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
Hi Thanks for this, I did a big more formal shoot last month, for a major company, never had to invoice before so the above wa a comfort and very useful. Cheers, Peter.
Cool – glad it helped Peter.
Great post! Any comments about how to number the invoice?
Hey Sarah, I’d do it one of two ways – either you have a single numerical series, so every invoice is the next one regardless of which client is receiving it, or you create ID numbers that are in a series for each specific client. So if the first one, I would likely start with something like “invoice #00010003” or something that makes it a value more than zero. Then each new one, you just keep going. If you used the second way, you might make it something like “invoice #clientname0001” or something and then number them like that, where the number contains a specific client reference. It will depend on the way you keep your books – may make sense to use both methods, so you have one master numbered series reflecting everything you do, and the a specific breakout for each client.
Thanks it has been a great help.
Hey Priyank – hope you get lots of reasons to use the info. Cheers! – m 🙂
How do you label the invoice if the person you are working for prefers to keep their company anonymous? Is this simply a red flag and you should let it go, or do I simply omit certain information besides the name of the person?
An invoice is not a public document, so it should not matter if you include a client’s business name in it – you and the client are the only ones who really need to see it. However, if it is a sensitive issue for whatever reason, keep in mind, you can use an invoice number to track things on your end – you can leave naming anyone out of it completely if you want to. So you could send him an invoice #003456 – and in your personal records (again, nothing that goes public) you can connect him to his business name. From a tax perspective, you have to attribute the income from somewhere -and generally, people who operate anonymously on the web have very real, very concrete businesses that process their money and stuff. Maybe not: in which case, use the individual’s name, and attribute it all to a personal relationship with him.
I work with a lot of people who don’t like making their business public information – so I respect that, but it has never prevented me from connecting their payment details to someone specific. If you are unsure, you should simply ask the client what they prefer – but really, this is YOUR invoice, so how you name/track/use it, is your call. It is a document meant to communicate a very specific message: this client owes me this, for that work I did. If you can accomplish that, your invoice works.
Hope that helps – thanks for coming ’round. 🙂
I have been working for a few years as an author assistant and the taxes have been a bit crazy to deal with as I am considered self employed even though I have an employer.
I am thinking that I should start invoices for the freelance jobs I pick up, and keep my regular job the way it currently is. So any tips on this would be great!
Hey Kate, For a while, I had a corporate gig, and freelanced. I tended to invoice the freelancing – the one exception I might make today, is if everything goes thru PayPal, since that leaves a record for you. Not suggesting that is your best way…but yes, you should be invoicing the freelanced stuff, if not for the payment (you may not need them to get paid – hardly any of my clients ask for them) for your own bookkeeping. As for taxes, there is a threshold of money you receive being something you need to report. I am not a tax guy, so talk to one – but from an invoicing perspective, I’d create them for each job you do. They tend to get hard to keep track of otherwise, in my experience. Cheers, m
Thanks for sharing such a valuable information. I want to enquire about my company name, where there is no such company but i am working for my own?
Hi Ramza, Glad it helped you.
If you are doing work and don’t have a company name, you’d probably want to use your own full name in place of the company name. This helps to make sure your checks will be drawn to the right person.
I honestly have not run into that, as I started Articulayers pretty much at the same time I started offering my invoice-worthy services. By having that corporate entity, which later became my LLC, I was able to put a little distance between Marty, and my work. This gets to be much more important to you if you do it for longer time periods, so maybe looking into a business name is not a bad idea either.
I will warn that if you make up a company name like I did, make sure you get a bank account with it – I had some issues cashing checks until I did.
Today, clients pay me or pay my company – but it all gets spent the same way. 🙂
What if you do not own a company? I recently did some work for someone but in order to get paid I need an invoice.
Hey Chris – substitute your personal information where I had my company information. The main thing is you want them to write your check to a name you can cash, and you want that check sent to you. Just in case, I created a simple invoice template in Word that can work for you – I will embed it at the bottom of the post. If it is still giving you questions, fire away. 🙂 Cheers, m
Thank you for these super helpful tips and resources! I only have one clarification question: Most of the templates I’ve looked at include a section that says “approved by/name/for/date.” Is that portion to be filled out by the client themselves? Thanks in advance.
Good question, Suzanne. Normally, you, as the vendor, fills out everything. The client simply approves and processes the payment. They may shepherd it around for internal signatures/approval, but they would not be depending on that section to be included as a blank area in your invoice. Instead, it is for like I mentioned above, about assigning the invoice to your contact within the company. At least that is how I would handle it.
They don’t usually send back the invoice to you – you just get a check. If they need to complete an approval, they do it without talking to you about it, generally. Hope that helps! cheers, m
Thanks so much for your prompt reply, Marty. I assumed that portion was for in-house circulation, but wasn’t entirely sure, so your response was very helpful. Again, thanks for maintaining this great website!
It certainly could be for their internal usage…but a little weird if so. If the client has an internal pecking order to get it approved, they will have a rubber stamp they hit it with, because invoices are all different shapes and sizes from us vendors. If they need a firm chain to be followed, they will handle it after you give them the invoice.
Basically, the invoice is you telling the main company they owe you $$. How they handle it from there until your check arrives should not worry you in the least, unless it gets lost!
And thanks for the kind words on the site – hope it helps you somewhere for sure.
