Music Teacher's Helper Blog

Tips on Invoicing

Invoicing is a tremendously useful part of Music Teachers Helper.  But it can be confusing.  Here’s a tour through the way one teacher (that’s me!) makes use of the invoicing system — plus a few extra comments.

I have found invoicing to be increasingly helpful, and more of my students are requesting it.  First I’ll describe a few situations where I use invoicing, and then I’ll explain how I work with invoices.  (Please note that, technically, an “invoice” is a bill that requests payment, while a “statement” is a record of a student’s charges and payments, showing the balance owed, if any.  For the purposes of this discussion, I’m just using the word “invoice” to talk about everything we do on the “Create Invoices” window.)

Here are some reasons to use invoices:

1. Some students don’t want to have to remember to bring cash or a checkbook to the lesson, or else they simply prefer to handle or track their lesson payments via credit card.  These students have requested that I invoice them.

2. In a few cases, a student seems to have trouble remembering to pay, and although they may not request an invoice, creating and emailing them one is a very clear and effective request for payment, and gives them the option to pay immediately by credit card.

3. Where there might be some complication in the student’s account, it is easiest to explain the problems by setting up an invoice that summarizes all the charges and payments in question, and emailing it to the student.

4. When a student is taking a class, or a combination of classes and private lessons, I can schedule them for the month or sometimes for longer – many of my classes are 8 weeks long – and by emailing an invoice, I not only can make clear how much the student owes, but also make clear to them the dates of all the classes and lessons.

5. When a flat monthly rate is in effect, some students may prefer an automatic invoice to be emailed at the beginning of the month, and a few may even choose automatic payments.

Here’s how I go about making different kinds of invoices

Under the Billing tab, choose “Invoicing” and under that, “Create Invoice(s)”.  The first thing I do is to select the student’s name and preview the invoice.  The preview button is near the bottom where it says “Preview or Print”.  Usually I make an invoice for a single student, though you can choose multiple students at the same time, or even all students at once.  It’s important to me to preview the invoice and make sure it shows what I intend for it to show.  It can be easy to forget to check off a box you might need, or accidentally choose the wrong dates.

If the preview is correct, I click the link at the top of the preview to “Go Back to Invoicing Creation”, which preserves my choices, and allows me to finalize the invoice.  To finalize the invoice, I like to check off the two boxes at the bottom:  “Save in History” and “Email”, and then I click “Do It!”  The email is sent, and the Invoice History screen appears, showing me the list of invoices with the most recent one at the top.

When I first enter the Invoicing Creation window, the dates automatically show the beginning and ending of the current month, and boxes are checked off for to show All Transactions, and Scheduled Charges.  That’s usually what I want.

However, recently, I had a student who only had money for that day’s lesson, and wanted to be invoiced for the rest of the month.  In this case, having entered that day’s payment in the system, I wanted the invoice to show both the one-lesson payment and the balance of the monthly charge.  So when making the invoice, I checked off the box “Show Payments”.  The result was an invoice showing the monthly charge, the payment made, and at the bottom, the correct balance owing.  If I had not checked of the “Show Payments” box, the invoice would have displayed the wrong number because the student’s payment would not have been included.

It’s really important to remember that the invoice will only show what you ask it to show!  For example, if the student made a payment on November 30 and you create an invoice from Dec 1 to Dec 31, the invoice is not going to display that Nov 30 payment.  The invoice does not automatically calculate the student’s balance for you; it only does what you tell it to do.

It only does what you tell it to do – an example

Let me give you an example of how the invoice can look wrong because it did exactly what I asked it to do!  I just said the invoice won’t automatically calculate the student’s balance, but it’s capable of doing just that if you make the proper selections.  Check off the box “Show Previous Balance and Date Range” and the invoice will show the student’s balance at the top, calculating what the student owed at the beginning of the date range you selected.  If you didn’t change the date range selection, it will show the current month.  You can, of course, select any date range, and if you want the invoice to show any particular payment or charge, make sure the date range includes that transaction.

