When I was a young freelance writer, I landed a sweet gig.
While I won’t embarrass myself with the details now, I will say the job paid me a certain amount per word for SEO-type articles on fun things like office supplies and household cleaners.
I happily finished up my first batch of articles and sent them off to the client along with an invoice. The check would have purchased approximately two tanks of gas, but I was excited nonetheless! Then the client emailed me back, “What’s this for?”
Instead of simply writing back, “for all this work, of course!” I conferred with my freelance writing mentor who immediately spotted the problem. I had sent off an online invoice asking for money without specifying what the invoice was for. I’d also used an online account that – unbeknownst to me – defaulted to an email address that was totally different from the one I used to communicate with my client. For all he knew, I could have been a Nigerian Prince.
My client wasn’t difficult or slow-paying, he was just confused! I’ve learned a lot since then and I’d like to share the steps I take for creating crystal-clear invoices that get paid.
1. Spell it Out
This is important for so many reasons. First of all, if the client doesn’t understand what the invoice is for, she may put it aside for further study. (i.e., she’s more likely to put it off or forget about it.) Plus, if there’s any discrepancy in payments later – she says she paid you for article x in June, so it shouldn’t be on July’s bill, for example – you both have a concrete document to refer to.
2. Send it Now
Freelancers in creative fields often have a problem. We like the creating part of our jobs, but not the administrative parts.
This can lead to us putting off the nitpicky stuff, like sending invoices so we can get paid. Instead, send that invoice right after the job is completed, or your client may forget what it’s for or think she’d already paid you.
3. Set Clear Terms
Do you require your invoices paid within 21 days? Is there a progressive 5% late fee? Then make sure you include this on each and every invoice. While you may have hashed all of this out with the client at the beginning of your contract, often the person who actually writes the checks wasn’t in on those negotiations.
4. Use the Cloud
These days there’s no reason not to send invoices online.
It’s faster and easier, and your clients can pay you via credit card or bank draft right then and there. Plus, it’s highly organized. Most online invoicing systems offer a dashboard where you can keep track of who owes you how much at a glance.
Do you have any tips on creating invoices that get paid? Share with us below.