Let’s face it – while receiving money can be very addictive, invoicing is a total nightmare for freelancers, especially designers.
However, the freelance business’s truth is that you need not only your design skill to succeed, but also the ability to manage invoicing to keep your business going smooth without troubles from the financial side, or frustration from the client-side.
We talk about professionalism, but in fact, all you need is to do it right. Choosing the right invoicing software, implement the right policies and charge method, asking for the proper payment method, manage the invoice record right, this article is all about sharing the right tips for you to do the right invoicing.
So learn from the tips right, then you’re on the right way on doing the right and, most importantly, professional invoicing.
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1. Using reliable invoicing tools (or services)
The first thing you need to do when preparing invoices for your clients is to select good invoicing software. There are plenty of invoicing software on the market that will help you create convincing invoices, so you probably don’t need to worry about choosing the right one.
It is better to use an online invoicing service as it will help you easily track your clients and the amount of money you are owed. Some of the invoicing software are paid service while others are free. Regardless of the service, you decide to use, make sure it meets all your needs with the features you required.
Below are some of my recommendations:
Alternatively you can check out our detailed post – Top Invoice & Accounting services for Freelance Designers.
2. Come up with your policies…
It is normal to want to be paid after working for a client. However, in the real world, not all clients pay on time. As a freelance graphic designer, you will come across stubborn clients who pay half the amount then disappears. Some of your clients will even refuse to pay you.
To minimize the occurrences of such cases, you need to come up with policies regarding payments. You can consider the following factors in your invoicing policy:
- What payment mode will you use – cash, checks, or credit cards?
- How much should the client pay as a down payment?
- Will you begin the work without any payments?
- How many days will you wait before the client pays?
- Are you going to impose penalties for late payments?
- When will the client receive the final work – before or after making payments?
Keep in mind that these policies are not written in stone but only act as a guideline. There will be occasions where you will be forced to be flexible and make changes to your policies to accommodate a client.
3. …And stick to your policies
Clients do not like surprises. Let the clients know about your policies, including your pricing structure. They should also be informed if any changes are made on the policies.
Clients can refuse to pay or might be inclined to make late payments if they are surprised by any information on your invoices.
As a freelancer, you need to develop trust with your clients. Making everything crystal clear on your policies will not only make you more creditable to clients, it will also too potentially garner you more jobs.
4. Think about your charges
You have heard the first rule of pricing is never to undercharge. This is so true. Your prices need to be in line with that of your competitors. Do not dare to quote lower prices in order to attract clients.
The reason is if you underpriced your services, you are more likely to attract cheap clients who give you long and tedious jobs and then disappear without even paying a cent.
Also, decide your pricing method. Determine whether you will fix your pricing based on the job done or per hour, inform the client, so they have no doubt on how you charge.
5. Include services and charges
All of your invoices should indicate the services rendered and the amount charged. This makes it easy for clients to understand what they are being asked to pay for.
This will also help you and the client monitor what has already been paid and the amount outstanding, thus maintaining an up-to-date record of payments and completed tasks.
Besides, note that the majority of freelancer graphic designers prefer their clients to pay upfront before beginning the project. Thus, when creating an invoice, clearly indicate whether the payment is for the entire or part of the project.
6. Your accepted payment method(s)
Your clients need to get a heads up on what payment services have been rendered.
Some of your clients may be comfortable paying cash, while others might be willing to write checks or make credit card payments. It’s okay as long as you choose a method that is acceptable to you and your clients.
Some of the options you can consider include:
For most designers PayPal is their favorite choice as it’s convenient, fast and secured.
7. When will payments due?
Many freelance graphic designers fail to receive payments for projects done since they do not inform their clients when payments are due. Make sure to include a due date on every invoice you send to reduce the occurrence of late payments.
Note that including due dates on the invoice is helpful even if your clients always make their payments on time, talking about security.
8. Include your contact details
When designing your invoice, do not forget to include your full names, address, telephone number, and email. Some of the invoices you send will pass through several people before getting paid. It is much easier if the person receiving the invoice knows where it is from.
Also, they might need clarification on a few items, and including your contact information makes it easier for them to reach you.
Failure to include your contact information on the invoice might result in payment delays. Clients might also need your contact information as part of their record-keeping policy.
9. Number your invoices
As a freelancer, you will have to deal with many clients, and in the process, you will send out lots of invoices. Thus, you need to come up with a way of monitoring and organizing your invoices.
Most of the invoicing software mentioned above includes a numbering system, which you can use to keep track of payments.
A good numbering system allows you to monitor payments and keep track of late payments or clients who have defaulted. It simply saves you time and effort searching here and there or ended up invoicing clients who have already paid.
10. Keeping a record
Always remember that backup is the savior of all business troubles. It is so essential that if you fail to do it and you lost your record of invoices, there will be no way to track which clients have been billed, and which are not.
Grow a habit, always do a backup of your invoice record. You can photocopy them, print them out or download them into your computer’s local storage, as long as you have a copy of them.
Also, store any email and letter related to the invoice, so when anything happens, you always have an extra reference, and you will thank yourselves for keeping them well.
Bonus: Make follow-ups
Not all of your clients will respond to your invoices on time. As the due date approaches, politely enquire from the clients whether or not they have sent their payments.
Yes, be polite when doing follow-ups because while certain clients are willing to pay, they could have simply forgotten the payments.
Lastly, you need to be systematic when dealing with invoicing issues raised by your clients. Responding in time to your client’s concerns portrays your professionalism and will increase the likelihood of them giving you more projects.
Editor’s note: This post is written by Kevin Harter for Hongkiat.com. Kevin is a graphic designer, regular blogger and the owner of Crystalint Media. When he is not cranking his brains with new graphic design technology, he can be found desperately trying to write a poem!