Starting your own business, no matter what sector or industry, is a laborious and, at times, stressful process. You’ll have had to go it alone with a great number of things, so it should be with refreshing ease that you navigate the invoicing of your first client. This process, after all, marks the initial success of your new-founded business.
When sending your first ever invoice, you want to strike the right note so that your demand for payment is both polite and firm. In the following article, you’ll discover just how to strike this balance in a well-formatted invoice template that, with luck, you will be sending out multiple times each week.
The obvious answer to this question is that you’ve provided a service or product that your client or customer owes you for. If they’ve not paid through traditional point-of-sales means, such as online payment systems or cash-in-hand, they’ll have to pay through a delayed method, like a bank transfer initiated by an invoice.
Invoices are useful for a number of other reasons. The physical or digital document that your invoice becomes is an important record of your business. You’ll be able to look back over your store of invoices to assess how your business is doing financially.
It’s also a record that you’ll need to present for income tax purposes. Without invoicing regularly with a standardized format and pricing system, you’ll risk failing to pay the correct amount of tax for your business.
When to Invoice?
Your first invoice is going to feel a little alien, but you’ll soon get into a regular routine of sending your invoices after completing business with clients. It will likely be determined when the customer or client has completed their business with you.
See an invoice as the final part of your transaction contract, giving your client a nudge towards the happy completion of your exchange. Bear in mind that all the aspects of business progress, from equipment financing to securing a cash advance to invest in its development, rely on good cash flow. If you’re unable to send out invoices, you’ll instead need to look at how to apply for a small business loan to keep your business in the black.
When it comes to your first invoice, ensure that it’s sent within a week of your exchange with your customer. Waiting too long will risk creating an irrelevant-feeling email in their inbox. Sending an invoice before you’ve completed your service can also feel too abrupt. Find the right balance to suit your business.
Tip: Always send your invoices out on a Friday. This regularity will become apparent to your clients, who will respond accordingly with their own payment routine. It’ll also help you set times that you can expect payment on – useful when you’re repaying small business loans.
Now we arrive at the actual structure of the document. Bear in mind that you’re creating a template through which you’ll be sending a significant number of records, over a long period of time. Make it fit-for-purpose the first time around so that you’ve got the bare bones of a professional, trustworthy invoice for every occasion.
Here’s a checklist of the information it’s imperative to include in your invoice template. Generally, information should appear in a similar order to what’s outlined below:
- A bold document label (‘INVOICE’) to help identify your document
- The date on which you send to invoice
- Your name, your company name, and your contact details and address
- The name and address of the client or individual to whom you’re sending the invoice
- A summarizing remark about the work you’re invoicing for
- A chart or table outlining the products or services you’re owed for, the amount you’re owed for each, and the total figure you’re requesting from the recipient
- The method through which they’ll be able to pay you, ordinarily your bank details
- The due date for the payment
All of this information should be arranged easily on the page so that your client can navigate the demand for payment with ease, and can respond without requiring any extra information from you and your business.
Tone and Wording
There are many examples of invoices online that you’ll be able to browse to see what exact tone you feel fits with your company. Overall, the invoice is an entirely functional document. As such, you shouldn’t be adding unnecessary words or phrases into your document. It should be highly professional, easy to read, and something that any client can understand and react to.
There are, of course, ways in which you can strike a forceful yet simultaneously polite tone. You do, after all, want to receive your payment on time. You don’t want to waste precious hours chasing up unpaid invoices. In that sense, your tone is everything.
It can quickly be concluded that the phrase ‘please send by…’ is less effective than ‘payment due…’ in requesting timely payment. It’s this kind of thing that you want to make sure is on point. The best phrasing will encourage timely and correct payments from your customers.
How to Send
You should send your invoice in an email if your customer has a functioning and responsive email address.
Ask for proof of receipt from your invoiced email in order for you to be aware that your client has seen and is in the process of responding to your email.
Greet your client professionally and use the body text of the email to explain in prose what the invoice is for, and attach the invoice in a readable document – usually a PDF or a Word document will suffice.
Don’t Forget Digital Help
As your business grows and invoicing becomes more an everyday part of your working life, the process should become automated. That’s because you’ll find that checking your received payments against your invoices is a long and arduous process. Instead, allow online resources of software to do that job for you.
There are lists of such resources on the internet that you should consider onboarding to make the invoicing of your first client, and all subsequent clients, a good deal more fluid and painless.
Online banking likewise allows you to track your payments without so much labor, which is incredibly useful for intrepid solo businesspeople with little time to waste.