Sending your first invoices – what you need to include

Sending your first invoices – what you need to include

If you are just starting out on your small business and about to send your first invoices – congratulations! It is exciting to be finally putting a value on your time and work and you deserve to be paid for it.

Sadly you may find not all your clients will pay quickly. However, you can make it as easy as possible for them to do so by ensuring you include all the important information on your invoice.

You can create your own invoice template or use the ones on Word or other packages or download them. You may want to use some simple accountancy software, some of which include invoices.

For a standard (non-VAT) invoice you must include:

  • Your company name, address and contact details
  • An invoice number (this should be unique)
  • The date of the invoice
  • The name and address of the client
  • The date the goods or service were provided
  • A clear description of the good or service
  • The amount (s) being charged
  • The total amount to be paid

You should also:

  • Include the word ‘Invoice’ at the top of the page – you want it to go in the ‘to pay’ pile and not get lost among the client’s other correspondence
  • Include the client’s customer/account number if you use them
  • Quote the client’s order number if you have been given one
  • Itemise your description if necessary
  • Add expenses on as a separate item if appropriate
  • Use sub-totals to make the calculations clear
  • Make it obvious how you expect to be paid – bank details, who to make cheques payable to
  • State your payment terms
  • PDF your invoice before emailing
  • Keep a simple spreadsheet, if not using accountancy software, and ensure you mark it when payment is received
  • Send receipts
  • Send reminders – you earned the money, do not be afraid of chasing payment

You may find invoicing is taking up too much of your time, or you are uncomfortable chasing payments. If so drop me a message and find out how I can help.

 

25 Things I have learnt during my first year as a freelancer

25 Things I have learnt during my first year as a freelancer

This month marks the first anniversary of both my redundancy after 18 years in my job and my decision to become a Virtual Assistant. So as this is a time of reflection and celebration I thought I’d share a lighthearted look at the things I have learnt in my first year as a freelancer….

 

  1.     I work better in the mornings, preferably after a walk.
  2.     Five hours solid at the computer is not good for the eyes or back.
  3.     I can hear the washing machine finished beep from my desk.
  4.     Prospective clients do not magically know I am sitting at my desk waiting for their call.
  5.     Sometimes I can go a whole day without talking to another person.
  6.     Talking to other people occasionally is a primative need.
  7.     All the couriers have twigged I work from home.
  8.     Couriers don’t have time for a chat.
  9.     All telephone cold call centres in the world know I work from home.
  10.   I don’t want to chat to call centre callers. Even the human ones.
  11.   The family mostly think I don’t have a ‘proper job’.
  12.   The family have enough jobs for me ‘if I’m not doing anything today’.
  13.   I love the flexibility to see friends/support family/go out/babysit/pick up prescriptions/drop off returns as required.
  14.   The Wi-Fi is not good enough at the bottom of the garden, under the shade of the tree, to work.
  15.   My inside desk space is not cool-looking enough for an Insta post.
  16.   I miss my old team. A lot.
  17.   I don’t miss office politics. At all.
  18.   LinkedIn isn’t as fun as I thought it would be.
  19.   I work better the more pressure I’m under.
  20.   I can lose a day ‘researching’ on social media.
  21.   I need coffee(s) to function.
  22.   I do not need something sweet with each coffee. Maybe just one biscuit a day. Or two. Three at the most.
  23.   Selling myself can be soul-destroying.
  24.   A great client is definitely worth holding on to. Tightly.
  25.   I wouldn’t go back to working in an office again if you paid me…….err sorry how much did you say??

Happy Business Birthday to me!  Here’s to many more years of being my own boss! 

Ensure You Get The Holiday You Deserve

Ensure You Get The Holiday You Deserve

When you run your own business going away on holiday is a big deal. A very big deal.

 

On the one hand you have worked hard, harder than you ever thought you would have to and you deserve a break. However, you have built up this business and nurtured it, how can you possibly leave it unattended for two weeks?

