You’ve done a great job for your client and now you need to send across your invoice. Here’s how to make it look super professional and as simple and straightforward to pay as possible.
THE PROBLEM WITH running a creative business is that it isn’t entirely about how great you are behind the camera and how strong your technical skills happen to be. You can be a brilliant practitioner, but unless you’re completely on top of the business and the financial side of things you could well find yourself struggling with your cashflow.
First off, you’ve got to become hardnosed but realistic about the value of your services and learn to charge what you’re worth but also with consideration of what the market will bear. We covered this in detail last month, but that’s only the first stage of the process. Once a client has agreed to your prices and been delighted with your service, it’s time to send across your invoice, and this can be a process that many photographers struggle with.
It’s crucial to be focused on staying on top of invoicing and, strange as it might seem when it appears most freelancers are constantly keeping a wary eye on the state of their bank balance, this often isn’t done in an efficient way. Administration is an essential, but not especially enjoyable, part of the job, and you can find that the more alluring tasks will distract you from getting your invoices out in a timely manner.
Then there’s the question of how you present your invoice, and if you want to appear like a professional business then it’s important that every aspect of your operation has to look top notch, and that includes your invoices. So don’t fudge something together using limited design skills or cheap-looking templates, but take a little extra time to make what you’re sending over look professional. Invest in having someone design up a bespoke logo for your business if you can’t put one together yourself and make sure that this then becomes incorporated into all of your correspondence.
If invoicing really is giving you a headache then it could make sense to look for some expert help, and there are some excellent solutions out there that will speed up your cashflow no end without costing you a fortune. In fact, one of the best packages available for the small one-totwo-person business or the sole trader is completely free if you’re starting out and haven’t yet reached a high level of turnover, and it’s also ultra-simple to set up and use and will at a stroke take you to the next level of efficiency.
“Osu has been built to serve microbusinesses”, explains the company’s CEO and co-founder Noam Nevo. “These are freelancers, sole traders, selfemployed professionals, and people with a side hustle. Instead of needing to use multiple separate tools that are often designed for SMBs, they can use Osu knowing that the platform was designed specifically with their needs in mind.”
There are a number of bigname packages out there, such as Quickbooks and Square, that can do a great job of managing accounts or taking payments, but they’re not truly built to serve
individuals and small business owners. An operation that’s just getting going might need a helping hand rather than a big operator that, in the case of Quickbooks, is a comprehensive accountancy tool for SMBs or, as with Stripe and PayPal, solely a means of collecting payments, with transaction fees attached.
The beauty of a product like Osu is that if you’re taking on just a handful of jobs as you find your feet then the service is completely free, providing that you’re invoicing for less than £1,000 a month and sending out no more than ten invoices in that period. As you get established, you can move up to the Plus Plan and invoice up to £6,500 a month with up to 100 monthly invoices for a fee of £9.99 a month, or go for the Pro package where the cost is £19.99 a month and you can invoice as many clients as you like, with a limit set to £20,000.
Going back to the point about the potentially dull, though essential, nature of admin, the best of the online systems are there to simplify things so that it never becomes a chore that’s at risk of becoming neglected. Osu, for example, makes it possible to create and send invoices in under 30 seconds, while clients can pay in just three clicks, without even needing to download the app. And with Osu’s account-to-account payment technology, once payment has been made it reaches your bank account instantly and you get 100% of the money since there are no transaction fees to be factored into the equation.
You can even set the system to chase payments if necessary, but although this can be a useful feature that saves you the task of remembering to do it yourself, it’s one that needs to be used judiciously, since it’s important, especially with valued clients, to retain a personal touch. You need to judge each transaction individually and go gently if the circumstances call for it, perhaps with a valued client that you might appreciate is under financial pressure at that time and just needs a little more time to pay.
“We see small businesses working in different ways and there’s no one set approach that suits every situation, ” agrees Noam. “For some, the impersonal nature of an automated reminder to pay that’s clearly system-generated takes things a further step away from them and it can mean that their clients are less likely to take a chase personally. If you’ve got a long-standing relationship with a client, however, it can be better to add some personal touches.
“There are three elements regarding how invoices can be personalised. First, in addition to displaying key information, such as their business’s name, address, VAT number etc, Osu users can also upload their business logo, so that it appears on their invoices. Secondly, users can choose how invoices are sent – by text message, email or both – and they can change this for each client. Finally, it’s also possible for users to fully customise the body of the text or email message, giving them control over how their invoices are communicated.”
The most successful small businesses are those that are rounded, that combine a strong creative side and great customer relations with strong discipline and a system in place for sending out invoices in good time and then chasing them without antagonising clients should they be a little tardy in paying their bills. The aim of every good business is always to have a great relationship with those they’re working with and to encourage repeat business wherever possible.
Just think about things from your own perspective. If you’ve engaged someone to do a job for you and you’re happy with how it turned out, you would expect to receive an invoice shortly after the job was signed off. If you were then a little slow to pay you wouldn’t be unduly surprised to receive a polite reminder in due course enquiring when the bill might be settled. If it’s handled in a highly professional way, you wouldn’t fall out with the provider and never use them again, so treat your clients the way you would like to be treated yourself and you won’t go far wrong.
© 2021, Professional Photo Magazine and Respective content owners.. All rights reserved.