Don’t you just love invoicing?
As an architect, you’re writing invoices all the time, for huge amounts of money. You’ve probably had enough late-paying clients or miscalculated fees to understand how important it is to stay on top of invoicing and make sure you haven’t missed off a zero, or moved a decimal point in the total.
Does your invoicing system need an overhaul? Could you be doing something better to help steer clients toward paying on time? Anything that gets money in your pocket faster is definitely a good thing, so let’s take a look at 7 tips for streamlining your invoicing process.
1 - Make Technology Work Hard For You
Because of the nature of an architect’s business, you will need a relatively sophisticated invoicing system. Invoicing can be a very time-consuming process, especially when you’re including elements like printing, sub-contractors and other sundries. You might also be performing multiple jobs for one client and wanting to include them all on one invoice.
Are you writing or typing out each invoice by hand, and breaking out a calculator to add up the total? Have you ever made a mistake? Or are you using an invoicing software tool but find it doesn’t do everything you’d like it to do, such as include multiple jobs on one invoice or allow you to bill according to the quoted time or the actual time?
The biggest improvement you could possibly make to your invoicing process would be to move to an automated cloud-based invoice system. The cloud isn’t as scary as you think it is!
2 - Add Descriptions for Each Service Offered
For the client, an architect’s invoice can be very difficult to decipher, especially if you’re being hired in an on-going capacity to oversee the construction. Adding a quick description of exactly what you did for each item on the invoice can help ease the confusion. It also has the bonus of making it look like you’ve done a LOT of work for your fee (For example, listing research time and liaising with subcontractors.)
3 - Keep Your Template Clean and Simple
Have you ever received an invoice that’s been handwritten by someone who looks as though they learned penmanship from an ancient Egyptian scribe? Or have you ever received an invoice that was so “over-designed” that all the text was crammed into a corner to create more “white space” or worse, that you had to break out a code cracker or hold it up to a mirror to read it?
OK, OK, so your invoice probably isn’t that bad. But the easier your invoice is to read and comprehend, the higher the chances your client will pay on time.
What do I mean by “keep it clean and simple?” I mean make sure your type is bold and easy to read – try to use at least a 12pt font for easy readability. Don’t use all caps – it’s more difficult for people to read and understand.
Here’s a tip: More often than not, the person who receives the invoice isn’t actually the person who pays it. Often, especially in larger companies, an invoice is printed and photocopied several times before it actually makes it to the accounts department. If this is the kind of client you work for, then keep vital information on your invoice away from the margins of the paper – as the page is photocopied text near the margins is often cut off.
4 - Break Large Jobs into Progress Payments
With in-progress invoices, you can send an invoice for different stages of a project.
To help both you and the client manage cashflow, it can be useful to bill large jobs as progress payments. This usually means taking a deposit at the beginning of a job, then asking for monthly or bi-monthly payments up until the end of the job of the balance of the invoice is owed. WorkflowMax enables you to quickly and easily arrange multiple billing operations.
5 - Make It Easy to Pay
The easier you make it for the client to pay your invoice, the higher the probability that you’ll be paid promptly and correctly. This means including accurate payment information (such as a correct and legible bank account number for direct deposit, a button that automatically links to a payment gateway for credit card (if required) and an accurate address for mailing cheques.
It’s also important for both yours and the client’s protection that you include accurate payment terms and conditions. This includes the date the invoice needs to be paid by, how the invoice should be paid, and what will happen if the invoice is late. Many architects have a late payment penalty which they can invoke. Talk to a lawyer about writing a payment policy and ensure this is written clearly on your invoice.
6 - Include all the Information
It should go without saying, but you’d be surprised how often business owners – especially architects – leave off vital information on their invoices. So what do you need to have on an invoice?
- Your name, business name and contact details.
- The client’s name, company name and contact details.
- An invoice number or other means of cataloguing your invoices.
- An itemised list of expenses.
- A total amount due for the invoice
- Details of your terms and conditions of payments, including any penalties for late payment.
- A due date for payments.
- Means of payment.
- The number of payments completed/remaining (if you’re billing in stages).
The advantage, of course, of using invoicing software, is that all these fields are automatically populated.
7 - Be Friendly and Polite
No one really likes paying invoices, even if you’re happy with the job rendered. Even though an invoice is a business document, that doesn’t mean you can’t use it to show your client that you’re grateful for their business. A simple “thank you!” on the bottom of their invoice will help you instantly come across as friendly.
You want your invoices to look and feel as clean and professional so possible, but getting that process right can take a bit of experimentation, especially if you’re just starting out in business. This guide should help you avoid some of the more common mistakes architects make while delivering their invoices.
Step Up to the Next Level with Invoicing
WorkflowMax offers a complete cloud invoicing solution for architect firms – whether you’ve got one staff member or more than fifty. Our clients love the fact the fact that they can track time against a job and calculate invoices based on this or the quoted time if preferred.
Alastair Wilson of TOAST design in Takapuna says, “Talk about time saving. Instead of jobs mounting up on your desk, you deal with them as you go. On completion of the job we can simply finalise and print out an invoice. The days of long laborious invoicing are gone."