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I’m Jacob Cass, the founder of JUST™ Creative. I’m a multi-disciplinary graphic designer, working with clients all around the world. My specialty is logo & brand identity design. JUST™ Get in touch.

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How To Invoice Effectively to Avoid Poor Cash Flow

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A business goes through a lot right from the start to keep it’s head up among fellow competitors. Among the many problems faced, cash flow is the biggest issue that causes over 70% of start-ups – including freelancers – to go down within the initial year.

While there could be many factors governing the cash flow, invoicing happens to be the most critical in the list. Therefore, it is important for a business to invoice effectively and avoid any dreaded late payments. So, here’s a brief guide on how freelancers & small businesses can invoice effectively to keep their cash flow healthy.

Cash Flow

Require An Upfront Deposit

This is probably my best tip to best manage your cash flow. To start any work, you should get an initial deposit and a signed contract.  I usually require a 50% deposit or 30% for larger projects. See further business tips for designers here.

Get the Final Deposit Before Delivery of Files

To ensure you get paid, you can state in your contract that the full deposit must be made before delivery of final files. As long as the client is pleased with your work, this will ensure you will get paid. See tips on how to go about pricing your work here.

Make your Invoices Look Complete

Example Invoice

Example Invoice

An invoice that looks complete is paid the fastest. Any invoice that you send, should clearly state that it’s an invoice, which should be written at the top. Other information may include company’s name, address, contact number, and business number if applicable. The name and the address of the client should also be there.

Your invoice should include the products/services provided, date of delivery, date of invoice, tax, interest charges, and the total amount charged.

There are some great invoicing tools out there such as Invoicera which you should check out. You can see other software & hardware I use here.

Send Invoices on Time

Clients are the main source of income for any company, however, clients don’t serve the purpose when they don’t pay on time. That is why it is advised to send a prompt invoice upon the delivery of a service, or a product. I often leave this until the client is happy with the end product / design so it doesn’t seem like you’re a money-hungry scrounge.

Don’t Let the Flow Lose its Path

Your clients may start-off with timely payments initially, however, in the long term they are more likely to drift away from the path and start delaying payments. You must keep an eye on this by levying late fee or interest charges, if a payment is delayed.

While this can also be tackled with a prompt payment invoice, you could also bring in a ‘promise to pay system’ within your contract, so that the client is bound to pay within a specified period.

Piggy Bank

Invoice in Parts

Invoicing in parts is a great technique to ensure timely payments and works in favor of both parties. Clients usually contemplate a lot before paying a lump sum amount however, they won’t have to think as much when asked for a partial payment. Like I mentioned before, I require a 50% or 30% deposit upfront. You, as a vendor would also be benefited with this technique as partial payments will keep your business running and cash flow smooth. Partial payments can also help when scope creeping comes up.

Agree on the Terms Before Work Begins

The key to this point is that negotiation or terms of any kind should be clearly understood by both the parties before engaging in any work. If a client tries to move away from the previously mentioned terms while in the process, there’s a need to react before any further business deal or delivery of files.

Give your Clients a Reason to Pay, not to Delay

Clients will often have excuses for an untimely payment. You could come across a number of excuses like, “I never received your email” or “I have sent a cheque, let me know if you don’t receive it within a couple of days”.

To avoid hearing excuses, you should send timely reminders, around 3 to 4 days before a payment is due. You can do this automatically with online invoicing services or another manual way is to use an email reminder service such as FollowUpThen.

Sending reminders gets the client to take immediate action. Another way to tackle this would be giving a discount on a timely payment encouraging them to skip excuses and pay on time.

How do you manage your cash flow and invoicing?

Photo Credits: Roger Smith, Alan Cleaver cc


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27 JUST™ Creative Comments

  • Jekin Reply

    This will really help me a lot. Thanks Jacob. You are really awesome!

  • Dreb Reply

    Awesomeness! Thanks for the tips, Jacob.

  • Richard Baird Reply

    Great article! Thanks for sharing, Jacob.

  • Ali Reply

    Great Tips, will surely apply … really awesome !!!

  • matthew-b Reply

    Yes, small discount for timely payment works great. Thanks for tips!

