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What to put on an invoice?

My client has asked that I put every day worked on my monthly invoice.  I see this as excessive.  Question is, can the client tell me what to put on my own invoice? As a company owner, surely I should be the one who decides what goes on the invoice?

Any advice given is appreciated.

Thanks, Star

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By Anonymous
07th Jan 2010 11:40

Yes they can

Yes of course they can, but whether you choose to do so is over to you.

Once clients start querying charges its generallly the beginning of the end. The next stage will be to query the time spent and after that to start getting alternative quotes.

If you want to retain the client now is the time to start talking openly about charges and find the real reason why they dont value your work. 

Satisfied clients dont quibble about fees.

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07th Jan 2010 12:15

Dont do it

This has the hallmark of a client wanting a Rolls Royce service at Fiat Panda prices.

All you are going to get is grief from such a client.

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07th Jan 2010 12:27

Mis-read question

I think you have mis-read the question anonymous!  The client is merely getting value for money.  It is a charity so that is perfectly understandable.  However, in the past, I have given a monthly invoice to other clients, giving value for money on a monthly basis.  I have seen other accountants doing the same thing even direct debits for the same amount each month regardless of whether a holiday is taken or sickness incurred.

With this client, I have negotiated an hourly charge for a 'no more than so many hours' week. That works fine but it isn't the ideal because 'some' clients want it both ways.  They want to specify the hours and the charge but this is not right for someone self-employed.  A self employed person sets their own hours and charges accordingly.

You wouldn't be able to tell the plumber how many hours to work or what to charge, so why would it be right to do the same for a book-keeper.

Some clients keep moving the goal posts!

I object to your insinuating that I am undervalued or not doing a good job! That is not the case at all.

Why are you showing as anonymous? Are you ashamed of who you are?

Star

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By Anonymous
07th Jan 2010 12:31

The very fact

that the client has asked for something you don't want to give and feel uncomfortable about, and this has made you post a query on it, rings very loud alarm bells over the whole relationship, before dealing with any specifics at all. 

On specifics, we have no idea as to your practice, the client, and/or what work you are undertaking.  So it is not easy to be certain as to any course of action.  There are plenty of ocassions where putting details on an invoice, or an attachment, may be wholly appropriate and/or desirable.   But if you are, for example, a sole practitioner undertaking general accountancy and tax work off-site for a small client business, it would be unusual and imply the client is either not very trusting in general, or not very trusting of you as yet.  I don't disagree with the two previous posters (and it's certainly not a question of who can say what goes on the invoice!!  it's your final say of course, but clearly you need resolve a client request) and it may be the case that the client could be troublesome ; but NOT necessarily.  But you are clearly concerned, so I would follow your instincts - you know the client, the work, and your practice.

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07th Jan 2010 12:39

Impracticable solution

I think it is impracticable to list every day of the month worked. It implies that the client has to 'check off' each day worked in a diary or somewhere, which implies that 'I' am charging for days worked which were not worked at all. This destroys the element of trust back and forth and is not a good basis for a client - book-keeper relationship.  However, it says more about the client than the book-keeper in my opinion!

The other point about the listing is what I mentioned before, i.e. it smacks of a time-sheet, which is certainly not part of a self-employed agreement.

I would be interested to hear how other book-keepers work? Do you send out a monthly invoice? Does it list every day/hour worked or is it on a 'job done' basis.

Star

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By neileg
07th Jan 2010 12:52

Can't have it both ways

I think it is impracticable to list every day of the month worked. It implies that the client has to 'check off' each day worked in a diary or somewhere, which implies that 'I' am charging for days worked which were not worked at all. This destroys the element of trust back and forth and is not a good basis for a client - book-keeper relationship.  However, it says more about the client than the book-keeper in my opinion!

The other point about the listing is what I mentioned before, i.e. it smacks of a time-sheet, which is certainly not part of a self-employed agreement./i>

But you have already agreed that you are working on an hourly basis. Why is it unreasonable to produce a record of the hours? If this was a 'professional' engagement you wouldn't have entered in on it on a time basis.

If I engage a tree surgeon to take a tree down, I expect a price for the whole job. If I employ a gardener on the basis of 3 hours a week, I want to know the hours worked and pay accordingly.

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07th Jan 2010 12:57

When I started out

I did list the hours and days as an attachment to my invoices for those clients where I was paid an hourly or daily rate. I felt I had nothing to hide, what I was stating was factual and if a client wanted to check their diary they would see I was accurate. This only strengthened the business relationship. I have long since ceased this practice but have still retained the clients.

Your client has beaten you to this by their request and I can understand that you might feel a little offended. Don't be. This is business, nothing personal.

You should be very worried if a client asked you to put something on your invoice that you hadn't done (be prepared for that!). not something that you have.

If you are being paid reasonably and like the work, why not just do it to keep things sweet.

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By nobbie
07th Jan 2010 13:00

"Why are you showing as anonymous? Are you ashamed of who you ar

This is a daft comment to someone who made a perfectly sensible and helpful posting (not me by the way!!).   

So you are Star?  Oh really?  Why don't you give your name?  Are you ashamed of who you are?  People who give their name are not abashed or ashamed.  Fine.  Most choose to post under either pseudonyms (like me and you) or anons.  In neither case are we stating who we are.  The pseudonym or label can be of practical use on blogs, and the difference has been endlessly debated on this blog.  But it is nothing to do with shame or ashame or anything like.

