Client Billing: How to Collect & Automate Payments for Your Service
Start invoicing, click send via email, and receive money—client billing is that easy, right? If you’re using modern tools such as SPP, automation ensures that you no longer have to chase payments. Sadly, not everyone is making use of this type of software. They still invoice manually, have to check if the money has hit their bank account, and follow-up via email.
Not only does this manual way of invoicing cause a lot of extra work for service providers, it also doesn’t give off a very professional vibe. After all, clients enjoy automation and uncomplicated processes just as much as you.
Let’s take a look at the process of client billing, how you can bill your clients both online and on a recurring basis (monthly), and how to automate the process.
What does client billing mean?
Every service provider should be aware of general billing practices to ensure that they are
getting paid on time,
ask for money the right way,
reduce time by automating processes.
Small businesses and freelancers are often swept up by other tasks when they launch their activities. When they have to draft their first invoice, they’re unsure what to do next. How do they ensure that the new client will find the invoice satisfactory? Do I need to keep anything in mind if the client is from a different country? Questions upon questions that you should clarify before you create an invoice.
Protect yourself with a written contract
We’ve already talked about the right format for billing client for money in a blog post. When it comes to billing clients for services, you need to keep in mind that many other companies will have their own set of rules. Some pay invoices within 30 days, others want to split your service into multiple payments.
It’s up to you if you want to agree to their terms, or if you create your own, and ask them to accept them.
As a freelancer, it might make sense to ask for upfront payments, especially when it comes to new clients. Once you’ve established a partnership, you can ease up on your terms.
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In either case, a written contract for ongoing projects is always a good idea to have. Detail the agreement both parties have, including the billing process and timeline.
Use or create an invoice template
With the contract out of the way, the next step to bill a client is to create a template you can use every time for your invoicing activities. There are a multitude of free templates available for popular software, such as Microsoft Office that you can use. If you’re a macOS user, Apple Numbers includes an invoice template under the Business section that you can select from the file browser when you launch the app.
The benefit of using ready-made templates is that they already include relevant billing information that should be on the invoice, so there’s less margin for error. The only thing left to do is to fill in the client details, and you’re ready to go.
An alternative to manual invoicing is to use dedicated apps, which are available for different operating systems, or as an online software. Some of them target service providers, freelancers, or those living in a specific country. The billing requirements in European countries are often very different from those in the U.S., so it makes sense to use a software that ensures that your invoices are compliant with local laws.
The third option is to use an all-in-one platform that helps you sell your services, and also takes care of the billing—such as Service Provider Pro. If you don’t rely on contracts and proposals because you’ve productized your services, our software makes selling your services much easier.
Provide a client interface to pay invoices
Modern invoicing software (such as SPP) integrate with payment processors (Stripe, PayPal, etc.), to make getting paid very easy. Instead of having to chase after payments, or manually checking your bank account, invoices are automatically marked as paid. Plus, there’s very little chance that the payment is sent to the wrong bank account due to typos.
For international clients, it’s also more convenient to pay via an online form via card instead of sending money via a wire transfer, which just adds extra costs for them. That being said, payment processors do take a percentage fee, so the convenience has to be paid by someone, in this case, you.
In the end, you have to decide if you prefer the convenience over manually billing every client, and making sure there are no late payments. Those can quickly cause issues with your cash flow, especially if you run an agency and need to stay on top of your own payments.
Set up seamless recurring payments
Agencies often work on a retainer basis, which is a fixed monthly amount they invoice manually. If you’re one of them, or are a freelancer who also works on a fixed-fee basis, why not set up recurring payments instead?
SPP facilitates these types of payments, but you can also set them up in Stripe. Simply create a recurring invoice, ask the client to pay via card, and Stripe sets up a subscription that is charged automatically. You can even upgrade clients to a different plan, or cancel the subscription if requested.
The advantage is that you’ll no longer have to remember to create an invoice, send it to the client, and ask them to pay it every month.
Recurring payments work very well for agencies and freelancers providing fixed services, for instance, a certain number of blog articles every month. It does get a bit more complicated if your work is based on hours. Think about switching to a fixed retainer model instead, if your work allows for it. If not, there might be a potential to automate the invoicing if the time tracking software you use can be linked to it.
The invoicing process has been made easier thanks to templates and software that take manual work off your hands. There’s still potential to optimize client billing if you offer your services on a retainer or recurring basis. With that said, you shouldn’t be required to send out invoices manually or chase payments anymore—modern solutions take care of it for you.