Invoicing for small businesses

Nafisa AkaborCache This, Latest

A glass bowl of coinsIf you’re a small business owner, freelancer or have a side hustle, chances are you’re sending out invoices every month. If you’re new to the space, it can be overwhelming not knowing where to begin.

In this post, we will cover invoicing best practices and the available options across free and paid invoicing platforms.

A valid invoice

Let’s start with a few tips for mastering your invoices.

  • Ask your client what company information you should include when you invoice them, such as their VAT or registration info.
  • You should then ask what additional information is required from you, like a bank confirmation letter, tax compliance certificate, BEE status, etc.
  • You can also refer to the SARS website for what constitutes a valid invoice.

It can be a painful lesson to learn when you follow up on an outstanding payment, only to be told that supporting documents are required to get paid. Usually, these supporting documents are a once-off requirement.

Here are our picks for invoicing platforms to use:

Word or Excel (free)

Both Microsoft Word and Excel have a wide range of templates available for you to customise. You may have overlooked Word, but it has at least 17 invoice templates available, while Excel offers a minimum of 40 templates – all with customisable layouts, styles, colours, etc. It also guides you on the information that needs to appear on your invoice. These options are free to use if you already have access to Office or a Microsoft 365 subscription.

Zoho (free or paid)

Zoho is a free invoicing app provided you’re a single user with platform access for an accountant, so technically it’s for two users. It’s an online platform that lets you generate up to 1,000 invoices per year in multiple currencies and bank accounts with reminders, etc. Its next available tier is for three users and up to 5,000 invoices per year at R990/pa (R330 per person) with other tiers available. There’s an iOS and Android app available. More info here.

Sage (paid, budget-friendly)

Sage offers an individual price plan of R185/pm for a single user to create and track invoices and works from anywhere, so you can start immediately. However, its R340/pm option for two users offers more features like bookkeeping, capturing receipts digitally, calculating VAT returns, and automatic bank reconciliation. More info here.

Xero (paid)

Xero’s starter package is aimed at a sole trader, new business or the self-employed and costs around R400 p/m. It lets you send up to 20 quotes and invoices a month, captures bills and receipts, offers a short-term cash flow and business snapshot, and lets you reconcile bank transactions. It does not support multiple currencies. If you’re not sure it’s worth the money, use their  30-day free trial first. More info here.

With the right software and a solution that works for your business type, invoicing platforms give you one thing less to worry about, with zero to minimal expense.

Lastly, if you have the budget for it, hire a tax professional to help file your tax returns, as filing an incorrect tax return is arguably a more expensive mistake to make when you’re starting out.

Cache This

Technology is an ever increasing part of our lives and let’s be honest, many of us like gadgets. There is also an abundance of new online services and apps taking over the traditional services we use. Nafisa Akabor has been covering everything tech for well over a decade and she’ll be writing on how we can do tech within a budget and reviewing some of the new online services. Cache This is published on the last Tuesday of every month.