A good invoice sums up a business transaction at a glance. It’s your way of telling your customers exactly what you need from them, when and how. Even if you discuss pricing ahead of time and (hopefully) sign a written contract, the deal isn’t over until you’ve sent your clients an invoice explicitly outlining your charges. It’s the document they’ll use as a guideline for paying you—which is, after all, the point of completing work in the first place. As The Balance writes, “The invoice establishes an obligation on the part of the purchaser to pay, creating an account receivable.”
Whether you’re a freelance graphic designer or a medium-sized business, include these eight essential components of an effective online invoice to make sure you get paid in full (and on time, every time).
Assigning each invoice an individual number helps differentiate it from others so both you and your client can track it over time.
It’s important to include the date of issuance for record keeping purposes. Clients can refer back to the date when they’re making payments, and you’ll have it on file as proof that you invoiced in a timely manner in case there’s a dispute down the line.
Even if you’re sending an online invoice, you should still include your full spectrum of contact information: name, address, phone number and email address. This establishes legitimacy for your business (even if you’re a sole proprietor working out of your home) and gives your client several options on how to contact you if the need arises.
Similarly, your invoice should include your client’s name, address, phone number and email address. If you’ve been communicating with one person in particular throughout your professional partnership, you may want to include their name and contact information specifically.
The quickest way to communicate to clients and customers how much they owe you is by itemizing charges line by line, culminating in one total amount due. On each line, you can include a brief description of your goods/services so clients understand your charges completely. If you charge an hourly rate, you should also break your total workload down by hour by adding a column for “hourly rate.” Something as simple as showing your clients the math you performed to come up with the total eliminates confusion and conflict.
If you’ve formed a relationship with a client, you may set up direct deposit and ask for future payments in the form of an electronic transfer to a bank account. If it’s your first time working with a customer or client, you may ask for payment via check or credit card. Some tech-savvy organizations work through PayPal or payment apps. You likely worked out these details before signing the contract. But an invoice is the perfect opportunity to remind clients about the agreed-upon payment method.
In an ideal world, you’d receive payment for a product or service immediately. But in reality, you must offer a fair payment window to customers and clients. Back in the days of snail mail, 30-day invoices were all the rage. But now, thanks to the speed and connectivity of the Internet, it’s increasingly common to see 14-day or 7-day terms. It all depends on your industry and the services rendered. Name your terms clearly in your invoice, including a due-by date to eliminate any ambiguity.
Most inboxes include blank space near the bottom to leave an optional message. It can be a nice gesture to sign off with a personalized sentiment (“As always, I enjoyed doing business with you, [Name]). Or you may settle for a professional reminder (“Thank you for your business. Please pay this invoice in full by [Date] and contact me with any questions”).
These eight essential components of an online invoice will help you politely and professionally request what you deserve for holding up your end of the bargain. A thorough invoice is the key to getting fully paid in a timely manner.