Prioritizing your client interactions is a no-brainer, right?
So why do several agency owners ease up on their white-glove service when it comes to billing the client?
Clients demand strong and healthy relationships. And what is one of the biggest reasons personal relationships fail?
Part of fostering strong business relationships is establishing healthy boundaries around topics like billing. That's why managing client expectations doesn't just stop at your skilled services or product offering, but how well you handle payments, billing, and pricing structures too.
To make sure you know how to bill a client appropriately and confidently, we'll cover the essential steps to get you started.
In this blog, we’ll focus on some of the most important things to keep in mind as you send out invoices and collect payments from your clients. Read on to learn how to bill a client the right way:
1. Set up clear expectations with a written contract
When starting out, many small business owners might think that setting up contracts is too complicated, or that it requires more legal experience than what they have. However, contracts are necessary for billing your clients properly — and for ensuring that you receive payment for your services.
A freelance contract should outline the important details of your relationship with a client and provide specifics on the billing amount, practices, and timelines. And, since both you and the client agree to the contract, you have a clear frame of reference to fall back on throughout your working and professional relationship.
If you don’t have a contract with a client, you should set one up as soon as you can. It protects both parties from miscommunications and mistakes and gives you both proof of billing terms and any other details of your business relationship in the event of legal action.
Make it easier on yourself
Creating a client contract doesn’t require a law degree or a detailed understanding of legal practices in your industry. There are many free contract templates you can adapt into a working contract for your freelance business — just make sure that you include details about billing amounts, who gets paid, and how payments will be made.
Which goes perfectly into our next step!
2. Develop an invoice template and make sure it includes contact info
Every client is different. There are differences in their billing rates, in what type of work you do for them, in how they are billed, and in other contract terms.
However, creating an invoice from scratch for each client isn’t the best use of your time, and can make billing your clients an unnecessarily complicated task.
Creating an invoice template can help you cut down on some of the busy work in building out invoices for your clients. Generalize all the information that can stay the same, like your business’ billing address, contact information, and general terms, and then personalize the rest of the template the first time you send an invoice.
That information could include the specific line items you're billing for, the billing rate, payment terms, the client’s name, the hours on your timesheet, and the client’s address.
As you build a pattern of business with your clients, you’ll start to notice the areas of the contract that are the same each month and which still need consistent updates. Over time, you’ll create a process that allows you to quickly move through your invoices and send them out easily.
Use a template built with client work in mind
The Teamwork.com invoice tracker template allows you to create invoice templates that suit the unique needs of your business. You also get detailed reports about exactly what you're owed and who is behind on payments.
This allows you to stay up to date and stores all of your critical billing information in a single location so it’s easily accessible when you need it.
3. Accept multiple forms of payment
You never want your clients to jump through hoops in order to pay you. Offering multiple payment options makes the payment process easier for them, which makes the billing process easier for you. Consider accepting the following forms of payment:
Bank account transfers
When you allow different forms of payment, you make it easier for clients to use the form of payment that works best for them and their cash flow. This makes it easy for your clients to quickly send over their payments and makes them happier about the billing process.
After all, if a client is consistently frustrated by the way they need to pay you, they might find a different freelancer.
Automate your invoice process
You can also use automated invoicing software with built-in user experience optimizations to accept payments with a single click. These platforms can also remember card or bank information, and send automatic receipts and payment confirmations.
Automated invoicing platforms are a great way to remind clients of when payments are due, and let you send invoices without relying on unsecured networks.
4. Transfer clients to a retainer agreement with recurring payments
While month-to-month invoices might be necessary for some clients, you might want to consider moving some to retainer agreements. With retainer agreements, clients are set up to make recurring payments of the same amount every month.
While billing hourly might seem simpler than trying to create retainer contracts with your clients, there are many benefits to using retainer pricing models for your business.
With an hourly rate, it’s impossible to predict your exact revenue for each upcoming month or quarter, making it difficult to plan things like your next personnel hire or business investment. It’s also hard to scale up your business when you don’t have a great idea of what your six-month trajectory looks like.
Billing your clients on a retainer model lets you know exactly what you're earning each month. This also helps you and your client know exactly what is due each month and simplifies billing overall.
See how others are billing
If you aren’t sure how to bill clients as retainer clients, then look to your competition or similar businesses in your industry. Visit the payment pages on their websites and see if they have any public information about their retainer costs.
That can help give you a general idea of how to build your own retainer pricing models, and even lets you see what typical pricing in your industry looks like.
5. Consider using invoicing software for seamless payments
As mentioned earlier, there are many complications in the invoicing process that can make it hard for small businesses and freelancers to stay on top of their billing. Creating invoices, even when using templates, takes time that many people don’t have.
You also have to remember to send out invoices at the right time, double-check that payments have gone through, and monitor due dates, late fees, and any specific invoice terms. Invoicing software makes all of that easier.
You can generate automatic invoices with a unique invoice number, track all project details, manage any past-due payments, and view every one of your invoices on a single dashboard. Many even feature built-in tools and analytics to help you improve the billing process.
Find the best platform for your business
There are many different invoicing software platforms out there, so you need to check into them carefully to see what each one offers. If a platform has limited capabilities, it might seem like an inexpensive option, but think about the future and how often you're going to need to integrate different tools or programs. All-inclusive platforms might be a better option in the long run.
6. Don’t be afraid to follow up after missed payments
Late payments are any freelancer’s worst nightmare. After all, you want to build strong, healthy relationships with your clients, and hounding them for nonpayment of services and past due bills can be uncomfortable, to say the least.
However, it’s important that you aren’t afraid to follow up with your clients when they miss payments. You deserve to be paid for your services, and it's unacceptable for clients to consistently pay you late.
Be gentle when you first reach out — a missed payment might be an honest mistake or it could be due to a cash flow problem If it continues, you might want to consider letting the client go or start thinking about other strategies to get clients to pay on time.
Have detailed payment terms
Collecting payments that are long past due can be stressful and expensive. Collection agency fees and legal fees can sometimes scare freelancers off from pursuing payment in court.
While these cases are generally few and far between, having contracts in place and clear payment terms can help you avoid these worst-case scenarios.
7. Use project management software with built-in billing features
As a small business, you want to avoid using too many different tools within your day-to-day operations. Too many platforms can result in excessive expenses, inefficient processes, and general confusion about which software does what.
Thankfully, there are many different platforms on the market with various features to cover multiple parts of business management — including billing.
Teamwork.com is a project management software with built-in billing and invoicing features, including task management, time tracking, and invoicing report dashboards. Rather than trying to plug third-party apps and software into a Frankenstein project management tool, you can get everything you need to run your invoicing and billing processes in one place.
Get everything to connect for seamless billing
Teamwork.com makes it simple to combine project management and billing. Check out our support page on adding an invoice to learn more about our billing features, and to find out what billing can look like for your freelancing business.
Teamwork.com also makes it easy to set user rates directly on the platform. Now, you can see rates for different clients or freelancers – all in one space.
Manage client projects & billing easily with Teamwork.com
Billing can be a pain point for many small business owners who don’t feel comfortable talking about money with clients, or who don’t have the time to track down missing payments.
However, billing is essential — it ensures that you've paid for your time, and helps your business grow. To be successful in the long term, it’s important to keep up with the best billing practices.
Having the right billing software goes a long way toward creating a smooth billing process. When your processes are efficient, it’s easy to maintain healthy working relationships with your clients.
Whether you’re a single freelancer or an agency, Teamwork.com makes it seamless and easy to manage client work so that you never miss a billable minute. Our platform can also help you automate non-billable tasks, gather data on your time management, and provide you with clear timesheets for your work.