The yellow postcard made way for SMS and WhatsApp, the paper diary was replaced by a digital one and even Playboy Magazine is having a hard time. It is therefore logical that more and more self-employed people are opting for digital invoices. You (soon) too? We will guide you through the need-to-know-info.
- What is an online invoice?
- Why choose online invoicing?
- What do you need for an online invoice?
- What you need to know about online invoicing
- An online invoice in just 4 steps
What is an online invoice?
Filling shoeboxes with paper invoices is outdated. Digital and electronic are the future. But what's the difference between both?
A digital invoice is simply an invoice that you send digitally. A PDF, Word or Excel file via e-mail, for example. Or - somewhat less efficient - a scan of a paper invoice. Nowadays, there are numerous tools that allow you to create and send an invoice in just a few clicks. Once a customer receives your mail, he can download the invoice and read it immediately.
The electronic invoice - also known as e-invoicing or Machine to Machine-invoicing - goes one step further. With an invoicing tool you first create an invoice in UBL. That stands for Universal Business Language, an international standard for electronic invoices. The software then sends the invoice to your customer's accounting application, where it is automatically read and booked.
Starting with electronic invoicing can be a daunting change for entrepreneurs. A digital invoice, on the other hand, is a lot more accessible. Moreover, you can integrate certain invoicing tools with accounting software. This way, you can easily switch to e-invoicing whenever you're ready.
"Since our sales and invoicing process has been linked to our accounting tool, the administration burden has shrunk considerably." Laurent Janssens, Operations Director at Lemon Companies
What suits your business best: digital invoicing, e-invoicing or both? This article will shed some light.
"If it's really important, use paper." A statement that's not quite right. Since 2013, paper and digital invoices have the same legal value.
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Why choose online invoicing?
Online invoicing brings 5 key benefits to your business:
- You save lots of time
If you use an invoicing tool, you can draw up invoices in no time. Just fill in your personalised template and the software will do the math for you. You can even set up a standard email to send the invoice in seconds. Or create automatic payment reminders to ensure a healthy cash flow.
- Lower risk of errors
Because a tool calculates the different amounts on your invoice, the chance of errors decreases noticeably. Another advantage: you never have to search for your calculator again.
- Overview of your finances = well-thought out decisions
The handy overview that invoicing software provides allows you to keep an overview of outstanding payments and invoices. This grants insight into the financial status of your business, and enables you to make well-founded decisions.
- Digital is safer
That filing cabinet used to store documents is usually not just ugly, it also takes in loads of space. And in case of water damage, fire or - not judging - plain sloppiness, paper is easily lost. A digital archive (and an automatic copy of it) is much safer.
- You and your customers can work more flexibly
Whether you're on the road to a customer or at the office: online invoicing can be done anytime, anywhere. All you need is an internet connection.
What do you need for an online invoice?
No, no silly jokes like "your good mood" or clichés like "common sense". What is essential for online invoicing - other than a PC or laptop? Three things:
- Reliable software. Find a quality tool tailored to your business. Also take into account the integration options. For example, can you link the software with your accounting package? Can you also add time tracking and a CRM? And also important in the digital era: does the tool offer a performant mobile app?
- A solid storage system. Not every invoicing tool has a reliable database. Although it's a must-have: online invoices - just like paper ones - have to be kept for 7 years.
- IT security. You don't leave the doors of your house wide open at night. At least we hope so. It's also a good idea to secure your computer and smartphone with antivirus software. After all, an invoicing tool does contain valuable information on your business.
Choosing an invoicing tool is like an 11 year old filling a bag of candy: the offer is overwhelming. How do you distinguish the right software from apps that don't fit your business? These tips will help you make the right decision.
What you need to know about online invoicing
Okay, online invoicing is not rocket science. But there are a few pointers to keep in mind:
- Digitise your invoices...
Use online invoices as much as possible, and keep them all in the same folder/server/cloud. This way, you accounting doesn't consist of both paper and electronic parts.
- ...and ask your suppliers to do the same.
Online invoicing works both ways. Ask your suppliers whether they're able to provide you with online invoices. That will save you a lot of hassle. Sometimes, though, paper invoices can't be avoided. Bills for business lunches, parking tickets: for these, make sure to scan them and add them to your digital archive.
- Start at a key moment
You can start invoicing online at any moment, although it's wise to choose your moment well. The start of a new quarter or new financial year may prove ideal. This way, all invoices pertaining to that period are in the same place.
An online invoice in 4 steps
Digital invoicing offers a number of crucial advantages. Hopefully we've convinced you of that by now. But how exactly do you get started? A clear step-by-step plan.
Step 1: Think it through
A good invoice starts with a crystal-clear quotation. Sum up the different phases of the project, with corresponding budgets. This is clear to your customer, and also a good foundation for your invoice. In an ideal world, your invoice would be a copy-paste of that quotation.
Step 2: Create your online invoice
A good tool converts quotations into invoices in a simple click. If there's no quotation, you can easily make one. Invoices in your own house style? Your tool takes care of that, too. No messing about with Excel formulae.
Step 3: Send your invoice online
Invoicing software allows you to send invoices directly to your customers. No more licking stamps or thick binders filled with paper invoices. By integrating your bookkeeping tool, outgoing invoices will also appear automatically in your bookkeeping.
Step 4: Follow up late payments
9 out of 10 businesses deal with defaulters. With an online invoicing tool, you have a clear overview of overdue invoices and can follow up quickly. Teamleader even allows you to set up automated payment reminders, so your customers receive a friendly message - asking them to settle their outstanding payments in due time.
How it works in practice? Here's a clear overview of what Teamleader does for you.
Discover Teamleader, the tool that makes invoicing easy
Teamleader is easy-to-use software that combines CRM, Project Management and Invoicing in one intuitive solution. Create, send and manage your invoices in just a few clicks. Convert quotations into an invoice in no time, create documents in your personal style and allow your customers to pay online.