Telling the truth about SME life today

The Difference Between an Invoice and a Purchase Order

The Difference Between An Invoice & A Purchase Order

Have you ever scratched your head trying to figure out the difference between an invoice and a purchase order (PO)? You’re not the only one. While both have roles in buying items, they do different things and have their own special features. A Purchase Order (PO) is a request for goods that is sent from a buyer to a seller and an invoice is a request for payment from the seller to the buyer.

This is a simple explanation, so if you want more detail, let’s shine a light on what they do and how they’re used.

The Basics

A Purchase Order (PO) is a document that the buyer sends to the seller. It has details about things that are required to be purchased, how many there are and how much they cost. Think of it like a shopping list you’d show at the store; before you get what you want, you need to say exactly what you need.

On the flip side, an invoice is like the bill you get after a meal at a fancy restaurant. Sent by the seller to the buyer, it’s a piece of paper or electronic document asking for the money after everything is set. This document breaks down all of the required information, like the number on the invoice, who’s selling, and how much to pay.

So basically, a PO is for buying things, and an invoice is for paying after things are bought.

Why Does It Matter?

Knowing what a PO and an invoice do is really important. A PO makes sure everyone agrees on what’s bought, which helps to prevent disagreements. It also helps with budgeting, particularly within departments of a business. On the other hand, invoices make sure money doesn’t get doubled up and that cashflow is clear.

Common Factors

Even though they do different jobs, both these papers have some details that are the same. Dates, the PO number, and the buyer/seller information, these things are important to ensure buying and paying goes smoothly. It’s these same things that make them really useful to serve as a “paper trail” which is required in business in order to be able to track the movement of money, goods and services.

Purchase Orders

Using the PO method has lots of good points. It’s a detailed record that helps buyers get what they’re paying for and sellers give what’s wanted. With PO numbers, there’s no more wondering if you spent too much or stayed on the budget. Tools like Kissflow Procurement Cloud can make a PO quick and easy, making the buying thing even smoother.

Purchase Requisitions

This is like a step before the PO in big companies. Before a PO is made, a purchase requisition makes sure everything fits with the company’s money plan. This step makes things even more official and stops mixed-up orders or overspending.


These are more than just asking for money. They’re important for keeping track of money, making sure cash flows, and showing proof of purchases. When it comes to tax returns, invoices can be a lifesaver and are an essential part of any business.

What to Look for in The Details

An invoice isn’t just a bit of paper. It’s really important for both buyers and sellers. Normal things like the invoice number and seller details are obvious, but putting in a matching PO number is just as important. It’s important to make sure the invoice has a matching PO, so buying records are traceable.

Why the PO Number Matters

This number is important to make sure orders can be tracked. If you’re a business, this number helps check orders, manage cash flow, helps to balance the books and make taxes easier.

Understanding Sales Invoices

Sales invoices: the secret heroes behind money in business. When you sell something, the sales invoice steps in. It’s like a bill asking for money, breaking down what the buyer owes. Every invoice tells a story: what’s sold, how much, how it got there, and when to pay.


These document are important for a few reasons:

– Cash Flow: They help businesses know where money is, so buyers pay on time.

– Proof of Sale: Ever been unsure if you got paid? Sales invoices solve this, showing a business got paid.

– Traceability: When tax time arrives, having a tidy record with invoice numbers makes money stuff easier.

Keeping Tabs on Money

In business, controlling the money coming in and going out is critical. That’s where invoices and purchase orders help. They keep track of money, product movement and help prevent any confusion.

Think of purchase order numbers as a friend to the money team. These numbers help control spending and keep to the budget. With invoices, they also keep money in check.

Automation in Buying and Invoicing

Why do things by hand when machines can do it faster? With tech, there are lots of choices, from free invoice programs to big money platforms. Here’s what computer solutions do:

– Fast: Computers cut the time spent on boring papers.

– Exact: Able to handle data from lots of invoices, cutting down mistakes.

– Easy to See: More ways to see means better watching of money and smarter choices.


Your Invoice, Your Style

Your invoice isn’t just a bill; it’s like your brand. Using your brand colours or logo shows who you are and looks super professional. It’s like saying, “You chose right by picking us.”

But more than looks, personalisation is about doing things right. This includes things such as discounts, reminders, and other details that are there to make payments easy. So, a custom invoice means fewer questions and faster payments.

For better ties with customers, make invoices unique. Having your style in things like colours or logos looks nice and makes you seem great in buyers’ eyes.

Examples of Usage

Example 1

Picture running a boutique in the heart of town. As the weekend approaches it’s time to restock your store with items. How do you go about it? By creating a purchase order. This order is sent directly to your suppliers informing them what you need and in what quantities.

