Respond to Invoice Queries Without the Panic

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So you’ve done a great job for your client, worked your fingers to the bone, delivered an outstanding project that you’re proud of, gained signoff—as well as praise—from your client, and … then you get a call questioning your invoice. Wait. What?!? It’s easy to be offended when a client questions your invoice. But it shouldn’t be too hard to justify or explain your costings—provided you take the basic time management, quoting, and tracking steps. First of all, though, it’s important to remember that all your clients have the right to ask for more information about your invoices. Try to think of those questions as an opportunity to clarify the fabulous value you’ve provided to them, and you’ll be less likely to feel as if the questions are an interrogation, and the outcome’s necessarily bad.

1. Track All Your Time

When I began freelancing full-time, I decided to use a very basic, free tracking tool (it’s 1daylater—it offers some great paid features too) so that I’d always be able to account for my time—even the time I couldn’t charge for. This way, I always have a complete record of the work I’ve done for each client. And if they start getting shirty about an expense, I can send them a full justification for that cost, as well as a list of any hours or tasks I haven’t charged for if that’s required.

2. Provide Detailed Invoices

For the simple freelance jobs I used to complete, I’d provide a one-line explanation for the whole job. These days, I break everything down so that each invoice corresponds with the tasks I set out in the original project quote. This allows my clients to compare the hours worked against the hours I quoted—something I’m always happy for them to do. If need be, I’ll break the tasks down further, or itemize them on the basis of the days I spent on each one. This way, my clients can work out how much different aspects of certain projects cost them—something that can be really helpful for ongoing clients, or those who want to know what sort of return they’re getting on their investment in my expertise.

3. Explain Your Invoices

Each time I send an invoice, I’ll highlight anything I want the client to know about it. For example, if some aspect of the job has taken longer than forecast, I’ll point that out, and explain why. Similarly, if I’ve saved time somewhere, I’ll highlight that area and explain why. In both cases, I’ll explain what the time usage might mean for the rest of the project or budget. This is a good way to help manage client expectations, and ensure that they understand where the project—and the project budget—is at. It also shows that you’re open and honest about your invoicing, and that you’re happy to discuss your charges. The best part is that it gives you an opportunity to highlight your successes: if the client loves the project, and you’ve done it in 80% of the quoted time, don’t hesitate to point that out.

4. Be Prepared to Discuss

If you’ve taken each of the three steps above, you’ll definitely be prepared to discuss your invoices with clients who question them. I’ve found that answering invoicing questions on the fly can be a bit fraught, so if a client calls to discuss an invoice, I usually call them back once I have the invoice and my time tracking for the job up on my monitor. Once I’ve reviewed the quotes, invoices, and tracked time, in the comfort of my own, quiet office, I’m usually in the right headspace to go through the invoice with the client and answer any questions they have. What steps do you take to preempt client questions about your invoices? And how do you justify your costs and expenses when those kinds of questions crop up? Image by stock.xchng user gabriel77.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) on Responding to Invoice Queries

How can I effectively communicate with a client who has invoice queries?

Communication is key when dealing with invoice queries. Always maintain a professional and polite tone. Explain the details of the invoice clearly and concisely, avoiding jargon that the client may not understand. If the query is about a specific charge, provide a detailed breakdown of the service or product provided. It’s also helpful to have a system in place for tracking and managing invoice queries to ensure that no query goes unanswered.

What should I do if a client disputes an invoice?

If a client disputes an invoice, first, review the invoice and the client’s contract to ensure there are no errors. If the invoice is correct, explain to the client why the charges are valid and provide any necessary documentation. If the client still disputes the invoice, you may need to negotiate a resolution or seek legal advice.

How can I prevent invoice queries?

To prevent invoice queries, ensure that your invoices are clear, accurate, and detailed. Include a breakdown of all charges and a clear explanation of what each charge is for. Also, make sure to send invoices promptly and follow up with clients to confirm receipt.

What should I do if a client doesn’t respond to an invoice?

If a client doesn’t respond to an invoice, follow up with a polite reminder. If the client still doesn’t respond, you may need to escalate the issue by sending a formal demand letter or seeking legal advice.

How can I handle a client who consistently has invoice queries?

If a client consistently has invoice queries, it may be a sign that your invoices are not clear or detailed enough. Review your invoicing process and consider making changes to prevent future queries. You could also offer to go through the invoice with the client in detail to ensure they understand all charges.

How can I ensure that my invoices are clear and easy to understand?

To ensure that your invoices are clear and easy to understand, use simple language and avoid jargon. Include a detailed breakdown of all charges and a clear explanation of what each charge is for. Also, make sure to include all necessary contact information so the client can easily reach you with any queries.

What should I do if a client queries an invoice after payment has been made?

If a client queries an invoice after payment has been made, review the invoice and the client’s payment to ensure there are no errors. If the client has overpaid, arrange for a refund. If the client has underpaid, explain the discrepancy and request the additional payment.

How can I handle a client who is consistently late in paying invoices?

If a client is consistently late in paying invoices, consider implementing a late payment fee or offering a discount for early payment. You could also consider requiring payment upfront for future services.

How can I ensure that my invoices are received and acknowledged by clients?

To ensure that your invoices are received and acknowledged by clients, consider using an invoicing system that provides delivery and read receipts. Also, follow up with clients to confirm receipt of the invoice.

How can I handle a client who refuses to pay an invoice?

If a client refuses to pay an invoice, first, ensure that the invoice is correct and that the client has received it. If the client still refuses to pay, you may need to send a formal demand letter, negotiate a payment plan, or seek legal advice.

Georgina LaidlawGeorgina Laidlaw
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Georgina has more than fifteen years' experience writing and editing for web, print and voice. With a background in marketing and a passion for words, the time Georgina spent with companies like Sausage Software and sitepoint.com cemented her lasting interest in the media, persuasion, and communications culture.

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