Top tips to make sure your invoices work hard for you

When you run a service based business it’s a reasonable assumption, after providing an awesome service, that your client will just pay your invoice straight away, and for the majority of the time, that’s quite true.  However, you may find yourself in a ‘discomfort’ zone when you find your invoices not being paid on time and have to put your grown-up pants on to tackle the issue head on

We’ve set out some simple tips to help you ease the process:

1 – Make your invoice easy to pay

The aim of the invoice is get paid for your services so make sure it clearly sets out the work you’ve done and when you did it.  If there is too much detail to include on the invoice, think about summarising and cross referencing back to your original proposal, or enclosing a copy with the invoice.

In bigger organisations, the invoice will be processed by an accounts department, they will want to know it was authorised by someone, so make sure you include names or purchase order references.

2 – Send it to the right person

If you’re working with smaller businesses the person buying the services is quite possibly also the owner but when you are working with larger businesses, it will probably be one person who asks you to do the work and an accounts department who process and pay the invoices.

In this case it is worth making sure that you have got both sets of contact details.  At the start of working with a new client, you could make a point of asking the client what their process is for approving and paying invoices and collect the information you need when you’re setting up the relationship. The bonus is that it makes you look super-efficient and professional!

3 – Get your payment terms right

Terms of 7 -21 days are quite normal when billing services to clients, (the shorter the better) as they have usually already had the benefit of the services and as time passes they may forget the value they gained from it.

When working with larger businesses, who have an accounts department, they may only pay suppliers once a month, so if you invoice promptly with 7 or 14 days payment terms on your invoice, you are more likely to be paid on the next available payment date.  If your 30 days invoices take it past the next date, its likely you’ll have to wait another month.

4 – Build in reminders and courtesy calls

Set up a process to send reminders for invoices that are certain days past the due date, or use your acounts software to do this for you – often this will prompt a response from the client.

An alternative way to approach this would be to contact your client a few days before an invoice is due as part of a courtesy call – especially if they are a new client.  Ask them if they have received the invoice okay, has it been authorised and when it likely to be paid?  If you are working with larger businesses, this is a great way to build rapport with the accounts department who really should become your new best friends.

5 – Don’t let clients use delaying tactics

Xero has a smart feature so that you can send your invoices as a link only meaning that the client needs to retrieve the invoice to view it.  This leaves an audit trail attached to the invoice that shows whether they have seen it or not.  If they’ve not received it, you can offer to send it again, or check for a correct email address.

If you have clients who claim they’ve not received the invoice, when you can see they have, you can amend your approach to this client going forwards.  A perfect reason to build in those curtesy calls we’ve talked about above.

6 – Play Good Cop / Bad Cop

It’s really difficult to go from being the person who delivers the great service to their client (good cop) and then have difficult conversations when chasing invoices for payment (bad cop).

A really easy solution is to set up an accounts@ email for your business.  Send all your invoices or remainder emails using this email, and even refer to the accounts person in the third person if it helps.  Even if you haven’t outsourced your book-keeping it gives the impression that you have, and helps you keep the good cop relationship with your client!


If anything you have read here has raised more questions, please feel free to contact us to see how we can help.