Chapter 3

How to send an invoice

How you send invoices can have a big impact on how quickly you’re paid. Let’s look at some of the basics.

Small business owner creating an invoice at their desk

How to send an invoice that gets paid quickly

Some businesses invoice every week or every two weeks. Some do it only once a month. But the truth is, it’s best to send your invoice as soon as the work is done.

Discuss invoicing before doing business

Just as you discuss pricing before reaching a deal with customers, you should also chat about billing. Set out payment terms explaining when you’ll invoice (weekly, monthly, or when the job’s done), and how long they’ll have to pay. A customer should know when they’ll need to part with their cash.

When to send an invoice

It’s best to send your invoice as soon as an order is filled or the work is done – especially if you do one-off projects and odd jobs.

If you’re working on a big project, you might send interim invoices every two to four weeks. And if you sell subscriptions or memberships, or you’re on a retainer, you can send a recurring invoice at regular intervals.

Four ways invoices can be sent

You have options when it comes to getting an invoice into your customer’s hands. Let’s look at the pros and cons of post, email, online, and e-invoicing.

In the post

Post can still be best for customers that overlook emailed invoices, or don’t use email at all. But compared to other methods, post is slow, less secure, and harder to get right (addresses often change).

By email

Email addresses are easier to get right and the invoices arrive faster. Plus the invoice can’t really be lost. Just double-check you’re sending it to the right person or department.

Via online invoicing

You can create an invoice online and send your customer a secure link to it. It’s nice and simple for them, and you can see when they’ve opened it. Better still, online invoices allow you to include a ‘pay now’ button. Customers just click through to pay immediately via credit card, debit card, or automated clearing houses (like PayPal). Learn more about accepting online payments.

The most important tip is to send your invoice straight away. Get it to your customer as quickly as possible – email is perfect for that. Better still, an app that lets you invoice while you're at the customer's premises!

Sharon Pocock, Xero gold partner, Kinder Pocock

By e-invoicing

You can create an invoice in your accounting software and send it directly to your customer’s accounting software – they’ll see it there as a draft bill awaiting payment. You don’t even need to be using the same accounting software for this to work. It’s fast and safe – the invoice can’t be lost, and it eliminates the need for manual data entry at their end. Learn more about e-invoicing.

Writing an invoice email

An example invoice delivery email

You’d normally send a short email message with your invoice. The most important part of your invoice email is the subject line. The customer may pay faster if you give them a reference like the purchase order number. You can ask your customer’s accounts payable department what they like to see as the email subject.

You don’t need an elaborate message in the body of the email. A greeting and single line message is enough. The invoice itself contains everything else the customer needs to know.

An example invoice delivery email

After the invoice is sent

To increase your chance of an on-time payment:

  • call after your first invoice to a new customer: Make sure it’s been received by the right person, that they understand what it’s for, and that they don’t need any more details from you.
  • send reminders: If you’re giving customers a long time to pay, it’s not a bad idea to send a gentle reminder as the due date approaches.
An example invoice email reminder

What to send before it’s due

If you give customers 14 days or more to pay an invoice, it’s a good idea to remind them when the due date is coming up. Keep your email short, warm, and to the point.

An example invoice email reminder

Disclaimer: Xero does not provide accounting, tax, business or legal advice. This guide has been provided for information purposes only. You should consult your own professional advisors for advice directly relating to your business or before taking action in relation to any of the provided content.

Guide to invoicing

Do your invoices go unpaid for ages? There are proven ways to change that. Check out these tips on the art of invoicing.

Download our invoicing survival guide

Learn how to create and send invoices that get opened, understood, and paid. Fill out the form to receive our invoicing guide as a PDF.

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