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The Unconventional Guide to Work

Life’s too short to be bored at work. We can help.

So many invoices, so little time. Here's how to speed up your invoicing process.

Reading a book, finishing a project. Baking a cake. Playing with your kids, throwing a stick with your dog, discussing eastern philosophy with your cat, raising money for charity, writing that novel, painting the house, building your own boat, learning a language, Netflix & chill, making your own jam, mowing the lawn, playing Tetris on your cellphone, discovering an ancient Mayan treasure ...

All of these things are more fun than doing your invoicing.

Life is too short to spend hours a day wrangling invoices and trying to collate timesheet data into a figure that will leave you in the black. There has to be a better way.

There is. There are a few simple ways you can make invoicing a speedy, efficient, and fun process. OK, I might be kidding about the “fun” part, but then, getting paid for the work you do IS fun, right?

Anyway, if you can’t go out to hunt for Mayan treasure until you’ve finished the invoicing, here are our ten tips for speeding up invoicing process.

1. Ditch the manual process … get an Invoice Management System

The truth is, even if you do nothing else, this one single step could save you up to three hours per invoice. Don’t believe me? Take the word of Richard Rowe, owner of Rotaret, a hydraulic engineering firm based in Victoria, Australia.

Richard started as a one-man operation and hadn’t expected to grow as fast as he did, but he tapped into a large market niche and was able to expand rapidly. Unfortunately, his clunky admin systems (mainly done on spreadsheets) couldn’t keep up with Rotaret’s growth. “I was spending way too much time managing the business,” he admits, and was missing out on valuable time with his family.

After implementing WorkflowMax, Richard and his team have saved three hours of admin time every single day, just through using the quoting, job management, timesheets and invoicing features of this project management software. Richard can now spend those hours with his family or on other tasks.

And Richard has noticed an additional bonus to automating Rotaret’s invoicing process. “When we go out and do a job – for example, hoisting up some beams on a machine – we can email them the invoice for the job before we even leave their office, which also means we get paid faster and improve our cashflow – key for any business owner.” Richard estimates that invoicing through WorkflowMax has improved the company’s cashflow by 10%.

Improve your invoicing:

  • implement an online project management system.
  • This can improve not only speed, but also cashflow, as invoices are sent and paid faster.

2. Get your staff involved

Technically, you could possibly call this less of a time saving tip, and more of a “shuffling work off to another person to complete” tip. But if you’re finding invoices are stuck in a bottleneck in your company, perhaps it’s time to consider who is actually in charge of sending out the invoices.

All too often, business owners feel as if they’re the one who should be responsible for compiling invoices, but you’re so busy with other tasks that those invoices can lie on your desk for days or weeks.

Instead, why not empower your staff by giving them ownership for generating invoices for their jobs? This also shortens the loop between the producer and administration, helping to keep mistakes to a minimum. Your team will appreciate having more responsibility over the work they’re doing, and if you use an invoice management system like WorkflowMax, you’ll still be able to approve each invoice before it heads out the door.

Improve your invoicing:

  • Empower staff to take over part of the process.
  • Ease some of the workload by spreading it out.

3. Invoice as soon as the job is done

The sooner you get that invoice in the hands of the client, the sooner they’ll be able to pay it. It’s as simple as that.

So how do you get that invoice out quicker? The key is to save yourself the work of collating and processing the invoice from the get go. At every stage of the project you should be ensuring that accurate records are being kept in your project and invoice management system, so that they can be quickly inserted into the invoice ready to be sent off as soon as the job is done.

A key part of this speed is being able to use an online invoice management system. Online accounting software company Xero conducted a study of their customers. They found that using an online system for accounting – including invoice management – improved the number of days until payment from 49 to 33. That’s an increase in payment time of 31%.

Improve your invoicing:

  • Work on the invoice as you go.
  • Ensure data is being accurately captured in your invoice management system.
  • Get that invoice out as soon as possible.

4. Invoice electronically

My husband and I are in the middle of building our own home. As the self-appointed project manager of the build, I’m responsible to securing the contractors and paying their fees. I receive invoices in three ways – emailed to me, handwritten on scraps of paper and shoved under the door, or written by hand and mailed to me.

Guess which ones I pay first?

If you guessed email, you’d be correct. Some of the contractors who invoice using Xero and WorkflowMax even have a PAY NOW button on the invoice where I can enter CC details.

Make things as easy as possible for your client to pay as soon as they receive the invoice. Using WorkflowMax for your invoice management means that when your client receives the invoice, they are on the exact device where they have access to their own accounting / banking system. There’s no chance the invoice could blow away or be eaten by the dog. There’s also no confusion over the total because the client can’t read your handwriting (which trust me, is an issue!)

Improve your invoicing:

  • Send invoices electronically.
  • Use an invoice management system that can automatically generate electronic invoices.
  • Add PAY NOW buttons if you accept credit card payments.

5. Remind about unpaid invoices

The truth is that no matter how efficient your invoicing process is, late invoices are always going to be a thing. Clients get busy, emails get forgotten, papers get shuffled around, and sometimes your invoice falls through the cracks.

