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How to Invoice as a Freelancer: 5 Action Steps to Get It Right

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Gigly team, Marketing at Gigly
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As a self-employed freelancer, you have lots of freedom. You get to choose when you work, which clients you work with, and which gigs you don’t want to do.

But no matter what type of freelance business you run, there’s one thing you can’t avoid:

Invoicing your clients.

Freelancers are solely responsible for billing their clients and making sure that they’re paid in a timely manner. So if you’re new to the world of gig work, you should learn how to do it right away.

From how to create a professional invoice to what information you should include, here’s how to invoice as a freelancer.


How to Send an Invoice as a Freelancer

If you work through a freelance website such as Upwork, generating your own invoices is not a concern. Upwork and comparable freelance platforms have built-in payment options where invoices are automatically generated on your behalf.

But when you don’t work through a freelancer website, creating your own invoices needs to be a high priority on your to-do list.

Why?

Because you deserve to be paid for the hard work you’ve done!

There are two ways to generate an invoice:

  1. Create it using a freelance invoice template, convert it to a PDF, and email it directly to your client
  2. Use invoicing software and send automated invoices to your clients at the end of each billing cycle

Either way works fine — just like your freelance schedule, it’s completely up to you!

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Include All Relevant Information

For some freelancers, using a free invoice template is the best choice.

Why?

Because they’re easy to create and they cost you nothing.

Invoicing software is convenient, but it will cost you. So, many freelancers prefer to create their own.

If you’re planning to create and customize your own freelance invoices, here’s a complete list of everything you need to include on every invoice you send:

Items to Include in Your Invoice Header

Most invoices are broken into two or three segments: the header, the body, and the footer.

The first segment, or the header section, must include the following information:

Your Contact Information

You must include all of your contact information. Otherwise, your client won’t know who the invoice is coming from or how to get in touch with you if there is an issue.

Include your first and last name as well as your business name. Your mailing address, email address, website, and phone number should be in there, too.

Your Client’s Contact Information

Ensure that your client’s name, address, and phone number must be present on every invoice. Include their company name and an email address for easy reference in case you need to follow up on a late payment.

You should also include the contact name of the person you work with at the company or the name of the person to whom you submit your invoice for payment.

An Invoice Number

All invoices should have an invoice number for reference, and invoice numbers should be created in sequential order. This makes it easier to track invoices you’ve sent, invoices you’ve been paid for, and invoices that are past due.

The Invoice Date

Include the date that you created the invoice. This matters because the date that payment is due often depends on the date that the invoice was submitted for payment.

Payment Terms

Payment terms denote the bill amount and the time frame in which the invoice payment is due. It’s best to pre-negotiate with clients before any work begins. Payment terms typically range from net 10 days to net 60 days.

With net 10 terms, the invoice is due 10 days after it was submitted. With net 30 terms, the invoice is due 30 days after submission, and so on.

The Due Date

Always specify when the invoice is due. The due date is determined by the date you sent the invoice and the payment terms that you and the client have negotiated.

Items to Include in the Body of Your Invoice

The body of the invoice is the section in which you detail the work you’ve performed and how much you’re billing for that work.

Here’s what you need to include in the body of every invoice you send:

Line Items

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List, line by line, the type of work that you’ve performed for each billing cycle. Each line should have four columns and should read from left to right in this order:

  • Quantity (this could be the number of units worked or the number of items sold)
  • A description of the work performed (or a description of the product sold)
  • The unit price for each item
  • The sum total of that line

If you’re a freelance writer, your line items might look something like these:

  • Monthly blog post
  • Copy for landing page
  • Email newsletter

If you’re a graphic designer, your line items might be as follows:

  • New logo for website
  • Infographics for March blog
  • New brochure layout

If you do multiple tasks for a client, create a line item for each one. If you do one specific task or sell one specific product, one line is all you need.

Price Per Unit

Many freelancers charge different rates for different tasks. Whether you bill your client at an hourly rate or at a fixed, flat rate on a per-project basis, every line item on your invoice is a unit, and every unit has its price.

You must include a unit price for every line item on your invoice.

Total for Each Line Item

The last column of each line should be the grand total for that line (number of units times price per unit).

For example, your first column (number of units) might read 10, as in 10 hours worked.

Your second column will describe the work performed (i.e., social media management, software testing, consulting services).

Next, your third column might read $30, as in $30 per hour.

Your fourth and final column on that line should be the sum total of the work on that line.

In this case, that would be 10 times $30 for a total of $300.

Items to Include at the Bottom of Your Invoice

The bottom portion of your invoice should include payment totals, preferred payment methods, and a thank you.

Here’s why each of these is so important:

Subtotal

Total invoices horizontally and vertically. Then, add the total of each horizontal line item at the bottom of your invoice to reflect a subtotal of the amount due.

