Last updated on March 16th, 2020
When you start a freelance design business, you can’t wait to get to the part that interests you the most. You want to work on interesting design projects and come up with creative solutions to complex problems. But there’s one thing that stands in your way during freelancing i.e. invoice. Many freelancers don’t know how to create an invoice template and share with respective clients for payment. In this article, we’ve shared how you can create you own invoices and what are the dos and don’ts need to be followed while creating them.
Being a freelancer, you need to sort out the management issues beforehand to completely focus on the job. The accounting, the taxes, and most importantly, the aspect without which your job doesn’t get rewarded, the invoices.
Get that issue out of the way and do the thing you love. Create a custom invoice template that would show authority to your customers and get paid on time.
Follow this article, and you’ll get to know everything from what is an invoice, why its necessary to use your own template and what should it includes.
What Is An Invoice?
An invoice is a valid document that records a transaction of goods or services exchanged between the buyer and seller. It specifies the terms and conditions of the deal by providing information on the available methods of payment.
Why Use Your Own Invoice Template?
If you do a quick Google search, you will find dozens if not hundreds of free invoice templates. You can pick one or a few to test and use them instead. Why would you want to go out of your way to create your own instead?
There’s one solid reason for that. It’s personal branding. Hundreds of other entrepreneurs are already using these templates. You don’t want yours to be lost in the noise.
Sure, in an ideal situation, your client keeps books on what invoices are due and never fails to pay what they owe you. But the human error still plays a role in this process, and you’d be amazed by how many invoices go past due because somebody thought they’d paid them.
Branding is very important for a new business, so everything from a metal business card to a branded invoice counts. Stand out from the stream of similar invoices and create your own branded template to make sure you get noticed and get paid on time.
Tools Required For Invoicing
Before we start getting into details on how to create an invoice, let’s look at the tools you can use to create them. You have three major options.
While software like Excel is mainly used for bookkeeping and the occasional Excel art, you can also use it to create a very simple invoice. To do that, you will have to delete gridlines on some of the upper table cells and alter the size of some cells.
The result will be a simple yet good looking template with visible gridlines on the part that details your labor. The downside? This kind of tool doesn’t let you use all the creative freedom and may look way too simple to be professional.
A better tool than Excel is any piece of software that’s made for creating documents. MS Word, Google Documents, or any other similar software would do the job.
It allows you to place all the elements of your invoice template with a bit more style. Write your company or personal brand name in the right font, add a logo, and insert a template to make the break down of the labor cost easier to grasp.
Special Invoicing Software
If using Word is too simple for you, grab a license of software that is created specifically to make invoices such as Designhill’s invoice template tool. You’ll get access to a lot of pre-designed visual elements that you can experiment with to make your invoice template unique and professional-looking.
These templates come from the leading creative marketplace. Hence, you can expect a lot of scope for creativity in the templates to create professional invoice template.
Also, such software allows you to add a button that leads to the checkout page, it’s even better. This will help streamline the payment process. Especially so, if you’re dealing with private clients who don’t need to wait for the boss’s approval to make a payment.
What Should An Invoice Template Include?
While your invoice template is going to be unique, each invoice has to have these elements to get you a payment in time.
If your client is a big company, they are probably getting invoices by the dozen. It may be hard for them to remember every single contractor they work with, so there’s a potential for human error.
You can nip that potential in the bud by making sure your brand name is up there in the header of the invoice. Make it more visible by giving the invoice a contrasting color or simply making the font size bigger.
Double down on making your invoice template recognizable by placing a logo on the upper part of your invoice. It’s about the best way to instantly get your client to know whose invoice they’re looking at.
Mindaugas Jakutis, Head of Acquisitions of a complex of digital solutions by Zyro, comments that formulating an engaging slogan and an easy to remember logo early on is as important as having a great website.
If you’re a freelancer who’s just starting and you don’t have a logo just yet, it may be the perfect opportunity to create one by using logo maker tool in minutes.
Also Read: Free Beginner’s Guide: How To Design A Logo?
Your Contact Information
Even though putting contact information on the invoice you send via email is a bit redundant, you need to mention it because the formal nature of the document requires it.
“Put your legal address on top of the invoice right under your logo or the company name. It doesn’t matter whether it sits on the right or the left side of the template.”says Connie Benton from Guest Posting Agency.
Now, this piece of information is for your internal use. While the client will have no interest in what invoice is this, you will have an easier time writing up “invoice 231” in your books instead of “the march payment from Tom.”