This means eventually you’ll need to chase up those unpaid invoices. Otherwise, you’re just leaving money on the table, and who wants to do that? Money is much nicer when it’s in your coffers. With an invoicing management system, chasing unpaid invoices is as easy as running a report every month. Then shoot out a gentle nudge to everyone who hasn’t paid on time.

Being able to report on the metrics of unpaid invoices also helps you to notice patterns. For example, it might be the same clients who are late again and again. By discovering the pattern, you can introduce a late penalty or even drop clients that are more trouble than they’re worth.

This has a run-on impact on your invoicing process. If your regular clients get that reminder about late payment, they’ll start to pay you sooner, so that they can avoid that. No one likes to hear they’ve dropped the ball.

Improve your invoicing:

  • Send out a reminder to those who haven’t paid.
  • Do this on a monthly basis to improve cashflow.
  • Create a penalty for late payment. This will catch those stragglers!

6. Use in-progress / recurring invoices

In-progress and recurring invoices are the standard in many industries, where a deposit is required upfront in order to commence work, or where you do the same work each month for a selection of clients.

Recurring and in-progress invoices enable you to manage the cashflow month to month with ease. It’s a much shorter time between performing the work and getting paid for it. And once you’ve got a system in place for getting them out, they can actually make your invoicing process easier.

So how will these invoices speed up your process? Simple, in-progress invoices break down your process into smaller steps. Instead of one giant monolith of an invoice at the end of the job, you can drip feed that money into your account. The compiling process should be much quicker. And with an automated invoice management system, you’ll be able to set these invoices to remind your clients of their payment each month.

Improve your invoicing:

  • Use recurring invoices for clients who use the same package every month.
  • Use in-progress invoices to break down larger projects into payment installments.
  • Automate these processes with your online invoice management software to cut down on admin.

7. Use the simplest format that provides everything you need

There are many different ways to invoice for different services. As an invoice management system, WorkflowMax allows you to start with a very simple invoice and add as much detail as you like – splitting down the bill into tasks and associated costs, adding descriptions, defining which staff member undertook which stage, and extra descriptive notes.

While all this information can be useful to the client, and definitely makes your invoice look thorough, ask yourself if it’s really necessary? Especially if your system isn’t streamlined enough to include this type of information automatically, you should definitely consider if you’re spending time creating detailed invoices for no reason.

Before spending additional time adding breakdowns of tasks and costs to invoices, ask yourself if these details are truly necessary for your clients.

Improve your invoicing:

  • Keep it simple!
  • Figure out the information your clients REALLY need. You don’t have to provide anything more than that.

8. Use Invoicing Templates

Templates can save you time when invoicing, because instead of writing out each item and dividing into sections, all this is included as part of the job template. Your template will also automatically add all your branding and formatting, making everything appear much more professional.

This might involve a bit of rethinking on how you structure your jobs. Even if there are a few simple jobs you do that you can create templates for tasks and costs, you’ll dramatically speed up not only your invoicing process, but also how you quote for new work.

Improve your invoicing:

  • Break down jobs into tasks and costs and use templates in your project management software to quickly fill these out.
  • Templates can also help you keep branding consistent across your invoices.

9. Invoice on the go

The other day I was sitting on the bus next to a guy who was busy shooting out invoices from his phone. I didn’t talk to him, but it looked as if he was getting all his invoicing done during his daily commute. He didn’t have to take his work home with him.

Being able to complete invoices from any location can be invaluable if you happen to be at a conference, visiting another city, or looking after your sick kid. It enables you to get your tasks done in the spare minutes you find between jobs, social events, and other commitments.

Improve your invoicing:

  • Got five minutes at the bus stop or waiting for an appointment? Do some invoicing!
  • Use your leisure time the way it should be used, to spend time with friends and family, pursue hobbies, and learn new things.

10. Just Do It

The truth is, all of the above points will help you speed up the invoicing process, but there’s still an element of human intervention required, whether it’s compiling the invoice from spreadsheets or checking over a template in your invoice management system. At some point, you need to sit down and tick off those invoices. You can’t put it off forever.

As Nike says, Just do it. And then you can get back to baking your cake or playing with the kids or digging up crystal skulls.

Improve your invoicing:

  • Set you clock for 15 minutes, and see how many invoices you can get done in that time. When the timer goes off, reward yourself with a trip to the coffee machine or five minutes on Youtube.
  • Just do it!

Let’s Recap:

Saving time with your invoices is possible. Here are some of the things you can do to improve your process:

  • use an invoice management software like WorkflowMax.
  • get your staff involved by encouraging them to take over part of the process.
  • invoice as soon as the job is done.
  • use electronic invoices.
  • remind your clients about unpaid invoices, and institute late fees to encourage early payment.
  • use in-progress and recurring invoices to break up payment over a period of time.
  • give only the information that’s required.
  • use templates to save time.
  • invoice in those spare moments, such as on the bus or waiting in line.
  • just sit down and get it done!

Speeding up your invoicing process will have knock-on impact through your entire company. Your cashflow will improve, admin time will be reduced, and you’ll no doubt feel a lot less stressed without that giant pile of paperwork to deal with! So what are you waiting for?

Could your invoicing process use a little tweak?

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