Taxes

Depending on the services you provide, your clients may be responsible for paying taxes. Always include a line for taxes, even if they aren’t applicable.

If taxes don’t apply to your work, simply mark this line as “0”.

Total Amount Due

The total amount due is the final dollar amount for which you are requesting payment. This is the sum total of the subtotal for the services or products sold plus the taxes owed, if applicable.

If you do not charge taxes, the total amount due will be the same as the subtotal.

Payment Method

Before you begin working with a new client, have a conversation about how you’ll accept payment.

Freelancers have the flexibility to offer a variety of payment options, such as online payments through PayPal or ACH bank transfers. Clearly state the payment option you negotiate with the client at the bottom of your invoice.

Some freelancers also charge late fees for clients that don’t pay on time. If you charge late fees, include the penalties and fees in this section of the invoice, as well.

Freelancers often have multiple clients that pay invoices in different ways. Including payment details on your invoice alerts the client to how you want to be paid and reminds you of the payment method you’ve negotiated with each particular client.

Thank You!

A simple thank you goes a long way.

As a freelancer, building long-term relationships with good clients is essential. Conclude every invoice with a simple “thank you” as a way to show your gratitude and appreciation for your client’s continued business and support.


How to Generate Your Own Invoices

The most cost-effective way to generate a freelance invoice is to use a free Word or Excel invoice template. There are dozens of free templates to choose from.

As a freelancer, time is money. You can save yourself some time by setting up a template for each individual client with their contact information and payment terms. That way, you won’t have to change or input that information each and every time.

When it comes time to email your invoice, be sure to convert your doc or sheet to a PDF. You should never send an invoice in a format that can be altered or manipulated, so take the extra step to convert it to a PDF.

When you email it, include the word “invoice” and put the invoice number in the email’s subject line so that the client can easily identify that it’s a bill.


Keep Track of Your Invoices

No matter what type of freelance work you do, it’s imperative that you keep track of your invoices and make sure that you’re receiving payments for your work.

The easiest and most affordable way to do so is by logging your invoices into an Excel spreadsheet or Google Sheets.

Your spreadsheet should contain a minimum of five columns:

  • Client name
  • Invoice number
  • Total invoice amount
  • Due date
  • Payment received date

With a simple spreadsheet, you can keep track of all of your invoices and record which ones have been paid. If a due date passes and you haven’t yet received payment, send a follow-up email to the client and request payment.


The More Invoices You Send, the More Useful Invoicing Software Can Be

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For freelancers who only send a few invoices each month, generating PDF invoices and keeping track in a spreadsheet is easy and effective. But if you send multiple invoices to multiple clients each month, invoicing software can help you save time.

Invoicing tools like FreshBooks, Bonsai, Wave, and HoneyBook make it easy to generate invoices, but there are both pros and cons to using this type of software.

The Pros:

  • Easy invoice generation for multiple clients
  • Built-in record keeping
  • Easy access to reports and client totals when you file taxes
  • Additional capabilities, such as time-tracking software and productivity tools

The Cons:

  • Having to buy the software or pay for a monthly membership
  • The learning curve of figuring out how to use the program
  • Paying for additional tools and services that are built-in but that you don’t need

Many freelancers choose not to pay for invoicing software, but it can be a helpful tool if you send multiple invoices a month. If you typically only send a handful of invoices each month, you can save some money by generating free invoices on your own.

If you do pay for invoicing software, keep your receipts! This can be deducted as a business expense when you file your taxes.


Tips for Sending Invoices as a Freelancer

For many freelancers, creating, sending, and following up on invoice payments is their least favorite thing to do. But if you want to get paid, all of those steps are essential.

Here are some tips to help make invoicing easier and more efficient:

Create an Invoice Schedule

Rather than creating invoices every day of the week, set up a schedule and designate a block of time to send invoices at the same time each week or each month.

If you have repeat clients that you work with on a regular basis, send your invoice on the same day each month (i.e., the first of the month or the 15th of the month). If you prefer to invoice clients once a week, designate a specific day to do so.

It’s easier to create and send four invoices every Friday than to do one on Monday, one on Wednesday, and two on Thursday.

For one-off clients and occasional projects, it can be beneficial to send your invoice as soon as the project is complete. Otherwise, you might forget.

Ask for Invoice Confirmation

To prevent payment delays, ask for confirmation of receipt every time you email an invoice to a client. If you don’t receive confirmation, follow up one week later with a payment reminder.


As a small business owner, sending professional invoices is the only way to get paid.

To recap, here’s how to do so:

  • Create an invoice template for each client
  • Make sure your invoices include all of the necessary information
  • Keep track of the invoices you send and when you receive payment
  • Stick to an invoicing schedule
  • Follow up with clients when payments are past due.

For many freelancers, their work is their passion, but you always deserve to be paid for the work you do. If you don’t, your “business” isn’t a business at all … it’s nothing more than a hobby.

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