You’ve launched your freelance business (YAY). You’ve booked your first client (double YAY). You’re well on your way to becoming a confident business owner and making the money that comes along with that. At the end of month one with your new client, you’re feeling great about the future. The work is fun. You’re getting good feedback. You’re DOING IT. You’re a REAL business owner.
But now… it’s time to create that invoice and get paid. Imposter syndrome sets in as you visualize yourself typing the numbers and hitting send. You don’t even know where to begin. Figuring out how to invoice a client can stir up lots of anxiety. We get it — it’s not always easy to ask for money. But it is necessary. And with a little time and practice, it gets easier and easier.
We’re here to walk you through the basics of how to invoice your clients, including tips and tricks that make getting paid as painless as possible.
What to Include in Your Invoice
Whenever you’re invoicing your clients, it’s important to include key information about the services you’ve provided so your client understands exactly what you’re charging them for. The more explicit you are upfront, the more likely you are to get paid in a timely manner, because you cut down on all the back-and-forth.
Here are the essential elements your invoice should include:
A breakdown of the services you are charging for (including a time period, if that’s relevant here). Some clients may want you to be more detailed than others. Additional detail never hurts.
Payment terms. Depending on the client and your service offering you might want to require some, or all, of the payment up front. This is something you definitely want to discuss with the client when you are negotiating the contract. If you are invoicing them after the fact, we recommend starting with net 15 payment terms (i.e. payment is due within 15 days of receipt) and then going from there if your clients push back. The earlier you get money, the better!
How you want clients to pay you. Think through how you’re going to accept money. Some freelancers accept payment through a variety of methods (ACH, checks, Venmo, PayPal, credit cards), while others stick to one or two methods for easier tracking.
- If you plan on accepting credit card payments or using services like PayPal or Venmo, keep in mind that fees will be deducted from your payment. You can easily build the additional cost into your pricing if you account for it upfront. Just be careful to not ignore this — these transaction costs can add up to a meaningful chunk of change over time.
- If you plan to accept payment through ACH, make sure you’re including your EIN and any necessary routing and account numbers.
Contact information. Invoices should always include your name, company name, business address, and email. Make sure that your invoice can stand alone, so that anyone at the company who sees it will know how to reach out to you. Oftentimes, the person paying your invoice is not your point of contact. Your invoice is likely to get sent from one person to another!
Once you have all of the necessary information in your invoice, it’s time to send or schedule.
Best Practices for Sending an Invoice
Before you shoot your invoice out:
Make sure you understand who the invoice should be sent to. Oftentimes, there’s someone from finance that will need to be included to get your invoice paid. Once you know who you should be sending it to, you can properly address it.
Determine when you’ll send your invoice. Are you generating it immediately or in advance? Is this a recurring invoice with the same line items and payment terms? Or will it differ month-to-month? Also, think about your billing cadence–will you send biweekly or once a month on the 1st of the month?
Be sure to write a quick note for the recipient. We suggest adding a little personality to your email so it’s not stuffy or overly formal. Make sure you say hi and let your client know that you’ve enjoyed working with them and look forward to future business together (as long as it’s in your and their best interest 😉 ).
Other Invoicing Tips and Tricks
If it works for your business, try to get in the habit of sending your invoices all at the same time. This will make it easier to keep track of who you’ve invoiced and who has paid. Getting money in the bank on a predictable schedule is the goal here!
Don’t be afraid to follow up on unpaid invoices. Payment terms exist for a reason — so enforce them. If you’re shuddering at the thought of sending a follow-up message or charging a fee for late payment, remember that you can always refer back to the contract they agreed to and signed.
Finally, be sure to use a methodical invoicing system that keeps you organized. It will save you a world of headaches on the daily and come tax season. With Harlow’s freelancing software, you can invoice your clients with ease, creating an easy and repeatable process so you get paid on time with minimal effort. Sign up for a free trial to see how it works.