7 Tidbits to getting your invoicing sorted
When it comes to getting paid, knowing how to invoice correctly can be the difference between getting paid on time and a client shirking you out of thousands of dollars.
So here are some of the basic tips I’ve come to learn about invoicing clients and some of the fundamentals to get things right.
TIP1: Include the following on your invoices
- Invoice number
- Client name & address
- Your contact details
- Your bank transfer/digital payment details
- Due date with payment terms (eg. NET15)
- The description of your services with the cost for each as separate line items
- Any tax-related fees (eg. GST)
- A total payable amount
TIP 2: Include the word(s) ‘Invoice’ or ’Tax invoice’ on your invoice.
But what is the difference?
Only write ‘Tax Invoice’ if there are additional taxes applied like GST or VAT. (You also need to be registered for GST/VAT as well). Otherwise, simply have the word 'Invoice' on your invoices.
Where do you put it?
Include it in an area at the top of the page and set it in a larger font size so that it's bleedingly obvious this document is an invoice.
TIP 3: Apply the appropriate payment terms
There are a few different ways you can request payments to be made by specific dates.
- Due on receipt: for immediate payment before work starts/handed over
- NET 7/15/30/60: Means the days after issuing the invoice that payment is due.
15/30/60 payment terms are typically used by bigger businesses to accommodate their payment cycles.
So be wary of your cash flow with these types of clients. It may even be a dealbreaker for you before starting out if they can't agree to shorter payment terms.
Also, be aware that some of these larger clients require work to be handed over before payment is made (unless you make it a policy of yours not to hand over work until payment is made), so make sure there is a level of trust with that client, or don't engage in that type of work.
TIP 4: Invoice upfront to start a job
Requesting an upfront deposit of up to 50% is not an unreasonable request to ask of a client. It shows their commitment to the project and gives you an incentive to start. You can even request 100% upfront, as I've heard some designers do this.
The idea with 50% at the start and 50% at the end is to alleviate the cash flow burden for a client AND to allow them to see a finally product before paying for the job in full.
There is another alternative method of getting more of the project fee sooner and that is to create additional milestone payments in between the first deposit and final invoice upon completion. So you could basically split things up into 25% per milestone or whatever percentage split you desire and align it to a specific part of your design process.
Which could look like this:
- 25% deposit before starting
- 25% after brand strategy completion
- 25% after messaging completion
- 25% final payment after visual identity completion
TIP 5: If you can, don’t start/hand over any work until you receive payment in your account or receipt of payment proof.
This one is pretty much all in the title. I alluded to it earlier in this post but realistically, if a client questions you on this and your contract stipulates it as a clause. Then you have every right to request for final payment before handing over the goods. You don't walk into a Nike store and walk out with the pair of shoes before paying for them. So this is no different.
The exception seems to be larger agencies and government projects that are immovable objects when it comes to getting paid on your terms. It's going to always be on their terms as they have their pay runs on certain days of the week or month.
However, we should typically hold a little more trust in these bigger businesses if we have a solid contract in place. As a larger company would rather just pay an invoice than to be dragged through courts and/or through the media that would tarnish their brand/business reputation.
TIP 6: Follow up on invoices
If you have payment terms, advise the client of them from the outset that this invoice is due on the date listed. Follow up the day before it's due (if the invoice is 7/15/30/90 days payment terms) and for every day it's overdue, you follow up with an email and/or phone call until you get paid.
My thoughts are that if they're inconveniencing you by not paying you, then you should inconvenience them with follow up communication...especially if they are a business you've had to hand over the work to before being paid.
TIP 7: Creating invoices
To create your invoices, you can do so in a number of different ways:
Online CMS providers you have an account with
Microsoft Word, Excel or Apple's Pages or Numbers applications
Using your design software like Adobe InDesign
Creating your invoices is something you want to make as easy as possible to get them out the door. This is why accounting software/CMS services is a go-to choice as you'll be able to create/send/receive payments all from these services.
You may even be able to connect digital payment providers like Stripe or PayPal to your invoices using some types of accounting software like Quickbooks or Xero.
And that does it for this blog!
Do you have any other tips for invoicing? Leave a comment below on this blog post!