So now I’ve covered how to set your rates, how to track time spent on client tasks, how to avoid time-wasting clients and how and when to fire a client, it’s time to tell you how to invoice a client so they can pay you! This is how to set up easy standard ways of invoicing so you can just do the work and bill your client without any stress, worry or confusion.
Before you even think about invoicing
If you’ve read any of my previous advice then you’ll know it’s imperative that all your clients know exactly how much you charge, when you invoice, how you like to be paid and what your payment terms are before you do a single stroke of work for them.
If you haven’t had this conversation with your client then you’ll only have yourself to blame if it all goes horribly wrong.
Tip: I invoice all my new clients after two weeks in case they turn out to be bad payers. I explain this to them before I start work and they’re always fine with it. It’s far better to get shafted for two weeks work than a months’ worth!
How I invoice my clients
I invoice my own clients in two different ways:
1) If they’re a regular client then I add them to Invoicely (it used to be called Invoiceable which is an online invoicing system. I use the free version but you can pay around £3 a month to have the “powered by” notice taken off the bottom of each invoice. I like it because it’s clean, simple, easy to customise and free.
You can choose to get paid directly through PayPal with it but remember that PayPal will take cut so I’d personally unselect that option!
Tip: I also add a note to the top of the invoice that says “please see attached time report for a full breakdown on hours”. When you add your bank details to the bottom of the invoice template consider writing this sentence: “Please note: all invoices are due within 14 days, no further work will be undertaken once an invoice becomes outstanding”.
It’s polite, professional but helps clarify the situation so you get paid!
I use the free time tracker Toggl to track client tasks, export the record as a pdf then attach it to a personalised email. You can choose to email the invoice straight from Invoiceable but I opt to save it as a pdf, attach it with the time report to the client email and then rename and save the invoice in payment folders labelled by year on my computer. In the UK you need to legally keep all your financial records for six years.
2) If it’s a one-off client then I complete a Word doc invoice template then email it to the client as a pdf with their Time Report. I then save the invoice to my desktop as above. You can find a copy of this template in the downloads section.
Tip: Invoicely will tell you if an invoice is overdue but you’ll have to put a reminder in your calendar if you’ve sent a Word doc invoice. I also keep a little Excel sheet in a personal desktop folder with my monthly income and outgoings and mark payments in green once they’ve been settled.
You can pick one or the other of these systems. I use both because I occasionally have a one-off client and can’t be bothered to add them to Invoicely as a client!
What your invoice should have on it
Obviously the costs and services you enter on your invoice will depend whether your client is on a retainer, being charged a set fee for the task or paying an hourly rate. These things may also vary depending on which country you’re in so make sure you know what your legal obligations are.
- The word Invoice!
- Your company name and address
- Your client’s name and their company name and address
- The date
- A unique invoice number – online invoice systems will automatically generate this
- A clear description of the tasks/services and the dates you completed them
- The total time you spent on the task and the price for the task
- The total amount to be paid
- Your payment terms – when the invoice is due
- Your bank or PayPal details
- If you’re VAT registered then state your VAT No, the VAT rate and enter the amount of VAT on each line
- If you’re a Limited Company you need to add your registered company address and company number
I also have my mobile number on the invoice and the two written paragraphs as mentioned above.
What if the client doesn’t pay you?
You will always have a nightmare scenario where one or two clients don’t pay you on time – especially when you first start out and you don’t know how to identify them.
There are loads of invoicing systems out there so just pick one you like. There are free ones and paid ones that provide quotes, invoicing and payment facilities and everything in between. But you don’t need a fancy one – just find one that works for you. Free is good when you’re starting out and I still use a free one myself.
We all love being Virtual Assistants because we get to help people right?
Of course we do… but none of us are running a charity.
We’re professionals, so make sure you charge what you’re worth, clearly outline how you work, what you charge, what your payment terms are… and make sure you get paid!