As you’re growing your blog and online business, you’ll no doubt begin to set up products and services for which you will need to invoice clients. You might, for instance:
- Offer a monthly consulting or training schedule.
- Sell monthly advertising space.
- Maintain a private membership community.
And there are plenty of other examples. Passive revenue from ads and affiliates is great, but the most successful bloggers combine that with more active revenue streams like products and services, and something you can bill for every week, month or year is the ideal!
While recurring PayPal invoices might work for you for a while, eventually you should provide a more professional invoicing and billing experience, as well as offer additional payment options.
That’s exactly why I started using FreshBooks a couple of years ago, and I couldn’t recommend the service more. I’m able to set up new customers and create professional, branded invoices. And, to the topic of today’s article, I can set up recurring invoices that go out on whatever schedule I need.
To get it all working, you’ll need to do four things:
- Set up a FreshBooks account (if you haven’t already).
- Set up one or more Tasks or Items to invoice for.
- Set up one or more Clients.
- Set up your first Recurring Invoice.
I’ll walk through each, but feel free to skip ahead if you’re already familiar with the basics of FreshBooks.
Set Up A FreshBooks Account
If you’re new to FreshBooks, it’s similar to QuickBooks in that it’s an accounting system for your business. But it’s all cloud-based, and it’s focused on just the most essential tasks and reporting.
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When you first sign up, you’ll enter your Company Name and an Email Address, and begin to go through the FreshBooks setup process.
You’ll enter your name, choose a password, and then fill in a couple more details about your company.
At this point, you can click around the interface and familiarize yourself with the various options and reports. You can also spend a little time customizing it so that your logo and brand colors are used. This is important since, every time one of your clients receives an invoice and views it online, their experience will have that recognizable branding.
You’ll find most of those options under Settings.
The last, critical step here is to go to Settings -> Accept Credit Cards and set up how you want to be paid! You can accept credit cards through FreshBooks, set up PayPal, or just indicate to clients that you accept checks or bank transfers. It’s up to you, and you can change how you want to be paid per client or invoice.
Set Up One Or More Tasks Or Items To Invoice For
When you want to create an invoice for a client, you’ll need to enter either items that you’re billing for, or time that you’ve spent. And it’s best to set those up in advance so that you save yourself some effort, and have a consistent set of billables to track.
Items – Go to Invoices and then Items and click on +New Item. Here you can enter the item’s Name & Description, which are displayed on the invoice. You can also set a predetermined Cost, Quantity and Taxes, as well as set an Inventory if applicable.
Tasks – Go to Time Tracking and then Tasks and click on +New Task. Here you can enter the task’s Name and Description, which again are displayed on the invoice, as well as a predetermined cost.
You can always add new Items or Tasks on the fly within an invoice, as well as edit the ones you’ve created. And, within an invoice, you can choose whether to add a new Item or Task to your saved list or just use it for that one invoice, so it’s a very flexible system.
Set Up One Or More Clients
Next, you need clients to invoice! That’s a simple matter of completing the New Client form.
Whether on the Home screen, the People tab, or within a new Invoice, you can add a new Client.
The client form includes normal information like Company Name, email, contact, etc. It’s a good idea think ahead in terms of what information you’re going to need for every client and make sure that you get that. Personally, I only need contact name, company and email, since I do not do any physical mailing or have other information I need to track, but your needs may be different.
You can also add additional contacts per client, which is essential when you’re dealing with larger companies who may need you to send invoices to both a project lead and the accountant, for instance.
Note that if you’re a larger business with a lot of clients, a professional CPA can assist you with this, and ensure that no steps are missed. Go now to consider your options and get more advice.
Set Up Your First Recurring Invoice
Now that you have your items set and your clients ready to go, it’s time to set up your first recurring invoice. For inspiration, refer to these invoice templates.
Go to Invoices and click on Recurring.
Click on +Recurring Profile.
The Recurring Profile is the template that FreshBooks will use to determine what and when and who gets billed.
Schedule – Put in the date that you want the first invoice to be sent out. You can then decide How Often you want a new invoice sent after the first (i.e. 2 weeks), and how many times. If it’s an ongoing fee until cancelled, you can leave the How Many field as “infinite.” Otherwise, enter the total number of invoices you want to send.
Client – Select an existing client or enter a new one.
PO Number – If you or your clients use Purchase Order numbers to track approved expenses, enter that here.
Payment Options – If you’ve set up your system to allow multiple forms of payment, here’s where you can pick and choose which to allow for this specific invoice. (These can be saved as defaults as well, per client.)
Tasks or Items – Begin adding the tasks or items that you wish to invoice for. Remember that these will be automatically generated on whatever schedule you set up, so avoid using date-sensitive language here like “July consulting.”
You can add discounts if appropriate, as well as prorate the first invoice. That’s a particularly convenient option if you prefer to invoice a set amount at the same time, like, the first of every month, but need to start a client mid-month.
Finally, you can enter any specific Terms or Notes that the client should be aware of. This is a great place to add reminders of what’s included in the service, and certainly any specific payment details (i.e. routing info for bank transfers).
Once you’ve reviewed all of your choices and entries, click Save. Your first invoice will go out immediately, or at a later date if that’s what you chose. You’ll see on the Home page that a new recurring profile has been created. And, once it’s time for the new invoice to be created, you’ll see that in the activity log as well. You’ll also get an email notification that the invoice was created and sent.
Once you get the hang of it, you’ll find that setting up these recurring invoices is incredibly convenient. It saves you time, and it makes sure that your clients are invoiced in a timely manner.
At any time, you can go back to Recurring Invoices to see the profiles you’ve previously set up. You can edit them if needed, or delete them if no longer warranted.
You can also set up automatic Late Payment Reminders. If you know that anyone who fails to pay one of your invoices within a certain number of days should get an email reminder. take the time to configure them! Go to Settings -> Emails and click on Late payment reminders (edit). Here you can determine what gets sent after so many days. Just note that the email reminders are sent to any open invoice that is unpaid after the days you specify, so this feature may not apply to your business setup.
Now, take a few extra minutes to make sure your branding is in place, and that all emails that go out to your customers use the right language and voice. And now you’re on your way to a successful invoicing system!
Make sure to take advantage of FreshBook’s free trial:
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Have questions about the business-side of blogging? Whether they’re related to billing or not, leave a comment below and we’ll discuss it.