Freelancers are some of the most hardworking professionals worldwide. They put their skills and talents to the test every day. They work their socks off to please their clients and ensure they have enough money to do whatever pleases them – including providing for their loved ones or going on vacation. Just like every other businessperson, freelancers are in business to serve clients and make money. The link between offering services and making money is freelancer invoicing.
Freelancers have to know how to do proper invoicing.
They have to learn how to go about invoicing.
Bad invoicing hinders their ability to receive payments from clients on time.
It is good to realize that freelancers can increase the likelihood of getting their money on time. They have the power to do something and reduce the cases of delayed payments or non-payments, which have destroyed the careers and businesses run by their colleagues in the past. Freelancers need to understand that they have more control than they think. They are not helpless. Developing the habit of practicing effective freelancer invoicing is one of the ways of guaranteeing timely payment.
Below are some of the measures freelancers should employ to improve their invoicing.
First, freelancers ought to automate everything. The world is a more technologically advanced place than ever before. For this reason, it does not make sense for freelancers to continue sending manual invoices to clients all over the world. The fact it takes days – it, not weeks – for manual invoices to get to their rightful recipients just makes the process the wrong one. Cloud billing applications exist to help freelancers who need to send out invoices fast and easily. In fact, automating relies on freelance invoice templates too.
Templates are very helpful when dealing with recurring or repeat clients.
Templates also help when invoicing clients who show up only once.
Templates are effective at speeding up the invoicing process, which then makes it possible for freelancers to get their money on time.
Automating the process involves setting up reminders. The reminders help you follow up with clients who are yet to settle their payments. Reminders also help you to prepare and send out invoices right on time. You will find several programs that can check and confirm if a client has paid. Some of these modern programs are also quite efficient at reminding you about payments that clients have not yet made on the due date as was expected. Automating the invoicing process enables you to focus on the delivering top services to your clients.
Automating the process also involves sending invoices electronically. Freelancer invoicing is not a simple mater. It is replete with numerous hassles. It is a time-consuming process. What is more, there is no guarantee that the invoices you send via mail will get to the correct person. Some of the invoices you send via mail could get damaged or distorted thus fail to present the actual message you wished to pass to the clients. Electronic invoicing helps you get rid of all these worrying. Clients respond well when given the chance to pay electronically.
Your work would be much easier when you not only create but also follow a payment policy. The policy will achieve more results if it’s focused on the short term. Set a payment policy that encourages clients to pay as quickly as possible. A payment policy that encourages clients to pay their invoices within 15 days is a good one. At times, you will receive great results by posting a policy that encourages clients to pay immediately they receive the invoice. As much as possible, set short payment terms. Do that to receive money faster.
It is important to talk about this issue with the client from the beginning. Let the client know your payment terms. Invoicing is more enjoyable, especially for the freelancer, if the payment terms are clarified early and clearly. Be upfront with your expectations too. Put your payment expectations in writing. Write and sign a contract that states you expect payment as soon as possible. Do not give clients forever to pay what they owe you. Otherwise, you may soon run out of cash flow, which could lead to the collapse of your business.
However, there are times when long-term payment policies are unavoidable.
Always keep the freelancer invoicing as professional and polite as possible. Of course, the clients owe you money. For this reason, you have every right to keep asking them to pay what they owe. It is good to ask professionally and politely. That begins with the actual preparation of the invoice. Do not use super-aggressive tone or language. The wording you use should demonstrate to clients that you value them and the business they brought to you. Ask for the money without sending desperate either.
It is possible to learn how to ask for what clients owe you politely and nicely.
Adding dates to your due invoices is a good practice to develop.
It is advisable to number all your invoices. Numbering invoices is a good freelancer invoicing practice to develop too. It is easier to refer to an invoice that is dated and has a number. The idea of numbering is to make your work – and that of the client’s – much easier. Numbering makes referencing a particular invoice, project, date, or service rendered a more pleasurable activity. Numbering also hints at your professionalism, which will not go unnoticed by the clients. Numbering offers an excellent way of tracking clients and payments too.
Numbering is a more effective freelancer invoicing practice.
It enables you to keep better records.
Numbering also helps you when you need to file taxes.
It gives you complete control of cash flow situations regarding your business.
