7 tips for sending the perfect invoice

When you’re a freelancer, the line between marketing and sales for your business tends to blur.

Every single interaction you have with your customers is an opportunity to strengthen your relationship with them and promote repeat business.

One way to strengthen that relationship is to perfect the art of invoicing. A professional-quality invoice helps your customers to pay quickly and invites them back for more.

As an experienced freelancer, I’ll offer my tips for sending stellar email invoices.

1. Keep your subject line short and consistent

If your customer is expecting an invoice from you, you don’t need to do a lot of explaining. They see the email, they expected the email, and they will open the email.

The most important thing is to keep the format consistent so it’s not overlooked. No one likes surprises.

2. Keep the body short and sweet

The most important thing in your email body is great manners.

When you meet in person with a customer, a smile from you is more likely to elicit a smile from them. Your email communication with your customers should “smile” as well.

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Please and thank yous are a must. You are going to get paid faster when you build an empathetic connection.

Like your subject line, you should also keep your email body as short as possible, while still remaining polite.

3. Put your name at the top

Your teacher always reminded you of the importance of putting your name on your work.

No name, no credit.

The same principle applies here. You’ve got to put your name on it. When you leave your contact information, your customers will always be able to contact you if they have any questions about the invoice.

4. Keep your terms simple

When leaving payment terms, I would recommend using the word “days” instead of “net.”

For example, instead of writing, “Net 30” on the invoice, you write “Please pay within 21 days.” Using days instead of net is a much less confusing of a term and will help you get paid faster.

5. Show your work

The more details you give about the work you did in the invoice, the less questions your customer will ask about what they are actually paying for.

You don’t need to overdo it, but invoicing by task or work performed by day gives your customers assurance that they are getting what they paid for.

6. Accept credit card processing

The best way to insure that your customers pay on time is to make it as easy as possible for them.

A great solution to this is credit card processing. A lot of accounting software uses credit card processing directly from the invoice that gets sent out.

For example, below is an invoice from ZipBooks that lets you pay with a credit card directly from the invoice.

zipbooks

7. Send lots of reminders

Hopefully you never get to this next part, but you should always have a contingency plan if you don’t get paid by the due date. Best recourse? A series of emails with an escalated sense of urgency will help you get paid.

Repeat business is the ultimate goal.

Wrapping It Up

As you follow these tips, never forget that repeat business is your ultimate goal.

Once you show you are honest and competent, the barrier to repeat business is going to be how easy it is to do business with you. Clear, consistent communication inside a slick framework of invoicing is going to make life easier for both your client and for you.

Do you have any tips on how to make the invoicing process easier? We’d love to hear from you in the comments.

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About Brad Hanks

Brad Hanks works at ZipBooks, a tech startup that makes free accounting software. His true passion is finding new ways to make math and science exciting for his three daughters.

Comments

  1. Thanks this was helpful! Not sure if this is good to do or not, but I usually offer some kind of a discount to repeat clients, so I’m always sure to show lines for discounts and for items I haven’t charged for. My initial meeting with the client is free, and I include that on the invoice with amount charged $0.00,

    Unfortunately, I’m on the “send a lot of reminders” portion for one client. Do you include the ramifications for late payment on your invoice? Such as late fees after 21 days?

    • Hi Brittany, I always include a note about late fees in all my invoices so clients know from the start that being late could cost them more money:

      “Payment due within 30 days of invoice date. Invoices more than 60 past due will incur a $25 late fee.”

      I’ve only had to apply the late fee a couple times. Most clients pay within the initial 30 day period.

  2. Hi Brad,
    thanks for these tips.
    What I usually do after completing my task I call my client to inform him that I have finished my work and that I will issue an invoice with due date – 14 days (or any other we agreed on).
    I use Moneypenny.me Invoicing software to issue invoices, they have auto-reminders so I don’t have to send the reminders myself and I am quite lucky because in most cases I get paid on time.

    One more tip – it’s good to double check that we are sending invoices to the right person our clients company.

  3. Very simple and efficient great! thanks

  4. Do you guys have any recommendations for collection agencies for when a client doesn’t pay their contractually bound invoice? Been trying to find a collection agency for small businesses but am not having much luck.

    • I’ve only had to use a collection agency once. I was able to find one in my local community. Are you in a small town, or a mid-size to large city? Depending on where you live, you should be able to find one where you are.

  5. Just out of curiosity sake:
    I run a small design studio in Spain and is a common thing (and I know it is not just me but a issue affecting the whole designer’s community around here) not only having to wait more than 60 days to get paid; and sure there are individuals and companies that respect agreed payment terms but usually –and sadly– those are the least.

    To add on this, the project managers (mine e.g.) or studio accountants or whatever any other person that is in charge of the monetary thing in the studios, hace to waste countless hours chasing the payments. Payments that were known & agreed upon the quotation, contract and/or any other form of deal.

    And I don’t want to mention the ocassions when the client bargains on the invoice which is 99% of the times an exact mirror of the quotation…

    That leaves only the big (really big) studios or agencies get paid as expected and in due time.
    We are suppossed to have regulatory laws that prosecute late- or no-payers-at-all but it usually involves a visit to the attorney or legal consuelor (that also costs you money).

    My question is, are we the only place like this? Because as far as I can read in forums like this one or when I talk to other overseas colleagues, paying beyond 3-4 weeks is not only radically unsusal but also unprofessional.
    What is the medium payment time over there?

    Sorry for the long thread but is a question that is always burning in mi mind…

  6. Juan, 60 day late payment will cause lot of problems for me. I use SlickPie cloud accounting to send automated payment reminders for my small VOIP business for those we don’t have credit card on file and most of my clients pay within 14-20 days.

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