  • Rahat @WeeklyDesignGrind.com Reply

    The biggest problem I faced when I first got my first design client was that they weren’t paying the full amount. The solution I found was to have a contract that enforces everything on this post.

    As a graphic designer, you should be paid for what you do. Don’t be afraid to talk about money. The sooner you talk about it, the sooner you’ll be able to get it over and done with. Which means… more time for you to do what you do best. Design.

  • Barry Woodhall Reply

    Great tip and just at the right time for me.

    During my short time of invoicing clients the only problem that I’ve come across is getting the client to pay the initial 50% to show their commitment to the project, once this has been received everything else has gone smoothly so far (touch wood).

    Thanks for the tips.

    BW

  • Chris Jackson Reply

    Invoice management is time consuming and labor intensive. If you have a huge business, it’ll be a source of headache. Using invoice management software helps simplify things.

  • Javier Reply

    Great post Jacob, PAYMENTS… that is a hard part for any freelancer, something that helps me to release this pain is getting paid for the time worked, I never start working without a downpayment , in case we have a problem with the additional invoices, no big deal, the project is paused until we clarify the situation, things happen and I understand that, but if the delay persists after a month our agreement is expired, in the case the clients wants to reactivated our agreement later, there is a fee and we will continue, otherwise, it is obvious that the clients won’t have the rights to unfinished artwork and since he paid me for the worked time refunds are not allowed.

  • Tim Carpenter Reply

    Thanks for the tips. We follow most of this, but we need a better looking invoice!

  • Amit Reply

    hey jacob, please tell me how to disable commenter’s avatar image?

  • amit Reply

    Hi Jacob,
    now is nothing copied any article on our website from your website. what you think if any designer use megenta color on own website. it’s plagiarsm?
    yes i’m accepting i have use megenta color, but its not copy of branding, I’ve removed everything every content which was copied from you website and i’m apologized for this, i’ve change our logo as well. what you want now. can i down my website? as like you i’m also a designer so articles subjects would be same.

    thanks

    • Jacob Cass Reply

      Hello Amit,

      The whole idea of the brand using ‘JUSTamazing, JUSTcreative JUSTdezine’ has been copied from my branding and also uses the magenta color and brand aesthetic. This is deceiving to consumers and is building upon the brand equity and ideas that I have invested & created for my company.

      I have screenshots of the exact logo you originally copied (now you’ve changed), the entire articles you copy pasted, and entire paragraphs of copy that you’ve used on other pages. You even went as far as using my own office photo in your articles, photoshopping out my name and putting in your own business name… how can you live with yourself by doing this? You also use the same pencil shape for the images that I used for my branding over 5 years ago.

      What I don’t understand is that you clearly have some development skills to create this website, but why copy the entire brand idea, color, words and articles? At the very least change the colors and come up with something that does not look like a rip of someone else’s brand.

      I hope you can do this, thanks Amit.

  • Tran Buckingham Reply

    Thanks for the tips. We follow most of this, but we need a better looking invoice!

  • Otha Pettis Reply

    Invoice management is time consuming and labor intensive. If you have a huge business, it’ll be a source of headache. Using invoice management software helps simplify things.

  • Yuk Flemming Reply

    During my short time of invoicing clients the only problem that I’ve come across is getting the client to pay the initial 50% to show their commitment to the project, once this has been received everything else has gone smoothly so far (touch wood).

  • sunidi Reply

    Awesomeness! Thanks for the tips, Jacob.

  • Courtney Cooper Reply

    On orders under $250, I require the full payment. I never start a project until a contract has been signed and money has been exchanged. I make sure all clients have read over the contracts and read the Terms of Service.

  • Tom Durkin Reply

    Useful tips thanks a lot! I also ask for 50% up front and then the final amount on delivery, however I’m going to be more cautious about sending the finished product over after reading this.

  • Sandro Reply

    Thanks Jacob for tackling this, I always ask for a commitment fee but get demoralised when clients make late payments. Now I will be asking for 50% for such clients.

  • elizabeth Reply

    nice post Jacob and good to see something fresh on just creative blog. i accept that it is really essential to keep the Cash Flow smoothly going for business success. thanks jacob for great tips to maintain cash flow in business.


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