For any small business, making sure invoices are paid can be a big job in itself. If they’re not managed properly, payments can be consistently late, and your relationships with clients might suffer as a result.
Even more significantly, you’ll struggle to keep cash moving smoothly through your business. No cash, no business.
The best way to keep on top of cash flow and payments is to keep invoicing organised and consistent. Having a routine, clear terms & conditions, and a functional invoicing platform can turn getting paid into one of the easiest parts of your week.
Here’s how to simplify the process and make it work for you and your small business.
Include all the essential info on your invoice
Some businesses will send invoices back to the sender if they don’t include a date or even a phone number. The first step to speeding up payment is giving your clients everything they need to make that bank transfer.
- The word ‘invoice’ (sounds obvious, but it’s important for admin and accounts staff!)
- Date of issue
- Your business name and contact information
- The client’s business name and contact information
- A unique invoice number (this makes bookkeeping easier later)
- The amount owed and what for
- Details of any VAT or any other tax charged
- Payment details
- Payment terms and conditions.
With a customisable template, adding this information can be a quick and easy job. It’s an essential part of your financial admin, so you may as well make it simple.
Set your terms and due date early on
It might seem like poor invoicing etiquette to start talking about late fees so soon, but it’s important to give your clients the specifics in writing early on. This could be on the invoice itself, or over email when you’re discussing the work.
You should outline when you expect payment, if you offer any discounts for early payment, or charge penalties if the payment is late.
You can set whatever due date you feel most comfortable with – payment could be due as soon as they receive the invoice, within a week or two, or longer.
To decide, you should consider how well you know the client and how much trust there is between you. Most of all though, please think about your own cash flow and how frequently you need to keep streams of income coming in.
Work with their system, rather than against it
Some of your clients will have a standard 30 day payment cycle, so putting 7 days on your own invoice will be easily ignored. Working with a business’ existing accounts process might not get you paid by the end of the week, but it can offer some predictability. Providing everything goes as it should, your invoice will join the pile and be paid routinely.
One of the most typical reasons for delayed payment is a lack of cash flow. Some will leave their invoices to the very last day, or put it off for even longer and risk late fees, because they’re waiting on payments themselves.
If your invoice is a considerable amount, you could improve your chances of being paid on time – and stay on good terms – by giving them a slightly longer deadline than usual.
If it’s your first time working with a client, upfront payment can protect your work and time in theory, but some businesses will be reluctant. Remember, they don’t know you very well yet either.
If you’re still finding your feet with each other, asking for an upfront deposit instead of the full payment can be a good compromise for both parties.
Stay on top of reminders
Every small business has to deal with late payments. There can be a lot of different reasons why a business will delay payment, from protecting their own cash flow to messy internal systems.
To improve your chances of getting paid, invoice reminders should be well-timed and persistent. Again, the timing is up to you. You can choose to remind people on the day, the day after, or even a week after. One reminder can be enough, but not always. Remember to keep them coming.
If you think you may forget or lose track, there are many tools that can help you stay on top of things. Most invoicing and online accounting software will allow you to set automatic reminders, so you don’t have to spend time chasing payment.
This means clients and customers can receive a nudge a day before their invoice is due, the day after, or when they’re a week overdue – it’s up to you.
Make it effortless for clients to pay
Sometimes the easiest way to work with people is to give them a shortcut. Word and Excel invoice templates can be a good starting point for some businesses, but they fall short when it comes to responsiveness.
Microsoft files can encounter bizarre, unexpected problems such as being impossible to open or spontaneously corrupting and turning into a series of Wingdings. There’s even the possibility of invoice fraud – where the recipient edits your file and reduces the amount they owe you. (It may sound unlikely, but it does happen.)
A stylish and simple invoice sent exclusively to the paying client is secure, trustworthy, and straightforward. Plus, when clients can pay straight from the invoice, and get a quick, polite thank you email immediately after, they’re far more likely to just get it out of the way.
Make it effortless for you too
With the right tools and some careful organisation, invoicing doesn’t have to be a massive chore. Being on top of the task, means you’ll know exactly when money should be coming into your business and where from.
You’ll also reduce late payments, find it easier to manage cash flow, and give yourself more time to focus on investment, growth, and managing your team. After all, running a business is hard enough.
About the author
This article has been written exclusively for ByteStart by Inna Kaushan, co-founder of Solna, a smart invoicing platform powered by credit score data. Solna speeds up the invoicing and payment process and the system’s automated credit control functionality automatically chases overdue invoices – freeing up time and ensuring faster payment.
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