Everyone tries to make a good first impression when doing business, but true professionals will make sure they end on a high note too.
One of the last aspects of any business transaction is the invoicing – and if you don’t get it right, you could undo all your previous good work.
With companies increasingly doing business online, stationery such as headed paper and business cards are becoming less essential. But this shouldn’t be an excuse to be slapdash or appear unprofessional. All your business branding should be polished and professional whether you work online or file hard copies, and this definitely applies to your invoices.
Invoices should be presented on a single-page document and should include your business name and logo, if you have one, at the top. Text should be aligned using the left-hand margin and it’s a good idea to mark the document ‘INVOICE’ just to be clear about what it is! A professional invoice should also include:
An invoice number
The key here is to plan ahead and have confidence that your invoices will run into the hundreds, or even thousands. So rather than starting with invoice number 1, begin with 0001. It looks better and will give you a boost as you reach 0010 and 0100!
Depending on the service, some businesses like to include not only the date of invoicing but the date the service was commissioned, too.
Services or goods
Give a simple description of the services or goods provided, including measurements or quantities if applicable.
Here it can be useful to break down your costings; for example, by showing the cost per unit or your day’s rate. Underneath, add up the total fee owed, highlighting it in bold if you want it to stand out.
How to pay
In this section you need to make payment options clear to the customer. If you want them to pay by cheque, include details of who the cheque should be payable to and your business address. Most people prefer to pay by BACs or electronic transfer now, in which case you should include your business bank account number and the sort code.
Not everyone feels comfortable including a disclaimer, but it is standard and confirms you are a professional. A simple disclaimer in smaller font will suffice, stating that payment must be made within a certain timeframe and that you will take legal steps to recover your money if it is not. Most clients will pay within the specified time, but an appropriate disclaimer can save a lot of time later on if you do have to chase up an unpaid invoice.
It’s up to you where you put your business contact details, but they need to be here somewhere! Some businesses like to include them at the top and some prefer to include them in a footer along the bottom. Details should include an address, phone number, email address and social media details such as your Facebook page and Twitter name – but be selective or your invoice will look too crowded.
If you are sending the invoice in the post, make sure you retain a copy for your own records. If you are sending it via email, save the document as a pdf so it can’t be altered. It’s polite to send it with a short email message or compliment slip, outlining what the invoice is for and thanking your client once again for their business.
If you want further advice on any aspect of invoicing, call Simply Factoring Brokers on 0330 134 2826.