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How to invoice a client

Until you raise an invoice, you won't get paid, simple as that. So the sooner you invoice the better. Yet some smaller businesses still dispatch invoices on a weekly or even monthly basis, leaving money tied up in other people's businesses.

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Invoicing quickly and efficiently is a vital step in achieving healthy cash flow. Invoice quickly Invoices should always be sent when the goods or services are provided. If you send the invoice at the end of month and you have 30 day payment terms, you're giving clients an opportunity to obtain extended credit.

To speed things up, send invoices by first class post or, better still, by email if you have your customer's email address.

What should an invoice include?

Sometimes invoices don't get paid quickly because the customer hasn't received enough information from you. They may need to call you up and ask you to reissue the invoice, increasing the time until you get paid.

To prevent this from happening, as your customer what they need on the invoice in order to approve it simply and quickly. A basic invoice should at least include the following:

  • Your full name and address
  • Your VAT registration number
  • Invoice date
  • Correct customer name
  • Correct customer address
  • Delivery address (if different)
  • Delivery date and method
  • Customer
  • Purchase order number
  • A clear description of the goods or service supplied
  • Accurate quantities, prices, discounts and total amount due
  • Payment terms and due date.

Also detail how payment should be made along with your bank details, including sort-code and account number from bank statement. Bank transfers and Direct Debit are preferable to payment by cheque, which buys your customer more time.

If you are VAT-registered, your sales invoices must be fully compliant with HMRC's VAT requirements. An effective accounting system can help you to produce professional-looking, compliant invoices.

Late payment interest

On every invoice you should remind customers of your rights to add statutory interest by including the words: "We will exercise our statutory right to claim interest (at 8% over the Bank of England base rate) and compensation for debt recovery costs under the Late Payment legislation if we are not paid according to our agreed credit terms".

Also print your terms and conditions on the back of the invoice. Stay in touch Building a good working relationship with the accounts department of your customer's business can help you to get paid on time.

If the invoice is large, call your customer before the payment due date to make sure it has been received and there is no query; this is good customer service but it will also highlight any potential problems.

Offer a prompt payment discount

To encourage prompt payment, it may also be worth offering a discount to those customers who pay before the amount of days stated in your terms and conditions.

Disputed invoices

Put a system in place for resolving disputed invoices promptly. Customers may use a small query as a tactic to withhold payment of a much larger invoice. It is also worth keeping an eye on which customers do this and whether they do this regularly as a way of avoiding prompt payment.

Keep a record of all documentation relating to disputes in case you need it at a later date. Non-payment of invoices As soon as a payment becomes overdue, make immediate contact with the company to find out what is happening. Be polite and professional, but make it clear what the consequences of non-payment will be. For more information, read our top tips for debt recovery.

Members of the Forum can download free credit control templates, including sample invoice, or call us on 0845 130 1722 for further advice and information.

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