By Andrew Harker
This post is sponsored by FreshBooks, small business accounting software that makes billing painless.
As a freelancer, you know the drill once a project is complete. Create a statement and send it off to your client. Wait for payment. Check your bank account. Wait a little longer. Follow up with the client. Get paid eventually.
It’s exhausting. It’s inefficient. Most importantly, it takes your time and attention away from what really matters: growing your business. Don’t spend time chasing down clients. Learn how make your invoicing more effective and efficient so you can get paid faster.
Make your invoices more effective.
Start by taking a good look at your invoicing statements as an extension of your brand. Are they sending the right message to your clients?
Are they professional? A well-designed and polished statement reminds your clients that you represent a serious business, not just a hobby project.
Are they detailed? You provide a valuable service to your clients, and your statements should reflect that value. Don’t just list a vague description of your work, like “website design” or “blog post.” Include a little more detail about the project like the title or the scope of the project. This can help head off any potential confusion and remind clients of the value you provide.
Are the invoices polite? At FreshBooks cloud accounting software we analyzed data around payment terms and found that being polite is good for both your brand and your bottom line. Simply including “please pay your invoice within X days” or “thank you for your business” can increase the percentage of bills that are paid by more than 5 per cent. Manners matter!
Are your payment terms specific? At FreshBooks we also found that more specific payment terms could lead to faster payment. For example, using “30 days” instead of “net 30” leads to more paid invoices and they are paid faster. We also discovered that using exact terms such as “21 days” can actually lead to faster payment than vaguer terms such as “upon receipt.” Specific payment terms lead to paid invoices.
Make your invoicing process more efficient.
You’ve looked at the invoicing statements themselves, now it’s time to look at the invoicing process. Your clients are paying you for your work, not for the time it takes to create, send and track your paperwork. Finding ways to spend less time on administrative tasks means you have more of your available working hours to devote to the projects that do bring in money.
Have a clear agreement up front. Taking the time to clearly communicate both the scope of the project and the payment terms before starting work on a project can make a big difference, especially when working with a new client. Getting the details in writing helps to eliminate any confusion later and leads to a paid invoice.
Invoice promptly. It is tempting to save time by batching your paperwork into one large block of time at the end of the month. But handling your invoicing in smaller batches at the end of each week can lead to more regular payments. Smaller, more frequent sessions also make it harder for projects to slip through the cracks without being billed.
Move online. If you haven’t already done so, make the switch from paper to online invoicing. Reduce paperwork, time spent filing to save records for later and the time you spend relying on the postal service. Making the move online can streamline your process immensely.
Make it easy to pay you. Are you only accepting checks? In many organizations it can take longer for a check to be requested, written and sent out. And that’s before you have to wait for it to be delivered and then deposited into your bank account. Accepting multiple forms of payment including e-Checks, credit or debit cards or PayPal payments can help you get paid faster. Cloud accounting systems like FreshBooks help make it easy for clients to pay you.
Utilize software tools. Freelancers should look at automating business processes like invoicing. Working with invoicing software can help you reduce paperwork and time spent dealing with your financials. You can save records for later all in one convenient location, no stacks of paper or filing cabinets needed. FreshBooks can help you make your invoicing process much more efficient.
Apply automation rules like recurring invoices. Software that allows you to apply automation rules like recurring invoices for regular clients helps you bill promptly so your clients can pay more promptly. Recurring bills can also help you get paid faster by subtly encouraging clients to view you as regular part of their team and a regular part of their budget.
Send reminders. Bryan Orr, a small business owner, recommends proactively following up with clients. He writes, “Don’t call or email on the day that payment is due. Contact them a few days BEFORE it is due, as a friendly reminder of the terms of payment.” Invoicing software like FreshBooks can help you customize and automate your follow-up reminders.
Add an interest charge. You might want to consider adding an interest charge for late payments. At FreshBooks we looked at data on payment terms, we found that including an interest charge on late payments led to slower payments, but also seemed to ensure that a higher percentage of bills were paid. Avoiding late fees could be the incentive your chronically late-paying clients need to pay faster.
Invoicing can definitely be a challenging part of your business, but it is also a crucial part of your business as a freelancer. Spend a little time looking critically at your invoicing statements to make sure they represent your brand well and are effective. Be professional, polite, detailed, and specific about your payment terms.
Streamline your invoicing processes to be more efficient from the start and consider using invoicing software to help you automate more of the process. Don’t spend time chasing down clients. Get paid invoices faster and get back to doing more of what you love.