If you do any kind of freelancing you’ll eventually need to ask clients for money. Invoicing is essential — don’t do it, don’t get paid. In this article we’ll discuss the features of a good invoice and give you a sample download.
There are a number of key features I suggest you include in your invoices. Getting paid as quickly as possible means not leaving any room for confusion on the part of the client. Your invoice should get straight to the point, and leave no room for interpretation.
Your very first order of business is to ensure the recipient knows exactly what kind of document they are looking at. Most people do this by slapping the word “INVOICE” at the top of the document in a font so large it simply cannot be overlooked.
Date & Invoice Number
Next, include the date and a unique invoice number. The date lets you and the client know exactly when the invoice was sent — a handy reference if your payment is delayed. A unique invoice number allows you to specifically reference the document in your records, and in communications with your client.
Microsoft Word has an autotext feature that lets you place a date field in a document. This date field is then updated with today’s date each time the document is opened. Make sure you do not include this autotext field in any invoices that are digitally transfered (e-mail, etc…) to a client. It doesn’t matter that your invoice is six weeks old if the accounting department sees today’s date every time they look at the file.
Include your (or your company’s) name, address, telephone number, e-mail address, and fax number. Should problems arise, there should be no question about how to get in touch with you.
Include the name and address of the person or organization who is being billed. You may also include telephone and e-mail contact information here.
I like to include a short job description in each invoice – a blanket statement describing the assignment encompassed by the invoice’s line items. The accounting department may not be familiar with “web development services”, “php programming”, and “graphic design”, but a short description that reads “Design and develop web site for Acme Company’s Annual Campaign” should answer any of their questions.
Now for the meat and potatoes. List each separate item for which the client is being billed. A typical invoice contains a quantity, description, unit price, and line total on each line. The line total is the unit price multiplied by the quantity.
Finally, list the total amount due – the sum of the totals of each line. If you are including tax in this total, you should also include a separate box indicating how much tax is being charged.
Here is a sample invoice that includes all of the elements I have just described. You are free to download and modify this document.
One aspect I have omitted from this sample invoice is the fine print. It may be necessary for you to include various legalese at the bottom of your invoices. This fine print may include the specific terms of the contract for which you are providing an invoice. If this is necessary, it is completely up to you to include since (a) I am not a lawyer, and (b) it is well beyond the scope of this article.
Photo by zzzack.