6 Invoicing Tips for Getting Paid Lightning Fast

When I was a beginning freelancer, a late invoice often meant the difference between making rent and begging my (very nice, I must say) landlord to waive the late fee. We’ve all been there – some clients pay you within the hour, some clients send a check right around the 30-day mark, and some clients conveniently forget to pay at all. But sometimes, late payments (and begging at landlord’s doorsteps) can be prevented with some simple invoicing tips:

1.  Be Clear and Concise

Spelling out exactly what you did for your client on each invoice accomplishes a couple of things. It prevents the client from coming back and questioning you about it (or worse, putting a questionable invoice aside for later scrutiny then forgetting about it). And it helps both of you, should a payment question ever pop up in the future. If you have a regular client, it can be easy to forget whether you billed for that blog post last month or not. Being specific with your invoices eliminates that confusion.

2.  Include Your Late Fees on Every Invoice

One of the best ways to get paid fast is to include a due date and consequences for slow payers. But while the client’s VP of Marketing may have agreed to your “pay within 21 days or suffer a 5% late fee” terms, chances are they didn’t pass that on to Accounts Payable. Include your terms right there on your invoice, because you never know who will be cutting your check.

3  Ask How Your Clients Wants to be Invoiced

When I first started out as a freelancer, my invoices were crafted from the first free Microsoft Word “invoice” template I could get my hands on. Why do I remember this? Because to this day one of my clients prefers to be invoiced with that ugly template. Oof. But when I tried to change him over to electronic invoicing with WePay, he resisted, citing his “system.” So now I ask my clients how they want to get paid. Sure, I could have pushed the issue, but do I really want my invoice to be the afterthought in my client’s system? Of course not.

4. Be Consistent

If you bill a client monthly, be sure to bill them the same day every month. If this is a one-off project, invoice right after the work has been approved. Remember, this is all about making it easy and convenient for your client to pay you, so you don’t want to be the freelancer who’s always surprising them with random invoices out of left field.

5.  Use an Online Invoicing Service

Have you ever clicked through pages of email messages, frantically trying to stop the little attachment icon to make sure that an invoice was actually sent? I have, and it isn’t fun. It’s more like, “Crap! I just sent this client an email asking (politely) where the money is. Don’t tell me I didn’t send the invoice in the first place.” An online invoicing system will keep you on track by listing exactly who owes you how much and on what date each invoice was sent. It’s helpful for your cash flow projections, and to let you know who you need to nudge before it’s time to assess a late fee.

6.  Accept Payments Online

For Pete’s sake, if you aren’t accepting online payments, start right now. Nobody likes waiting for a check then driving to the bank and filling out a deposit slip. The same goes for your client – writing or printing out a check is work. Entering their credit card or bank account number into a website isn’t. Make yourself easy to pay, and you’ll get paid faster.

These are my tips for a fail proof invoice. How’s your current invoicing system working for you?

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5 thoughts on “6 Invoicing Tips for Getting Paid Lightning Fast”

  1. I can’t imagine not having Paypal at this point. Waiting on some accounting department to get around to cutting a check just doesn’t fly with me. It’s too easy (and too fast) to handle things online to stick with old school payment models in most cases. And it’s not as if the client even has to have a Paypal account to pay through those invoices. Frankly, Paypal has been far better to work with than any bank I’ve dealt with in the last 10 years or so too. I’d never go back. Not willingly at least.

  2. Really great system, Jennifer! Love it.

    I do get a lot of my invoices paid via PayPal. It makes sense.

    I really liked your advice on putting late fees on every invoice. Super idea! And I’m a huge proponent of consistency in your invoicing system. If you set precedent, you’ll have a firmer leg to stand on should it come down to litigation or collection.

    • Agree so much about the consistency. I usually invoice on the last day of each month, unless I’m doing a one-off project then I invoice that very day. No use in letting them think they’ve already paid for it since they already have the finished work!

  3. Great article, Jennifer.

    There are a couple tips I use in addition to these.

    1) Make sure you know who should receive your invoice. Your contact for the project your are working on is often not the same person who pays the bills. If you email your invoice to the wrong person it can easily delay your payment by a month. Cash flow is critical so don’t let this happen to you.

    2) As Jennifer mentions, late chargers are a good way to deter late payments. A more proactive approach is to offer a small discount for early payment. Either of these strategies can get your invoice moved up in the stack above other invoices with no incentives, but one will get you paid sooner. If you need to cover this discount you can raise your rates slightly to cover this cost of doing business. For me, having the cash in my pocket sooner is worth a small percentage discount.

    David Raffauf
    Owner, Designer
    Scoreboard – Invoicing & Tracking

    • Love the tips! #1 is particularly crucial. I had a contact like that at one of my earliest clients. He’d simply forget to pass my invoices on to their accountant. I never got to actually send my invoices to the accountant (or accounts receivable company or whoever it was) but this contact was soon replaced and they put a much more efficient system in place. Still, I got tired of waiting and waiting for my checks.


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