Having spent over a decade as a professional bookkeeper, I’ve had the chance to see how invoices are processed within businesses and have seen some of the absolute WORST invoice mistakes. My favourite has to be one that arrived with just a graphic logo- no name, no contact info- just a lovely swirl and a $500 invoice that went unpaid for WEEKS.
As you progress through your business career, you’ll likely be asked one day to invoice for a service or a product in order to get paid. Invoices are required by most people paying you for contract work and it’s an important way to keep track of your income for tax time.
Remember: the person who is actually paying your invoice (i.e. bookkeeper/accountant) may not know anything about you or what you do, so it’s important to include all the necessary info to receive a timely payment.
I’ve compiled my list of top 5 worst mistakes business owners make when it comes to invoices, and how to avoid them. Let’s go!
MISTAKE #1: Who dis?
Please please PLEASE include your name and contact info. (If you want to have payments issued to a name other than you own, make sure to highlight that, i.e. “Please make all cheques payable to The Corporate Canuck”). More than once, I have had an invoice come across my desk that was missing this basic info- no name = no way to pay!
MISTAKE #2: When?
Make sure to Date your invoice, and include payment terms and/or due date. (I.e. “net 15” means due within 15 days of invoice date; “due upon receipt” is also a good term meaning pay ASAP). If you charge interest on unpaid invoices, make sure that information in listed clearly (and in the contract you issue for services).
MISTAKE #3: Huh?
Provide enough detail in the memo section that an accountant who has never met you or talked to you would know what the invoice is for, i.e “Strategic Management Consulting Session, Feb 14, 2016” is awesome; “Meeting” is not.
MISTAKE #4: Where’s my money?!
Make sure to let the person paying you know how you would like to be paid– i.e. include an e-transfer email (and suggested password), Paypal or Venmo address, or link to credit card payment system.
MISTAKE #5: I can’t find it!
Whether you use paper or online invoicing, make sure you are tracking invoices with a unique numbering system. Accountant insider tip: we may assume invoices from you that have the same invoice number to be duplicates, which can result in a delayed payment (in fact, when we enter it into our accounting software it will often get flagged as a duplicate invoice- D’oh!)
If you are sending manual invoices (i.e. created in Word or a similar system), we suggest to create a master tracking document (spreadsheet is ideal; your accountant will love you) with the basic details every time you issue an invoice (date, invoice number, client you sent invoice to, description, amount). I’ve included a sample HERE.
Dates are not a great number system; if you need to create a manual invoice number try the year + number, i.e. 2019-02.
Never send a word doc invoice; these can be edited (and some templates mess with your date when it’s opened on a different computer). Save your invoices as a PDF before sending, or use an online invoicing free tool like this one from Freshbooks.
Affiliate disclosure: Some links on this site may be affiliate links (meaning, I may earn a tiny commission if you buy). I *never* promote something I haven’t used or don’t believe in. Using an affiliate link does not affect the price for you and you are never obligated to purchase anything.