When Should You Invoice Your Customer: Before or After A Job?
When to send invoices to clients can be a touchy subject for home service businesses.
If you’re rushing from one emergency job to another, like a plumber for example, invoicing right after the job isn’t always convenient. But if you wait, you risk forgetting or disrupting your cash flow.
Invoicing a customer before you deliver the goods or service might seem like an easy answer to the problem. You get paid upfront and won’t worry about missing payroll.
But what if your client isn’t happy with the work and wants an adjustment? That’s a whole new can of worms.
When to send an invoice ultimately comes down to the type of service you offer, your business needs, and your relationship to the customer. Here are a few scenarios to help you decide which invoicing strategy is best for your service business.
When to Invoice a Customer After the Job is Complete
Sending invoices after the job is complete is the most common method for service businesses.
Most consumers today expect to pay after a job is complete, just like they pay after they’ve ordered a meal or purchased goods from a store. Invoicing after a service is no different.
There are three options for invoicing after the job is complete:
1. Invoice on-the-spot
If you do one-off, small-scale jobs, or are starting your business, you can issue the invoice immediately after the job is complete.
Since the job is fresh in your customer’s mind, you can even get paid right in the field!
Here’s how to make invoicing on the spot work for you:
- Discuss the terms of payment ahead of time. Make sure the client understands they will be charged in full after the service, and how they can pay (cash, credit, or cheque).
- Have a professional invoice ready as soon as the work is done. Don’t waste time writing up an invoice after the job is done. Use invoicing software to convert your quotes, or create new invoices right from your mobile phone or tablet. You’ll look professional and show your clients you take your business seriously.
- Let your clients pay by credit card. The easier you make it for clients to pay you, the faster they will! Accept payment by credit card or online to speed up cash flow.
Did You Know?
28% of consumers would be deterred from using a small home service business if they had limited payment options. Find out more small business stats here:
2. Send the invoice within 48 hours of finishing the job
This option works well for larger-scale jobs, such as landscaping, lawn fertilization, window cleaning or painting. It also works well if you have an existing relationship with the client, or want to start building one.
Instead of invoicing on the spot, you’ll send a follow-up email to make sure that the client is 100% happy with the job. This will help avoid disputes and late payments and encourage the client to book work with you in the future.
Here’s how to send an invoice to your client after the job is complete:
- Send a follow-up email right after the job is complete. Notify the client that the job is done and ask if they are satisfied. If they reply that they are not, call them to find out what you can do to make them happy.
- When the client confirms they are happy, email or text a professional invoice within 24-48 hours. On the invoice, be sure to include a payment due date that is within a reasonable time (14 days is standard).
- Offer online payment. Give clients an option to pay online directly from the text or email. Payment software such as Jobber automatically creates a personalized link for your clients to view their invoice and pay from any device.
- Bonus: Send a second follow-up email to thank them for their payment and ask for a review!
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3. Send a Monthly Invoice
Many home service providers send monthly invoices for commercial contracts or recurring services.
Lawn mowing, house cleaning, tree care, and pool service businesses send monthly or quarterly invoices. They are ideal for companies and clients who don’t want to process multiple payments every month. It’s an administrative win-win!
Monthly invoices are great for:
- Monthly recurring services
- Commercial contracts
- Loyal customers
- Reducing paperwork and administration
How and when to send monthly invoices:
- Confirm the payment terms and method of payment with your client ahead of time. You can include this information on the quote so that the client signs off before you begin the first service.
- Schedule monthly (or recurring) jobs in your calendar. Save time and reduce duplicate work by using job scheduling software.
- At the end of the month, convert all completed jobs to invoices and email or text them to your clients.
- Bonus: If you’ve done multiple jobs for a single client, use batch invoicing to create and send all of your invoices at once! See Batch Invoice Delivery in action below:
When to Send an Invoice Before a Service
All of the scenarios above explain when you should send an invoice after the job is complete.
But there are times when it makes sense, or is necessary, to bill the customer before you’ve started the work. Sending an invoice before a job is complete is usually referred to as requesting a deposit or prepayment.
When should you invoice a customer before a service is complete?
- The job requires a deposit for significant equipment or materials. Roofing businesses, for example, often request a deposit for shingles and nails.
- The job is large-scale or for a commercial contract. If the job is in the triple digits or higher, you can request a deposit to seal in the client’s commitment.
- You have predetermined project milestones. Another option for large-scale projects is to request payment at certain milestones, such as after an installation is complete, or after a certain amount of time has elapsed. This can improve your cash flow and make payments easier for your client, too. Just make sure both parties are clear on what the milestones are, and how much is due at each one.
- The client has a history of not paying on time. This is a rare scenario, however there are times when clients simply do not pay on time. If you’ve worked with a client like this, you can request a pre-payment from them to protect your business.
- You need the cash flow. If your business is just starting out, or you need to ensure cash flow, you can ask the client to pre-pay for the job. Be mindful that asking for payment before the client has seen your work can lead to tension, complaints, and ruined customer relationships.
Here are some tips to help make invoicing before a job more successful:
- Always communicate very clearly with the customer. Make sure they understand how much they will pay before the job starts and why.
- Create a professional quote that clearly explains each line item and the value of what they are paying for.
- If you are requesting a deposit for equipment or materials, add the deposit amount directly to the quote. A 15% to 25% deposit is standard.
- Make it easy for your client to pre-pay online.
- Offer a discount of 5% to 10% for clients who pay in-full upfront.
- Go above and beyond on the job to ensure complete customer satisfaction. The last thing you want is disputes, chargebacks, and ruined customer relationships.
So, When Do You Invoice a Customer? Final Tips to Help you Get Paid
Some home service professionals always invoice after a job. Some invoice before. Some wait until the end of the month to keep their paperwork in order and receive regular ‘paychecks.’
There’s no right or wrong way, as long as the invoice timing makes sense for you— and more importantly— for your customers.
No matter when you send your invoices, here are some best practices you should always follow:
- Create professional, detailed quotes so your client understands what they are paying for
- Make payment terms and methods clear ahead of time
- Automate invoice follow-ups to remind clients when it’s time to pay
- Offer multiple payment options, including online and credit card payments
- Attach photos and notes to your invoices to really impress your clients
- Use invoice software to create, send, and track all of your invoices
- Always send a follow-up and a polite thank you message
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