Ultimate Guides Small Business Invoicing Guide | How to Send an Invoice
Small Business Invoicing Guide | How to Send an Invoice
Aug 12, 2020 - 7 min. read
Getting paid isn’t easy. It's why we've put together a small business invoicing guide. Learn how to send an invoice and get paid faster.

Learn How to Send an Invoice and Get Paid Faster

Getting paid isn’t easy. Small business invoicing takes time and getting customers to pay their bills can be a hassle. This is especially true if you don’t have processes, software, and automated billing systems in place.

In a recent survey of 400 businesses, 27% noted that they have a hard time creating and sending invoices. Another 46% said they have difficulty getting paid on time. While 49% said they have a hard time following up on late payments.

These numbers (most likely) won’t surprise you.

But, complex, automated invoicing systems won’t necessarily get your invoices paid either. Not unless you have a strong invoicing process in place. What you really need are simple, streamlined, cashless payment methods.

This is a guide for businesses and organizations looking to send invoices, get paid faster, and reduce their accounts receivable. We cover everything you need to know about creating and sending invoices as well as how to text an invoice.

In this small business invoicing guide you’ll learn:

  1. Why process makes small business invoicing faster
  2. When to send an Invoice
  3. Tips for faster invoice collection
  4. What to include in an invoice
  5. How invoice templates save time
  6. How to send an invoice
  7. Texting invoices vs. emailing invoices
  8. How to text an invoice (with free templates)
  9. How to email an invoice (with free templates)
  10. How to set up invoice collection campaigns
  11. How to collect late payments
  12. Top small business invoicing software

Read on for more.

Chapter 1

Why Process Makes Small Business Invoicing Faster

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You hustle and you’re serious about the work you do. There's no reason why you shouldn’t get paid on time. But you need processes in place to start streamlining your payment collection.

The first step in your process is to eliminate surprises. Your conversations about pricing should also include payment terms.

Making your payment terms clear and concise can save you and your customers a lot of time. It’ll answer questions up-front and keeps things transparent. Your terms should also be accessible (digitally or otherwise) and spell out exactly when and how your customers will pay.

Payment terms should explain:

  • Payment due date
  • Acceptable payment forms e.g. cash, credit card, etc.
  • Acceptable forms of currency (if you work across borders)
  • Potential late-payment fees
  • How to pay online (if you send invoices electronically)

When to send an invoice

Your cash flow is the first thing to consider when you create a billing schedule. If you’re like most businesses, you’ll want a steady cash flow over the month to weather ups and downs.

Many businesses send invoices after filling an order or completing a job. This is best for lower-volume, big, contracted projects typically with work orders. You’ll get paid faster if you collect payment immediately or send an invoice when the work gets done.

Businesses with subscription-oriented, recurring services, or retainer contracts will need to send a higher volume of invoices at regular intervals. To get paid faster in these cases, you’ll want to consider implementing invoice automation software (more on that later).

Tips for a faster invoice collection process

There’s almost no good reason to physically mail an invoice. Nearly everyone has an email or a smartphone with some way to contact them. Here are some tips for faster digital invoicing.

1. Send digital copies of your invoice. An uneditable PDF at the very least creates a clear record and keeps everything transparent. You can also find free PDF invoice templates for Microsoft Word, Excel, and Google Docs, and Sheets on the web. We have some suggestions below.

2. Automate with accounting software. There are several excellent small business accounting software solutions QuickBooks Online and Xero. Each can help you automate your accounting, accounts receivable collection, and more.

Suggested Article: The Ultimate Guide to QuickBooks Online Invoicing

3. Follow up after sending your first invoice. Checking if your customer got your invoice and that they understand what it’s for can improve time to payment. It also shows that you’re serious about getting paid. Consider following up via text, email, or voice.

4. Send links to a payment portal tied to a merchant services provider. A link can take your customer to a payment portal handled by a secure, third-party, merchant services provider like Stripe. This lets your customer pay immediately via a credit card, debit card, or automated clearing house (ACH). Some will send automated invoices via email.

Chapter 2

What to Include in an Invoice

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An invoice should include the following information:

  • Invoice title
  • Invoice number
  • Your business logo
  • Your business name and address
  • Customer contact details
  • Customer purchase order number or reference number
  • Description of goods or services provided
  • Quantity and price of goods or services (including applicable tax)
  • Total amount to pay
  • Your payment terms
  • Payment due date
  • Tax identification number (TIN) - if applicable

Why invoice templates save time

Invoice creation can take a lot of time. Even if you’re just copying and pasting, someone in your office has to type customer information or calculate totals.

The way to save you and your people’s time is to use an invoice template. Certain information like your business information isn’t likely to change. Plus, a branded invoice can contribute to your company’s professionalism and overall image.

You can also use a free invoice generator (like the following). These work well if you don’t have the time or graphic design capability to create your own invoice template.

Free Invoice Template Generators:

  1. [QuickBooks Online Invoice Template Generator]
  2. [Xero Invoice Template Generator]
  3. [FreshBooks Invoice Template Generator]
  4. [Shopify Invoice Template Generator]
  5. [PayPal Invoice Template Generator]
  6. [Hubspot Invoice Template Generator]
  7. [Zoho Invoice Template Generator]

If you aren’t already sending invoices digitally, you should be. The best ways to send an invoice are by texting your customer or emailing them. Email is the standard for invoices. But you can actually get better open and response rates by texting your customers a link to pay their invoice.

