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The Buck Stops Here: How to Make Invoicing Less Excruciating

July 29, 2013
URL: http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/229072

Like it or not, for many entrepreneurs invoicing comes with the territory of being an entrepreneur.

When I first ventured out on my own in the world of public relations, I had tunnel vision of sorts. I naively thought all I would have to worry about is doing PR. I was in for a rude awakening.

If I was going to run my business, I quickly realized I had to become a jack-of-all-trades. I had to learn a whole slew of new skills that they don’t teach in college, one being accounting.  I have never been a numbers person (hence, why I work in PR), so the invoicing part of running a business was challenging.

However, I learned very quickly that I need to submit invoices to get paid, providing me the cash flow I need to keep by company fifteen media alive. It took me many years, but I finally have a somewhat painless invoicing system that gets the job done.

Here are four tips for making the whole process easier:

1. Keep up with your time as you work.
Since I work in a service-based industry and charge an hourly rate, I have to keep very detailed records of my time. It is a lot easier to track my time as I go along, rather than scramble to remember everything when invoices are due. As soon as I have completed a task for a client, I record the number of hours and a brief description of what I have accomplished.

While it might be annoying to do this the first few dozen times, in the end, it saves a great deal of pain. There is no way you can remember all the tasks you have completed if you don’t record everything right away.

Related: 4 Start-Up Account Tips for the Young Trep

2. Stick to a schedule.
When I bring on new clients, I let them know I bill bi-weekly. By making them aware of my system, there are no surprises, and it makes me adhere to the two-week time frame.

By sticking to a schedule, not only does this keep you organized, it helps you plan financially. Since I can expect to get paid every other week, I know when I can pay my bills or when I can afford big purchases.

3. Find an invoicing program.
For the past three years, I had been sending invoices in the most amateur way possible. I would have an Excel spreadsheet for each client, where I would record the time. Then, when it was time to bill, I would send clients the Excel workbook, along with a Word document for the final amount. About two months ago, I finally saw the light and started using FreshBooks. No joke, my life has been transformed. Having everything in one place makes the process of sending invoices so much simpler.

Because of the innovation in technology, there are now so many inexpensive accounting programs available that will fit your startup's needs.

4. Stay on top of when you are paid.
I am sure when you started your own business, you never thought you could eventually add bill collector to your resume. Get used to your new job title. You will spend a lot of time hunting people down to get paid. Most of time, people aren’t trying to not pay you. They just forgot to drop the check in the mail, lost the invoice or what have you.

Related: Your Startup's Top 3 Most Trusted Accounting Allies

If you haven’t received your check within a timely matter, follow up. The sooner you touch base the better. You don’t want to wait months to get paid. When I have a client that owes me money, I send a friendly reminder every few weeks. You put in the work, you deserve to get paid.

What other tips do you have for making invoicing easier? Let us know in the comments below.