 

If the thought of taking some time off is filling you with impending down-time doom now’s the time to plan some cover and hire a Virtual Assistant.

 

 

Tasks your VA could cover in your absence:

 

Call answering or voicemail checks. Some VA’s offer a full call answering service and others can pick up your voicemails at regular intervals. You will need to decide how often you want a summary of the calls sent through or whether you are happy for just the exceptionallyurgent to be forwarded. Depending on your relationship with your VA and how much she knows about your business you may be happy for her to follow-up on some of the calls.

 

Email monitoring. However tempting it is to stick on your Out-Of-Office message if you receive new client queries and orders via email you may prefer to have your VA to monitor your inbox. Set expectations before you leave on what should be flagged, forwarded or answered to ‘keep warm’. Create a template email your VA can use if need be.

 

Invoices. Depending on how long you are going to be away you may want invoices to raised and sent in your absence. You may also prefer that your suppliers’ invoices are paid on time rather than left for your return.

 

Social media. Having built up a good following on your Twitter, Facebook or Instagram accounts the last thing you want is to leave it unattended for days on end. By all means tell your readers you will be away and maybe post some personal photos and updates from your holiday if you wish but spend some time beforehand scheduling posts. Your VA can help you with this and also be on hand to check your accounts and ensure the scheduled posts have gone live and that nothing has happened in the news that would suddenly make your post insensitive! If you prefer not to use scheduling tools then provide your VA with your intended posts and she can upload. A VA can also monitor comments and messages and approve new members

 

Post. Businesses do still receive post. If you are going away for a while a local VA can pop in and sort out the junk from the important mail and action if required.

 

House-check. Finding a local VA you trust means you may also have somebody who can pop round to your house or office once or twice and just check everything is safe and secure. Some VAs will drop off and collect dry cleaning, get an essentials shop in for your return or wait for deliveries.

 

Pets. Cats, goldfish, rabbits. As well as checking your premises or home is safe you may find your local VA would be happy to feed your pet.

 

How much you outsource and how often you choose to ‘check-in’ is up to you but finding a good Virtual Assistant you can trust and rely on will go some way to ensuring you enjoy your holiday and even manage to switch off. Well at least some of the time!

 

If you would benefit from some support while you are away do drop me a message or email me on trudie@takealettervirtualadmin.com and ensure your holiday dates are in my diary.

 

Handwritten letters & why you should be sending some

Handwritten letters & why you should be sending some

When did you last send, or receive, a handwritten letter? 

Predictions show that in 2019 around 293.6 billion emails will be sent and received worldwide. Emails, WhatsUp and texting are quick. They’re convenient and efficient for getting your message to its recipient. Bish. Bash. Bosh. Sent. 

However, if you want your reader to notice you and your business, sending a handwritten note is a great way of getting their attention.

According to a survey commissioned by Cunard 54% of Brits have received less than 5 handwritten letters in the last decade, and yet seeing a handwritten letter or card on the door mat is an exciting sign that someone cares.

Feelings count, yes – even in business!

Business can be grey and corporate. Even if you are in a creative industry business to business correspondence is normally formal and formulaic, and rightly so. The messages are important and need to be clear, concise and functional. But let’s be honest rarely do they set pulses racing. 

Receiving a handwritten note makes one feel important. It shows somebody felt it worth his or her time and effort to sit down with a pen and write. No spell check. No back button. No delete. 

Feeling special is always worth celebrating. Clients and customers are more likely to hold on to a hand written note or card. They may keep it pinned up near their desk or decide to share the positivity on their social media. 

When might you send a handwritten letter?

With so many prospecting emails received each day yours may not even be opened let alone read!  A hand written letter on good quality stationery stands out. It will pique your potential client’s interest. You will be remembered.

Send thank you notes and follow-ups on appropriately illustrated post cards. They will show you really did appreciate their business/help/lunch and you value the relationship.

