How to invoice your client in 7 simple steps
Late hours? No problem. Early conference call? Of course. You love what you do. This is more than a career – it’s your passion. But let’s face it, you’re not running a charity. Everyone needs to get paid. Even a young Bill Gates needed some moolah to carry on the good work.
Chasing a client for money can be the hardest part of being a contractor. Not only does late payment leave you out of pocket, it’s just plain awkward. It’s a huge distraction to the job at hand. But don’t worry, we’ve got your back with seven steps to make invoicing a breeze.
- Decide the best way to invoice clients
For regular clients, you might want to ditch the manual process for online invoice software. This allows you to track all your invoices from one intuitive interface. The best bit? It won’t cost you an arm or a leg. In fact, most are free. Got a one-off client? Try a good old-fashioned Word document. Speed up the process by creating and editing an invoice template that suit your payment needs. Once you send the invoice, record the payment due date in a spreadsheet. Either way, you stay on top of things.
- Make sure your details are correct
When creating an invoice, the devil is in the detail. The two most important pieces of information you need to include are the payment amount and the due date. That’s not all. Avoid late payment by including the following details:
- a unique identification number
- your company name, address and contact information
- the company name and address of the customer you’re invoicing
- a clear description of what you’re charging for
- the date the goods or service were provided
- the date of the invoice
- the amount being charged
- VAT amount (if applicable)
- the total amount owed
- Send your invoice as soon as the job is done
Why hang around? The sooner you invoice, the faster you get paid. Send the invoice while the project is fresh in the client’s memory, this helps them link the completed work with the payment request. Don’t stop there. Send a second email to check they got your invoice, making sure they fully understand everything. This simple follow-up shows the client that you’re eager to get paid.
- Stick to a payment schedule
Whether it’s weekly, fortnightly or a monthly, send invoices on the dates that suit your client. Be flexible and understand their payment cycle. For example, your clients might pay their bills on the last day of every month. All you need to do is ask.
- Build a healthy relationship with your client
You don’t have to be best buds. Your idea of bonding might be late night cocktails or expensive brunch. Perhaps you’d prefer a daily or weekly catch-up over the phone. It doesn’t really matter. The most important thing is clearly understanding each other’s needs. By actually talking to your client, you’ll notice that most problems become easier to get through – including late payments. Sometimes what it really takes is a human touch.
- Send friendly payment reminders
From meetings and business trips to hard deadlines, clients are always going to be busy. There’s not much you can do about that. All you can do is chase. We don’t mean nag them, it’s more of a gentle nudge. Send friendly reminders just before the due date so clients remember that the deadline is drawing near. This way you don’t get lost in a mountain of paperwork and emails.
- Charge interest on late payments
Charging interest seems to ensure a higher percentage of invoices get paid. Here’s the catch: sometimes an interest rate will give your clients an excuse to prioritise other payments like credit cards. So why bother? Well, they won’t push their luck. You will get paid. That can only be a good thing, right?
What can I do if my client hasn’t paid me?
Don’t allow personal feelings to cloud your judgment.
Your first port of call should be a mediation service – this is when an impartial person trained in difficult discussions act as a referee in a dispute. Many mediation services are free and cheaper than hiring a solicitor. If mediation doesn’t work, you can make an online court claim . You can do this when the money owed is less than £100,000 and owed by no more than two people or two organisations.
You can also use a statutory demand to ask for the money you’re owed. If they ignore the statutory demand or can’t repay the money, you can apply to make them bankrupt or get their company liquidated. However, this won’t be cheap and you might not get any money back. Remember, always seek legal advice in this situation.
Remember, don’t panic. When it comes to late payment, a simple reminder is usually enough to get paid.
Good communication is key here. Your client shouldn’t be surprised by anything they see in your invoice. When you chat about pricing, you also need to cover billing. Explain your payment terms and how long they have to pay. Afterall, your client should know when they need to part with their money. If you’re having trouble with invoices, get in touch with an accountant. They can advise on the best solutions for you and even direct you towards suitable software.