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Best Practices for Invoicing Your Clients

Best Practices for Invoicing Your Clients

Best Practices for Invoicing Your Clients

For those of you who own your businesses, or those who don't, but who handle this task for the companies that you work for, I'm curious about what methods of delivery you use to invoice your clients (e.g. email, ftp, regular mail, etc.)?  Do you take any extra security or record keeping precautions, like encrypted email attachments, unique username and password for each client for ftp, certified mail, etc.  Mainly I'm wondering if you all feel that it is important to obtain acknowledgement from your clients or proof of receipt of your invoice, whether directly (e.g. signature for certified mail) or indirectly (e.g. ftp download logs).  Any positive or negative experiences that have influenced the policies you use?

RE: Best Practices for Invoicing Your Clients

I invoice them at designated phases of larger projects, and at the end of the project for all jobs.  

No special encryption or security.  Usually deliver invoice with related project materials through the mail, or they pick up at office.

Mike McCann
MMC Engineering
Motto:  KISS
Motivation:  Don't ask

RE: Best Practices for Invoicing Your Clients

Usually just normal e-mail them - but these are smaller builders and contractors.

RE: Best Practices for Invoicing Your Clients

Usually just normal e-mail them - but these are smaller builders and contractors.  I do use a PDF file.

RE: Best Practices for Invoicing Your Clients

Most are emailed using pdf's of the invoice.  Occasionally we mail some, but usually not.

RE: Best Practices for Invoicing Your Clients

I have clients that prefer e-mail and some that won't accept e-mail.  The ones that won't accept it are funny.  I print a .pdf and mail it to them to scan into their system to upload to approvers.  I keep saying that I could save them the scan step by e-mailing them to a server (or to the final approver as far as that goes), but none of them are receptive to that.  A couple of clients use a public database like OpenInvoice where you upload your invoice directly to the approver's attention.  The upside of this is that you can log on and see if an invoice has been approved (also they direct deposit the proceeds into my account on the due date, every time).

Certified mail can be a real problem.  I have one client that will not accept any certified mail that is not expected.  My invoices are not on their "accepted" list so they would bounce right back.  And even if they would accept it, what is the gain?  I've sent out 500+ invoices in the last 7 years and all but one have been paid.  Certified mail would not have improved that record.

Adding security is a dumb move in my estimation.  I have contacts that simply will not open anything with a read reciept on it, adding a password would ensure you never get paid.  Using ftp protocols is another good way to never get paid.  I don't publish my invoices on my web site, but there is nothing on them that I wouldn't tell someone who asked, what would be the benefit to me to having it harder to open?

David Simpson, PE
MuleShoe Engineering
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RE: Best Practices for Invoicing Your Clients

So, the general consensus seems to be to do whatever is most convenient for your client, which makes a lot of sense.  I was just curious if anyone had any bad experiences with clients who didn't pay that influenced them to use any more official methods of sending invoices.  Apparently not, which is reassuring.  Thanks for sharing.

RE: Best Practices for Invoicing Your Clients

fax. then mail.

RE: Best Practices for Invoicing Your Clients

Somewhat interesting subject.  I was emailing them to my POC as agreed to.  For the past 3 months I haven't been paid.  I stopped doing any more work for them.  Part of getting my finances in order for taxes, I printed off the unpaid invoices and mailed them directly to Accounts Payable.  Got the check 3 days later.  Now I'm on the phone looking for more work with them.

Email is convenient and it did flow down to Account Payable at first.  But if you don't get paid in a reasonable amount of time, definitely snail mail (or get the email address to their Accounts Payable directly).


RE: Best Practices for Invoicing Your Clients

Similar to Swertel. If it is a small company and I deal direct with the owner then email is the preferred choice if not then mail to the accounts department is the preferred choice, but I always ask how they want the invoice sending and too who first.

RE: Best Practices for Invoicing Your Clients

I think you've decribed the key element of invoicing--what does the client want?  Get that wrong and you e-mail an invoice to someone who doesn't read their mail or you snail mail it to a box designated for junk mail (or to a manager who has no clue how to get a bill paid and who will plan to "find out tomorrow").


RE: Best Practices for Invoicing Your Clients

Mail or fax for me so far....I follow the instructions on my POs.

I just want to respond to the root of the question...

Invoicing is a mere formality for record keeping at the very end of the whole process of ensuring getting paid.

You ensure payments by taking the following steps:

1. Choosing a professional client.

2. Have a written contract and/or a PO. With good terms and conditions.

3. Meeting clients expectations by providing a good service. Quality and schedule and budget.

4. Keep records of services and correspondence.

5. Invoicing at appropriate time and intervals.

To me the first three are the most important.

Rafiq Bulsara

RE: Best Practices for Invoicing Your Clients

I like your list.  For me, the big learning was #4.  The first invoice I sent came back marked "inadequate documentation" 45 days later.  I keep a daily diary organized by invoice, and I printed it out for the client and the invoice was promptly paid.  Since then I automatically print out the diary and attach it to each invoice.  It just has a 1-2 sentence description of what I did on that invoice that day.  I also show the budget amount and the amount that has been charged against the budget on the invoice, that has helped expedite invoices too.


RE: Best Practices for Invoicing Your Clients

Of course, the really best practice of invoicing clients is not to invoice at all.  Get paid in adavance.

RE: Best Practices for Invoicing Your Clients

I have a couple of clients that pre-paid for hours, and it is really nice to just deduct that month's work from the interest bearing account I stashed it in, but I had to send them an invoice before they could pay me.  I've never seen anyone hiring commercial (as opposed to homeowner) engineering work that didn't require an invoice.


RE: Best Practices for Invoicing Your Clients

rbulsara:  Yes following that list makes sense.  But there are a lot of clients currently not paying.  Mainly because they don't have money to pay.  No loans, no money.  

But of course it really depends on the client on how you get paid and how to tell them to pay you.  We do a lot of due diligence work and the client's don't like to pay that final payment until you are forced to hold something related to that project back.  If you can't, it's very difficult to collect.

Snail mail seems to get the non payers to actually pay most of the time.  Maybe because it's more formal than email and they know you are spending a stamp and printing out a paper to get them to do something??

Civil Development Group, LLC
Los Angeles Civil Engineering specializing in Hillside Grading

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