The best thing about working hard for your employer or client is getting paid. However, majority of designers don’t particularly enjoy the part of invoicing the client after completion of the project. However, handling it properly is a necessary part of being a freelancer or running a design agency. Invoicing your client is an important process for freelance designers. So in this article I have tried to advice some useful tips in order to make invoicing hassle-free.
Whether you spent time designing club flyers or are invoicing for time spent updating a logo, be sure to provide details of how you used your time.
Selection of Invoicing Software
First thing fists, and in this case the first thing is choosing right software for invoicing. There are plenty of online invoicing applications available that have been created for designers and freelancers. It is always advisable to use either an online application or software to handle your invoicing. It will allow you to save time and to have better organization over your invoices, as compared to using a manual system or spreadsheets.
Once you decide to go for invoicing software you should then be able to find an application or software that includes all of the features that you need, and ideally, not a lot of those that you don’t need. The variety of online applications comes with wide range of prices which varies because of number of features. Also, you can avoid monthly or yearly fee of online applications and can purchase invoicing software for a one-time fee and manage an unlimited number of invoices and clients.
Chalk Out Your Rules
As mentioned earlier, the good thing about working is to get paid however the best is to be paid on time. Getting delayed payments is quite usual and every now and then most designers have to deal with late payments, or even no payments. You should be prepared and set some policies for how you will handle your invoicing and payments.
Following things can be helpful in determining your payment policy:
- Determine your advance fee
- Number of days you need to complete the task
- What is going to be the late fee which you will charge for late payments?
- Will you provide completed files or work before or after final payment is received?
- What should be the mode of payment?
Of course, there will be situations when you’ll want to make some adjustments or exceptions to your policies, but it’s a good idea to establish the policies in the first place and then deal with exceptions as needed.
No need for Surprises
It is always better to let your clients make aware of your policies and they should know when they will be invoiced for your services. It is not advisable to surprise your client with invoicing date, amount charged for your task or taking long to complete the task. It can delay your payments as well clients feel reluctant for further business, so it is better to inform about your policies before taking up the task to avoid any distasteful business relationship.
Don’t Forget your Contact Info
It is more professional way to present your invoice having your name (or your company’s name), address, and preferably your email and phone number. It is likely that client you are dealing with works procedurally and there will be number of different people that handle the invoice before it gets paid. If it gets passed to an accounts payable department and they have some question about the invoice, it should be easy for them to get in touch with you. It will help you to avoid unnecessary delay in payment. Moreover, it is possible that your clients need your contact information on invoices for legal or record keeping purposes.
Organize Your Invoices
Designers send out invoices on a frequent basis. It doesn’t take long before it becomes difficult to track them without having a system for numbering. Most online application and software include this option by default or allow you to customize the invoice numbers. Numbering your invoices will allow you to easily record payments accurately as they are received, will help for tracking down late payments, and it will make it easier on your clients’ record keeping as well.
Prepare Detailed Invoice
You should not assume that your client will know this on his own that how did you charge him. Either it was a brochure, flyer, post card or business card, very invoice should state what the charges are for and what services have been performed for the client. It will help both client and designer. It will be helpful for clients to avoid confusion over what has been done, what they are being billed for, and what they have already paid for. If you are doing on-going projects for a specific client then it will really help him to distinguish the completed tasks and amount paid.
Designers can help themselves by preparing detailed invoice because it will benefit them in keeping record of payments and delivered tasks.
Work with Dates
It is common practice to avoid writing important dates on invoices. It leads to confusion and payment delays. Designers should include a due date for when payment is expected. Without a due date it can be difficult to assess any late fees or to establish that a client has not paid on time. Due dates are helpful even for your clients that always pay on time, as it can help them to know what you expect and when they will need to process the payment.
Mode of Payment
One of the most important thing about invoicing your client is not only to inform him how much does he owe you, what services they are being charged for, and when they need to pay, but also that how can they make a payment. Designers tend not to settle this before the task which results inappropriate mode of payment. It causes confusion for client to re-pay and for you to get payment on time. Designers must include the mode of payment on their invoices. Some designers prefer to receive checks, while others accept online credit card payments.
Designers send their invoices by email rather than post mail or fax, and this is a good practice as far saving the papers is concerned. The easiest way for clients to receive and view an invoice sent by email is a PDF attachment.
Send it to the Right Person
In order to receive your payment on time you cannot afford to send it to a wrong person. Before sending an invoice to a client, be sure that you know who should be receiving the invoice. This kind of problem arises if your client is not a small business, sending the invoice to the wrong person can slow down the process and increase the chances of the invoice being lost or ignored.
Received Payments Data
Do not forget that sending out invoices is really just the start of the process. You need to make sure that you have all the required record keeping applications in your software. It will help you to recognize who has sent you the payment and who did not. If you fail to record payments accurately you’ll waste time trying to identify unpaid invoices.
It is a difficult task to receive the money at right time. It is possible that your invoices reach their due dates and still no payments received from client then take a moment to follow up with the client, remind them, and see if payment is on the way or if there are any problems. As said earlier, it is a good practice to have some sort of policy for handling collections of late payments, and follow up will probably always be a part of the process. A gentle nudge or the possibility of a late fee will be enough encouragement.
Don’t be Wrong about Figures
In most cases designers do not get the fixed money in advance. Client likes to pay minimum before starting the task. In such circumstance, it is your responsibility to let him know on your invoice by the end of the task that how much he paid you and what has left. Doing so can help to avoid potential confusion and disputes that could lead to difficulty in collecting payments, plus clear communication is always a positive.
The aforementioned tips are beneficial for freelance designers and small business owners who like to work from home but do not like to receive late payments. It is always best practice to keep in touch with your client at the time of any confusion and be at good terms with him that’s the only way for setting a long term business relationship.