5 Ways to Improve Your Invoice

October 11, 2012
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Your invoice is a lot more important than you think. It’s not just your method of getting paid, or a way to keep track of things for your taxes. An invoice is potentially your last contact with a client, it’s your last chance to impress them, your last chance to get them thinking. Your invoice isn’t just a bit of paper relegated to realm of billing and other boring stuff, it’s your send off, your finale. So take a look at your current invoice right now. Does it say “goodbye” or “see you soon?”.

If your invoice has been a bit of an after thought, or one of those “I’ll get around to it soon” projects, then perhaps it’s time to blow the dust of it and get it working for you. Below are five ways you can ramp up the effectiveness of your invoice and turn it into a real tool for boosting your client retention rates.

1. Design

This should really go without saying for a designer, but you would be surprised just how many invoices I receive from designers and artists I hire that look like trash. Well, ok, maybe trash is a little harsh, but they are very very dull. One of the greatest skills of a graphic designer is that they can take something ordinary and dull and make it look amazing and interesting, yet when it comes to stuff like their contracts and invoices so many just churn them out on Word templates. This is literally something I cannot get my head around, what kind of message does it send to a client when your website, your portfolio, your business card all look amazing, but then the invoice is just naff and boring? Well I imagine they’ll be thinking that now you’re getting paid, you don’t need to impress them any more. Nice. I bet that client went away feeling really special… you’ll definitely be hearing from them again… It’s just common sense, so pull your finger out and come up with an impressive design. (Click to Tweet this!)

2. Thanks

When I first got started with Hunting Town I felt almost guilty for sending out a PDF that basically said “YOU PAY ME NOW!”

Invoices are generally not friendly things, and when I first got started with Hunting Town I felt almost guilty for sending out a PDF that basically said “YOU PAY ME NOW!”. I know that the message that I really wanted to get across to these clients was that I was grateful for their business, not that I needed some cash from them right away, so that’s what I decided to put at the top of my invoice. If you hire Hunting Town today, you’ll receive an invoice that has a huge “THANK YOU” scrawled across the top, that clients can’t help but see before the actual bill. Hopefully, this makes them feel a little better when they open up the invoice, but even if it doesn’t – it certainly makes me feel a lot more comfortable in sending it.

3. Help

As I mentioned earlier, an invoice can often represent the end of your current relationship with a client, which when you’re a designer, is something you never really want to happen. What you need to be doing is keeping in touch with your clients and staying at the forefront of their mind. One of the best ways I’ve found of achieving this is to put a simple offer of help on my invoices. Basically you just want your client to know that if they have any questions about the work you did for them, or if they need that logo as a PNG, that they can drop you a line without fear of being hit with another bill. By this point you should be way past the point of major alterations, so offering a few free little tweaks if needed can often help cement a strong relationship with a client.

4. Referral

To them, you are a hero, their first born son will bear your name

Every now and again, you’ll get an amazing client who is just crazy crazy grateful for the work that you’ve done for them. Their project has turned out amazing and your invoice is not even half of what they had budgeted. To them, you are a hero, their first born son will bear your name. Granted, these are rare, but they’re a very nice treat when they come along. I even once had a client who was so impressed by my work, he paid me £100 extra on my invoice (although I then had to make out another invoice for the bonus so it didn’t look like a tax dodge!). Now that’s very rare example, and more often than not it’s the case that these clients will send you a lovely email, spin round on their chair, tell their wife you’re awesome and maybe tell their buddy at the bar too. Now that’s nice, but it doesn’t really help you out. What I do on the Hunting Town invoice is put in the simple line “the greatest thank you you can give us is a recommendation“. This way the client instantly knows that if they really want to help me out, they can brag about me to other professionals, and every now and again, I get a brand new client in through this process.

5. Offer

One thing everyone is keeping their eyes peeled for in the current climate is a good deal, so if you want to try and bag some repeat business from a client, then you need to give them an offer they can’t refuse. A great way of doing this is by offering a discount or other incentive for the client to hire you again. Maybe a 10% discount, or if they recommend you to a new client their next project if half price? Obviously you have a better idea of how your business works than I do and what deals will best benefit you, so have a think about it. If a client is on the edge over whether or not to embark on a new project with you, something simple like a 10% discount could tip them over the edge in your favour.

Hopefully you’ll have found a few new ways to improve your invoice by now, so make sure you employ them! If you’ve done anything interesting with your portfolios then I’d really love to hear about it (I’m always looking for ways to make mine even better!). Likewise if you have any questions about how to work these ideas into your current invoice, you can hit me up in the comments below.

Photo Credit to kozumel

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is owner of Hunting Town Design, a small design house based in Manchester UK specialising in Graphic Design and Illustration. Alex is also the founder and editor of The Design Range. Find out more about Alex on his website or follow him on twitter.
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