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The transition from a regular job into freelancing is undoubtedly on the rise. Creating and sending invoices tend to go hand in hand with freelancing.
When the end-game is receipt of timely payment, an accurate and effective invoicing process is 100% necessary.
While it doesn’t tend to be fun and glamorous, this financial aspect of your business is key. It is definitely worth taking the time to learn about invoicing as a freelancer.
Wondering where to start? How to craft a professional-looking document? What exactly should be included? Keep on reading. We answer all these musings and more while walking you through the invoice creation process.
How to Create Invoices for Your Freelance Work
What is an Invoice?
First things first, you need a clear definition of what is an invoice.
Simply put, an invoice is a legally-binding document sent by a supplier to a buyer to indicate the payment owed for an already provided product and/ or service. An invoice ultimately lists agreed-upon prices and non-negotiable.
In terms of semantics, the seller tends to call the document a sales invoice, while the buyer may call it a purchase invoice. However, this difference in name is mostly just for accounting filing purposes.
Now that we know what it is, let’s tackle the anatomy of an invoice.
What elements make up an invoice?
Though there are many variations of invoices, the following main parts tend to remain the same even if they’re shifted around in different places.
Your contact information
This will ideally include your mailing address, phone number, email address and website, positioned underneath your business name. Also don’t hesitate to include your business logo. Invoices can prove to be a surprisingly strong visual communication tool.
Your client’s contact information
When creating an invoice, you need to carefully specify the recipient’s name, address, phone number, email address, website and any other pertinent information. As a side note, if you plan to mail a physical invoice, this info should be positioned in such a way that it becomes visible through a window envelope after the invoice is folded.
An invoice number serves as an identifier to help keep track of your invoices. Settle on a numbering system that works the best for you and ensure it’s uniquely identifiable to your business and sequential. Invoice numbers should never repeat themselves.
Date of the invoice
Always note the date you submit an invoice to a client. It’s essential for effectively tracking payments and noting whether clients are defaulting.
Breakdown of services
It’s imperative to ensure your product and/ or service descriptions are accurately and clearly stated. Each one should be itemized in a separate line. Quantity of how many goods were sold and/ or services rendered also need to be listed. It helps to spell it all out according to unit price – even if every item costs the same.
The amount due refers to the total, including taxes. It should be prominently displayed in a different size font to avoid any confusion. Also note that some freelance contracts may require that out of pocket expenses or fees be spent in advance by freelancers. If this is the case with your enterprise, ensure you include these as items on your invoice.
In addition to noting the date the invoice is submitted, you must also state when the payment is due. Freelancers oftentimes default and use a 30-day, 45-day or 60-day timeline. But you also have the option to request payment directly upon receipt of the invoice.
Your client should know about the due date, though, long before you send them an invoice.. When you agreed to do the work, you should have set expectations with the client – via email or, better yet, in a contract – for payment terms.
Agreed-upon payment terms
It’s sometimes important to note specific payment terms agreed upon in advance of a contract being signed when expectations were being formalized. Instructions about payments, any info on late fees and other unique industry standard directives for payments/ terms must be outlined in this section.
Clearly list accepted payment options can go a far way in bringing about timely payments. Some of the more popular payment methods include cash, check, credit card, bank transfer and last, but in no way least, online payments.
Optional thank you
As mentioned before, invoices can double as a phenomenal marketing tool. You’d be surprised at what a great difference a small thank you note or personalized reminder can make.
How to put it all together
If you need to invoice clients regularly, it would be wise to consider exploring an online invoicing software solution.
Invoicing software can greatly simplify the life of a freelancer by saving time and helping everything stay organized. Long gone are the days of manually (and oftentimes mistakenly) entering all the elements outlined above. With new and improved features like automated invoicing, expense tracking and online payment integrations, smart invoicing trumps all.
Remember, your invoice is yet another opportunity to impress clients after each transaction. Customizing modernized template options are another great lure to set your business up for success.
Want to learn more about how to earn money as a freelancer? Enroll in my free 7-lesson mini-course Get on the Right Path to Freelancing here.
Uwe Dreissigacker is the founder of online invoicing software InvoiceBerry & also offers free invoice templates to businesses. Small businesses and sole traders can create, send and manage their invoices, quotes and credit notes with the tool. In his free time, Uwe travels the world and enjoys experiencing different cultures.