When to send an invoice

Invoices are generally sent once a company has completed an order for a client.

This is usually the standard for both products and services. In the case of a product, the invoice would be issued after delivery. For services, it would happen once the service has been provided.

However, despite this being the norm, there are still exceptions.  In some industries, it can be standard for businesses to issue the invoice after the order has been placed. However, in other cases, a seller might ask for an initial deposit.

In this article, we’ll cover the following: 

  • Brief overview of what is an invoice
  • Tips on when to send an invoice
  • How to send invoices and;
  • Common mistakes that stop you from getting paid on time.

An invoice is essentially a bill made by a seller. It lists the products or services that the seller is providing and their associated costs. Find out what is an invoice in our detailed overview.

An invoice can be seen as the first step in processing a payment.

The best time to send an invoice depends on a few factors.

If it is a large project, you might want to issue the invoice straight away and request a deposit before the project begins.

For a small job, it can be easier to just invoice once you have completed the work.

Your industry can also impact when the invoice is sent. In some industries, it is standard practice to send the invoice before you begin working. However, in others it is the reverse.

The number one thing to think about is when you want to be paid.  If you want at least part of the payment before you begin the work, you will need to send an invoice straight away.

If you normally take the payment after the work, you can send the invoice at the end of the project.

You might also not know what the total cost will be until you finish the job. In this case, send the invoice after you finish the work.

There are many ways to send an invoice. Here are a few of the common ones:

1. Mailing invoices

Benefits: This method can be helpful if the client isn’t overly digitally literate or they live in a remote location with unreliable internet.

Negatives: This method can be slow and unreliable. There’s no guarantee the invoice will reach its destination and at the speed you want it to.

2. Emailing invoices

Benefits: Email is a reliable and easily trackable method. You can also search for sent invoices later if required.

Negatives: Inboxes are full of a lot of marketing and junk nowadays. It isn’t hard for your invoice to get lost amongst it.

3. Sending invoices using invoicing software

Benefits: You can send an invoice with one tap using Bookipi invoice app. You can also track the invoice and issue overdue reminders and payments. All your invoices sent to clients are stored in one place.

Negatives: If you email invoices using Bookipi app, it can get lost amongst your clients’ other emails in their inbox.  Fortunately, you can send invoices through other ways using Bookipi including Whatsapp, SMS and more.   

A mistake on your invoice might affect you getting paid. Here are some common invoice mistakes so you don’t get caught out:

1. Incorrect dates 

You should clearly list the invoice issue date and the invoice payment due date at the top of an invoice. You can include any dates related to the goods and services like delivery date or performance date, in the description section of your invoice. You may also include dates or a payment schedule in the payment instructions. This applies if you are requesting a deposit in advance or payments in instalments.

2. Incomplete vendor details

When you invoice a client, they’ll need your contact information, including your name, business name, address, phone number and email address. Most importantly, you need correct details so that clients can pay you correctly. For example, you should put your correct bank details on an invoice if you’re getting paid via bank transfer.

3. No purchase order number

A purchase order number speeds up the payment process. It shows your client or client’s accountant that this payment has been approved. Without this number, the approval of this payment may be blocked.

4. Incorrect totals

It sounds obvious but without the correct amounts, you won’t receive the correct payment. Make sure your items actually add up to the totals you have listed. A client will not pay an incorrect invoice.

5. Vagueness

A seller should be exact about what they have provided, when they provided it and the costs of providing it.  This clarifies any confusion and helps the client understand what they are paying for. This can also be helpful in the future if either party have to audit their accounting.

6. No email subject or a bad subject line

If a seller sends an invoice via email, they need to correctly title the email with a clear subject line. Without stating that the email is an invoice, the client might neglect the email or it could get lost amongst other unrelated content. You should also send an invoice as a separate email and not part of another email or an email thread.

The most important way to get your invoices paid by customers is to include clear payment terms on invoices.  You can display payment terms at the bottom of invoices.  You can add payment details to invoices in Bookipi app. 

It’s also good practice to accept multiple payment methods.  Consider different payment methods for small businesses as listed in our overview.  These days, clients often expect to see businesses accept card payments as a contactless and fast payment method. You can accept card payments in Bookipi invoice app for seamless invoicing from invoice creation to payment.  

Invoice payment terms might explain how the payment is to be broken up – split or in one payment. They might give a timeframe as to when the payment is due after the services/products have been provided. There could also be a section that outlines any interest charges that apply if an invoice isn’t paid on time. 

Although payment terms are decided by the seller, you’d want to notify clients of payment terms before you provide any products or services.  This will prevent late payments and establish a better relationship with the client.

You should also be open to negotiating the payment terms if it is an important client that you would like to have an ongoing relationship with.

Forgetting to add payment terms is one of the biggest mistakes you can make on an invoice. If the buyer doesn’t know how to pay you, how are they supposed to pay you?

Many companies don’t follow up on late payments. They assume that the client will pay the invoice unprompted.

In some cases, they will but more often, they won’t. It’s not necessarily because they want to get out of paying you. Sometimes they just forget. 

Nonetheless, you need your money. Try following up using one of the methods below:

1. Send customers a follow-up email

If you’ve been talking to your customer over email, it can be a good idea to send a polite email and attach the invoice. You could ask the client for an update on the payment or just give them a gentle reminder that it is past the due date. The customer may provide you with future work so you should keep it as respectful as possible.

2. Give customers a call

Phone calls can be an effective follow up method as they are more personal than an email. When you make a phone call to the client, make sure to have the invoice on hand and an email with the invoice ready to go so you can send it to them straight after the phone call.

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