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Improve your agency invoice creation process: 10 top tips

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Updated on:
March 9, 2024
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An invoice is an important document that shows clients what they need to pay and when. It allows agencies to keep clear logs of the services they’ve provided and, likewise, allows clients to keep their own records up to date. However, an effective agency invoice can also be so much more.

This article will explore how agencies can use their invoices to improve branding, build better client relationships, and get paid faster. Plus, we’ve pulled together ten top tips to quickly improve your agency invoice creation processes.

Let’s start by exploring why well-crafted invoices are critical to agency business success.

The importance of an effective invoice

When your agency is just starting out, it might be tempting to agree to payment terms on an ad hoc basis. Every confirmed client is a cause for celebration. An email or WhatsApp message confirming payments have been sent might seem adequate in these circumstances.

However, without clear invoicing processes from the outset, you might end up with incomplete records. You could fail to follow up with a client and miss a payment. You might even inadvertently give away services for free.

This has several downsides:

  • It creates an unprofessional image.
  • Clients will try and take advantage of your lack of organization and get additional services for free.
  • Clients may tell their peers to do the same.
  • Profits become stunted.

The bottom line is that without clear invoicing, there’s no way to effectively manage your cash flow. Invoices show exactly who you’ve charged, what you’ve charged them for, and who has paid.

This makes it simpler to chase missing payments and politely remind clients when and how to pay. You can also use your invoices as a quick reference point. If a client returns to you, a previous invoice documents the last services you provided. You can build on your existing relationship by showing you remember their needs and offering more of the same or related services.

Invoice versus purchase order

Is an invoice the same as a purchase order? A purchase order is another record of goods or services. However, it’s usually issued from a client to a provider or vendor rather than the other way around. A client may approach an agency with a purchase order for services. Once the services have been rendered, it’s time to create an agency invoice.

In short, purchase orders are what the client wants. Invoices show what an agency has provided and what the client needs to pay for.

Invoice basics

Following invoicing best practices means including information that makes your invoice legally binding. This is an important point — an invoice is a legal document, which is yet another reason to take the time to make sure it contains all the relevant information. Here are some of the details commonly seen on an agency invoice.

Agency details and contact information

Every invoice needs to clearly show who it’s from and who needs to pay — the biller and the payer. At the very least include your agency’s name, address, and contact details. You could also add a website address and multiple ways to contact you. A contact name for your designated billing inquiry specialist is also very useful for clients.

Try to ensure that the client’s name is clearly noted, whether this is an individual or a company name. The more detailed, the more your invoice will support you if you ever have a legal dispute over missed payments.

A full description of services rendered

There should also be space on the invoice to write exactly what the invoice is for. A marketing agency might produce an invoice for a single piece of content or an entire social media marketing campaign. A campaign invoice should include bulleted points so the client understands what the total amount due relates to.

If this would clutter the invoice too much, you could send a separate itemized breakdown of services showing each with its relevant cost. Talk to your clients to understand how they prefer to view this information. Your CRM (customer relationship management system) may provide a client portal where they can log on and see some of this information for themselves.

A unique invoice number

Every agency invoice also needs an invoice number. Your agency may call these invoice IDs or invoice reference numbers. Whatever you refer to them as, the important thing is to make sure they are all unique. This allows you to track payments with ease. It also helps with organization. You can store digital invoices with their invoice number at the start of the file name. Organizing them alphabetically shows instantly when clients had work done and what the work entailed.

Most agencies find this a more reliable method than organizing invoices by “Date Modified.” If another member of agency personnel has edited an invoice recently, it may incorrectly show as the newest one.

Important dates

Your agency invoices also need to include:

  • The date the invoice was created.
  • The date the payment is due by.
  • Installment dates if applicable.

Make these dates prominent and use a consistent format. Your client should instantly understand when they need to pay as well as how much.

