You acquire a new client. Congratulations! You do some work for them—be it graphic design, plumbing, or consulting. You know that the next step is to get paid for the work you put in and that it comes in the form of a professional invoice.
OK, so now what?
Invoicing isn’t as glamorous as it may seem
Getting paid is exciting. But invoicing—like the steps you need to take in order to build a professional invoice—is not. This is especially true as more and more entrepreneurs hit the market with their new business idea or venture only to realize that the administration side is not like what they see in movies or picture in their heads.
The invoicing process can be lengthy and overcomplicated by features and solutions that not every small business owner needs. And certainly not ones that every Truly Small business needs.
As we identified in our recent introduction, Truly Small businesses frequently need something much simpler than the “whole shebang”.
So today, let’s learn how to build a professional invoice, including step-by-step instructions on how to do it in Kashoo!
Step 1: Choose the right invoice
Invoicing is not a one-size-fits-all process. When choosing the right professional invoice for your business, be sure to consider:
- What industry your business operates in
- Which format you prefer
- Which format works best for your device
- Which payment plan and schedule you want to use for your client
As you can see, there are different types of invoices that you can create for your client depending on your industry. An invoice for a digital freelancer can differ from an invoice for someone working in construction and trades. Small businesses should consider these factors when choosing the right invoice type.
As a rule-of-thumb, different types of invoices include:
The Standard Invoice
A standard invoice is issued by the business and submitted to the client and is the most common form of invoice available for small businesses. The word ‘standard’ is there for a reason. This invoice type is the most flexible document and can be used to fit the majority of the industries and billing cycles. Key details present on a standard invoice includes:
- Your business name and contact information
- Your client’s name and contact information
- An invoice number
- The amount of money the client owes your business for services provided
Recurring Professional Invoices
Recurring invoices are helpful for small businesses that charge the same amount periodically for their services. This type of invoice is common for freelance digital marketers or IT consultants. For example, you might want to set up a recurring invoice if you offer a social media package for your clients with a standard monthly price. If you’re in IT, you might do the same, by charging your clients the same amount each month as a package of your services.
Cloud-based invoicing software lets you automate the process of creating recurring invoices. The best part? You can even send out your professional invoices on the same day each month, so you don’t have to think about it. Out of sight, out of mind—while still getting paid!
The Timesheet Invoice
If your business charges each project based on an hourly rate, then a timesheet invoice is the way to go. A timesheet invoice is common in industries where clients are billed hourly, such as creative agencies, lawyers, business consultants, and psychologists.
Because you charge for your time only (versus the actual quality of work), it’s typically good practice to include a bit of contingency in your rate. Also, the more invoices you bill using the timesheet invoice, the more accurate your estimates get! It all comes down to practice and lessons learned.
The Commercial Invoice
Another invoice type is the commercial invoice, often used by a business who sells goods to customers globally. Focusing on selling particular goods, commercial invoices typically includes details needed to determine customs duty for cross-border sales.
You’ll find these details on a commercial invoice:
- Description of goods
- Shipment quantity
- Weight and volume
- Total value
- Packaging format
Interim Professional Invoices
Interim invoices are used on large-scale projects where your business and client have agreed to terms that include multiple payments. Multi-disciplinary engineering projects could use this invoice type—especially if the project could span up to 1-2 years, or more.
Interim invoices can also be used for long-term projects. Digital freelancers for example, can opt to send interim invoices to their clients to make sure they maintain a steady cash flow throughout the entire project lifecycle.
The Pro Forma Invoice
A pro forma invoice is an estimate or quote that’s sent to a client before the work is done or the products are shipped.
Unlike a traditional or standard invoice, a pro forma invoice serves as a commitment of goods or services that have yet to be delivered.— Square.
Pro forma invoices are similar to statements of work (SOWs) and are used to ensure both the small business (seller) and client are on the same page about the agreement, including the cost.
This professional invoice type is also a great way to give prospective clients an idea of your product and/or services, the cost, and any other relevant information.
