How to simplify construction invoices, get paid sooner

Small Business Guides

4 min read

Create accurate invoices fast and get your weekends back. Apps can take away a lot of the hassle - and help get you paid sooner.

Construction and trade invoicing is a big job

Construction invoicing requires you to:

  • record third-party costs

  • track time worked (which can be tough when you have a few jobs going)

  • match the estimate or quote that you gave (which could require you to itemize the bill)

And you probably end up doing all this after a full day’s work, when you’re not at your best. The good news is that construction apps can do a lot of the work for you.

The faster you invoice, the sooner you get paid

When billing is hard to do, it gets delayed. And when that happens, payment slows down too. Most businesses send invoices just once a month. Their revenue trickles in weeks or even months after a job has been done. That's not good for your bank balance.

Construction and trade invoices should be sent weekly. It's even better if you can send them straight after a job has been completed. So ditch manual templates that slow the process down.

Apps can speed you up

You can get really fast at billing clients when you send invoices through an online accounting app. Start by creating templates for standard job types. When you want to issue an invoice, call up the appropriate template and add the job details, such as time and materials. 

  • Time
    Use a mobile time-tracking app to record hours worked. Clock into your jobs from your phone and the app will tally all of the hours worked. Set it up so the information flows straight into your accounting app.
  • Materials
    Whenever an expense shows up in your accounting software, you can apply your markup and add the cost directly to your invoice.

Invoicing from your phone

Apps like these work on your phone or tablet, which means you can create and send invoices whenever you have the time. That allows you to bill clients from a job site, a truck, a supply shop, or during a lunch break.

If you stick with a desktop for invoicing, then you have to wait to get home – and you’re destined to spend your nights and weekends on the bookwork.

Finding the right apps for you

Not all construction apps are created equal, so choose yours with care. Ask acquaintances and colleagues what they use. Read online reviews. And make sure they have the capabilities you need. 

A good time-recording app will:

  • allow you and your workers to clock onto jobs from your phones

  • send time records to your accounting/invoicing app, so you can use the information to calculate what you’re owed

  • integrate with your payroll system, so you can work out how much to pay hourly workers

  • link into your project management software, so you can check that labor costs aren’t blowing out

Check out some time-recording apps, including user reviews.

A good accounting app will:

  • enable you to assign expenses to particular jobs (with markup)

  • make it easy to claim tax deductions on applicable expenses

  • be compatible with time-recording apps and payroll

  • let you prepare and send invoices on your cellphone or tablet

  • alert you if a trade invoice or construction invoice hasn't been paid on time

  • send automatic reminders to clients who haven't paid

Here's an accounting package specifically for construction and trade businesses

Best invoicing practice – five top tips

Construction and trade invoices are commonly paid late, but there are things you can do to help get cash into your business faster:

  1. Invoice immediately
    Many businesses invoice monthly, or every two weeks. It’s not enough. Send invoices weekly or even daily, so customers are on the clock as soon as possible.
  2. Keep your payment terms short
    You're not a bank, so why give clients 30 days of credit? Almost half of small businesses now demand payment within seven days. This is perfectly acceptable, and you’ll benefit if you do it too.
  3. Put the detail in your invoices
    Make sure the client knows what they're paying for. There’s a balance here. You don’t want to sweat over each invoice, but you don’t want to leave too much room for questions. Refer to the quote or estimate you supplied before starting the job.
  4. Keep evidence
    Make sure you have proof of hours worked and costs incurred. You don’t need to attach it to the invoice, but keep that data somewhere you can find it. It’ll help in the case of a dispute.
  5. Chase payment
    You completed the work, so you’re owed the money. Don't be embarrassed about it. If you haven't been paid by the deadline on your invoice, get on the phone and ask why not. Be polite but firm, and keep at it. Persistence will get you paid faster – this time and the next.

Construction invoicing is key to cash flow

Construction and trade businesses are expensive to run. You have a lot of overheads and often have to carry costs for materials. The last thing you need is to run out of money.

Invoicing is what brings money into your business. It’s critical to cash flow. You need to make your invoices accurate and send them quickly – then make sure you follow up when payment is due. The right combination of apps can help you do all this and keep your business in the black.