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7 Deadly Online Invoicing Sins: And How to Avoid Them!

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You’ve finally ditched your scrappy papers and painfully laborious process of invoicing manually, and moved entirely to an online, cloud-based invoicing system. Congratulations, feels pretty good doesn’t it?

But even with a brilliant cloud-based invoicing system there is room for error. Maybe you’re not using the system right, haven’t onboarded your team properly or are simply bringing bad habits to your new way of invoicing.

Avoid these 7 deadly online invoicing sins if you want to get paid on time...Or if you want to get paid at all!

Deadly Sin 1: Only teaching ONE person the invoicing

Online invoicing software is an awesome tool - but only if you know how to use it. You might be tempted to teach one staff member your invoicing software and leave them to it. Susan is great at that techy stuff after all. But what happens when Susan your invoicing star falls sick? What if she takes a last minute holiday, or worse still resigns?

Invoicing is a critical part of your business and you don’t want to find yourself playing catch-up at the last minute. It’s a good idea to train several employees in the use of your chosen software so you don’t get caught out.

Luckily most online invoicing software offers comprehensive training modules. If you’re interested in learning to invoice with WorkflowMax check out our finance and invoicing tutorials.

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Deadly Sin 2: Not specifying settlement terms & late fees

Many business owners feel uncomfortable about demanding quick payment, because they don’t want to seem pushy. Small business owners and freelancers are especially prone to feeling guilty when charging for their time.

Because of these misplaced feelings of guilt - or their desire to preserve an amicable client relationship - many people don’t include a strict payment date on their invoice. They simply trust in the client’s goodwill, or offer them an extravagantly long settlement period.

This is a big mistake. Even if you do a brilliant job for your client, invoices that don’t appear urgent will usually drift to the bottom of their to-do list.

Instead keep your payment deadline tight (within 7 days is standard online) and clearly specified on all your invoice templates. Make sure to explain any late fees on the invoice as well. It’s a good idea to setup automated reminder emails for late payments - most online invoicing software will allow you to do this.

Deadly Sin 3: Not making it as simple as possible

How do you accept payments? What are your payment terms? Can the client pay online? Do they have to mail a cheque? Should they spin around three times and say a magical incantation?

A confused client = delayed payments. So make sure your invoice contains crystal clear instructions. You should also make sending money as easy as possible. Accept direct deposits into your bank account, and write your account number on your invoice.

If possible, you can also accept payment gateways like Paypal – this allows clients to pay by credit card and makes life easier for overseas clients.

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Deadly Sin 4: Not thanking your clients

Remember the two magic words your mum taught you? Don’t forget to say ‘thank you’ on your invoice. It sounds like a simple thing but it can make a world of difference to the client. They’ve chosen your business from a sea of competitors and their money is supporting your business - let them know you appreciate it.

Online invoicing software makes saying thanks easy. You can include a note in your standard invoice template, something as simple as ‘Thank you for your business’ - or more personalised if you prefer. For high value or important clients you may want to send a small gift.

Deadly Sin 5: Not branding your invoice

Ok, maybe this isn’t quite a deadly sin...But it sure is boring! How can you expect to make a lasting impression on clients when your invoice is dull as dishwater? A visually attractive and branded invoice is more likely to impress, delight, and retain the business of your clients.

Almost all online invoicing software let’s you brand and personalise your invoices. In WorkflowMax you can upload your business logo to a custom template then edit the fonts, colours and layout to reflect your brand personality.

There’s really no excuse for plain invoices - so don’t commit the sin of boring design!

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Deadly Sin 6: Making mistakes with client details

We’re all human and mistakes do happen - even when you’re using online invoicing software. But messing up the name or details of a client can be insulting, especially if you’ve worked with them for a long time. At the very least you risk looking incompetent or inattentive. And if you get an email address wrong (or use an old one) they might not receive your invoice at all! Email bounce-backs are a big source of delays and frustration.

Mistakes or incorrect details can also cause your client problems when tax season comes. Then you can definitely kiss any return business goodbye. 

So how do you avoid this deadly sin? There’s no foolproof way to avoid human error, but using an end-to-end project management system can help. Triple check all client details when you enter them the first time - then use the system to automatically populate your quotes and invoices with accurate data. This will greatly reduce your chance of error!

Deadly Sin 7: Not itemising your invoice properly

Picture this. You’re the manager of a large property management company. An invoice hits your desk for work on a residential apartment your junior team manages. The invoice simply reads “$250 - Windows”.

You’ve never been to this property. You don’t know the apartment. And you're expected to decipher ‘windows’? Is the charge for window cleaning? Full glass replacement? An exquisite and totally unnecessary stained glass art installation?

It could be almost anything, so you end up calling your property managers and chasing them for answers. They can’t remember so they end up chasing the window installer. The whole chain causes massive delays in payment.

This hypothetical scenario shows the importance of itemising your invoice. If your client doesn’t know what they’re paying for you’re almost guaranteed to see payment delays. Be as specific as needed. Ask yourself “If my client read this description a year from now, would they understand what it means?”

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There you have it - 7 deadly sins to avoid if you want to get paid faster. But some things are easier said than done. Even when you follow best practice, staying on top of invoices can be tricky - especially when your business is growing at a rapid pace.

Choosing the right online invoicing software can make your life much easier. That’s why we’re offering a free 2 week trial of WorkflowMax. Our powerful system manages everything from quoting and timesheets to job costing and invoicing.

And while you’re at it, grab your free e-book to help your business get paid faster!


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Caitlin Sisley
Caitlin Sisley is a Marketing Content Writer at WorkflowMax, and has over six years of experience in digital content production. She has worked on creative copy for a large number of New Zealand businesses - from tiny startups to household names. With a Master of Professional Studies from the University of Auckland, she is passionate about small business and corporate responsibility.

Caitlin Sisley