8 Strategies For Effective Invoice Writing
Nearly every business owner struggles with a late or non-payment at some point. Late payments can impact your cash flow and outstanding invoices are time consuming to track down. Learning the finer points on how to write an invoice can really pay-off.
There are steps you can take to make your invoices and invoice process seem more non-negotiable to clients. If you take these steps, clients may pay more readily (or even early), and you can go about running your business without worrying about being paid.
Strategy 1: Sign A Contract With Your New Client That Specifies Payment Terms
All business arrangements should have a contract to protect both parties. This contract should specify payment terms: e.g. within 5 business days (also known as “net 5”), within 30 business days (“net 30”); payment options (wire, ACH, check); and late payment penalties (e.g. $25 per day). This will help protect your business in the event of a late or non-payment. You might also consider including an incentive or discount for early payment.
Strategy 2: Send Invoices On A Regular Cadence
Get into the groove with your recurring invoices so that your client knows they’re coming and on what interval. This can create more “muscle memory” about your invoices for the client. If invoices arrive too randomly, they can sometimes be set aside to be paid in the next payment cycle or even forgotten.
Strategy 3: Include Payment Terms In Your Invoice And Accompanying Message
Remind your client about payment terms with every invoice by including it in the Payment Terms section of the invoice, and even in the accompanying message (usually an email) that gets sent with the invoice. In addition to specifying payment terms, mention the due date.
Sample text for accompanying payment terms email:
“Please see invoice attached.
Please pay within 30 business days (by July 17) per contract. Thank you!”
Strategy 4: Don’t Sneak In Any Unexplained Fees
Everyone hates surprise fees. Don’t sneak in any unexplained fees, charges, or reimbursements that you haven’t notified your client of in advance. This can lead to back-and-forth, and erodes trust with your client. It will make them inspect invoices more carefully in the future and may cause delays.
Strategy 5: Include Lots of Detail, Or Don’t – It Depends On The Client
Some clients love detail in their invoices and others don’t. Get to know your client and determine how much detail to include in the invoice in order to minimize questions and back-and-forth.
Strategy 6: Include Very Clear Remittance Instructions
In order to avoid any miscommunications with clients or payments gone awry, include remittance instructions with every invoice. You never know who is processing the invoice on the client side — it could be a new person who doesn’t know where your payment information is stored. Specify PayPal address, bank, and/or routing/account number on every invoice.
Strategy 7: Use A Professional Invoice Generator
Invest in making your invoices appear attractive and professional. This makes your invoicing process seem serious – which will make your client take it seriously.
You can generate invoices in a variety of ways. Your company might use invoicing software or accounting software like Quickbooks or Freshbooks that can easily set up invoices. These invoices can even integrate with credit card processors in some instances.
You might also prefer to make attractive invoices using invoice templates in Microsoft Word or through a free website like invoice-generator.com. Finally, there are paid services that offer additional features and can make spiffy invoices that look like your company’s branding, such as invoicebus.
Strategy 8: Switch to Automatic Credit Card Payments
As an alternative to sending an invoice and waiting to be paid, collect a credit card number from your client and simply charge them on an agreed-upon cadence for the services you provided.
Various accounting and billing software can securely store client credit card information to enable this. This reduces your need to wait for payments and to process payments coming into your business in many forms. The downside is that you may have to pay credit card processing fees.
If Payment Is Past Due
If your client is late paying a contract, don’t leap to conclusions. It might be a mistake. The first step is to reach out to your client, perhaps through a more personal communication mechanism like phone or text, to remind them. If they simply forgot, they’ll surely get the invoice paid.
You might also institute a payment reminder for this client and send it one week before future invoices are due. If late payments become more habitual, you should send an overdue payment notice and levy late fees where appropriate.
If the problem does not resolve, you may want to seek out an attorney to write a legal demand letter to the client. If the problem persists, you can sue for payment.
Sample Follow-Up Text for Overdue Payment Notice:
“Our records show that you haven’t made payment of $XX,XXX for Invoice #1234, which was due on [Date]. Please be aware that per the terms of our contract, we may charge a late fee of $XX per day for overdue payments. Please check this on your end and let me know if you have any questions.”
Strategies To Protect Your Business From Late Payments
Late payments are somewhat inevitable in business, but you can take steps to protect your business and collect payments owed.
- Be sure to have a contract with every client specifying project and payment terms.
- Hold your clients accountable and don’t let late payments slide without addressing them, or the problem could persist.
- Finally, break projects into milestones so that you get paid on a more regular basis and don’t find yourself having provided a large service or product without full payment.
If you take these steps to invoice consistently and firmly, your payment collection process should be smooth sailing.