Asking to be paid — especially when your customers are uncooperative — can often be the most uncomfortable part of running a small business. But learning how to generate invoice to your customers politely, efficiently, and on time is an important aspect for establishing your credibility and professionalism. An invoice becomes a representation of the service that your business provides: after you serve your client, the last memory of your business that you will leave them with is your invoice. Your presentation of this last document can define your client’s future perception of your firm.
Although it’s important, invoicing should never be a difficult aspect of running your business. Business owners who encounter recurring problems with invoicing are making a series of common mistakes that stall their payments and damage the credibility of their firm. Below, we’ve outlined a few of these mistakes and the strategies that diligent business owners can adopt to avoid them.
1. Use an established invoice template
Busy companies serve hundreds of clients each week, meaning that invoices will need to be generated swiftly and in huge volumes each day. The faster you generate invoices, the more likely it will be that you make mistakes along the way. While sending a correct invoice and receiving payment can be an effortless process if done correctly, making even a single mistake on an invoice can slow down payment by weeks at a time, which can lead to long and burdensome email or telephone exchanges with your customers. To minimize mistakes, make sure you’re using a standardized template for every invoice you generate, in which the only things you need to modify between editions are quantities and items purchased.
2. Send your invoices on time
The longer you wait to send an invoice after you provide a service, the more likely it will be that your customer forgets to pay. Receiving an invoice weeks after the fact can often be a major source of confusion, making customers wonder if they have already paid or if they are being billed for some new service. To avoid all confusion, send your invoices immediately after you provide a service. This eliminates all questions over what the invoice is for.
3. Detail the costs thoroughly
If you’re charging for many services or materials but not providing a thorough description of the charges, you might confuse your client. That’s why it’s important to detail every aspect of the price — that way, the customer understands exactly what they’re paying for. Any extra unidentified fees tacked on to the foot of the bill might raise some eyebrows.
For example, if you’re a photographer, you should put every aspect of your services on your invoice — detail the time you spend at the photoshoot and the time you took to process and edit the photos. If you’re working in construction, including all materials and time spent on the invoice you send. Doing all this means there won’t be any questions about what exactly the customer is paying for. It’s a good way to build customer trust — and with that, loyalty.
4. Give your customer a variety of payment options
If paying bills becomes a long and confusing process for customers, it reflects poorly on your business. You want to make this process as easy as possible for your customers. It’s standard to at least give your customers the option of paying you through credit card, check, or direct deposit. However, you can also provide payment through PayPal or Venmo, which are both secure methods of payment. As long as you provide plenty of options that makes payment easy for customers, they shouldn’t complain.
5. Pay attention to your invoice’s design
You should think of your invoice as a representation of your company’s values — it should look sleek and professional. In addition, you should put your individual branding on your invoice — that way, it adheres to your brand identity. Since your invoice represents your company, make sure it’s something you can be proud of.
Since invoices are the last element of doing business, it’s easy to downplay the importance of creating a standout invoice. But if you follow all these suggestions, you should have no problem collecting payment from your customers — and securing them as future, loyal customers as well.