Invoicing is an everyday occurrence for accounting firms. Most organizations have a standardized process in place to help them make invoicing quick and easy for their team members, who are often tasked with handling dozens of invoices at a time.
These established processes are a double-edged sword – while they do help team members handle the workload, they can also cause mistakes or inefficient operating methods to become ingrained in the business. In the long run, creating and reinforcing these habits can be a serious drain on the way a company operates. We’ve identified four of the most common mistakes we see firms make related to invoicing. Correcting these mistakes can improve cash flow and boost employee satisfaction, among a number of other important business benefits.
1. Expending too much manual effort
Many years ago, accounting firms had to write out individual documents by hand – even if they were just making an exact copy. Thankfully, technology has come a long way since then, and we can automate a lot of the process of creating invoices.
A generic, company-wide invoice is a great start, but you can do even better than that by creating specific invoices for certain clients or types of projects. The more information that can be pre-filled via template, the easier it will be for your staff to get through the pile of invoices they have to manage before getting on to other work. With the right tools, you can even create batches of invoices simultaneously, saving a lot of time.
2. Not properly branding invoices
Lots of accounting firms we know view invoicing as a monotonous task, one of the “must-do” items to finish so that they can get to work on more strategic business items. And while this may be true, that doesn’t mean you should neglect the other benefits available from invoicing – namely, they can create a stronger brand impression that lasts with your clients.
It may not seem like a huge deal to you, but many of the people responsible for hiring accounting firms pay close attention to minor details. The way that a potential accounting partner presents their invoices can have a bigger impact than you may think on the way you come off to these detail-driven professionals. Make sure to incorporate ideas like colors, logos, and other distinct elements of your brand. Just remember: the main purpose of an invoice is to indicate the total balance due. Don’t lose focus on this primary function by over-branding your invoice with too many unrelated elements. Like many things in life, balance is key here.
3. Not providing self-service for clients
Whether for a business or personal transaction, everyone knows the frustrating feeling of waiting on another party to get something done in order to move a project forward. When miscommunications about timing happen between a client and an accounting firm, it can put a serious strain on the relationship and eventually push the client away.
Instead of dealing with the stress of instilling an unrealistic response time for client communications, consider offering a self-service option so that they can obtain the resources and information necessary on their own timeline. With self-service via a client portal or similar platform, accounting firms don’t have to worry about manually handling simple tasks like finding old billing statements or project numbers that may be needed for recordkeeping purposes. The best systems for self-service will even provide integrated communications via comment and reply systems, making it even easier to resolve questions or concerns once a client has received the needed materials.
4. Not integrating invoices with email notifications
Email notifications are another part of invoicing that requires some distinction – blasting out email notifications to everyone on the team for every type of account transaction will cause frustration and slowdowns among your staff and drive up the bill for your digital accounting practice management platform.
To find the right balance here, only enable notifications on project happenings for relevant parties. Consider which specific actions need a notification and which don’t – for example, a few members of your team may need to know when a client leaves a comment on an invoice document, but the whole team doesn’t need to be notified when a client opens the document. Applied strategically, email notifications for invoices can help keep your team and clients on schedule and in the loop about pertinent updates.
How to avoid these accounting firm invoicing mistakes
The thread that runs through all of the above examples is the use of technology to make all aspects of invoicing easier. From creating, branding, and distributing invoices to handling client questions, the right kind of centralized software can streamline the process for both your internal team and the client accounts they work with. Picking the right accounting practice management software will make invoicing less of a burdensome task and more of a net positive that makes work more efficient and improves your accounting firm’s brand among clients and prospects.