Including a written note in with an order shows a customer their business is important to you. You may not be able to do this for all orders but consider it for high value and extra special customers.

I offer a handwriting service but it would be better coming from you!

Authenticity is important. You are breaking away from corporate formality so write naturally and not forced. Keep it short and simple and if possible write it yourself. 

(If your handwriting is truly dire, or the sentiment is there but you absolutely don’t have the time drop me a message.)

How to get a grip on your inbox

How to get a grip on your inbox

If you dread opening your emails and one of your recurring task list items is an inbox detox you are in good company. Many of us have inbox overload nightmares but here are a few ways you can take back control:

Delete!

Email is designed to be a timely way of communicating. That’s not to say you should be a slave to it (see below) but if you have emails that are showing as unread and are over a few weeks old ask yourself why you are keeping them. The chances are the pertinent reason for the email has passed so delete.

Empty your junk folder. There is a reason you have put stuff there, either manually or automatically. You might not ever intend to read those 4,237 (if you are lucky) unread emails but you still know they are there!

Delete the earlier versions of current email threads. Only the latest really needs to be kept. And while you’re at it do the same with the ones in your sent folder.

Unsubscribe!

How many of us thought that post GDPR deadline day we would magically see far less newsletters, promotions and junk? I admit, maybe for a month or so mine did go down, a little, but as it write this mid December I am being bombarded with retail emails promising me huge discounts and Christmas Eve delivery!

There are programmes such as Unroll.me that can do this for you but if you prefer a little more say in the matter (you still have to promise to be ruthless) put aside time during a quieter period to manually unsubscribe to everything you do not read regularly.

Don’t be a slave!

Fix specific times through the day to open your emails. First thing, last thing and maybe a couple of other times mid morning and mid afternoon.

Close your email programme down. Yes really! If you have work to do hearing that ping and seeing the preview of an email pop up in the corner is distracting and you will be tempted away from the task you are working on. Unless you are waiting for an urgent response most email can wait a few hours.

Simply file!

There has been lots written about the best way to file your emails and I have seen some good and some very bad. The worst filing system will take longer time to maintain and use than it saves so think about it carefully. If your’s is not working well for you change it.

I find it best not to use subjects or senders as a filing system. Email programmes have great search functions and you can find most emails you need by searching using the senders name or the topic. These type of folder systems can end up very long and unwieldy.

Try using a simple ‘to do list’ type folder system with your overall inbox then file within that under when it needs to be dealt with:

‘Today’

‘This Week’

‘This month’

‘For information only’ (but don’t use this as another storage system for junk you never read!)

Get help!

Having a tidy and efficient inbox is vital. It is good for your wellbeing, one less thing to be thinking about and will ensure vital business is not lost through missing information or orders that have just disappeared in amongst the clutter.

However, if even the thought of doing the above housekeeping on your emails is bringing you out in sweats many virtual assistants, including myself, offer an inbox detox service, either as a one-off to get you in a good place or as an on-going maintenance or email management service.

Drop me a message and find out how easy it can be to get control of your inbox.

 

Are You a Grumpy Business Superhero?

Are You a Grumpy Business Superhero?

Whatever type of business you run there are times when you just need a little assistance. It may be a one-off to get back control or maybe just an hour a week to update your Facebook page. You may need proper business support.

*  Just because you run your own business doesn’t mean you have to be a superhero and do it all.

*  Just because you are a whizz with a drill, pen, wrench or pair of tweezers doesn’t mean you love hanging out on social media even though you know it’s where your clients are.

*  Just because you chose to go self-employed doesn’t mean you can’t spend time with the family at weekends.

*  Just because you love your work doesn’t mean you don’t worry at night about getting behind with the paperwork.

* Just because you can (after a fashion) ‘do the admin’ doesn’t mean you should have to.

 

There’s no point being a superhero if you are a tired, grumpy, resentful one!

 

Why not message me today and find out how I can help you.