Furthermore, it is good to invoice your clients immediately. Do this the moment you finish a project or reach a milestone the two of you agreed upon while negotiating the freelance contract. Make it a habit to engage in freelancer invoicing the moment you submit work to your client. This way, the clients will associate the invoice with completed work and treat the whole thing as a single process. Do this whether you send invoices traditionally through regular mail or electronically.
The language you use to indicate when you expect payments matters a great deal. In fact, language is a crucial component of freelancer invoicing. In many instances, you find freelancers who use the term “net” to denote the number of days clients have to settle their payments. It is better to indicate “days” rather than “net” though. Instead of “net 15”, “net 30”, “net 45”, or “net 60” you should write “15 days”, “30 days”, “45 days”, or “60 days”. This way, the client knows that you expect to receive payment for services rendered in a certain number of days.
Many customers you deal with will not understand what the term “net” denotes. Consequently, they will not pay you on the expected or due date. Evidently, you will suffer more than them from the delayed payments. Using language that is not only clear but also easy to understand helps clients to budget and prepare to pay you when the due date arrives. You could also write “due upon receipt” on the invoice to show clients you expect them to pay for the services you rendered immediately they receive the invoice.
Have you ever tried incentivizing your clients as a way of encouraging them to pay early? If not, you should start doing that. Incentives work and produce outstanding results in all spheres of life. An example of an incentivized arrangement is one in which the freelancer rewards clients with a certain discount for paying what they owe before the due date. For example, you could motivate them by writing something like, “5% discount on the invoice for payments made within 15 days”.
Incentives are also known as positive reinforcements.
Be careful with the discounts. Make sure the discounts are at rates you can live with comfortably. Otherwise, you may be preparing your profit margins to take a serious hit. The discounts should be something the business – including the owner – can afford to handle. Similarly, check that the discount is at a rate that will excite clients enough to convince them to pay on time. A rate of 5 percent should be good enough for both parties. Remember the goal is to encourage clients to pay on time rather than consuming your profits.
Negative reinforcements work just as well as positive reinforcements or incentives. Here, you use threats to convince clients they need to pay you on time. The threats could be something like penalties. Clients are different; therefore, they all do not respond well to the same thing. Some will respond well to incentives. Others will consider the incentives unappealing. The latter group will need a change of approach on your part. In certain situations, you may also encounter stunning results by threatening to sue a non-paying client – or actually doing it.
The threat of a lawsuit should not be your first resort. Instead, you should pursue it as your last card. Employ this tactic when the client refuses to respond to your emails and regular mail. Use it when clients will no longer pick your calls. You cannot avoid such clients. They will eventually find you no matter how many protective measures you have put in place to keep them at bay. In such instances, you would be right to take these clients to the small claims court, which is affordable and established to handle disputes regarding small sums of money.
The message you communicate with negative reinforcement is your unwillingness to entertain late payments. Clients have to learn to respect that. They have to know that you take your freelancing business seriously and so should they. Where you prefer penalties for late payments, you should come up with an amount – or percentage – that is reasonable enough to deter the client from making late, untimely payments in future. Do not settle for the kind of figure that could jeopardize the client’s business.
Convenience is something worth considering as you embark on freelancer invoicing. Ideally, you should set everything and simply tell the client about your invoicing and payment policies. However, it is good to listen to your clients’ concerns too. For this reason, ask the clients to tell you their preferences. Some of the information you need from them include the time and types of payment with which they are most comfortable. This way, you will demonstrate your flexibility to clients and win them over.
Convenience and flexibility show clients you are concerned about them.
Let clients know that you are willing to make the entire process as easy for them as possible.
Freelancers who do this tend to encourage clients to make timely payments.
A convenient and flexible process is a perfect example of “give-little-to-get-much” philosophy.
The above philosophy always has great results in business.
With such a philosophy in place, your clients will feel obligated to order for more work from you. They will have a little argument about paying any price that you set for your products and services. They will value the services you offer; hence, more likely to remain faithful and loyal to you, which guarantees more repeated business for you. Clients who get even a little from you will also feel obligated to market the business by telling their friends, loved ones, and colleagues about it.
Finally, the hope is that you have learned a few things about freelancer invoicing to help your freelancing career or business. These lessons should put you in good stead to know what to do the moment you come across clients who are unwilling to pay you on time. Some clients will flatly refuse to pay when they have the resources to settle the invoice. Others will be unable to pay because of a misfortune that occurred and affected their businesses. The knowledge you gained in this article should help you to know what to do with all types of customers.