Lately, I have had more than one occasion where an aspiring young writer asks me some questions about creating an invoice for their copywriting or SEO work. This page is going to serve as a dump for information about creating an invoice for whatever, and I’ll drop in a link to resource templates too, so you can skip to them if that’s all you need.
Why You Create Invoices
You create an invoice to bill a company for the work you do for them. They receive it, approve it, and put it into their payment cycle. The duration of each one is one of those things that depends on the company you are dealing with, but no matter how they handle it, many companies want an invoice to complete the project. You send this after a project to mutually agree you are finished, and you are now waiting to be paid.
They will use the invoice on their end to complete internal paperwork – assigning the value to a specific department, or sometimes a specific representative.
You will likely use it for record keeping too, but maybe just in an e-format.
Because both parties will use this document for tracking purposes, the information in it must be kept clear, and straight-forward. Offer exactly the information you need – nothing more, nothing less. The following things are going to be pretty standard things in the invoice information:
- Your company name and contact info in the header and footer. The mailing address is important – a lot of people will mail your checks to you. Also, the phone number/email is important, because if there is an error or something they need to be able to reach you quickly to sort it out. Every day the mistake exists is another you are not being paid.
- Their company name and specific contact information e.g., “Attn: Paul Jones.” The specific contact is used to identify your contact in a larger company – it is a good thing to know. They’ll often shuffle it around and get people to sign it – so be on the ball, and know where it needs to go.
- A specific invoice reference number – one that is unique.
- The description of the services/deliverables, potentially itemized. I like to keep this pretty general and simple…so something like “50 pages of original content and research @ $75/page – $3750 total project fee” or something like that works. Put the itemized things in the left, the right column tabulates all the individual items being invoiced.
- Any additional costs/considerations/notes. If there was scope creep, delivery charges, outsourced talent or something off the grid of what you originally determined to be the project, state it if you want to get recognized and paid for it. All of the phone calls in the world don’t hold the same power as a written, signed invoice. Put it in writing.
- A total now due. Make this a very clear number using a font that is big, red, bold, exciting – make it work like a fork jabbed in their eye. There should be NO DOUBT how much they owe, and when. That is the only purpose of this document, so make it work.
- Payment preferences. You can state how quick you want the turn to be – I state net-10, meaning within 10 days of my final approval, they need to pay me. The common deal with bigger companies is closer to net-30 – this is important to know when you are just starting out. Demand all you want – but it doesn’t mean much to stomp your feet. It is truly better to wait it out, painful as that can be. Way back a long time ago, I actually had a client owe me over $10k for a month’s work because they were pushing hard quickly, and I was simply working hard to meet it – but when I balked to get paid in the middle of the second month (yeah-$10k+ is a LOT of dough, and my bills weren’t waiting), they “paused” with me to work it out and hired someone who was evidently more patient. The terms of our agreement stated I was to be paid every two weeks, yet I was 8 weeks in, and still waiting for an installment. They were never waiting for copy though – I met my deadlines, and their client loved my work. I could have simply shut-up and knew I’d get my money eventually – but I made a stand (sticking purely to the terms of our agreement) and essentially got moved aside. I got paid in a few weeks, but this was the last time I worked for them for a while. It meant more to me then – but in retrospect, the additional $10-20k I could’ve earned for another month would’ve been nice. Not to mention the additional work from this connection I likely flushed away with my indignant (however justified) “demand.” I was right according to our agreement, but who cares – I still got all-but-fired, and they didn’t call me again for almost a year (but they did – they always come back!). We made nice, and I eventually had more work on better terms with them, but it was definitely cooled-off for us both for a while. Learn from my mistake…stay on the job, get paid, and don’t leave your fences in a state needing attention. Act like a grown-up. I was mad, so handled this worse than I think I would’ve if I was not angry. It was years ago, but became a lasting lesson.
Creating an Invoice for Freelance Copywriting or SEO Work
Now that we have covered the basics in “why” you do this stuff, it’s time to look at the “how.”
Great news – you need to know nothing, and everything is free. Just grab the right template and Go.
Use this link – the big G has provided: https://docs.google.com/templates?q=invoice&sort=hottest&view=public .
When I make invoices, they are done in Word documents or Excel spreadsheets. I create them as a template (much like the Google ones), edit them with the specifics of the project and save them as a document and then create a pdf to send the client. You want to pdf them, so the client can’t change something on-the-sly before a signature or something creepy like that. It happens – sorry. But also keep it in editable format, as there might be something you need to change later and it helps you to not start over from scratch every time.
So that’s it really – use that link, and find a service-oriented invoice template you like. Save it as a template, and create all your invoices from the same one. If that is in any way confusing, email me directly, and I’ll help you sort it out.
Creating an invoice is a necessary skill to know if you are to be working for yourself at any point. But they are so frighteningly easy, it makes no sense to fear them. And needing to create an invoice is a great thing – it means you’re about to get paid!
Later edit: a Blank, company-less invoice template
Had more than a couple comments and questions about what to do if you have no business, and need an invoice – the short answer, is you do the same thing, just substitute your personal info where the company info would have gone. Just to keep it easy, I made you guys a little blank template you can download and modify: invoice-no-company-blank