There is something about invoicing that makes me want to take a nap. Like, a big nap. The kind of nap where you wake up and wonder if you slept through the end of the world.
I realize this seems silly… I mean, this is the money part, right? This is how you let your clients know what they owe you, so that they can send a payment over and you can get that totally sweet new crockpot/owl clock/water polo set that you’ve been lusting after.
I know I’m not the only freelancer who feels this way… so why, oh why, is invoicing such a pain?
It’s not actually the money part, that’s why. It’s the part that launches the waiting for your money part, and we all know that waiting for money (compared to getting money) is pretty stressful. After I click the “send” button, I always feel a small amount of trepidation, even with my most established clients:
“Are they REALLY going to pay me? Can I count on this payment to take care of my student loans? Should I stock up on ramen noodles? Am I a FAILURE!?”
So maybe you’re not quite as overdramatic as me, but the sentiment is probably still the same.
Will you get paid for your work?
Now, we can’t force your clients to pay you quickly, but we can offer a tip to help you knock that procrastination hat right off your head:
The typical freelancer’s work/payment cycle usually starts with an estimate request, moves on to project discussion, an official estimate, the work, invoicing, and, finally, payment. This often means bouncing back and forth between email, estimate generators or document creation platforms, more email, time trackers, invoicing programs, and even more email.
What if we told you there’s an option that will keep all of those steps in one place?
Meet Sprout Invoices
We try to keep the product-pushing to a minimum over here; our goal for the Approve Me blog is, first and foremost, to provide education and encouragement to the freelance community. Sometimes, though, that means we’ve just got to talk about sweet products that we encounter or become involved with.
Right now? We’ve just got to tell you about Sprout Invoices. Sprout Apps founder Dan Cameron has created an invoicing option in the form of a plugin that allows you to take care of business right from the comfort of your WordPress website.
(Sprout Apps actually offers a few other super-helpful products in addition to Sprout Invoices, so be sure to stop by and check them out!)
I got a chance to sit down (well, virtually, anyway. Technology!) with Dan and chat with him about Sprout Invoices. My first question was about his purpose for the plugin. What problem was he trying to solve?
“Business workflow. I wanted to streamline the entire process.”
And streamline it, he did. Remember all those steps I was talking about earlier? With Sprout Invoices, you can receive your estimate request and automatically create client profiles all in one step. You can eliminate scope confusion and missed client requests by keeping important communication details in the “private notes” section. This allows you to create your estimate (and make sure it contains every point that was discussed via phone or email) accurately without a lot of back-and-forth between communication platforms. Finally, you can send your invoice at the end of the process without having to log in to a separate program or website.
That was kind of a mouthful (I just read it aloud to myself), but it’s an important mouthful. It may seem like all you’re doing is clicking around, but those clicks can add up. Just think of the things you could be doing instead of clicking!
Next, I asked Dan what his favorite Sprout Invoices feature is.
“From early on, it was deposits. With the other options out there, there’s no way to really handle deposits. This really streamlines them.”
The deposits he’s referring to here are the payments your clients make when they pay for part of a project up-front. With the more popular invoicing services, you often have to manually calculate the deposit, and split it into two separate invoices. Sprout Invoices has a feature specifically meant for dealing with deposits. This not only makes it easier on you, but also ensures that the client is aware they are paying the deposit rather than the whole amount. Sending a second invoice only to have it met with a “But I ALREADY paid you for this!” can be… unpleasant to say the least, and if you’ve ever had this happen, there’s a good chance it’s the root of your invoicing anxiety.
Finally, I asked Dan about common invoicing mistakes. What mistake did he see made the most?
“Not getting legally binding contracts, and not being as descriptive as you need to be.”
About that whole “legally binding contract” thing… it’s worth mentioning here that ApproveMe and Sprout Apps have recently teamed up to provide a WPESignature add-on option to Sprout Invoices. What this means is that you can not only get your contracts signed digitally and easily, but you can also get your estimates signed by clients. This adds an even thicker layer of protection to your process, and ensures that all parties are on the same page when it comes to payments and work.
Sprout Invoices offers affordable yearly plans and speedy, thoughtful support from Dan himself. By founding Sprout Apps, Dan has provided an easily accessible secret weapon for entrepreneurs. He’s a freelancer empowering other freelancers, and for me, it doesn’t get much better than that.
Put on your productive pants, kids.
Invoicing is important, and it doesn’t have to be a pain. Now, I’m not saying that you have to run out there and get Sprout Invoices RIGHT NOW, but I am saying that it would be a good idea to evaluate your invoicing process. If you put it off til the last minute, ask yourself why. If you have issues with scope creep or payment clarity, see if you can be more explicit in your estimates and invoices.
Take a minute to think about your invoicing, head over to Sprout Invoices for a glance in case it’s a perfect fit, and be sure to call me if you do run into the Finances Fairy… because I’m very interested in talking to her.
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