Upon accepting a project, a freelancer should determine the method of payment with their client. In some cases, a client will set up a freelancer on payroll. This is more common for longer term projects that require a significant number of hours. With one-off, small projects, a client will expect the freelancer to invoice them.
For hours-based work, invoices are usually requested every week or so. For short, fixed-term projects, an invoice is generally expected at the conclusion of the project. However, there are plenty of exceptions to these guidelines. When you’re finally at the point of creating an invoice, here are some basic items to include, in addition to whatever your client may request.
Header & Personal Info
You can create your invoice in a simple word processor like Microsoft Word (which has some handy templates), but make sure to create a professional look. Use the header that matches your resume, or something simple like a letterhead. Make sure to include your name, address, phone number, and email address.
Invoices are similar to letters in that you will need to address the invoice to someone. Underneath your header, include the company, address, and specific client’s contact information if available. Create an invoice number, which can be any string of numbers and/or letters that will help you organize your invoices. Always include the date that you send the invoice, too.
In some cases, you will need to direct your invoice to a different department, like HR. In this case, include an attention to this second contact while still including your direct client’s information.
Underneath your invoice number, you may also want to include a due date, the date by which the client is required to pay you. The due date may have already been discussed with the client, or you can write due upon receipt.
Summary & Itemized Table
The summary section is where you will include a general description about the work you performed. About two sentences is sufficient. If relevant, include a timeline, deadlines, and other notable dates according to your client agreement. In some cases, the summary section will be extraneous and there may be no need to include it, particularly if the project is repetitive under the same client.
Underneath your summary, create a table that divides your work into more specific tasks. You can structure your table a variety of ways. Depending on the project itself, some useful columns to include may be: dates of work performed, description of specific tasks, hourly rate or project fee, total hours spent on tasks, and extra fees. At the bottom of the table, include the total amount charged to the client. Repeat the invoice due date here as well, if you’d like.
An invoice is a relatively simple document that you will become familiar with quickly if you’re freelancing regularly. Keeping the style and format consistent is important, especially with a single client. Make sure to ask the client about their expectations regarding the invoice as soon as possible, as they may have certain items they would like you to include on the document.