You’ve done the work. You’ve maintained a good relationship with your client. And now the project is all wrapped up except for one little thing: The Invoice. Invoicing a client should be the easiest thing in the world. But when it’s done badly, the invoice can derail everything. Bad invoicing not only delays payment (sometimes forever), it can also hurt your relationship with a client (which could end up costing you even more).
Invoices are touchy subjects. They’re often awkward and potentially explosive. So here are five common mistakes people make when sending an invoice. Don’t do these things.
1. Don’t Forget Your Payment Information
There’s nothing obvious about how your clients should pay you. They don’t know how much to pay, when to pay, or even how to pay. You have to lay it all out for them. Nevertheless, for some reason it’s easy to forget to include payment information on your invoice. Basic stuff like “Please make your check out to [Name]” or “Please send your check to [address].” This info is especially important to include if you’re requesting an atypical type of payment, such as electronic funds transfer. Don’t let your payment end up in the wrong place, and don’t give your clients another excuse to put off sending your payment just because they didn’t know where to mail it. Make sure your invoice includes your payment information.
2. Don’t Neglect Keeping Records
I get it. You’re creative. You’re a free spirit. You’re proud of your messy drafting table. And I also get that there’s nothing fun about keeping organized records of your invoices. But look, you really need to do it. Keeping bad records — or worse, not keeping any records at all — could really haunt you should you ever find yourself in a dispute with a client or — worse — the U.S. Government. More than just keeping you out of trouble, though, keeping good records will help you stay on top of which invoices are paid and which are still outstanding, so you can make sure you’re receiving all the money you’re owed. There are plenty of great invoicing apps out there that can make organizing your invoices a lot easier. I run one called Blinksale. But whatever system you use, just make sure you have a system. Once you get started, it’s really not so bad.
3. Don’t Forget to Follow Up
Following up on invoices is the best way to make sure they get paid. Not only does it remind your clients they owe you money, but it also allows you to eliminate any excuses they might have for not paying you. Like you forgot to include your payment information on the invoice.
4. Don’t Include Surprises
Surprises are for birthday parties. So unless it’s a surprise discount or a surprise coupon for free cupcakes, keep surprises off your invoices. If you put in more hours on a project than you expected, tell your client over the phone or in an email. Don’t tell them on the invoice. Clients don’t like that. They get mad. When your client sees the bottom line on the invoice, they should think, Yeah, that sounds about right.
5. Don’t Wait to Send Your Invoice
It’s easy to put off invoicing. After all, it can be a little tedious and a little stressful. You have to double-check everything, proofread it, and then hover your cursor over the Send button for 10 to 15 seconds until you finally click it. But putting off invoicing is a big mistake. Not only are you going to have to wait even longer to get paid (after all, the payment clock doesn’t start running until your client receives the invoice), but you’re also sending your client a negative message that goes something like this: Hey, I’m obviously not that worried about this invoice, so you shouldn’t be either. Take as much time as you need to pay me. Who cares? This is another situation where invoicing software can really help you out and make the job a lot more convenient. Whatever program you use, though, try your best to invoice quickly. Immediately, if at all possible.
Do yourself a favor and don’t do any of these five things. A little practice, a little patience — you’ll get the hang of invoicing in no time.