For freelancers, invoices are essential for several additional reasons, including:
- They establish you as a legitimate business owner by showcasing your branding and professionalism.
- They track sales and can be used for accounting purposes.
- They can encourage clients to pay on time by clearly outlining when payment is due and how to pay.
- They outline payment terms and the types of payments you accept, which can reduce billing questions, so you get paid faster.
But not all invoices are created equal. When invoices are poorly designed or lack key information, it can lead to back and forth with clients and delay payment. No good.
So, how do you create an invoice that encourages clients to pay and makes tracking sales easier?
It starts with choosing the right type of invoice.
What are the Different Types of Invoices?
There is no one correct type of invoice that will work for every business. A small brick and mortar store, for example, might send paper invoices after services are rendered. Simultaneously, a freelance designer might send a deposit invoice before work is completed and then a final invoice after files are delivered.
Depending on your business, you might use a timesheet invoice or recurring invoice.
Before settling on the right type of invoice for your business, it's important to understand all the options. Here are the most common types of invoices.
Paper Invoice: A paper invoice is exactly what it sounds like — a physical, paper invoice that includes information about when the sale occurred, what payments are accepted, and the due date. They are ideal for physical products and businesses that meet with clients or customers in person.
Electronic Invoice: Electronic invoices include the same information as paper invoices but are delivered electronically through email or another digital system, such as PayPal. They are ideal for freelancers, making it easy for clients to pay digitally with credit cards or other electronic payment forms.
Deposit Invoice: A deposit invoice, sometimes also called a pro forma invoice, is a bill sent before services or a product is delivered. It helps clients understand what to expect and may secure partial funds before work is completed. For example, an artist might send a deposit invoice for the materials' cost before they begin working. It's also common for freelance writers and web designers to require a 50% deposit before beginning work.
Timesheet invoice: A timesheet invoice is often used by freelancers that work on an hourly basis. It might include a breakdown of what work was completed during specific time frames or varying hourly rates. For example, a content marketer might break down the hours they spent on strategy, writing, editing, and outreach.
Final Invoice: A final invoice is a paper or electronic invoice sent after the work is complete or products are provided. It may be a follow up to a deposit invoice or sent on its own. A final invoice should include payment terms, the due date, payment types, late fees, and any other information clients need to submit payment.
Recurring Invoice: Recurring invoices are invoices sent on a consistent schedule, often monthly, for on-going work or product delivery. For example, a freelance developer who works on retainer might send a recurring invoice to their clients every month. Recurring invoices often use the same invoice template but must have unique invoice numbers and dates.
Past Due Invoice: Past-due invoices are sent to clients who fail to pay on time. For example, if the final invoice required payment in 30 days, a past due invoice would be sent out after 31 days. It will include the original fees plus late fees, details about payment plans (if available), and accepted payment types.
Now that you understand the different types of invoices, it is time to decide which type of invoice is right for you. Feel free to mix and match invoices — or send different invoices to various clients. The goal is to choose an invoice type that works for you and your client.
What is An Invoice Template?
An invoice template is a saveable form that includes all the information needed for a specific invoice. Depending on the platform you use to generate your invoice template, it might save your business name, clients' name, logo, payment terms, and other payment details.
Your invoice template might also:
- Generate unique invoice numbers.
- Track and report sales and missed payments.
- Store client names, contact information, and payment preferences.
- Save rates so you can easily create new invoices.
- Automatically send recurring invoices.
What are the Benefits of Using an Invoice Template or Invoice Generator?
As a freelancer, you have a lot on your plate. An invoice template ensures each invoice you send to clients includes all the information required, which helps limit back and forth and positions you as a professional in your field.
A few other reasons to use an invoice template include:
- Quick and easy to use.
- Ensure clients receive their invoices promptly.
- Allow you to send out multiple invoices at the same time.
- Ensure all required information is included in each invoice.
Invoice templates save time, ensure clients pay on time with features like payment reminders, and make accounting much more straightforward. Clarrow also allows you to import time tracking and add expenses to invoices, which can save hours of administrative work— hours you can use to focus on the work that matters.
What Information Should An Invoice Template Include?
The information your invoice should include will depend on the type of invoice and your industry. In general, however, you should aim to include the following information on your invoice template.
Unique Invoice Number: Every invoice should include a unique invoice number. This can be formatted in any way you like; just try to keep it simple. For example, you might use your initials and then the number of invoices you've sent total like this: DA124.
Business Contact Information: Include your business name, address, email address, physical address, and any other information your client might need or require. For example, EU clients might require you to include their full address.
Date of Invoice: The date the invoice is finalized and sent.
Service/Product Delivered and Cost: A list of the products or services rendered. For example, a freelance writer might list the articles they wrote for a client, while a developer might break the work down based on the websites they worked on. Make sure to include a breakdown of the costs per service or product.
Expenses: If you incur expenses in your work, you may charge the client for these. For example, a paid ad specialist might charge clients the cost of running ads, or for software, the client requires to track ROI.
Client Name and Contact Information: Who are you billing? Include space in your invoice template for the name, email address, physical address, and other client contact information.
Credits/Discounts: The credit and discounts space is where your list any payments you've already received (like a deposit) or discounts rendered.
Total Amount Due: This is the final amount of the invoice, including a total of all products or services rendered, minus any credits, discounts, or deposits, plus any taxes, expenses, or late fees.
Payment Options: How can the client make a payment? Do you accept checks or ACH? Can they use a credit card? What about bank transfers? Try to use payment processors with low payment processing fees when possible.
Late Payment Fees: Include when late fees go into effect and how much the client will be required to pay. For example, you may use a net-30 payment term and then charge a 10% late fee. Make sure to be clear about this, so there are no surprises down the road!
Due Date: List when payment is required. Many freelancers give clients a week or two to pay; others use net-30.