Terms and conditions

All agency invoices should also contain any relevant terms and conditions. If a client may incur a late payment charge, make a note of this on the invoice. Likewise, if there are T&Cs specifically connected to the services provided, ensure these are included on the invoice.

To make it simpler for your client, you may have a standardized set of T&Cs on your website that you provide a link to on every invoice.

Other important factors to include on your agency invoices are payment methods you accept, applicable currencies, and, of course, the total amount due. If tax is applicable for the products or services you supply, include a breakdown to explain why.

Enhancing your agency invoices

Once you’ve got the basics sorted, it’s time to think about how you can personalize them to your agency’s brand. Consider how you’ll add the following:

  • A logo or other branding items, for example, your brand colors.
  • Text that matches your brand personality and voice.
  • Consistency, e.g., by using the same format or template every time.
  • Simplicity — can you provide links so clients can pay immediately online?

Tweaking your invoices is just one way you can use your agency documentation to stand out from the crowd.

Benefits of improving your agency invoices

You know how important invoices are, but why is it so critical to add these additional features? Research experts at Deloitte recently predicted that business spending on outsourcing could reach $731 billion per year. Regularly impressing clients with clear, concise documents helps ensure your agency keeps a significant slice of the pie.

Here are just a few more of the key benefits of tweaking your agency invoices.

Get paid quicker

If your clients can understand your invoices and pay instantly, the chances are that they’ll do exactly that. Clear, intuitive invoices encourage faster payment. There is less likelihood of billing queries, disputes, or complaints. The client won’t need to double-check that the invoice came from your firm, because your branding will be all over it. All these factors positively impact a client’s readiness to pay.

Improve administrative organization

When you have a consistent invoice process, filing and retrieving information become much simpler tasks. Consecutive invoice numbers allow you to understand quickly which invoices are from a particular timeframe.

Advanced CRMs can even connect particular invoices directly to client profiles. Agency personnel from different teams can quickly see what work has already been completed for that client and if they’re a reliable payer. This is useful, for example, when choosing whether to start a new contract with that client or not.

Make life easier for your clients

Clients love it when you make things simple for them. They don’t want to feel like they need a degree in math to understand your invoices. Making everything clear and intuitive helps them deal with your invoices and then move on with their busy days.

Drive brand recognition

Adding logos and branded content to invoices helps cement your company’s overall look, tone, and values. Clients come to know what to expect from you. They start to connect with your brand and follow you on social media and other marketing channels.

Stephen Gilbert, the CEO of a high-performing marketing agency, says, “Impactful brand marketing can help brands better differentiate, build long-term value over quick wins, and resonate with consumers on a deeper level.” Carefully crafted, consistent invoices can feed into this strategy and boost long-term branding success for agencies.

Connect your brand to intuitive processes

Your brand becomes intrinsically linked to simplicity and intuitive processes when you make invoicing more straightforward for your clients. They’ll come to refer to your agency as the one that’s easy to deal with. Hopefully, they’ll share that experience with their peers and help drive your lead generation strategy, too.

How to make your agency invoices more effective: Ten tips

Now you know why you should make your invoices better, here’s how to start implementing positive changes. We’ve brought together ten ways to make agency invoices more intuitive, easier to pay, and clearer for everyone involved.

1. Review existing invoice templates

Chances are, if there’s a good way to do something, someone’s already created it. This is definitely true for agency invoices. Use a trusted provider of business templates like Bonsai to source invoice layouts and review which ones suit your agency-client relationships best.

Combine a tried and tested template with your own branding and personalization for the best effect.

2. Find out in advance how clients like to pay

During onboarding, ask how clients like to pay their invoices. That way you can include those payment types prominently when you create invoices for that client. You can adjust an existing template and then save it on that customer’s profile to use again and again.

This makes your clients feel valued and shows that you’re paying attention to the details that matter.

3. Avoid “legalese”

Those details, however, shouldn’t include “legalese,” a slang term for contractual language that’s often tricky to understand. While every invoice should have terms and conditions, such as explaining late payment fees, consider the wording you use. If the language is overly formal and complex, your client may not understand the finer details. They may not even read it.

