If you’re like me, you’re a freelance designer or you work in a design firm. You work hard and pour as much of your time and effort as possible into each and every project. You’ve agreed to payment terms with your client, and you send them invoices periodically. Like many designers (including myself), you are expecting payment in return, and that is the sole purpose for sending the invoice. Where most of us see a simple method for collecting payment, others see avenues for providing useful information, opportunities for additional work, and chances to incentivize clients to continue to work with you.
Seizing the maximum opportunity, some designers even use invoices to win new business. With very little effort put into revising your invoice, you can turn a standard invoice into a multi-functional tool to help your clients stay informed and even strengthen your business.
Standard invoices carry all of the basic information that you would expect on an invoice. You will see the mailing address where you can send in payments and an itemized list of all of the products and services that were provided. This will include the cost of any materials that were used to carry out any project, as well as services that needed to be outsourced, such as printing, signage, and other promotional materials.
Adding the following sections on your invoice can be extremely helpful to both your clients and yourself. Many times, misunderstandings can arise simply because your clients are not properly informed, or they didn’t think to ask. These can do real damage to your reputation. Make your life easier and your clients’ lives easier by considering these additions to your next invoice.
Available Payment Methods
Your do not want getting paid to be difficult. Having different ways to accept payment is an essential part of any business. Some business like to pay with a check; others use a corporate credit account. Some smaller businesses may have a business debit card, and if you use a service such as Square or Paypal Mobile, they would prefer to meet you and pay you in person. Others clients may prefer Paypal. If you have several different payment methods available, let your clients know that on your invoice. They might not be aware of alternative methods, and providing those methods will make it easier for them to pay you on time. Convenience can play a major role in whether or not you receive the payment that you seek.
Incentives for Referrals
Having an incentive can play a major role in helping your business to grow. Including a note about business referral incentives will entice your satisfied clients even more into spreading the word about you and what you do. If you have a long list of incentives or the overall plan is a little too complicated to add to the the invoice in its entirety, simply mention it and refer them to your website for more details. Clients are easily enticed into saving money on their bill or receiving an incentive for their efforts, especially if they are happy with your services.
Important Legal Information
Including legal information that exempts you from liability can help you to avoid trouble down the road. This could be as simple as a “Terms & Agreements Policy” that states that any transaction completed electronically is subject to the terms and conditions of the financial corporation handling those transactions. This lets the client know that you aren’t responsible for legal matters outside your control.
Payment Terms and Fees
Placing your payment terms and late fee policy on your invoice can help you to keep clients from paying late. They will want to avoid those late fees, so they will pay on time. Also, letting clients know how many days they have to pay the invoice, as well as any grace periods, which can help you to avoid unnecessary phone calls or complaints. If any arguments arise, they can be referred to their invoice and they won’t be able to ignore the terms of payment that were on the original document.
Last Payment Made
If you provide financing options, letting your client see the last payment they made can be useful. This allows them to stay up-to-date on the payment process and lets them know approximately when the payment will be applied each month. It also preemptively answers questions like “Didn’t I already pay this bill?” or “Is this more expensive than the last bill?”
Here is your chance to keep the work rolling in. You can create a section on the invoice that gently recommends products or services that were turned down or decided to put off until later. Placing these items on your invoice can be a handy reminder of those other available services. Sometimes, clients will hold off on buying the complete package of services that you offer to see how well you do with just a few. Then, they may decide that they want your other services, so listing a few recommended products can lead to more sales. After you’ve proven your worth with preliminary work, you’ll want to be at the top of the list for “phase 2″ of your clients’ projects.
Invoices can be a helpful tool on both sides. They allow your clients to have the information they need in order to make payments promptly, but they can have more than one purpose. Knowing the different payment methods, late fees, and time frame will offer more convenience to clients and prevent business-killing headaches. Similarly, adding product recommendations or referral incentives can end up bringing you more business. Anything that you can use to help strengthen your business is a valuable asset. Sending out a thoughtful invoice can sometimes return with far more than just the expected payment.
Do you include anything on your invoice besides basic payment information?