Get Paid: A Freelance Writer's Guide to Invoicing
Freelance writing is a great line of work because it allows you freedom. The scary part comes when you start to look at your finances. When you take into account taxes, electric bills, internet fees and all the other things you need to run your work, the need for funds can mount up pretty quickly. This is why it’s crucial you make sure your invoices always get paid on time by your clients.
It might take a while for you to get used to the thought of handling your own invoices and chasing up payments if they don’t come on time. It’s not as hard as it sounds, though. Here’s my quick guide to help you out.
What needs to be on an invoice?
If you have never made your own invoice before, you’re forgiven for thinking that you simply write down the price for the work and the clients details. It's not that easy!
Here are all the elements that need to be added on to the invoice to make sure you get paid:
The clients order number if they have purchased a physical product
The name of the project or product which was purchased by the client
Details about the work completed, including hours worked, if needed
The total sum which needs to be paid to you by the client
Your payment terms- add a payment deadline
You bank details or Paypal info so that they can transfer you the money over
Your client's name and address
Your name and address
Invoice number and date
Registered business number and address
How to create an invoice
Now that you know what should be on an invoice, how do you wrap it up into a professional looking package that screams ‘pay me’? I like to use PayPal’s invoice system when my clients agree to pay me through PayPal, but for checks or direct deposits, I use an invoice template I created in Word. You can use my template for free. Here’s the download. (If you’d like more templates like this to make your job as a freelancer easier, be sure to check out my No-Fluff Freelance Writing Starter Pack.)
How to chase up your invoice
When it comes to chasing up the payment of your invoices you might feel a little uncomfortable. Don’t worry, it is totally normal for you to feel a little weird about demanding money from your client, but just bear in mind that you need the money to finance your business and your life. Plus, you did the damn work, so you deserve it!
If you have several freelance jobs going on at once, it would be helpful for you to create a calendar with reminders on when certain payments are due. (I use Google Calendar.) If the due date comes and the invoice has not been paid, you will need to contact your customer to find out what is going on.
It could be that they simply forgot, or they have another reason for not paying you. Send a gentle reminder and a copy of the invoice in an email.
If they ignore you, I've found that sometimes it helps to send a notice to a client's boss in the company to get things moving. For example, if you usually send your invoice to your editor, contact HR or the editor’s boss.
What to do when a client won’t pay
If they refuse to pay, there are several things you can do. Pick the option that feels right to you:
You can get the law involved since you sent them an invoice with a payment agreement on it. Send them a certified letter stating that you intend to take them to small claims court if they don't pay by a certain day. Typically, clients will get scared into action.
You can open a payment dispute with PayPal if you sent the invoice through their services. All you need for proof is a screenshot of the email you used to send the finished article, blog post or whatever. A screenshot of the finished work on your client’s website and a copy of your contract are also good things to send over to PayPal as proof of services rendered.
Use the non-payment as a tax write-off. Be sure to contact your tax professional for more information on this option.