Whew! You just finished the day, and you’re proud of a job well done. Time to take a load off and relax. What’s next? Getting paid, you hope! But for many small businesses, getting paid requires invoicing your clients.
Small businesses like retail stores, restaurants, salons and spas, doctors offices, and fitness facilities can typically charge customers and clients immediately without invoicing. Easy.
But if you work in automotive services, consulting, business services, residential contracting, even the wedding industry, you probably have to invoice your clients before you can cash in. Unfortunately, 27% of small business owners admit they have a hard time creating, sending and tracking invoices.
Invoicing can be time consuming and tedious. And sometimes, even after all that work, your invoices might be met with…silence.
Are your invoices getting ghosted? Then you’re not getting paid.
Common Small Business Invoicing Mistakes
Nothing’s scarier than when the checks stop coming in. Here are some common small business invoicing mistakes that could keep your clients from paying their bills.
Not Personalizing Them
Put yourself in your clients’ shoes for a second. When you get the mail at home, what do you do when you see an envelope addressed to “Homeowner,” “Valued Client” or some other version of “Current Resident”?
Chances are you toss it right in the trash (or hopefully, the recycle bin).
If your business’s invoices lack personalization, they might be getting overlooked, too.
And it’s not just the address line you should be personalizing. From the outside of the envelope to the nitty gritty details within, your invoices need to make it clear and obvious they’re legitimately from your business to the intended client.
Personalize the following personal details on your invoices:
- Your business logo
- Business address
- Client first and last name
- Client address
- Project or job name
A common mistake business owners make is overcomplicating invoices with excess project details, legalese and other follow-up information.
How long is your average invoice? For your clients, anything longer than a page may feel like work to read through. While you may think you’re covering your behind by being hyper specific, they may be dreading reading through the too-long invoice.
Ultimately, overcomplicated invoices cause clients to put off responding. And when they don’t respond, you don’t get paid.
Pro tip: If your invoices are long and complex because you need to include legalese or payment terms, try posting terms and conditions to your website and referencing them in your invoices instead.
Being Too Vague
So overly complicated invoices are no good. But being too vague isn’t doing you any favors, either.
Even if you your charges are clear and obvious, it’s still professional and courteous to include some basic information in your invoices. This helps jog your clients’ memories and reinforce everything you did for them. And, if a client’s spouse or someone you didn’t work with directly is responsible for paying you, they’ll have the information they need.
Aside from your business information like name, tax identification number (ID) and contact info, include in your invoice:
- A custom invoice number (these are really helpful when you handle multiple jobs for individual clients)
- Itemized breakdown of services or products rendered
- Total amount
- Payment deadline
Failing to Include a Deadline
Some people are just procrastinators. And unfortunately for you, paying invoices probably doesn’t top most of your clients’ to-do lists, either. So if your invoice doesn’t include a deadline, there’s not likely much urgency to pay you quickly.
Place your requested deadline in bold at both the top and the bottom of your invoices.
Pro tip: If you really want to incentivize paying you on time, consider offering a discount or rebate for clients who pay you within 48 hours.
Making Paying You Difficult
How do you prefer clients pay you? While you may have a preference, would you prefer to get paid another way over, say, not getting paid at all?
The truth is, some clients may be putting off paying you because you’re making it too difficult on them. For example, let’s say you require they pay you via PayPal. But, not everyone has a PayPal account. You’re making those clients (who might otherwise pay you instantly) go through multiple steps just to hold up their end of the bargain.
Do your best to offer clients at least a couple payment options like cash, check, debit or credit card, even online and mobile payments.
Including Last-Minute Surprises
Perhaps the worst invoicing offense is slipping in an extra line item or two that increases the overall amount you’re charging — without giving your client advance notice. Invoices are not the place to communicate last-minute adjustments to your original quotes and estimates.
Communicate any unexpected or additional costs you plan to pass on ahead of invoicing. Have these conversations in person or over the phone. And if you can’t get ahold of a client quickly, email or text (if your relationship warrants it) will do.
Just because an invoice is a professional business document doesn’t mean you should be overly impersonal or formal. Remember to end your invoices with a nice thank you note, and emphasize how much you enjoyed working with your clients and would love to do so again.
On the plus side, including polite, relatable terms like “please” and “thank you” reminds clients you’re human, which will make them more empathetic and more likely to pay you on time.