You’ve perfected your online portfolio, booked a client, negotiated a great rate, completed the assignment, and responded to five rounds of revisions. Congratulations! Now, it’s time to get paid. And to get that money fast, you need a professional invoice.
Don’t ignore this final (and vital) step in the client relationship by dashing off an email asking to get paid. It’s a rookie move. Instead, finish strong and invoice your client. Leave a professional impression that gets you in their financial system so you become their go-to freelancer in the future.
This outline covers 6 must-have elements of a professional invoice, a simple template you can download and customize, and some simple do’s and don’ts of a successful invoice. Let’s get you paid!
Six Must-Have Invoice Elements
Here’s the basic invoice template I designed years ago that still works great today. Feel free to download it here and customize it to your brand in Google Drive. Simply change the background color on the header, adapt the info below and you’re ready to go.
The design is basic—on purpose—because it only needs to do one thing: Get me paid. And I’ve never had to renegotiate or chase down a client after using this invoice.
So let’s look at each element, from top to bottom, and see why it works so well:
1) Header: Your Business Name
The business name (me) appears clearly at the top. No description, no tagline, no clutter. At a glance, the accounting department knows who to pay. Simple branding that doesn’t obscure important information is key.
2) Company Being Invoiced / Date / Invoice Tracking Number
The next line states the company I’m invoicing, which project I’m invoicing them for, and the date of invoice with my own internal invoice tracking number. This section keeps everything clear—on their end, and mine. If there’s ever a dispute about when I sent an invoice or which project it’s for, I’m ready with all the information I need. And so are they.
The background is branded with the shade of green I use on my personal website, and it serves as a nice visual break between the header and itemized content of the invoice below. Feel free to add a small logo here, but again, don’t add graphics without reason.
I also keep the invoice tracking number (#01) for my own records. I save the tracking number in the file name to keep invoices organized and in chronological order.
3) Description/ Breakdown of Work
This is an essential part of the invoice. It’s also where a lot of freelancers go wrong. Simple itemized lists are great, but it’s helpful to include a brief summary of the work.
If you created logos for multiple social media sites, list each site. If you created several formats, sizes, or renders of a project, list each. It never hurts to remind a client why they’re paying you. However, keep the descriptions to one or two lines.
4) Rates and Total Due
It’s time for the bottom line. Since you’ve itemized and described your work, simply include the rate per deliverable (or hour) and tally it up line by line. You don’t have to itemize every little thing here either; but the list should be comprehensive and clear. You never want to overwhelm a client with a 4-page invoice.
5) Payment Information: Preferred Payment Method and Date
Never be afraid to set the terms you want. Clearly ask for your preferred method of payment—check, PayPal, Venmo, or direct deposit—then set a realistic timeline for payment. I invoice every two weeks and require that clients pay within five business days. That consistency is great for recurring gigs, and removes a lot of guess work for which clients are still outstanding.
Freelancer Tip: Always set up direct deposit with a new client. This usually requires a few HR and accounting forms on their end, but getting in their system will increase your chances of landing more work down the road.
6) Sign Off and Contact Information
Always end the invoice with a cordial sign off that includes all of your pertinent contact info. Remember, this invoice might get forwarded five times before it ends up on an accountant’s desk. Provide your phone number and email so they can reach you if any problems arise.
That’s it. Quick, clear, and to the point—just like your invoice should be. If you include these 6 invoice must-haves you’ll be on your way to a long, lucrative freelance career.
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