Write “Invoice Number:” and either leave the rest for later or type a placeholder like “000” or “123.”
Term Of Payment & Due Date
The worst thing to experience as a freelancer is not getting your invoices paid on time. It messes up your cash flow and gives you a bit of anxiety that can’t but disrupt the work process.
To make sure there would be no mistake in payments, the procedure has you confirm the due date twice. First, you mention the payment term, as in how many days since the receipt can you wait for the payment. Usually, it goes like “Net 14” or “14 days,” which are the same.
Then, you double down on it by providing an actual due date that is the payment term added to the date of the invoice. It may seem redundant, but you’d rather be redundant than underpaid.
Client Contact Information
Here’s another bit of legal information. You need to provide the legal address and contact information of the person or company you’re sending the invoice to.
Start this bit with a “Bill to:” and place it lower than your contact information and the invoice details.
This bit may be the most important one. A company that works with dozens of contractors may not remember what kind of job you did for the last week. If they suspect you’re charging too much, it can lead to an unnecessary delay.
This is why you need to lay out in detail all the work you’ve done for them and mention the price you charge, preferably per hour. Be precise in your description, and the payer will not delay the payment.
The best way to handle this section is to insert a table into your document that has four columns: Product / service description, Price, Tax, and Total. Pretty up the table by deleting some table cell boundaries and adding colors if it suits your template’s design, and you’re good to go.
Before you can draw up the total sum, you need to factor in the taxes. If your services are subject to VAT or a sales tax, include those in the separate column and calculate the total based on those numbers.
If you are handling it in the template table, create a formula that calculates the tax for you, so you don’t need to fumble with a calculator every time. Set the Total column to “=(B2*C2)+B2” and you’re done.
You may have already agreed on the best way to conduct the payment with your client, but it never hurts to remind them about it. Include the payment details in the invoice, and the payment will not get delayed due to the client trying to remember where did you discuss these details and asking you again in the end.
How To Make The Invoice Template Effective?
Since you probably have a design business, making an invoice template look good will not be a problem for you. But an invoice is not a poster or a business card. It shouldn’t just look good, it should get paid.
Here’s how you can make sure your invoice will be paid on time.
A Clear And Realistic Due Date
Cash flow is the most important thing in business, especially if you’re a freelancer. The problem with that is people make errors. If that error is forgetting to pay you on time, it’s your cash flow that’s hurt, not theirs.
Don’t just rely on your clients being punctual, make the due date super clear. What’s even more important, talk through the due date before writing an invoice and even before signing up a contract.
If the company you did work for only pays contractors once a month and you send them an invoice that is due upon receipt, it’s simply not going to get paid.
Be realistic, know your customer, and be super clear about the date your receipt is due, and that’s out the way.
When you’re filling in the labor breakdown table, you need to make sure you’re very detailed. Factor in every bit of work you did for the client complete with hours worked and hourly rate.
This makes sure there’s no debate as to what exactly you did for them and they don’t delay the payment to discuss all the details of your working together.
Easy Payment Option
A huge benefit of sending your invoice online is that you can include a payment option conveniently. Include a link to your preferred payment service or a couple of them, and that due on receipt invoice can be paid in time.
You need to remember that your client’s day must be busy, so dropping everything and attending to your invoice may be a chore. Make it less of a chore by providing a quick way to handle the payment, and you’ll instantly get more payments.
If you’re working with invoicing software, include a payment button. If you’re sending a receipt in a PDF file, include an active link to your PayPal instead of PayPal handle.
Incentivize To Pay Early
This bit has to be clarified when you’re signing the contract, but you need to remind your client about it in the invoice as well. The best way to get paid on time is by playing carrots and sticks with the client.
Provide a small discount if they’re paying instantly upon receiving the invoice and charge a small fine if they miss the due date. The exact numbers are up to you and your negotiating skills, but you have to make sure the client is aware of your terms before you send the invoice.
That said, the best way to enforce the contract is to add a line that reads “Remember to pay early to receive a 5% discount!” on the bottom of the receipt. You can go the extra mile and include a “Total with fast payment discount” cell on your invoice. This will visualize the savings for the client and incentivize them to pay faster.
Building a custom invoice template is only one of the many steps you need to make before you can fully focus on doing the job of your dreams. It may be a bit boring, but take it for what it is, a necessary formality.
Save this cheat sheet and use the tips in this article to make an invoice template that saves your time and gets you paid on time.