Small businesses, by their very definition, have a few people covering a huge amount of tasks. The last thing you want is for your admin to eat up a big part of your day, leaving you no room for what’s really important.
Invoice management for small businesses is one of the main culprits as an essential but often tedious task, with the creation of documents, storing methods, and tracking who is responsible for each task all potential minefields for wasted time.
But help is at hand! We've created a list of 8 tips that can help entrepreneurs streamline their invoice management process with software and best practices that reduce workloads.
This might seem like an outdated tip, but there are an alarming amount of companies still intent on doing things the hard way. These traditional methods of invoice management for small businesses are first and foremost a massive waste of paper and money. From printing and mailing costs
But it doesn’t stop there. Every step of the way is fraught with possibilities for error. Keeping track of paper invoices is a nightmare compared to a well-organized drive on the cloud. Missing or duplicate invoices lead to headaches you simply don’t need in your day-to-day.
Therefore, by using web based invoice management, you can save a great deal of money and time, while keeping your quality in check. Equip yourself with the right invoice management software and you’ll be able to track when bills were sent, who received it, and if it has been paid or not. So for all you technophobes out there who think going digital is too much work, we promise you it’s worth getting used to.
While it could seem a superfluous aspect of invoice management for small businesses, designing your invoices to your own style helps them stand out and be instantly recognizable.
Start off with logos, formatting, and colors before extending to a personal thank you message.
Once you’re happy with your designs, send them for approval and upload the documents into your CRM. Of course, not all of your invoices will be identical, but with the right invoice management software, you can attach customizable fields to your template. Typical fields include:
Customer name, address, and tax info
Your name, address, and tax info
Payment method and date
A detailed rundown of services and costs
Contact details for any questions
If you have a limited amount of products or services, you can store your entire offering in a product catalog and integrate it with your invoice management process. Each product is linked to a price, so you’ve just got to add in the quantity, any discounts, and prepare your invoice.
All of these efforts combine to produce a consistent quality across all your documents, and the time you save is priceless.
At the start of your collaboration, a good practice in invoice management for small businesses is to send a comprehensive contract that covers all aspects of your billing process. Set the expectations for when payment is made, and include what your clients should do in case of public holidays. It’s also advisable to create a policy in case of late payment, which can save you the stress of having to chase your clients up with no legal recourse to rely on.
It’s not uncommon to send the same invoices to your regular clients every month, so consider recurring invoices. Like a standing order, you can set them up on the same day every month and get another thing off your plate.
However, if your client has special requests, such as invoices segmented into smaller installments (interim invoices), do a quick risk management analysis and write up another contract template. Create a task with a reminder in your calendar to send it on the agreed upon date. This helps improve invoice management for small businesses by gaining a reliable reputation and maintaining a better relationship with your client.
Your customer relationship management system is where you store all your client details, from contact information and special requests to every interaction you’ve had with them. Therefore, using a powerful CRM the smart way is one of the best pieces of advice on invoice management for small businesses.
Plan to use your CRM to your advantage from the very outset. For example, your main contact in a company may not be the same as the finance department. Therefore, set a field as “invoice contact” and populate it with the financial arm of your client. This helps to reduce the risk of sending an invoice to the wrong person, only to see it bounce around for a month and delaying your payment.
Of the many ways to invoice customers, the most popular is through email. Having a well-organized CRM can help you here too. You can prepare template emails with dependent fields for the email address and first name. This means, when you create an invoice and prepare to send it, you’ll always have the right contact email in the recipient field, and their first name at the beginning of your email.
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Why take on your customer invoice management by yourself when you can get a little help from your clients themselves? With interactive forms that automatically populate your invoices, you can take a step back from actually creating the documents and limit your time spent to simply approving costs and passing them onto your finance team.
Customize your form to include everything you need for compliance. A business name, address, tax ID are some of the standard fields, so make them mandatory. While most invoice generators allow you to include as many fields as you like, it’s best to keep things as simple as possible for your clients, as this will make errors fewer and further between.
Now you’ve got your form, your invoice management software will compile a fresh-looking document with all the details you need already inserted. No more missing information or uphill battles with formatting. As the technology improves, client-generated documents are fast becoming one of the most efficient ways to invoice customers.
Although an invoice is just one document, invoice management for small business includes a lot of moving parts that can lead to confusion — especially at 5 p.m. on a Friday. We’d recommend equipping yourself with a project management tool where you can set up a series of tasks that will guarantee your invoices are going out correctly. Think of it as a checklist, and if any of the tasks haven’t been completed, you’re not ready to send.
The best customer invoice management systems allow you to supercharge your workflows with automations. At a basic level, automations will send notifications to your team members when a task is ready. Once they mark it as complete, you’ll get a notification that it’s been done. Slightly more advanced, you can receive notifications when tasks are approaching their due date, so you can intervene before work falls behind.
But what really helps you stand out from the crowd are dependencies. If a workflow is a series of tasks, dependencies interconnect the tasks making them interact with one another. With no coding required, you can set “if, then” commands, such as if task 1 is complete, set task 2. And that’s just the beginning.
Let’s say, for example, you’ve already set up your client-processed billing system, and you receive an invoice in your CRM. With a bit of strategic thinking, your invoice management process can automatically:
Send a thank-you email to your client
Notify you of the invoice
Create an invoice approval task
Set a deadline of one day
Of all our tips regarding invoice management for small businesses, automations will have the biggest impact on your time saved. It may take a bit of getting used to in the beginning, but it will be a life-saver for entrepreneurs in the long run.
Poor communication is one of the most disappointing aspects of invoice management for small businesses. It’s such an avoidable error, but when communication is neglected, you can quickly create a whirlwind of problems, with missing invoices, late payment, and a lack of trust between you and your clients.
To improve, set a principal line of communication with your clients, such as email, but gather alternative channels like a phone number just in case. Similarly, you should consider getting multiple points of contact in a business — you never know when someone is going to be off sick.
Between your team, keep your communication to your task management tool. This way, you won’t be sifting through endless emails to find that one amendment your designer suggested four weeks ago. Instead, every comment, update, and delivered document are easy to find in one place.
Getting everything in place for super-efficient invoice communication is great, but if management approval is slow, all of your efforts are for nothing. Whoever is responsible for giving the final OK on an invoice should have notifications set up on their phone and desktop that ping when an invoice has been prepared. A five-minute check of the customer details and the project costs is all that’s needed before sending your invoice to your clients.
How and where you store your invoices plays a major role in invoice management for small businesses. By now, you should be on a digital platform, which saves you the potential for misplacing documents or losing them to events like fire or flooding. A cloud-based drive is the way to go — a place you and your entire team can access all your files from their desktop or smartphone.
Taking the time to create a hierarchy of folders could seem tedious for entrepreneurs who are already flying from A to B with a million other things. But it is one of those small efforts now that pays dividends in the future. Access rights can make things even better organized. You may want to share a single invoice with a client, but not the folder it is stored in.
Always use consistent nomenclature in your files. This way, you can take advantage of having all your invoices on the cloud in a searchable database. As the file name, include the number and date of the invoice to keep yourself organized and compliant, as well as the name of your client company. This way, with a quick search, you can pull up a clear record of every file associated with each of your customers.
Bitrix24 offers mobile and web based invoice management solutions that help small businesses and entrepreneurs to organize their finances. With everything taken care of in one simple tool, you can focus your energy on meeting new clients, building relationships, and closing deals.
Already 10,000,000 businesses and counting have been reaping the rewards of our powerful yet user-friendly platform that covers all areas of your business.
So if you could benefit from improved organization around the office, give Bitrix24 a try for free and discover how you can boost your productivity.