As an independent contractor, you may find tasks that other companies hire a separate department to complete fall on your shoulders instead. One of these departments usually takes care of financial records, including invoicing. Not long ago, we talked about ways to ensure you’re getting paidon time for the hard work you produce. Customers need to know when payment is due and how much they owe. Having a solid strategy in place is key in order to provide them with professional, concise invoices at the right time.
Provide Clear Terms
Your initial quote should set a precedent for your future invoices. This gives you an excellent opportunity to outline any potential fees the customer may face for things like late payments or requesting a change mid-project.
To ensure your customer has all of the information up front, you may consider printing your full terms and conditions on the back of your invoice. Doing so ensures the customer has access to those terms and potential additional fees throughout the project.
Who? What? When? How?
People get so much mail (both snail and email) every day. The first invoice from your company is going to look a bit unfamiliar to the client, so make sure to tailor your invoice so that even a new customer knows they’re receiving legitimate communication. Make sure to include the following information in your invoice:
- The customer’s contact information.
- Your business information as well as a personal point of contact for that project.
- An itemized list of products and services.
- A firm due date. Also include a note of the late fee (if you choose to charge one) after the posted date.
- If you have various ways to accept payment, include them all in the invoice. If you’re sending your invoices digitally, linking the customer to the site where they can pay makes this process very easy from their end!
Dress it up!
If you have a graphic design team, now is the time to let their creativity shine. It doesn’t have to be over the top, but like any form of communication, you want to draw in your audience. If you don’t have the budget for a graphic designer and aren’t one yourself, don’t worry! There is a lot of invoicing software (like Intuit Quickbooks, FreshBooks, or Invociera to name a few) out there that can help you through this!
Give them a nudge. Provide payment reminders throughout the project.
Do you ever notice that some of your own personal bill companies will send you a few reminders or invoices before a payment is due? This is a great tactic to help customers remember about their upcoming responsibility to pay you for service. If your project is long and you’ve agreed to let your customer pay over time, it’s a good idea to give them a few reminder emails as their due date approaches to ensure they’re not forgetting about you!
Never underestimate the power of a thank you. In addition to letting the customer know that you appreciate their decision to choose you, you can also add a place for them to email you or provide feedback on their experience. What a great way to build that testimonials section on your website!
Don't forget to keep thorough records!
Tax season is a tricky one if you were lax on your record keeping. Since you’ll need to provide information of your gross revenue, a few missed invoices and suddenly you could find your business in an awkward spot if faced with an audit.
When keeping records, follow the rule of three; if a file doesn’t exist in three different places, it doesn’t exist. In addition to your computer’s hard drive, consider utilizing cloud based storage solutions like DropBox, Google Drive, or even your iCloud Drive storage if you’re an Apple user. Also, backing up your entire system is vital not only to record keeping, but to the functionality of your day-to-day digital records. Some of our favorites are Time Machine for Apple users, Carbonite, and CrashPlan. Keep in mind, most of these solutions do require monthly or yearly fees, so you’ll want to find something that works within your budget.
Though it’s very unlikely that all of your digital backups will fail at once, nothing beats the tried and true backup method of printing off actual paper copies and storing them in a safe place like a fireproof safe.
We hope these tips help the invoicing process go smoother for both you and your customers!
What tips have helped you create better invoices for your customers? Share in the comments below!