For example, if you run a small baking business out of your home, a potential client might want to know how much you’d charge to prepare a black forest gateau cake made with local ingredients, with birthday writing, customization, and candles, for 10 people. Of course, they might even inquire about how long it would take for you to bake the cake to see if it aligns with their schedule. In this case, you would mock up the cake, calculate your costs and markups, and create a pro forma invoice to let your prospective client know how much the cake would cost.
The Final Invoice
When a project closes, you’ll want to request payment. Send a final invoice outlining the work that you completed, alongside any interim invoices that have already been sent.
This invoice is normally more in depth than an interim invoice or pro forma invoice and includes:
- An itemized list of all services provided
- Total project cost
- Invoice number (for tracking purposes)
- Invoice due date
- Payment methods accepted (i.e. e-Transfer, PayPal, bank cheque, or other)
A good invoicing etiquette is to send a final invoice to wrap up your business between you and a client. If you want, use the notes section or the email to send your thank you, and appreciation of your working relationship. You never know what other opportunities they may have in the future!
Step 2: Choose the right format
Once you’ve picked your invoice type, it’s time to choose the right format. Some clients may prefer invoices in Word or Google Doc so they can make comments or adjust, as needed. Other clients are happy to receive them as a clean PDF file. Whichever format they prefer, it’s always a good idea to check with them at the onset of your business engagement, then stick with the same format for any recurring invoices.
Microsoft Word, Excel, Google Doc, Google Sheet, and PDFs are all common invoice formats to use. As your small business grows, you’ll want a more streamlined way to create, organize, and track all of your invoices in one place. That’s why so many Truly Small businesses adopt invoicing software or a more complete tool like cloud accounting software to manage their invoicing.
Instead of creating, cutting and pasting previous invoices in different formats on your local computer, small business owners can create them in the cloud on a single software.
Step 3: Know what goes into an invoice
To build a professional invoice, these are the key items that should be present:
- Your Business name and logo
- Business contact information
- Invoice number
- Payment terms
- Due date
- Bill to (payer contact information)
- Product or service details
- Sales tax
Looking for a free invoice template to get started without using software? Try downloading an invoice template in the format you need and filling it out with a tool you already have!
Step 4: Customize your invoice
The next step in this process is to customize your professional invoice. Does your business have its own branding and company logo? If so, pop it onto your invoice to add a professional touch. By setting up a template—whether on Word, Excel, Google Doc, or Google Sheet—that’s consistent with your business branding, your clients on the receiving end will view your invoice and overall business that much better, too. Not only will you come off more professional to your client, but they in turn, will register your invoice to your business quicker and hopefully pay you quicker as well.
Step 5: Proofread and hit send!
The final step of the invoicing process is to review and proofread. There is nothing more unprofessional than an invoice with grammatical and numerical errors, misspelling (especially of your client’s name and contact information), and other granular details that can easily be overlooked.
Take the final moment of this important process to proofread. Reading it out loud always helps in this case!
Once reviewed, export your invoice, attach your document, hit send, and voila: your task is complete.
Looking to speed up the process & get out of your inbox?
If you’re using Kashoo 2.0, you can invoice directly from our purpose-built software. Within Kashoo, simply navigate to the Invoices section on the left navigation bar, then create an invoice by clicking +New.
Fill in details like a description, category, quantity, price, taxes, and any other information that you want your client to see. Set up your client’s name, invoice date, due date (including payment terms), and you’re ready to preview and hit send.
Not ready to send the invoice right away? Don’t worry, you can always save it up for later.
With Kashoo, your professional invoice is sent the moment you click the Send Email button from the Send Invoice window. It’s really that easy!
To quicken payments, simply set-up your account to receive online payments.
Here’s how to set up your account to accept online payments.
Once it’s set-up, your invoice will include a Make a Payment button, which will provide your client the option to pay by credit card (Visa, Mastercard, or American Express) as soon as they receive your email.
Here’s what your client will see:
Just get it done
Invoicing isn’t the most exciting job, but its importance cannot be overstated. Whether you prefer to stick with offline invoicing or not, the 5 simple steps above should guide you to building your first professional invoice for your client.
If invoicing offline isn’t how you want to manage your business income, then sign up for Kashoo’s free 14-day trial today. You’ll learn in minutes why so many other truly small businesses choose our cloud accounting software to help simplify—not overcomplicate—their business operations.