When working with clients as a freelance designer one thing you need to consider is invoicing. It’s not always the most fun part of the job, if you’re anything like me asking people to pay you money can be a very uncomfortable position. But it needs to get done if you want to make a living doing your passion, and it needs to be done in a way that’s professional. Sending an email saying “hey that work I did for you costs $400, please send money” it not at all professional, and is probably going to make the client a little uncomfortable.
There’s a lot of debate as to the point you should send the client an invoice. However, that’s a complex topic I’m not going to get into that today. If you’d like to know how I do it you can read my process. Today’s topic is how to send professional and courtious invoices, and what the options are for making this happen.
Best Practices for Invoicing
I like to make the invoices I send to clients itemized and as detailed as possible. Even though the work I did for them was outlined in the contract, I like giving the client a single document that gives them a clear reference for what they’re paying for. Clients will probably ask for this anyway, so it’s best pracitce to make this a habit.
Another must for invoicing is including a little message to the client thanking them for their business. It seems like an unimportant gesture, but it’s just a little courtesy that goes a long way. Using a canned message is okay, but taking the time to personalize it to the client is even better. A little friendly message will add a personal touch, and besides it’s just polite.
Finally, if you only do one of these make sure you don’t make your client jump through hoops to pay you. If possible, give your client the option to pay electronically and make sure they can easily do so from the invoice. If you’re sending them a paper invoice, make sure you’ve printed on the invoice itself your address if they want to mail you a business check.
Perhaps the simplest form of invoicing is to use word processing software to fill out the invoice. This is quick and easy, and most major word processors like Word and Pages have templates for invoices. These can be easily printed out or exported to PDF to be delivered to the client. The advantage here is that you don’t need anything that you probably don’t already have on your computer.
However, these can cause a little friction with clients. There’s no easy way to accept electronic payments for these types of invoices, so clients will generally be better off paying by check. I’m not typically opposed to checks as long as they’re business and not personal, but they can be a headache for both you and your client.
While it is a little more complex, and typically costs a little money, invoicing electronically is the ideal method. It gives the client the option of paying online or by check, and also has a bunch of other great benefits like seeing wether or not the client has seen the invoice or not. They can also be tied into accounting software.
The two biggest invoicing platforms I know of are Harvest and Square Invoices. I’ve used Harvest, though I recently transitioned to Square. They both have their pros and cons, and I’d say neither is objectivly better. Like anything, it depends on what your business needs are.
Harvest has a montly fee of just $12, but they also offer time tracking and project management services. If you already have your own system like I do then it may not be worth that extra cost, as minimal as it is. Harvest is probably more useful for teams, but if you’re working as a freelancer you probably won’t need that aspect of the funcionality. Also, Harvest doesn’t process payments, you’ll have to hook up your account with a service like Stripe or PayPal which come with their own transaction fees.
The other option, Square Invoices, isn’t as robust but you only pay the transaction fees. Though you can use it with teams, it’s not as well built for that as Harvest is. It’s basically just a “dumb” invoice, but I find the reports and stats to be excellent and far beyond what Harvest offers.