The ideal time to send an invoice is a subject of some debate. Generally speaking, you have three options: at the start, during, or at the end of the engagement. Depending on industry and clientele, the best option may vary. Typically, service industries will charge after the work has been performed or a project has been completed. Sales-oriented small businesses will charge up-front before items are shipped to customers.
The average engagement time of your business may be anywhere from one minute to one year or more. Most small businesses find success utilizing a mix of the three. The following are just some guidelines.
Invoicing at the start of the engagement makes the most sense for a project that will require a lot of up-front costs. If this is known to the client, it’s understandable to require at least partial payment from the start. Otherwise, you run the risk of breaking their trust.
Concluding the engagement with the invoice is more commonplace, as client’s generally like to feel secure in handing over their hard-earned cash. This is a given if your engagement is a simple transaction. However, if the transaction is spread over a length of time, you may want to break up your invoicing process into phases—this option can be a good compromise between you and your customer.