance acceptable to both you and the client. It also helps to let the client know ahead of time that you would like to issue an invoice. They may be able to suggest an ideal time frame for submitting the invoice, based on when they will be able to pay it. Not only will your clients love you for regulating the invoice process, your business will love you, too, for regulating cash flow.
Include details of the work completed on each invoice
Clients need to know where their money is going and accounting departments don’t like writing checks without good reason. The more details you can provide on your invoice the greater success you will have in getting paid without a hassle. How you detail the work completed is up to you, but it helps to list the work in such a way that the client can understand and explain to their accounting department.
Follow up on overdue invoices
If an invoice goes overdue, don’t fret. There is usually a logical explanation for the delayed payment. Sometimes clients forget, or your invoice was lost in the shuffle of invoices from other vendors, or perhaps they never received it at all. When following up on an overdue invoice, do be persistent and offer to resubmit the invoice or provide additional details if needed. The goal is to nudge the client along until you get paid. Online invoicing software can come in handy when trying to collect on overdue invoices. Not only will it remind you which invoices are overdue, but the software will also allow you to easily resend the invoice and run any detailed reports that may be necessary.
Invoicing clients may seem intimidating at first — talking about money, in general, is not something that company culture has embraced. Once you’ve invoiced a few clients and talked through the invoice with some of them you will usually find that the client is on your side and wants you to get paid. Experience will show you invoicing doesn’t have to be a four-letter word and engaging clients on a business level will only increase your small business skills.