Example 2

Now let’s think  of a similar scenario but on a grander scale. 

A corporate office space filled with activity. The office manager realises that essential supplies like notepads, pens and those disappearing printer cartridges are running low. What’s their solution? They generate a purchase order. This ensures they receive the items without cluttering up the storeroom with excess inventory.

Example 3

In another example, now imagine ourselves in a factory that runs 24/7 and relies upon huge machinery. This manufacturing process can’t afford to come to a halt if they run out of materials. So, in order to keep operations going they rely on purchase orders to keep their suppliers informed about what materials are needed.

Example 4

Imagine this; you’re a graphic artist and you’ve just completed a fantastic new design for one of your clients. What comes next? Time to get compensated! How? Through an invoice. This document outlines the work you’ve accomplished, the agreed rate and when and how you’d like to receive your earned money.

Example 5

Now recall the time you had a delightful dinner at a restaurant. Do you remember the piece of paper that the waiter handed over as you sat back contentedly after enjoying your meal? That’s an invoice for you! It itemises all the dishes you savoured along with their individual prices and the grand total – which may include taxes and gratuity, for exceptional service.

Example 6

Now let’s switch to a modern scenario. You have a software program that requires its subscription renewal. The company you are subscribed to won’t simply withdraw money from your account without notice. Instead they will send you an invoice that breaks down the costs of renewing your subscription any charges involved and politely reminds you of when they expect payment.

In all these scenarios whether its a fancy shop, a workplace or a cosy restaurant, purchase orders and invoices quietly take charge to ensure smooth operations. They serve as the foundation of transactions keeping records in order and ensuring everyone is aligned. Quite literally speaking they play a role in our everyday lives. 

So the time you encounter one you’ll appreciate the significance they hold. Who knows? You might find yourself needing one sooner than expected!

Frequently Asked Questions: Purchase Orders (PO) vs. Invoices

What’s a Purchase Order (PO) in the business world?

A purchase order, often called a PO for short, is a bit like your shopping list when you’re gearing up for the weekend supermarket trip. It’s a formal note from a buyer to a seller, specifying what products or services they want and in what quantity. Whether you’re a shop owner looking for new stock, a corporate bigwig needing office supplies, or a manufacturing plant desperate for raw materials – a PO gets you what you need.

So, an Invoice is the same thing?

Not quite! Think of an invoice as the bill you get after having a slap-up meal at your favourite restaurant. After you’ve received goods or services, the seller sends you an invoice detailing what you owe them. This little document will list out everything you’ve bought, how much each item costs, and the total amount you need to part with. It’s the “Pay Up” note in the business playground.

Why can’t businesses just verbally tell their suppliers what they want?

Good question! But here’s the thing – businesses need clarity. A PO acts as a formal record of what’s been ordered. If there’s ever a dispute (like if a supplier sends you 50 chairs when you only asked for 5), the PO is there to clear things up. It’s like having a written promise.

And how does an Invoice come into play?

Once goods or services have been delivered based on a PO, the seller wants to get paid (fair enough, right?). An invoice is their way of saying, “Hey, remember those things you ordered? Time to cough up the cash.” It’s the formal “money request” in business transactions.

Do all businesses use POs and Invoices?

Most do, yes. It’s not just about keeping track of money. It’s about professionalism, record-keeping, and avoiding misunderstandings. Having a paper trail (or, these days, a digital one) is a smart move. Whether you’re a freelancer reminding clients about payments or a manufacturer ordering tonnes of steel, these docs keep things tidy.

What if a business doesn’t pay an invoice?

Well, that’s a bit of a sticky situation. Typically, an invoice will come with terms (like “pay within 30 days”). If it’s not paid up by then, the seller might send a reminder, add interest, or even take legal action. Always a good idea to avoid getting into that sort of pickle.

Is there any overlap between POs and Invoices?

They’re two sides of the same coin. A PO is the buyer saying, “I want these things.” The invoice is the seller saying, “You’ve got the things, now pay up.” They’re like the give and take in a business tango – both steps are crucial.

Sounds complicated. Do I need special software for this?

Not necessarily, but it can help. There’s software out there that makes creating, sending, and tracking POs and invoices dead easy. If you’re a small business, you might get by with a spreadsheet. But as things grow, it might be worth investing in a tool. Makes life a tad simpler, you know?

So, in a nutshell?

A Purchase Order is like saying, “I want to buy these from you.” An invoice, on the other hand, is saying, “Thanks for buying, now please pay.” Both are key players in the business game, ensuring everyone knows what’s what.




Related Stories

More From

Most Read


If you enjoyed this article,
why not join our newsletter?

We promise only quality content, tailored to suit what our readers like to see!