Top 7 Rules for Sending Clients Bills They Will Love (And Pay On Time)

Everyone know what it’s like to receive a bill in the mail.debt, bills, alternative billing, client billing, invoice,

The long, slim envelope.

The clear window with your address showing.

The feeling in the pit of your stomach that you are going to be writing a big check ASAP.

Unfortunately, for professionals who bill for their time, sending monthly bills is usually a necessary evil.

However, the experience doesn’t have to be unpleasant. In fact, one of the greatest opportunities to create client loyalty is through the bill you send clients at the end of the month.  This is especially important for new business startups still building their book of clients.

Sounds kind of counter-intuitive, right? I mean, you send a client a bill that is going to require your clients to pay you hundreds or thousands of dollars, and they are supposed to be more loyal to you?

Stay with me on this.

Monthly bills can provoke one of two kinds of reactions — great satisfaction, or great displeasure.

It’s really not the bill’s fault. It’s your billing process, procedures, and content that matters.

The bill you send a client at the end of the month is your opportunity to communicate clearly everything that you did for the client so that they truly appreciate what you did for them.

Put another way, little can do more damage to a relationship with a client as sending them a sloppy, error-filled, unexpected, or incorrect bill.

Whether you are a lawyer, a CPA, a coach, business consultant, a painter, or any other type of professional who sends regular bills per month, you should see your monthly billing not as a huge hassle, but a huge opportunity to make your clients happy, loyal to you, and truly satisfied with the value they received.

Top 7 Rules for Creating Beautiful Bills Your Clients Will Love

Of course, every industry is different. Some industries require minimal bills, while others (such as my own — the legal profession) required detailed bills.

No matter what industry you are in, here are the top 7 Rules for creating bills that will make your clients fall in love with you:

1. Put Yourself in your Client’s Shoes.

Read over your bills before you mail them as if you were the one being asked to spend thousands of dollars, not as if you are the sender. Does the bill look professional enough to justify the cost? Does the bill clearly explain who did what?

If there was a typo, what would you think of that typo? Since most of what professionals do for clients is done when the client is not present, if they see a typo, they are going to think you are being sloppy and careless in the work you do when they are not around, just like you were with the typo.

2. Provide Detailed Explanation of Your Value

Ask yourself: do the services described sound like something that is worth their cost?

You should explain why your client is paying you hundreds or thousands of dollars to do something they cannot do for themselves. If they read the bill and it sounds like you have just done something they could do themselves (like “sent emails” or “made calls”), they made decide to get rid of you and do it on their own.

So that they don’t fire you, make sure you communicate your training, experience, and value in the bill.

You shouldn’t throw out meaningless jargon ad nauseum like some annoying lawyer who is constantly using Latin terms to make them sound smart.  You should use technical terms appropriately in context.

The exception to this rule is when the client is busy enough that they just want someone else to handle the work, even though they could do it themselves. I could figure out how to snake my own toilet if I wanted to, but I’d rather pay a plumber to do it.

3. Use Bills As an Opportunity To Educate

You should use the bill to reiterate advice you may have already given the client over the phone, in an email, or in a letter.

At the same time, this will serve as “CYA” in case the client in the future accuses you of not having told them something.

4. Be Predictable

It is important that the client knows what to expect with your bills and is not caught off guard.

If you are differing amounts of work for the client each month, and you send four bills under $500 for four months in a row, then you send a $6,000 bill out of the blue, your client may burst a fuse.

If you see it is becoming an expensive month, it would be wise to call up the client near the end of the month and give them a heads’ up that this month’s bill is likely to be higher than normal. They will be much happier that you gave them a heads’ up.

5. Give Your Client Options to Pay

I don’t know about you, but I hate writing checks. Almost all of my regular monthly bills are on auto-debit so I don’t have to write a check each month.

That’s why I allow my clients to pay by credit card and even by Paypal. You will find that clients pay bills faster and you are paid quicker if you accept credit card payments. I use a company called LawPay.com for credit card processing.

If your business is large enough, you can also provide a great service by having your bookkeeper or accounting department call up new clients over the phone right after you are retained to introduce themselves and explain the payment process.

While this will be seen as a nice service on the front end, it has another benefit: if your accounting department has to track down late payers later, they will have already spoken to your accounting staff. They won’t be getting a call out of the blue from someone they don’t know.

(I have to give business coach Kevin Waldron the credit for this idea, which he went over in detail in Business Profit Academy, our video training course for entrepreneurs.)

I also use email to send out my bills, so my clients have an electronic copy if they prefer. It also cuts down on clients claiming they didn’t receive the bill.

6. Do Not Round Off Hours

What do you think when you see a bill for exactly 6 hours work?

I don’t know about you, but I think there’s no way they did exactly 6 hours work.

That’s why it’s better to make sure you send only precise numbers, down to the ¼ hour or 1/10th of an hour (as in the legal profession). Your clients will respect you for your attention to detail.

7. Include Specific Examples of Tasks Accomplished In Your Bills

Be very specific in what you did for the client. Don’t bill for four hours for “general research.” Use specific areas of research. In my case, I actually cite the case or the statute, such as “Review and analysis of subject matter jurisdictional issues, including review and analysis of Perry v. Brown, 704 F. Supp. 2d 921 (N.D. Cal., 2010) and Cal. Civ. Proc. Section 17200.”

Of course, every profession has its own specific needs. But if you follow these general tips, you will find your clients will be much more loyal to you and much more willing to pay your bills on time.

 

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Photo credit: Microsoft office online

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