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A Freelancer's Guide to Easy Invoicing - Guest Post by John Hills

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How to Invoice - A Freelancer’s Guide

There are many perks that come with being a freelancer. You have the freedom to choose when and where you work. You can focus on what really matters to you. And you have levels of job satisfaction most 9-5ers can’t even dream of.

That said there are certain downsides too, one of the main ones being getting paid for your work! Research published by Bacs Payment Schemes last week shows that SMEs spend on average four hours a week chasing late payments. And that comes on top of all the time and effort spent creating your invoices in the first place.

So with this in mind we thought it would be handy to put together a quick guide on everything you need to know about invoicing. It covers how to create your own template, what to include, and some handy resources from around the web. Enjoy!

What Needs to be Included on your Invoices?

This may seem like an obvious answer - ‘how much you’re charging, and what it’s for’ - but it’s easy to get this wrong. And if it’s your first time invoicing you’re sure to miss something off the list.

First up we’ve listed all the essential information (and legal requirements) you need to include when billing a client:

  • The word “INVOICE” must be clearly visible on the document (usually in the top right corner)

  • A unique number that identifies your invoice eg. Invoice #123. (and remember that this numbering must be sequential for all subsequent invoices you issue**).

  • Your company name (verbatim as it shows on your certificate of incorporation), your company registration number, and contact information. If you don’t work as a registered company include your own name and any business name you use.

  • Your client’s name and contact information

  • A description of what you’re invoicing for (the more detail you give the better!)

  • The date you provided your services on (which may differ from the date the invoice is raised)

  • The amount being charged for your products/services, a separate total for the amount of VAT being charged (if applicable), as well as the overall total being charged on the invoice

**Though you have to number all your invoices, you don’t need to start with Invoice #001, thus letting your client know they’re your first order! You can start with whatever number you want. The only requirement is to keep it sequential.

Armed with this information and some basic MS Office skills, you can then open up Excel and start creating your very own template. If you’re unsure of the layout then you can also check what goes where here. And there are a stack of YouTube videos that walk you through the whole process, if you need some extra help.

Free, Ready-Made Invoice Templates

As the saying goes ‘time is money’, and you may well have better things to be doing with your day than watching a 30 minute “how to” video, or wrestling with Excel formulas. So if you’re in a rush you can simply download a free invoice template instead (there are options in either Word, Excel, PDF or an online version).

Beware Fake Invoices!

Working for yourself not only means you’re in charge of sending out invoices, you also have to take care of paying anything you get sent by your own suppliers. On the whole it’s a fairly routine task, but do be careful with fake invoices. There has, unfortunately, been a rise in the amount of fraud committed against small businesses via invoice fraud.

One way to get round this is to use purchase order numbers. It’s a unique number generated by the buyer to authorise a purchase. Your supplier will then include the PO number on the invoice they send you.

And if you do happen to come across any fake invoices, make sure you report them. You can do that either online or via phone. All the relevant contact details are available here.

If you have any other questions about invoicing as a freelancer please let us know by getting in touch on Twitter, Facebook or by email!

John is the marketing manager at Zervant - providers of free online invoicing software for freelancers and entrepreneurs throughout the UK.