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Invoicing: Adopt A Firm Policy
To Avoid Involuntary Pro Bono

By Nikki Saco
Voice Talent

Quite likely, you hate business paperwork – including billing your clients. Do you have a system for this?

Really, a policy for billing will not give you grief if you’re guided by a few basic goals:
  • make it as easy as possible for the client to pay,
  • stay organized,
  • always be polite, and
  • expect to be paid for your services.
INVOICE WITH JOB

First, I never send any job to a client without an invoice.

The invoice says "due upon receipt” and includes a written notice that I retain copyright, and that there is no permissible use of the voice-over work until I get paid in full.

The main point here, though, is to bill clients while the job is fresh and on their minds - like upon delivery.

EASY TO PAY

I also want to make it as easy as possible for a client to pay.

For instance, I have all my contact information, the name of the payee for checks, and PayPal email address on the invoice.

I send all invoices by email in PDF form, and the email includes my PayPal link.

When I worked in a corporation, any invoice I received by email was something I could immediately shoot over to bookkeeping, bypassing the delay of inter-office mail.
 
Email also saves stamps, trees and time. In the past two years, I’ve only mailed one invoice.
 
NOW, BE NICE …

Even then, things can get screwed up. A great client recently flipped the numbers in my address and a check took a while to get here as a result.

Generally, a late payment is really just the result of an overworked bookkeeper or some clerical error. So be nice about collecting.

But also avoid feeling submissive or apologetic. Just be matter-of-fact. You’re a business owner; you did the work; you collect your fees.

COLLECTION METHODS
 
I very often receive electronic payments on the same day, and only accept checks from frequent corporate clients. Checks take between 15 and 30 days to be cut and reach me. Sometimes they take even more time.

I’ve never been stiffed, but it can happen to anyone anytime. Your gut feelings can help guide you in this, but I pass on work from someone who doesn’t provide verifiable contact information - something other than a gmail, yahoo or hotmail free email address.

LATE FEES?

Way back, when I worked for an attorney, I did the collections for his legal fees, and we had a good track record with built-in incentives:
  • discounts for early payments (within 15 days), and
  • late fees for anything over 30 days.
Clients, even corporate ones, like to save a buck.

I’ve been playing with the idea of adding a billing policy on late fees. We are entitled to them, and many businesses recoup the extra accounting work they do to collect past due fees by adding late charges.

But if I were to do that for my voice-over clients, I wouldn’t penalize their tardiness without also rewarding promptness. So I’d probably want to include a discount for early payment, as well ($5 off before 15 days; $5 added per month over net 30).

STAY IN CHARGE
 
This is really the tedious - but very necessary - part of the voice-over business. But we all have ourselves and perhaps families to support.
 
So while I often provide voluntary pro bono work for non-profit organizations, especially those focused on the needs of children, I have never appreciated involuntary pro bono.
 
Nikki Saco is a SaVoa-accredited voice talent with a vast range of voice-over credits, from commercials to corporate and medical narrations, web audio, childrens’ projects, and courtroom medical deposition readings. She is vice chair, and on the board of directors of SaVoa, and also writes a frequent blog.
 
 
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