Not all invoices are created equal. Not even close. What seems like (and really should be) a straightforward, hardworking document is often a breeding ground for unnecessary confusion, ambiguous directions, or—even worse—self-expression.
If you’ve been in business for any amount of time, you’ve probably seen your fair share of terrible invoices. I once received an invoice written entirely in prose. But oftentimes, despite how much we complain about the quality of the invoices we receive, we don’t take the time to stop and evaluate the invoices we’re sending to our own clients and customers. Maybe you’re using the same old template you’ve always used, and it simply hasn’t occurred to you that it needs to be revisited. Or maybe you rely on someone else to create your invoices, and you haven’t taken the time to make sure they aren’t, well, terrible.
Whatever the case, there are some easy changes you can make to your invoices that will not only make your business appear more professional, but they’ll also help you get paid. Here are just four of them.
- Be easy to find. In order for your customers to pay you money, they need to know where you are. So make it easy for them. Make it REALLY easy. Include your company’s billing contact name, remittance address, email address, web address, phone number, and even an alternate phone number, if you have one. Basically, if there’s a way to contact you, you should put it on the invoice. Don’t give your customers an excuse not to pay you, and don’t ever let the words “I had a question about the invoice, but didn’t know who to ask” come out of their mouths.
- Check your spelling. CHECK. YOUR. SPELLING. Do I really need to say this? Apparently so. You wouldn’t believe the number of invoices we receive with our company’s name misspelled, or our names misspelled, or even the vendor’s name misspelled. This includes word spacing, capitalization, proper punctuation, getting LLC versus Inc. correct and all the other details that make up your customer’s brand and trademarks. Not only can this mistake get in the way of your getting paid (thanks to data entry errors, etc.), but it also makes your company look uncaring. And uncaring companies aren’t high on anyone’s priority list to pay. So check your spelling. Then check it once more.
- Be creative, but not that creative. Just like anything else your business produces, your invoice is a reflection of your company. So sure, you can give it a modicum of personality. Include your logo. Add a splash of color. But don’t get too fancy. Fancy invoices have a way of evolving into confusing invoices. And confusing invoices have a way of not getting paid. Keep the type black. Keep the font standard. Clarity first and then creativity. Add just a splash of personality, not a bucketful.
- Leave whitespace. Whether you’re sending the invoice through the mail or electronically, keep in mind that what you’re sending is a functioning document. Most companies need some room to make notes, stamp their stamps, and process your payment. Don’t get in their way by filling every inch of your invoice. Leave a lot of whitespace. Make it easy for a client to move your invoice through the invoice-processing machine and get your payment out the door.
Revisit your invoice design this week and see if you can’t make a few tweaks that just might lead to the big bucks.