21st October, 2015
In centuries to come, there may be no evidence of our electronic transactions, but in ancient times, business transactions were recorded on stone or parchments.
I asked my graphic designer friend Joe at Studio 131, to provide an example of a ‘cool’ invoice. He replied with a question: “Can an invoice ever be cool?”
Digging back through history, we found a few invoices from about 100 years ago. Here’s a beautiful one from John Danks & Son of 391 Bourke Street, Melbourne, for repairs in 1895 to one Richmond Council fire hydrant. It’s appropriate to that time, explains clearly what they do and celebrates their achievements — medals won at the 1875 Melbourne International Exhibition.
This next one is pretty cool, too. In 1916, in the middle of the First World War, 12 bags of “Kangaroo” cement was sent by rail carriage to the District Council of Truro by Elder, Smith & Co., Limited of Currie Street, Adelaide. Terms offered: 2.5 percent discount for paying cash, and taxes were paid (‘stamp’ duty) of two pence.
For over 100 years, the basics of an invoice haven’t changed. These are invoice templates, printed in bulk and populated manually.
(Want to learn more? Check out MYOB’s six-part series on the history of accounting – from its origins to today, and beyond.)
Templates have been used in many trades and professions to create consistency, or ease of process. Today a template often refers to an electronic document, a basic format or process that can be used repeatedly as a guide or standard.
Many entrepreneurs panic in the moments of initial success, realising they have their first customer, but no invoice set up to send. They race to find a template and pretend it’s not the first they have ever created. It pays to put some thought into not only your invoicing, but your whole financial system.
Do you want a standalone invoice (which could be okay for one or two invoices a month)? Or invoicing software integrated into your financial system? Good online accounting software will allow you to customise an invoice especially for your business.
Ensure your template complies with relevant law and have it ready well in advance.
In Australia, if a customer asks you for a tax invoice, you must provide one to them within 28 days.
Tax invoices for taxable sales of less than $1,000 must include:
In addition to the above requirements, tax invoices for taxable sales of more than $1,000 must also include the buyer’s identity and ABN (if they have one).
For further information about issuing tax invoices in Australia, as well as some helpful examples, see the ATO website. For information about the legal requirements of invoices in New Zealand, see the IRD website.
So what are the elements of cool that apply to invoices? They are pretty much the same today as they were 100 years ago:
Get the details right, make it easy to understand and easy to pay — and add your own sense of cool that is appropriate to your brand. What will your invoices say about your business in 100 years from now?