How to write a self-employed invoice (Plus free invoicing templates!)

Self-employed person creating an invoice

You’ve worked hard on your latest project (artist-related or not), so how do you create an invoice that will get you your hard-earned money? Let’s get started …

Why do I need to invoice at all?

It’s true that you can indeed get paid without a formal invoice. You can have a verbal contract, some terms agreed to in an email, etc. While that’s fine when it works, the problem is that it’s unsustainable, especially for the self-employed. Without invoicing, you might come across:

  • Unprofessional
  • Disorganized
  • Flippant (i.e. not that interested in actually getting paid)

Plus, without writing up invoices for work done, it can be easy to let smaller projects slip through the cracks and end up unpaid. All that being said, let’s delve into how to create an invoice. (Pssst … keep reading – we’ve got templates for you, too!)

What’s an invoice?

If you haven’t heard the term before, an invoice is simply a formal request for payment, sent by a business (in this case, a person), to a customer.

An invoice lists details of work done, sometimes billed by the time spent doing the work, or at a flat rate. Sometimes, both. It also can include items that were purchased by the business to complete the work, like stock photographs or equipment costs, for example.

Step-by-step process for creating an invoice

OK … crack those knuckles, get a hot cup of coffee, and let’s go.

1: Pick a design

Your invoice should look professional, meaning well organized, clean, and visually pleasing. There are lots of free invoice templates online, including the ones provided here, so you can work from those. Many times they’re editable in your favorite text editor (e.g. Word, Pages, etc.)

Add your logo if you have one, and pick a good-looking font. The overall look, including the colors, should reflect your company’s branding, or at the very least be consistent. In other words, pick a style and stick with it.

What you need to focus on most, though, is substance over style. The layout and design of your invoice should serve to make it more readable, pleasing, and understandable to your client.

Adding proper information to your invoice is important.

2: Add company info and the invoice date

Let’s visualize a traditional invoice. First, at the top of the page, resides the word “INVOICE,” many times in all caps, like that. Below that is your company’s information (this might just be your own, if you’re self-employed), and then somewhere near that, the company that you’re invoicing.

Don’t forget to add:

  • Your company’s name, address, telephone, email address, and website if applicable
  • Their company’s name, address, and telephone if applicable (you can add more details if you’d like)
Properly list all items on your invoice.

3: List the goods or services that you’re billing for

Here’s where you simply list what you’ve done, or purchased, that you need payment for.

Your invoice should at minimum have columns for:

  • The name or short description of what’s being billed (e.g. “Poster design”)
  • The cost of that good or service
  • The quantity
  • The sub-total for that row

Other columns you might need include:

  • Hourly rate
  • Date work was completed
  • Tax
  • Discounts

The description should be short and specific, so that there’s no confusion over what item is being billed.

4: Add it all up

Woohoo! Almost done. Add up all the item’s sub-totals, including tax if applicable, and put that amount at the bottom of your invoice in a “Grand total” or “Total” row.

Double-check your math at least once to make sure that you’re not over or under charging your client.

5: Add notes, instructions, and payment terms

It’s good practice to outline how to be paid (e.g. “Please make checks payable to Jane Doe, LLC”), and when you expect payment. Keep in mind, though, that even if you want to be paid within a day after your client receives your invoice, they likely aren’t legally bound by those terms. Laws for the period they have in which to pay you vary, so you might want to look into it for the area in which you do business.

The best way to send invoices
There’s got to be a better way!

How to send your invoice

If you’re using invoicing software, most likely it will include functionality that lets you email PDFs or a webpage to your clients. While that’s well and good, what if you’re manually creating invoices with a word processor?

First, export your completed invoice as a PDF. Make sure the option to embed fonts is enabled, so that what they see on their end matches what you see on yours’. If you don’t see a “Save as PDF” option, many times you can press the “Print” button, then select “Print as PDF.”

Next, email your client the invoice with a clear subject line that lets them know what you’re sending, and why. Of course, if your client has a different process in place for receiving invoices, follow that instead.

Free invoicing templates

Need somewhere to start? Here are two free invoicing templates for you to use for as long as you’d like. Just modify them to your liking and get paid!

These both use the free Montserrat font, which is also included in the ZIP

Speaking of liking, if you found this article helpful, please feel free to share it. Happy billing!

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