Freelance: how to invoice – (almost) everything you need to know

You thought the hard part was over when you landed a client and got the work done, right? Now that it’s time to get paid, it seems like you’re on the home straight. Well, invoicing has a certain amount of legality attached to it, so it’s not as simple as you might think.

The legal requirements for invoicing will differ depending on your location, so make sure you check with your local tax office before sending any invoices out.

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Apart from the legalities

For any freelancer, there are some things you should definitely include on every invoice.

Branding: Add your company/trading name and logo to achieve consistency and build up brand recognition.

Your details: Adding all of your contact information will save your clients from digging around in their own files when they want to get in touch. Be sure to include your name, email address, URL, phone number and mailing address.

Your contact’s details:You’ll want to include the name of your contact and the company you’re invoicing, as well as their email and mailing addresses and phone number.

Invoice number: If you’re creating invoices from scratch, you’ll need to manually number them, but most invoicing software will do this for you. Tracking numbers will come in handy at tax time, or when you need to follow up on invoices for various clients.

Detailed charges: If you have several services (or products) to include on one invoice, list them separately with details for each one.

Payment details: This might sound obvious, but it’s easy to forget. Whether you’re expecting a bank transfer, check or Paypal payment, include the relevant details to make payment easy and efficient.

Terms and conditions: Having your payment policies clearly set before you take on a client is imperative, but you’ll want to make sure you include them here as well.

Due date: This is one of the most important details if you want to get paid. The due date should be inline with your payment policies and clear for your client.

Some handy tips

If you want to encourage timely payments from your clients, here are some tips that might help.

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Timing: Sending an invoice promptly after completing a project doesn’t mean you’ll get paid on time, but sending it late won’t do you any favors.

Get your contacts straight: Double-check who you should send you send your invoice to. If you’re dealing with a company, the person you’ve been in contact with may not handle payments. The last thing you want is a delay in payment while your invoice gets passed around the office.

Set policies early: Setting your payment policies ahead of time can prevent nasty surprises for your clients when it comes time to pay.

Offer several payment options: Giving your clients a variety of payment options can be a good way to get them on-side.

Use invoicing software: There are plenty of options for invoicing software that will make the whole process simple and easy. For freelancers, Harvest, Freshbooks and Paydirt are all good options, but you can find plenty more to choose from with a quick Google search.

Send a thank you note: While you could include a simple thanks message on your invoice, sending it separately gives you an excuse to follow-up later and keep your brand fresh in your client’s mind.

Match the contract: Another way to make things clear for your client (and avoid making calls to explain yourself) is to ensure you use the exact same wording on the invoice as you did in the contract.

Use a hard due-date: Using a hard due date rather than a time period like “30 days from receipt of invoice” will save them time and effort. With the due date right in front of them, it can be added into their calendar immediately, making prompt payment more likely.

Follow up: Just like prompt issuing of invoices makes quick payments more likely, following up as soon as your invoice is overdue will encourage your client to settle their account.

Keep copies: You never know when you’ll have to refer to an invoice, so make sure you keep copies of all your paperwork (this is where tracking numbers will come in handy).

What else do you put on your invoices? Leave a comment below if there’s something I’ve missed.