No matter what your business does, getting paid is crucial. Sometimes, though, it gets missed in guides to business success. Knowing your audience, making a plan and setting up a killer marketing campaign are all important, but none of that means anything if you don’t have a reliable system for asking for and receiving payments.
This is where invoicing comes in. In this article, we’ll run through the things you need to include in your invoices to help ensure you get paid on time and in full.
How Should My Invoices Look?
Designing an invoice from scratch can be hard. There are some things that every invoice should include and we’ll list them below. First, though, it’s worth considering some basic principles of invoice design.
Invoices should be:
- Easy to read
A good invoice will help to paint a positive picture of your company. Consistent branding helps with this and makes it easier for clients to know at a glance who the invoice is from. Above all else, though, invoices should be clear and clean. Always remember the purpose of an invoice: to get paid. To this end, you should aim to create invoices that any reader can look at and immediately know who, how and when to pay.
What Should My Invoices Include?
Firstly, make sure you identify your document as an invoice. An invoice carries a clear obligation to pay and you don’t want yours getting confused with a different sort of document like a receipt or a quote.
Names and addresses
Include the following details for you and your customer or client:
- Business or trading name
- Contact details
The rules are slightly different for sole traders and limited companies. Sole traders must include their own name, for instance, while limited companies only need the company name and don’t need to include the names of directors.
Description of goods and services
Your client needs to know what they’re paying for. Keep this simple and concise: don’t clog up your invoices with in-depth descriptions of each individual good and service. Instead, note them briefly and cleanly, using a separate line for each.
Individual and total amounts
Alongside your list of goods and services, you should list the cost for each individual item. This helps clients easily understand what they’re paying for and can help avoid delays due to queries over cost.
There are a few ways to approach this. If you provided multiple similar items at the same price, for instance, you might group them together and provide a subtotal. If you’re unsure on how to format your invoice, you can read guides and download templates online.
Once you’ve clearly shown your itemised costs, make sure to include the total amount due. This should be clearly and prominently displayed, and should stand out as one of the first things your client sees.
Dates of supply and invoice
Include both the date of supply for each item and the date that you sent the invoice. The former helps your clients track the goods and services they received. The latter, meanwhile, is crucial to getting paid, as it sets a deadline for payment terms. If your invoice requires payment within 30 days, for instance, this only corresponds to an actual date if you note when the invoice was sent.
Unique invoice number
Attach a unique number to each invoice you send. This is vital to keeping track of your payments and bank references. It’s also easy to miss when you’re just starting out, as you’re likely not dealing with enough invoices for this to be an issue. Don’t fall into the trap of neglecting this, though: being able to keep track of your invoices only gets more important as you grow your business.
There is no one way to number your invoices – each business constructs its own system. To come up with yours, follow these helpful tips:
- Use sequential numbers
- Base the numbering in the date (eg. ‘1121’ for November 2021)
- Use letters to distinguish between invoices on the same date
Finally, your invoices need to tell your clients how and when to pay. Your itemised and total costs tell them how much they owe, but you also need to clearly outline the terms of payment. These terms will have been agreed upon ahead of time, and the invoice is simply a formal statement of them. You can use a due date or simply require payment within a set period – 30 days is common.
When it comes to how to pay, the most common approach is to include your bank details in your invoice. Noting your account number and sort code will allow your clients to send you BACS payments, and providing the information up front will make it far simpler for them.
Invoicing is simple but important. We hope this article helps you understand what to include in your invoices and why.