Shame on you for such a prickly response to a perfectly sensible answer.

 

 

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By Anonymous
07th Jan 2010 13:07

hmm

I'm not the first anonymousey, but having seen this poster's follow up postings, I could not envisage hiring this bookkeeper (as client or accountant - I run three commerical companies and one small accounting practice) for love nor money. 

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By Luke
07th Jan 2010 13:24

I would give them the detail

At the end of the day, they are your client and within reason you should do all you can to keep a good relationship going.

Yes I can see why you feel defensive at suddenly being asked for a breakdown but as you say they are a charity and they have probably been asked to have more information / backup on exactly what was provided.

I have only had two clients where I bill hourly, one an insurance company for a tax investigation and one relatively new startup with all sorts of unusual issues.  On both of those I keep an excel spreadsheet which details hours I have worked and what I have done.  I.e.    6/1/09    1.5hrs   analysing opening balances  

For the insurance company I automatically included it in the invoice, I haven't yet decided whether to append it to the startup's invoice yet but suspect I will.  At the end of the day I have worked those hours and am happy to be clear about it.

If however you think it is not the client needing to show more clarity but them starting to mistrust you then provided you want to keep the client, you need to find out what is going wrong and what the problem is so that you can resolve it.

As someone else said when employing someone on an hourly rate I would expect to know what they had worked, i.e. I paid my cleaner for 3hrs and she used to complete cleaning my house in 2.5hrs which irked me. (You could say she should have cleaned some more but then you could also say she was just being efficient - which is why hourly rates are to be avoided I think.)

Good Luck

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By Spudsy
07th Jan 2010 13:25

Give the customer what they want

I give my customers invoices in whatever format they ask for. I've only ever been asked once to give a breakdown by the hour, which I did. I did ask the client what was the reason and did he think I was over charging it turned out he was splitting the business into 3 and wanted the breakdown for future planning / business plans etc. which I offered to help him with and got extra work. So it's not a negative in all cases. I must say I do give clients a verbal breakdown of what I've done before leaving their site which most seem happy with.

Might be worth grasping the nettle and asking the question? (did that rhyme!)

-- www.bagofreceipts.co.uk

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07th Jan 2010 13:36

All about Trust

I suppose it's all about Trust with a capital T. I recently had a new kitchen sink fitted and the fitter said it would take three days. I asked him what his daily rate was and he told me. He charged me for three days and I paid him, but it only took 2 1/2 days in the end.  Should I have asked for half a day's pay back? I don't think so. I didn't ask. He did a good job and I trusted him. I paid him and that was the end of it.

If we are all so picky then there is no end to it, is there? 

I could have said ' You took 2 days, 4 hours and 55 minutes to do that job, so I will be expecting a credit on that invoice?'  I can imagine his response!!!

Star (that is my name)

 

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By Anonymous
07th Jan 2010 14:04

You try to help and what do you get

Thank you Nobbie - very well put (from anonymous number 1)

My post was meant to be helpful and is from expereince gained from over 25 years in practice.

In fact WD's response was virtually identical to mine?!

I choose to remain anonymous to save people emailing personally which has happended in the past.

Maybe Star you should sit down and re-read some of the advice given.

 

 

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07th Jan 2010 15:14

Cost of job.

There was a well known barrister (now retired) who charged £8,000 per day in court. This is the figure he always quoted, and, he was in great demand.  However, what people didnt realise is that for every day in court there was also a week of preparation for which he wasnt charging. 

Now this is an extreme example, but the same principal applies.  For every hour you spend physically working on a clients books, there is a lot of other time keeping up to date with legislation, designing spread sheets, etc, etc.

That is why we simply dont give hourly rates.  Everything is £XXX to do - take it or leave it.  As someone else said your plumber will quote you £1,000 for a job whether it takes him a day or a week.  We find that clients like to know the cost of the job regardless of how long it takes you. 

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By Anonymous
07th Jan 2010 16:06

Not sure "one size fits all" necessarily.

As someone who runs three businesses and one small accounting practice, I see both sides.

It is true that over 90% of the work we do from our accounting practice is charged on a fixed price jobbing basis ; neither we nor the clients would want to go anywhere near hourly rates for the vast majority of the work, most especially compliance. 

In a small minority of cases, however, it is totally appropriate and sensible (for both parties) to agree a time and materials basis rather than fixed price (or even a contingency basis under certain circumstances).  Of course estimates and stagings may also be useful so everything is not just open-ended, but time and materials can be a suitable way for some professional work.

On the specifics of STARs type of case, I have hired bookkeepers on both fixed price and hourly rates in my 3 businesses (we don't offer bookkeeping from the accounting practice).  It depends entirely on the circumstances.  But I am unclear what fee basis STAR has actually reached with the client in question. 

Is it an hourly basis or not?  If it is, then I do not understand why there is a problem in giving the hours.  In fact I'd expect it.  If not, and the agreement is for a jobbing basis, then I don't understand where the request has come from. 

Self-employed etc etc aspect is a red herring ; it might be symptomatic of a different issue, but it does not affect the basis of agreeing fees.

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