Dear Marty, I need your advice on how to pre-invoice a company for conducting a training workshop for one week..6 to 8 participants ..the training workshop consists of theory and practical hands on..this assignment is being requested by the company..your response will be much appreciated..
Hey Alex, A pre-invoice is handled the same way a post-invoice is, really. What I might do if I were you, is on the left column, list what the workshop is, briefly: 1 wk training workshop and maybe the per-person price (@ $700 per week). In the right column then, you could do multiples by the number of people you are guaranteed, or whatever you are billing for.
If you are getting a down payment, you can reflect it: Down payment on total cost – $1500. Balance due on completion.
The total due now, is exactly that – if it is a down payment, reflect that amount and not the total amount of the project – and if you are billing for the full amount, show that.
But the invoice can be very simple, as it is meant to facilitate the billing and payment of the training – not describe it in great detail.
Hope that helps – and glad you get to bill! 🙂 cheers, m
Dear Marty, Thank you very much for the quick response..
How do I charge taxes if I work online in Canada but for US company? ( graphic design )
Is PayPal a good option to receive payments? What other options are out there to receive payments beside checks. there are a lot of fees involved, incl the exchange rate.
Does PayPal has to be a business one or personal?
First – I am not a tax guy, so please do speak to a more appropriate guy for the full story on what to do. Disclaimer aside, I will share my opinion…hope it helps.
I don’t charge taxes or extra fees or anything like that when I work with people from other countries, and I do work with people all over the place.
The taxes I pay, are based on the income I make and I pay to US, because I live here and do my business here. These kinds of costs are part of being self employed, so if I need to accommodate them, that is part of the rates I charge for what I do – but I have never, not once, added sales tax onto an invoice.
PayPal can be a good option for you for sure – I do recommend it, because most people worldwide can use it. I have transacted a lot thru there – sometimes being paid in Euros or Pounds, and converting it in PayPal. I would secure it with a bank account specifically meant for it – it allows you to transact more freely, with less charges that way.
I still get dinged by fees when someone pays me, and they do not have a secured account – it makes me grumble every time, too.
I pay folks thru there using Masspay, which means they never get pinged with a fee. A lot of more experienced clients tend to use this too – but other clients, who have secured their account using a credit card, push the fees to the recipient – me – which starts that pre-mentioned grumbling.
Other than that though, PayPal has been good to use.
Direct deposits are possible – where you provide your routing and account number, and a transfer is made directly into your account. In a couple instances where I was doing really big projects and needed a lot of seed money, this was the way we tended to do it – my partners were overseas. Exchange rates and all that matter too, if you go that way – but PP allows them to pay you in US dollars, easily, from most anywhere.
I use a business account, because I do a lot of things using PayPal – but a personal one is what most of my paid contractors use. In my case, there isn’t enough separation between the business and the boy, perhaps! 🙂 Hope that helped, and glad you get to invoice someone – cheers, m
Marty, You are the best !!!
If I do a job for a company, then send them a invoice, they claim they never heard of me, the person who hired me for the job doesn’t work for them or didn’t have the authority to hire me, then how do I get them to pay me, without having to go to court. Is there anyway I can assure this person is giving me the right info to send the invoice to or should I just video tape the whole convo. P.s. lets say I dont have a tax i.d. im just a guy sending a invoice do they still have to pay me legally.
Hey Brett – sounds like you got a handful there. Unfortunately, having an invoice is not likely protection enough for you, if you did work for a guy who misrepresented who he is working with. The organization is not liable for anything really – but the individual may be. It will depend most likely on your ability to produce records of correspondence between you and the other guy, and proof of the work you did. It’s hard for me to guess at it, without specifics. I can’t imagine why a guy would have you do work for a company he does own/work with, but whaevs – people are weirder than me.
Depending on the amount, it certainly may be worth pursuing in court – but if it is only a couple thousand bucks or something, you may be spending more to try to get it than it is actually worth.
I am not the best guy to advise you here though – talk to a lawyer for better advice if they are using work you did and not paying for it. Cheers, m
Ok thanks, I only asked just in case something like this was to happen. This is a great site and thanks for the advice. I will be visiting on the regular.
Thank you so much! this was very helpful, I just have one question: I’m using the first of the Google templates called “Invoice – Professional (Cool)” and I’m a bit confused about the bottom right part, “Approved by, name, for, date”. Approved by, is that me?; name, is that my name again?; for, is the name of the contact at the company that’s buying stuff from me?; and date it’s obvious 😛 Could you confirm I got this right?
Thank you again for this article, it saved my life!!!
Cool- always happy to save another life now and then. Routine stuff for us copywriters.
I checked out that template, and to me, it appears to be something to simply leave blank – it would be for their internal signature, name of signor, reason he hired you and date he approved it.
The template creator was just being thoughtful – but you could leave that blank, provided the rest of it is all complete.
But it is common when things need to be signed/approved to have those specific lines there…more common, is the place having their own rubber stamp and not relying on our invoices to provide a nice space for them to manage their own shuffle.
––––––––––––––Guy signs, promising Marco millions–––––––––––––––––––––
NAME ––––Prints his name, for the peeps in accounting––––––––––––––––––––
FOR ––––Identifies the project, so they know where internal bills get sent–––––––––
DATE –––––––––dates it, so true accountability begins from the date he signs here–––––
FWIW though Marco – you’ll never see the handiwork of it actually being filled out, because once you send them the invoice, you only see the check. Not a bad trade-off, to me. Glad you get to bill them out. Cheers, m 🙂