Okay, here’s the example I was talking about:  Antonio owed $80 in November, which he paid on December 2.  If I create an invoice for him during the month of December, and I check off “Show Previous Balance and Date Range”, the invoice will show that at the end of November he owed $80.  But unless I check off “Show Payments”, the invoice will not show the December 2 payment because it’s within the date range I selected, and payments within that range will only show up if “Show Payments” is checked off.  Without checking off the “Show Payments” box, Antonio’s invoice shows that he owed $80 at the time the date range started but appears to show that he paid nothing this month and still owes $80!  The invoice did just what I asked it to do, because I didn’t ask it to “Show Payments.”

Two options I haven’t mentioned are “Show Only Un-invoiced Transactions within the date range” and “Create invoices/statements even if amount due is zero”.  The first of these is useful if you have already created an invoice for a student.  It allows you to create a new invoice showing only items that did not appear on the earlier invoice, so you don’t charge the student twice.  The second item is useful if you want to email or print an invoice because it shows useful information about lesson charges and payments, even though the student is paid up and the total amount due is zero.  I might want to do this to show a student that they have attended or have scheduled a certain number of lessons that match up with a recent payment.   But to create an invoice like this, I have to check off the box that says “Create invoices/statements even if amount due is zero” or else the invoice will not be displayed.  The reason this is set up this way is because normally if a teacher emails or prints many invoices for students, it’s better not to waste emails and paper on those students who don’t owe anything.

It’s probably worth noting that you can only make an invoice for a currently active student.  If you need to make a historical invoice for a former student, you’ll need to go into your former students list, and change that student to active status in order to make an invoice.

I hope this overview is helpful, but if you have questions, feel free to make comments below.

About the Author

Ed Pearlman
Ed Pearlman has focused on performing, teaching, and judging fiddle music for over 30 years, offering performances and workshops throughout the USA and in Canada and Scotland. His original training was with members of the Chicago and Boston Symphonies, and he played with orchestras and chamber groups at Yale and in Boston. He currently teaches privately in Maine and at workshops around the countr... [Read more]

5 Comments

  1. Ken Rhodes

    Ed, thanks for this article. It was very well done, and it really is confusing for many MTH users.

    For my studio, I charge a flat rate to all of my students. I want that payment at the first of the month, to help me keep up on my own expenses, so I use the automatic invoicing feature to send the invoices for me on the last day of the month.

  2. Inna

    Thank you for the useful information on invoicing and detailed explanation of some situations that you had to encounter.

  3. Brandon Pearce

    Great article, Ed!

    I appreciate the distinction you made at the beginning about the difference between an “invoice” and a “statement”, because the Music Teacher’s Helper invoicing system gives you the flexibility to create an invoice, a statement, or anything in between. Some teachers only want to send statements. Some only want to invoice, some want both, and some want a variation of the two. They can do it all with this system, by choosing different options on the form.

    It can be an extremely simple thing to setup at its’ basic level, or you can make it really complicated. Thanks for breaking the process down for us and making it easier to understand.

  4. Ronnie Currey

    Great article, Ed. Thanks for writing the article for all of us!

    Another way I use invoices is to send an invoice to students after the 1st, reminding them they are late and can pay immediately by clicking on “Pay Now”. Sometimes I even add a $10 late fee, which will show up on this new invoice.

  5. Ms Jean

    I used to be confused when invoicing but after a year it seems fairly simple. If you are just starting take my word: stick with it, ask questions when stumped and you won’t be able to work without it once you see it’s worth.

    I require that all parents print the invoice and attach it to the monthly payment. I have been able to get all 52 families (over 80 students) to do this. The result is correct payments every month. I don’t have to spend time printing an invoice and when the invoice comes attached to the payment, I know immediately that it is the correct amount. It has eliminated all accounting errors!

    I preview all invoices before I send them. This is an opportunity to correct any errors. This month I had forgotten to delete a student and change his sister’s rate, the invoice showed him on the schedule and this was my reminder to take him off. When I find an error, I create one invoice after another, going back month by month until I find the error. Additionally, you may print the invoice history and the payment history and compare them side by side!]

    Thanks MTH!

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