For business owners with online companies, it makes no sense to bill customers with anything besides an invoice email. Even owners of brick-and-mortar businesses are finding email invoices a great improvement over the traditional mailed paper version. The average person checks his email about 15 times a day, and about two-thirds of people check as soon as they roll out of bed in the morning. This gives your invoice a priority place in their mind over any paper bill that arrives days later in their mailbox. In most cases, this can result in quicker and more consistent payments across the board.
The Advantages of Email Invoices
If you've billed customers by mail in the past, you may have a hard time seeing the advantages of switching to online billing. In the first place, paperless billing is better for the environment, saving millions of trees from destruction plus countless gallons of fuel in mail-delivery vehicles. If being green is important to your customers, online billing can impress them with your dedication to the environment. In addition to this obvious benefit, there are many other advantages to online billing.
- Sending online invoices is much cheaper. Instead of paying for paper, envelopes and stamps, you simply send a digital message over the internet.
- Digital invoices can be more secure. Regardless of the horror stories of business hackers, it's still as easy for thieves to steal from your mailbox as it is your email.
- It gives your customers options. They can pay bills while out of town, in the middle of the night or in any other situation that's convenient for them.
- Emails are much more timely than paper mail. If you want to contact a client, you can do so instantly instead of waiting days for an envelope to be delivered.
- Paperless billing allows you to streamline your entire business process. It's possible to fit all of your office information and programs into a single laptop or tablet, making your business truly portable.
Using PayPal to Send an Invoice
PayPal is a money-transfer business designed to be an electronic alternative to checks and money orders. Its early roots began in 2000 and grew rapidly enough to enable a public offering in 2002. The popularity of eBay and other sites that enable small businesses to thrive made PayPal the perfect financial partner for countless small business owners.
Today, PayPal allows financial transfers between people or between businesses and individuals. Users can send and receive funds through the PayPal interface, allowing people to send money online without giving their financial information to strangers. As the financial go-between for millions of transactions, PayPal can make invoicing and bookkeeping much easier than with individual invoice options.
In order to use PayPal for sending invoices, you'll need to set up a business account on the site. Once your account is approved, which generally takes a day or two, you can create and send invoices from your desktop or from the app on your mobile device. PayPal will email the invoice to your customer with a payment link, and your customer can pay using her PayPal account or her debit or credit card. PayPal allows you to customize your invoices with company logos and information, making this a professional-looking option for even the smallest business.
Simplify By Using an Invoice Company
Depending on your financial savvy and business needs, you can find a wide variety of invoice companies that fit in with your billing plans. These companies offer different pricing levels depending on the type of perks they include, and all of them have at least a basic invoice template for you to use.
Invoicely is one of many companies offering a free basic version for you to try. Their basic version allows you to send unlimited emails with no time limit, but it's short on the bells and whistles the more expensive plans include. Go up a level or two, and you can add features like recurring statements, taking payment in other forms besides PayPal and more than basic branding.
Due is almost universally regarded in the top five of all online invoice services. They're known for their over-the-top security, which is a bonus for any small business. They offer international payment processing, payments through debit or credit cards and their own secure digital wallet system. Due even offers a mini booklet on invoicing for freelancers and other small-business owners.
SimplyBill boasts that it's the easiest invoice system online. They offer around 40 different invoice templates for a variety of business types as well as the ability to include tax rates in your invoices. This is key if you're selling products across the country. Each invoice has a tracker that tells you when the customer has opened it, and their spreadsheet program gives you a great snapshot of your business from month to month or year to year. As one of the least-expensive invoicing options online, SimplyBill only costs $5 a month for their basic plan after a two-week free trial.
Wave is unique not in their services but in their pricing structure. They offer all of their invoicing services for free. You can create and send invoices from their site, including recurring bills and those for monthly payment plans. Invoices are completely customizable to give them a professional look. You can even invoice on the go with their app. The only time you're charged with Wave is when you accept payments through them. They offer credit card and bank transaction services through their website and charge a percentage of your invoice as a transaction fee. For those who bill specifically through PayPal or other means, though, the Wave invoice can be an attractive alternative.
Disadvantages of Invoice Emails
While sending invoices through email may seem like the most natural thing to do for most businesses, there can be disadvantages to eliminating the old paper-billing method. In the first place, many businesses prefer to have a paper copy of all transactions for their records. While you can print out emails to save to your files, asking your clients to do the same can be seen as an imposition for some people.
Using online invoices can result in a lower rate of payment. It can be easier for your bill to slip customers' minds if they don't have an actual piece of paper in hand as a reminder. Cut down on this danger by implementing a system of reminder emails when payments are late.
Electronic payments generally arrive quicker than those sent through the mail, but that's only if your customer sees your invoice. All email systems have spam filters built in that catch and trash unfamiliar and unwanted emails. If your invoice gets caught in a spam filter, the odds are that your customer will never see it. You can reduce the chances of this happening by asking them to add you to their approved address list, but it can still happen.
Using online invoices to bill customers can result in quicker payments, but you may pay a price with transaction fees. Your bank or financial institution probably doesn't charge you a fee when you deposit a check, but all online financial services charge a percentage for transferring money from a customer's account to yours. You can write off the fees as a cost of doing business, but it's something you'll have to consider when deciding whether to use online invoicing.
Victoria Bailey has owned and operated businesses for 25 years, including an award-winning gourmet restaurant and a rare bookstore. She spent time as a corporate training manager in the third-largest restaurant chain in its niche, but her first love will always be small and independent businesses. Bailey has written for USAToday, Coldwell Banker, and various restaurant magazines, and is the ghostwriter for a nationally-known food safety training guru.