Before you send an invoice you’ll want to determine your customer’s preference for messaging. Knowing if they have an accounts payable department can also speed up the process.

You could save a lot of time by sending your invoice to the right person at the right time. Quoting a purchase order number or other relevant information in the subject line can help too.

Texting invoices vs. emailing invoices

Compared to text messages, emails don’t typically get high engagement rates. Many wind up in the trash before they even get opened. While invoices are more urgent than normal mail, emails get around a 20% open rate and about a 6% response rate.

Text messages typically perform better (especially for invoicing). With a text, you might see up to a 98% open rate and a 45% response rate. That’s how texting invoices can get you paid faster - better engagement.

How to text an invoice

Some business text messaging apps (like MessageDesk) will integrate directly with your accounting software and sync all of your open invoices.

Once you sync your open invoices you can quickly text a link to the full invoice. Your customer then receives your invoice text message and clicks on the link to view the invoice and enter their payment.

As a best practice, you’ll want to personalize your invoice with tags like {{ FirstName }}. For a text, it’s important to keep things friendly but to the point. Thank your customer for their purchase or use of your service. Then include a short link to the invoice directly in the text message.

Some text messaging platforms will shorten links for you. For others, you’ll want to use a link shortener like bitly to save on characters.

BONUS: Text messages can also get you more reviews. If you’re already sending an invoice text message to a happy customer, why not ask them for a review? It’s easy to include a link to a review site in your text message and save it as a template.

Suggested Article: The Ultimate Guide to Google Reviews (2020)

Text Message Invoice Templates

Hi {{ FirstName }} thanks for using {{ OrganizationName }}. We know we have a choice and appreciate your business. Here’s a link to your invoice payment for {{ InvoiceAmount }} due on {{ PaymentDueDate }}: [ invoice link ]. Feel free to review our services on Google: [ Google Reviews link ]

Hi {{ FirstName }}, It’s {{ OrganizationName }}. This is a reminder that your credit card on file will be charged {{ InvoiceAmount }} on 3/25 for your monthly renewal. If you have any questions, please reply via text or call us at {{ OrganizationPhone }}

Suggested Article: How to Text an Invoice with MessageDesk

How to send an invoice via email

Every small business accounting software will help you generate an invoice and email it to your customer.

The subject line is the only other thing to consider when you email an invoice. A clear and direct subject line can improve your message open and engagement rates and get the invoice paid faster.

There’s also no need to elaborate in the body of the email. But you might consider adding a link to leave a review in the footer.

Here’s a sample invoice email:

Hi {{ FirstName }},
Thanks for your recent purchase. Here’s {{ InvoiceNumber }}, from {{ OrganizationName }}. Your payment of {{ InvoiceAmount }} is due on {{ PaymentDueDate }}. Thanks again your business.
P.S. Feel free to rate your experience on Google
[ signature ]

You’re all set up to email and text invoices, but what happens when overdue invoices start piling up? For many businesses, following up and sending payment reminders can be soul-crushing work.

Online invoicing software like QuickBooks Online and Xero will help. But you’ll also need to think more broadly about your invoice collection campaigns.

An invoice collection campaign should be part of your invoicing process. It’ll start when a job or service is complete and will only conclude once a customer pays the invoice.

Campaigns can last from 1 to 30 days. The length will depend on your business and how many days overdue you allow for invoices.
The keys to these campaigns are automation and instructive calls to action (CTAs). Both help you automate your messaging and make your invoice collection process more agile.

Calls to action in your automated messages tell a customer how to pay and eliminate confusion. Every time you send an invoice reminder, you want to include a link and clear text like “Pay Now” to eliminate confusion. The easier it is for a customer to pay an invoice, the more likely it will get paid on time.

Suggested Article: Guide to Automated Text Messages

Sample invoice collection campaign

  • Day 1: email and text link to invoice
  • Day 2: text invoice reminder
  • Day 3: text invoice reminder
  • Day 5: text invoice reminder
  • Day 7: email and text link to invoice
  • Day 9: call customer

In most cases, your accounting software can keep a list of all your invoices and watch for bank deposits that match payments. If an invoice goes unpaid on its due date, the accounting software will automatically send a pre-written email invoice reminder.

You can also use a small business invoice app (like MessageDesk) to send text messages instead of email.

Voice calls should be your last resort before going to collections.

Invoice Reminder Templates

Hi {{ FirstName }}, it’s {{ OrganizationName }}. We just wanted to remind you that your credit card on file will be charged {{ InvoiceAmount }} on {{ PaymentDueDate }} for your monthly renewal. If you have any questions, please reply via text or call us at {{ OrganizationPhone }}.

Hi {{ FirstName }}, please remember that your invoice for {{ InvoiceAmount }} is due tomorrow {{ PaymentDueDate }}. Let us know if you have any questions.

Hi {{ FirstName }}, our records indicate that your account has a balance of {{ InvoiceAmount }} that was due on {{ PaymentDueDate }}. Please make a payment by visiting our online payment portal [ invoice link ].

How to collect late payments

Dunning is the technical term for accounts receivable collection. Dunning includes all of the steps from following up on invoice payments to working with a payment collection agency.

In most cases, you shouldn’t need a payment collection agency to get a customer to pay their bill. Should this need arise, there are a number of collections agencies as well as some slick dunning options like Collbox.

Collbox syncs with your accounting software. This lets you see how much you’re owed to place delinquent accounts into collections. Collbox will work on your behalf with a network of collections agencies to collect on open invoices and get you paid.