Entrepreneurs tend to be notoriously creative people who are all about doing the work and pleasing their clients. However in the hustle and bustle of growing a small business, many sometimes find invoicing to be a challenge.
Keeping client records and invoices up-to-date is a chore that too often gets relegated to the evergrowing to-do pile. But since this is how a business survives, there needs to be practical solutions put in place. Here are some tips to get you started:
Create an organized system
If your current system consists of a haphazard pile on your desk or worse yet bills and receipts stuffed into a shoe box where an ineffective ‘out of sight out of mind’ mentality kicks in (forgive the embarrassing personal example), then it’s time to get organized.
Trust me, the peace of mind will lead to the most satisfactory sleep you’ve experienced in a while. There are generally two ways to organize your billing: paper or digital.
A paper system
An old school paper filing system should consist of a folder for each type of transaction (and by extension, filing cabinets to keep things in place). Folders for paid expenses, unpaid bills, paid invoices, unpaid invoices, bank statements and tax information will get you started. Inside each folder you need to be able to divide by month so you can easily find information when needed.
Invoices are easiest to find if they are alphabetized by the business name. You need to be able to clearly keep track of when you send a bill and when or if it was paid. You also need to figure out a way to keep track of rebilling. A ledger is one way you can do this.
A paper based system ends up being the most time consuming due to its very manual nature. It is too easy to let papers pile up, making it impossible to find what you need or to keep track of what you have accomplished.
A digital system
A simple way to ease into going digital is through the use of spreadsheets that allow you to record dates, amounts, invoice numbers, date billed or paid, etc. The endless columns can be a godsend when it comes to organization. Spreadsheets are also searchable which makes finding something much easier than digging through numerous file folders.
With this system you need an ongoing spreadsheet that lists each customer you have worked with. You will need to include their name, address, phone number, date of service, type of service, invoice number, date billed, date paid, their check number, etc.
A digital system makes the process much more simple than having a paper trail. However, it can still get out of hand if you fail to stay on top of things. Bear in mind this type of system will still require you to keep track of multiple documents and create invoices separately.
How to simplify and automate things?
While the two systems discussed above will work with effort, for many small business owners they’ll feel daunting and time consuming. You still have to create invoices, manually send them, adapt them for different clients, keep track of expenses, and work out whether the business is staying afloat without a good way to produce reports.
Hiring an accountant to focus on all this might sound like a great idea, but the expense for their services may be outside of your budget. In that case an online invoicing software solution might be the more affordable and stress-free answer to your business pains.
What to look for in an invoicing software?
The advantages of online invoicing software are many but if you have a lot of repeat customers, the automation ability likely takes the cake. It takes away the pain paint of entering the same information over and over again.
In addition to automating recurring invoices, a good software program should allow you to create, customize, edit and send invoices while also tracking and updating payments. A great software will also allow you to submit quotes to clients and to convert that quote to an invoice when the client accepts your proposal.
It should also enable you to work from anywhere. Being able to manage your business from anywhere in the world gives you the freedom you crave with the dependability you need.
The ability to easily create and download reports, not just for you, but also for your clients and for tax purposes can save you time and money. Good software includes flexibility to allow you to select dates, types, and categories for the types of reports you need.
If you share tasks with someone else, the ability to have multiple users for the software is something else to consider along with accessibility.
A good invoicing system allows you to have all your information in one organized place. A great invoice system will allow you to create and save client contact information like business name, contacts, address, email, and notes within the software itself.
With everything in one convenient place you no longer have to tell a client you will get back to them when you return to the office and look up information! Not only is your life simpler, you also look more professional to your clients.
Schedule time to devote to your business tasks
No system is effective, however, without execution.If needed, there are loads of affordable business management software options that can help your enterprise run like a well oiled machine. But the best way to stay on top of things is to schedule a time each week to devote to the task. Mark off time in your planner and approach it systematically.
Go through each bill or payment and make sure it is recorded. Send out new invoices. Update all of your records, and file any paper copies when you are finished.
Completing the work each week will ensure that all payments are made and allows you to quickly see who has not paid. It is the only way to know if you have income flowing in or if your expenses have exceeded that income.
The convenient aspect of invoicing software means you can update records immediately, greatly reducing the time you spend on business tasks that take you away from your real work. The more convenient your system, the more likely you are to use it, and that increases the profitability of your business.