A hard lesson all solopreneurs learn upon launching a freelance career or starting a business from the ground up is that managing finances is virtually a job in and of itself. Not only is it tedious and time-consuming, but the fear of getting stiffed and falling behind on your bills is always nagging you.
The good news is these stressful moments can be easily navigated, and in some cases avoided, by focusing on what you can control versus what you can’t. Take invoicing, for example. You can’t pay it on behalf of your client, however, you do have the power over how swiftly you get your document in and how clearly it’s communicated. You can also facilitate a process to follow up and remind clients what they owe you and when.
Here are seven tips for streamlining the invoice process.
For more about invoicing, take a look at our complete guide to invoicing as a freelancer.
1. Set the expectations early
It sounds simple enough, but taking the time to sit down with your client to hash out key details important to your invoice will pay dividends. These include your fee, the date the product or service is supposed to be delivered, the types of payment you accept, how they’ll be accepted, and the timeframe during which the client is expected to pay you. By having this conversation early, you’ll help both yourself and your client avoid confusion and contribute to delays to the invoicing flow. Further, it shows you’re a professional who is organized, takes initiative, and fully understands the value of your skills and what you’re able to deliver. In the same vein, your client won’t have to be concerned with being surprised when they receive your invoice. Rather, they’ll know this cost upfront.
AND CO’s invoicing tool allows you to auto-generate invoices based on your contract terms and outline of the project. To ensure accuracy, document your costs and time throughout the entire process. That way if during a certain point in the project you feel the need to make adjustments to your rate, you can address it sooner rather than later.
Related: The Freelancer’s Guide to Getting Your Invoices Paid Faster
2. Ensure your invoice is detailed, easy-to-understand and error-free
Details, details, details. With every invoice, always aim to provide the necessary details around what you’re being paid for as opposed to generalizing. You may have all of these articulated in your brain, but it doesn’t help you if it isn’t in writing. Getting into this habit will not only protect you, but your clients as well. Plus, by documenting everything while it’s fresh, you’ll have a good frame of reference for those minor details that can be forgotten in the hustle of transitioning from one stage of a deliverable to another. It may be useful to revisit your SOW and other contractual materials if you need a refresher on these items.
As you fill everything out, steer clear of jargon and abbreviations that may not be understood by your client. For example, if you’re unsure when providing a due date if your client understands “net 30,” opt for “30 days” or better yet, the exact due date for payment.
Once you’re satisfied, double, if not triple check the information. Are you sending it to the right person? Is the amount correct with respect to the currency in which you want to get paid? In short, be nit-picky because it’s better than the alternative. These free invoice templates could help make sure you don’t miss anything, or use AND CO’s app which lets you tweak your invoice every step of the way until you hit send, so you can go ahead and make all of the edits (and re-edits) you need. You’ll definitely thank yourself later.
3. Showcase your brand
Consider your invoice as a marketing tool as opposed to a mere instrument by which to get paid. You’ve delivered a stellar performance, but in order to really set your brand apart in the eyes of your clients and ascertain recognizability, it pays to go the extra mile and support all of that hard work with an elegant, outward-facing brand.
AND CO’s invoicing tool has the capability to incorporate logos, so you can represent your brand while rattling off those cut and dry specs of what you did, when you did it, and the price tag for the goods. It’s no skin off your bones to upload an image, and who knows, it may get you another project with the client or a different one that was recommended due to your branding efforts.
Related: How to Customize Your Invoice to Reinforce Your Brand
4. Be timely
Punctuality is imperative when it comes to submitting your invoices. A general rule of thumb to follow is to send your invoices as soon you as you complete each milestone of a project. It likely goes without saying, but being prompt increases your chances of getting paid more quickly. On the other hand, if you drag your feet, it is probable your payments will be late.
AND CO allows you to integrate your invoices with its time tracking tool so you can invoice in milestones or set up recurring invoices if it’s a weekly or monthly project—whatever fits your workflow, be sure to stick to a schedule so that your invoices don’t fall through the cracks.
5. Make sure the invoice is identifiable/trackable
This is especially important if you work with a lot of clients, or have several projects with numerous deliverables occurring at the same time. Aside from a date, invoice numbers help the recording and monitoring process of all invoices so you don’t have to pull your hair out trying to keep tabs on them all.
AND CO’s software automatically assigns an invoice number to each specific document, but if you are in need of coming up with a number yourself, consider using a project or client code and the year. For multiple projects, depending on the frequency, you could get a bit more granular and use months or days if appropriate and easier.
6. Make it easy for your client to pay you
Do whatever you can to make the process of your client paying you more streamlined. AND CO’s invoicing tool has several ways to help you in making this goal a reality.
Primarily, it is built so that payments can be directly embedded in invoices, with clients having the option to accept payments made by credits cards, ACH and PayPal right in the invoice itself.
Expenses can also be tacked onto invoices, saving you and your client the time and hassle from undergoing multiple payment requests and related processes surrounding a single invoice.
In addition, you can apply any relevant percentages or fixed discounts to your invoice so your client doesn’t have to keep track of this and remember to account for it.
Finally, you can attach any supporting files (e.g. expense receipts) your client may need to add to the invoice. This is helpful for a few reasons—the main one being that everything is conveniently all in one place. This is not only a time saver, but effectively reduces the risk of the material being lost in an email, Google drive, etc.
7. See the process through
AND CO’s tool facilitates the follow-up process by providing you with alerts you when your client has viewed your invoice. You will also be notified if a client is late, and they will receive a reminder at this time of their duty of payment. No one wants to be the pest in these types of situations, so let our app do the chasing on your behalf, so you can focus your time on what really matters—the project.
The next time you send an invoice, get on the right path by establishing trust and transparency. You’ll save time and get paid on time, every time.