Focusing on clear, direct language makes invoices easier to understand and increases the likelihood of you getting paid on time.

4. Ensure information is accurate

As well as being direct, make sure the information you provide is correct and relevant. This is especially important when using invoice templates. While you may have standardized information that you use again and again, there will always be some differences including:

  • Date of issue
  • Payment due date
  • Invoice number

The amounts and services rendered may also differ. Double-check that you’ve entered new information rather than simply re-sending an old invoice that looks similar.

5. Check the payment amount matches the itemization

When you use business software that lets you create packages of pre-priced items, this one isn’t as much of an issue. Platforms like Bonsai allows you to quickly produce an invoice based on a list of pre-populated products or services. However, if you don’t have this type of software, it’s always worth checking that the total amount due is backed up by the itemization provided.

If the individual services don’t add up to the payment amount requested, you could spend a long time dealing with billing disputes. This harms your brand and is likely to drive customers to your competitors.

6. Find out where to send invoices

Most clients will have a specific person or department that handles bill payments. If you assume it’s the person you set up your contract with, you could be waiting a while to get paid. This one is easy to handle. Simply ask the question during onboarding: Who should we send invoices to?

7. Review every invoice before sending

Once you have every detail straight, make time to run an eye over the invoice before sending it. An extra 30 seconds now could save you hours or even days of delays in the future. Aspects to check other than those we’ve already covered include spelling, grammar, and tone. Remember, you don’t need to adopt a commanding tone for a first invoice. Save that for final reminder notices.

8. Send invoices promptly

Research indicates that around half of all invoices issued by smaller companies are paid late. Agencies can mitigate late payments by ensuring invoices are sent as early as possible with clear payment terms. If you’ve delivered the services as agreed, don’t delay — invoice straight away. Another top tip is to let clients know ahead of time what the payment terms are so it’s not a shock later on.

9. Follow-up where necessary

If your invoices ask for payment within seven days and you’ve heard nothing after eight, don’t hesitate. Send a quick follow-up email and politely check that the invoice got to the right person. Many delays are entirely innocent, in which case most clients will be grateful for the reminder. Remember, their ability to pay on time impacts their brand reputation just like confusing invoices could impact yours. Don’t be afraid to chase payments up, as you’re helping the client stay on top of their finances.

10. Utilize agency business software to make invoicing simpler

All of the above tips are easier to follow with supportive agency software. Bonsai offers a clean, intuitive interface that makes it easy to create and send agency invoices. The ability to choose and personalize existing templates cuts invoicing time down drastically. This frees your personnel up to spend more time on sales, building relationships, or other business-critical tasks.

Bonsai also includes automatic payment reminders. Prompt clients for payments while remaining professional and consistently on-brand. You can even use the platform to set up recurring payments for subscription services, sending monthly invoices for your clients’ records.

Creating subscription packages or bundles of services is always easy. Once your package exists in Bonsai, simply click it once to add the exact products and services to a new invoice.

One marketing manager said, “I run a small marketing business and have found it so easy to keep track of client invoices.‍ I love that it automatically sends my clients payment reminders and allows them to pay by card without penalizing me.”‍

Adding the right software to your agency tech stack

As you’ve seen, it’s easier to implement effective invoicing into your agency’s organizational strategy with a multi-faceted software solution. You can build on the effectiveness of invoicing software by sourcing tools that offer multiple features. The ability to send proposals, contracts, and meeting invites from the same platform makes agencies much more efficient.

Globally, the e-invoice market has grown 80% since 2018. There are so many software providers out there vying for your agency’s business. Make sure you choose a vendor that provides multiple benefits to you and your clients. Your software should help you create agency invoices with ease while reducing friction in processes like onboarding, scheduling, and relationship management. Create your free Bonsai account here and see what we can offer your agency.

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