Slow-paying clients are one of the top complaints of every freelancer and business owner. In working with and surveying thousands of small business owners, we discovered that the cost of unpaid small business invoices is over $825 billion.
When faced with a challenge like that, it’s important to do everything possible to close the gap between invoices sent, and cash in hand. Offering many payment options and invoicing promptly are a couple of common ways that small business owners attempt to shorten payment times, but we’ve got another idea to add to the list:
Consider the design of your actual invoices.
Does the design of an invoice really matter?
An invoice might seem like something so basic, it doesn’t require much thought. However, a humble invoice can say a lot about your business.
A neat, easy to read, professional invoice is often the final piece of communication between you and your client at the end of a project. That one piece of paper or single PDF can gracefully close the chapter with ease…or with frustration. Here are some things a well-designed invoice should communicate.
Important contact details
At the most basic level, your invoice should communicate all identifying information that you and your customer will need. That includes your customer’s information, your company name and mailing information, plus contact names, email addresses, and phone numbers.
You should also include any relevant project details and contact names from your client’s side. Try to be descriptive so that the person reading the invoice will understand what it was for and will be able to trace whether it should be approved, rather than doing a lot of detective work. Especially when you’re dealing with bigger companies, an invoice without a specific name and project description attached to it can potentially bounce around from department to department for weeks, drastically delaying your payment.
Chances are good that your client works with many different vendors, some of which have different preferred payment options. Make it easy for your customer by putting detailed instructions about when and how to pay right there on the invoice.
Many popular accounting software options now allow you to put a link on your electronic invoice, so that your customer can click through to pay online right away. If you use QuickBooks, PayPal, FreshBooks, Zoho, or many other similar accounting software solutions, you can take advantage of this option.
In a perfect world, it would be enough to say, “Please pay soon!” But in reality, you’ll need to spell it out.
Let your customer know exactly how many days they have to pay when you agree to an initial contract, and then remind them again on the invoice. This will help you plan, help them plan, prevent surprises, and provide a paper trail in the event that you need to take any legal action later.
Don’t make your customers do this.
Even if you have perfect eyesight, it’s a pain to read tiny type or flowery fonts. You can do your clients a big favor by making sure all of your important communications are delivered in easy to read type sizes and high contrast colors. When in doubt, try making your text a point size larger. Make sure that numbers are especially easy to see.
Want some inspiration beyond Arial and Times? Design software company InVision published a helpful guide to the best fonts for easy to read numbers.
Your invoice is a good place to remind your customer of your brand. By keeping all of your communications and materials consistent, you reinforce a sense of order and professionalism in your client’s mind. In doing so, your invoice is a tool that helps your business command respect and build trust. This is important for you, because when a client respects your business and your relationship, they’re more likely to pay you on time.
Your invoice can be generic, vague, and communicate only the bare minimum. Or, with just a little more effort, your invoice can communicate a cohesive, professional brand with clear terms and instant payment options.
Keeping these few things in mind when designing your invoices will help you increase your chances of getting paid on time, and on track for earning even more business.