I get it.
You started a small business because you are great at performing a service. Or, perhaps you are a craft maker and love to make art. Your first order comes in, expectations are set, the product is made. All that is left to do is talk about a dreaded 5-letter word: MONEY.
Believe it or not, many small business owners absolutely hate talking about and dealing with money. My wife is like this. She is an extremely crafty person, and her work (in my humble opinion) should be priced at a premium. But if it was up to her, she would give it away just to avoid the money conversation!
The thing is, this is not unusual. In fact, as you are reading this, maybe you can relate!
This particular blog post is not going to deal with the fear associated with charging for your work, but rather give you a structure for how you handle invoicing. Here is why you need this:
Clients are already expecting to pay. This, by the way, is paramount to overcoming pricing fear.
And it is so important! If your client or customer buys your product or service, they will not be surprised to receive a bill (if they are, you have work to do on expectation setting!).
Again, assuming that you already understand the obvious importance of charging for your work, here are 4 “musts” to consider when creating an invoice for your product/service:
Must #1. A Complete Invoicing System
This is crucial. Your customer will be able to tell if your system is falling apart at the seams. For many of you who are soloprenuers, this is especially applicable.
While you, as the business owner, are most concerned with the proper delivering of your product or service, your customer is actually concerned with all aspects of the sale.
How well the transaction flows from the first engagement to the last will largely affect how probable they are to return to your business!
This is especially true of the invoicing and payment phase because money is such a big deal to many people. And rightfully so! Everyone wants a deal, and let’s face it–it’s a tough world out there. This is no time to waste money, OR have a terrible experience when trying to “give it away” to someone!
On more than one occasion I have tried purchasing from a business or store, turned to my wife and said something like this, “I am trying my best to give these people my money, but they just won’t take it!”
Please, don’t be that business owner.
Have a clear system.
Practical takeaway: Use a system such as Freshbooks or Zoho. Ideally, the system you choose will allow your clients to pay with a card, log in any time to see their account balance/statement, and easily access you for support requests.
This brings me to my second “must”:
Must #2: The Correct Invoicing Applications
There is a plethora of software out there that will accomplish the task of invoicing for your small business. Before we dive further into that, there are some considerations up front that will help you weed through the options:
- Does the app include CRM (Customer Relationship Management) functionality?
- Does it have software integrations with other apps that my business uses?
- Does it allow me to keep track of my bank account/taxes?
- Is it built with small business owners in mind?
Believe it or not, you will probably be able to narrow down your options just by asking these 4 questions when you begin to look at invoicing software.
Once you have your choices narrowed down, you can begin to evaluate and see what works for you. Perhaps in the future we will do a breakdown of some of the most common options, but for now I am going to show you what I use and why.
I use a combination of Zoho Invoice and Quickbooks Self-Employed. I chose this combination for a few reasons.
I chose Zoho because:
- They have a strong reputation.
- At the time, their on boarding process was a good fit both price-wise and functionality-wise.
- They have a full suite of products that integrate as the business grows and scales.
- They pride themselves on providing solutions for owners with my type of business.
- They demonstrated a solid ability to handle the needs of my business, no matter how big I wanted to grow it. This will save pain in the long-run.
I chose Quickbooks Self-Employed because:
- It is a lightweight option into the world of Quickbooks.
- It integrates automatically with TurboTax (which is where I personally handle my taxes).
- It also includes invoicing functionality in the event of a one-off situation where I need an extremely simple invoice.
- It automatically imports bank transactions and has rules for processing.
- It allows me to AUTOMATICALLY estimate AND pay quarterly taxes. This is huge, and probably the main reason I decided to go with Quickbooks Self-Employed instead of just going with Zoho Books (the QB equivalent in the Zoho application).
My set up is a prime example of why you should spend time up front researching this and making this decision. Logic would dictate that I go ahead and go with Zoho Books since I already use the Invoice application and they integrate well. But the features of the QB Self-Employed were of a higher value to me–enough to make me okay with maintaining separate systems.
Ultimately, the software you choose is not going to make or break your business. However, it will save you some definite pain in the long run, especially as you scale your business (if that is your plan).
Must #3: A Clear Presentation
This is a value that should be a recurring theme across your business as a whole, but as I mentioned earlier, your customers will be particularly sensitive when it comes to the purchasing process because it deals with their wallets.
So what we are really getting down to here is making sure that every phase of this process is very transparent. That way, your customers will feel secure throughout the entire process of purchasing your product from you.
This may seem silly, but the way a customer perceives the experience they are having will relate directly to how often they return as a customer, AND how likely they will be to refer you to someone else.
Here are some practical tips to make your invoicing process painless and transparent:
- Clearly state what the customer is paying for.
- Use descriptions on each line item.
- Set up a secure payment portal (many apps (such as Zoho) have this built in).
- Provide a way for them to pay you on a recurring basis (for recurring services, obviously).
- Make sure you have taken proper security measures (and make sure they know).
These 5 steps will help to ensure a good experience for your customer.
Must #4. A Call-to-Action
Lastly, you should make sure your customer knows that you will be able to provide them with an excellent level of service for years to come, and one of the best ways to voice their appreciation would be to follow you on your social accounts and provide recommendations to others.
Personally, each of my invoices, in the notes section, has a clear call-to-action letting my customers know that they can find me on Facebook. I also let them know that reviews on Facebook help reassure others who are considering my services that I am a worthy contender.
Look–you are not shooting for the moon right here, okay.
They may never do this. But, if they really appreciated the work you did for them, they may just take you up on your offer! This is not your “referral marketing plan,” by the way.
But, it is just one more peice of the marketing puzzle that will help you in the long run.
Remember, some of the best marketing you can do is marketing that does not look like marketing!
[bctt tweet=”Some of the best marketing you can do is marketing that does not look like marketing!” username=”northmacsvc”]
Take some time today to re-evaluate your invoicing process. Have you found a way to incorporate these “musts” into your process?
If you have any suggestions, let us know in the comments below!