Bill Early, Bill Often
I was working with the controller at one of my clients. She was muttering about another consultants invoice. She asked me "Do you remember what Bill did when he was here last month?". I did remember that he and I had been there at the same time, but I couldn't say what he had been doing. "Look at this invoice", she went on, "It's useless". I peered over her shoulder, always happy to get a peek at my peer's billing rates. I noticed that Bill charges a little less than I do, but I also noticed that she was right about the invoice being useless. It had three lines on it, something like:
March 25th: 8 hours @ 120.00 $960.00 April 12th: 4 hours @ 120.00 $480.00 April 28th: 8 hours @ 120.00 $960.00
The bill itself was dated May 20th, and today was the 24th. The earliest item on that invoice was two months old, and the newest was just under a month. She was right, it was useless.
The controller frowned. "I don't think he was here all day on the 25th". I shook my head and shrugged my shoulders: I had no idea. Maybe he was, and maybe he wasn't, but who's going to remember two months later? Really the controller should keep a log of when we blood-sucking consultants arrive and leave, and I said so. She sighed and agreed she'd have to, but added "Why can't he be like you?".
Indeed. My customers sometimes joke that my invoices arrive at their office before I could possibly have gotten home. It's not quite that fast, but I do send invoices immediately upon completion of work. There's at least two reasons for that, and one is that I want to get paid as soon as I possibly can. Whatever delays a client's A/P processing may impose upon my check, the fact remains that the sooner it is in their hands, the sooner I'm likely to get paid. There's also the matter of contention and discrepancy: if there is any question about how long I was there and what was accomplished, the longer time that has elapsed, the less likely anyone is to remember and corroborate my claims. For the same reason, I do put a little more than "4 hours" as a description; I don't usually write a lot, but enough that it should jog the memory of the people involved.
Don't wait to send invoices. If you feel you must, you certainly should not delay it beyond a month and really, sending it out the very same day or as soon as possibly after is the best practice.
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