It’s always a good feeling to finish a project and send out the final invoice, isn’t it?? It’s a job well done and pay-day all at the same time! The thing is, no invoice is the same, so let’s go over some of the basic parts and different ways you can handle everything.

* Before I dive in, I decided I would share with you guys my BASE invoice, which can be seen right here. Everything on there is filler information that is changed out for each client, but hopefully it stands as a good resource. Please respect my design & do not take. With that said, let’s dive in.

PROJECT DETAILS I like to make sure I reiterate essential project details. That means no matter what type of project I’ve finished, I always include an invoice number, my contact information ( & address ), the client’s contact information, and date completed. You can of course go all out and include more details if you’d like, but these things are the very basic.

MONEY This is usually the big difference, besides design, when it comes to invoices. Some people charge at an hourly rate, while others have fixed fees. As you can see on my invoice – I mostly charge with flat rates, although sometimes extra work is added on at my hourly rate. I choose to do math and only have one column of running numbers to keep things simple. The other option for invoicing would be by quantity of hours. There is a good example of this here and here.

DISCLAIMER An important thing to remember is reminding your clients of when their payment is due. Some people put an exact due date on their invoice, while others, like me, have a disclaimer at the bottom that outlines what needs to happen. No matter what, it’s important that you get paid for your work. Do NOT give out final files until you have received all payment … this protects you from people who run away with your work.

DESIGN OR APP USAGE There are two options when it comes to how you invoice. You can either create them yourself or use an app to help you out. Programs like Pancake and Harvest are there to help manage your time and ease of billing. Click around on those links and you’ll see that their purpose is to make your life easier. Some people ( like me ), on the other hand, like total control of design when it comes to the layout of their invoice. That’s totally fine – just know that it may take some extra work on your part.

That about covers it. Definitely let me know if you have any questions in the comments. I try my best to explain when I can! And if you have any other ideas for “be free, lance” topics, please please let me know. I just want to help, you know. :)

  1. Natasha says:

    Really helpful as always, thanks!

  2. Brianna says:

    As always, great advice and love this column. I currently work a 9-5 and freelance on the side. Can you do a post about making the leap to full freelance, or advice/steps. Something to that sort? PS Love the blog changes. So lovely.

  3. Shayla says:

    Lovely invoice design, but we wouldn’t expect anything less from you. :)

    At some point as your business grows you may want to try Quickbooks, you won’t have as much control over the look of the invoice but it does allow you to brand it with your logo & colors and choose from many fonts. Not only does it manage your invoicing but it can manage all of your accounting as well which is a HUGE help come tax season. Plus it allows clients to send an e-check with a low fee of just 50 cents and the money is deposited directly into your account the next business day. :) I actually wrote about it a few weeks ago, if your curious to learn a bit more and no I don’t work for Quickbooks in anyway, I just personally use it and really like it. http://www.designingalifeblog.com/2012/11/accounting-my-software-of-choice.html

    Just my humble thoughts on this topic. :)

    • bre says:

      Hey Shayla,
      I’m surprised myself that I haven’t used some sort of program like Harvest or Quickbooks yet. I think I’m just a CRAZY design snob, that’s all. :) Love the review you gave on it – that’s super helpful. My dad is a tax guy, so I’m a little lucky that I have everything laid out on what I need to do for that and he makes it a snap to do.

      Thanks for stopping by. :) Xx.

  4. Thanks for sharing your base invoice. I spent a few hours designing mine too. It’s a sickness isn’t it? … to make everything (even an invoice) beautiful.

    I’d love to see how you format a new project estimate. I have a system I use, but I’d love to see how you organize yours. Do you include disclaimers? Thanks, Breanna.

    • bre says:

      Hey Krystle, thank you so much! I guess we’re just design snobs, ha.

      My project estimate / proposal is literally the SAME design as my invoice. The top has a project number instead of invoice number. I keep the designer / client contact information details. The right column is where I list a description of services and their estimated price. I also have a space for trade in case that happens and what the monetary value is.

      I do have a disclaimer at the bottom that reiterates the PDF as being an estimate and that any extra work will be billed at my hourly rate or re-analyzed for a packaged fee.

      I hope that helps. :)

    • Krystle says:

      Nice! I think I need to simplify mine now.

  5. Kate says:

    This is SO helpful! Organizing the back-end of my business is the major thing on my to-do list for the new year… I’ll definitely be referencing this post! Thanks Bre!

  6. anto says:

    I agree with Brianna. I would really like to see a post about making that big leap.
    Thanks for sharing all of this info with us. It’s very helpful and informative.
    By the way, I love the super clean and minimalist look! :)

  7. Joy says:

    Great advice, as usual. I think invoicing is always so awkward for me, even though it most definitely shouldn’t be! That reminds me, I totally need to design my invoices so they look nicer. Mine are currently very awful looking!

    So you currently charge a flat rate as you said – I do the same. I find though that it is difficult to control the back and forth “can you fix this? can you do that?” overages that happen when you (and I!) charge a flat fee. How do you deal with extra questions, technical issues if its a website, etc?

    • bre says:

      Great point!! I should do a post on the whole back & forth thing because it can be hard to facilitate / manage. Long story short – my contract specifies how many “revisions” a project has. In most cases for me that is two. Anything after that is charged @ my hourly rate and recorded as an additional fee, which they know from the get go!

  8. Erin May says:

    Thank you for sharing! I have been using Freshbooks, and find their system works well for tracking my hours, sending out estimates, and collecting invoices to send with just one button. It’s a little generic and not nearly as pretty as your invoice, but there you go!

    I love this series of posts- please keep it up!

  9. Amy says:

    This was really helpful to see, thank you! I love seeing little behind the scenes bits of peoples businesses, it helps clarify things I think.

    I’ve never created my own invoices but I’d love to. This is going to sound kinda lame… How do you organize them, and what format do you send them? I noticed that in your disclaimer, you accept payment by check. If some of us accept payment through Paypal, do we just state that in the disclaimer we write?

    I’m only just starting out hence the stupid questions ha!

    x

    • bre says:

      Hey Amy,
      Thanks for your kind words. :) As far as creating my own invoices, I save out as a PDF and then just send via email. I used to have one folder on my computer called “invoices” where I kept everything, but now I’m starting to put each client’s invoice in their own folder on my computer. So, I have a folder structure like this :

      “Freelance” >> “Client” >> “Invoice”

      I label all of my invoiced with the invoice number and client, which corresponds to my bookkeeping, so I can easily tell them all apart. :) I hope that helps!

      I think that if you accept payment through PayPal, you just need to include it in the disclaimer or simply tell your client that they can pay that way! I sometimes have people ask me to use PP and I’m totally cool with it – we just communicate more.

  10. Fantastic post!

    I’m loving reading through the comments + seeing what systems everyone uses.

    I love your be free lance posts, they’re my favorite. I’d love to see a post on creating contracts. I’d also like to see a post on the business side of being a designer. I definitely struggle with that side of things :s

    Nesha xo

    • bre says:

      I love the discussion happening – and am glad it could be of help to you, too! I will definitely write about contracts & having a business voice. I’ve received a lot of great suggestions already, so have scheduled posts out for the next 5 or so weeks!! xx.

  11. Jessica Lee says:

    Thanks for sharing this info and your invoice design as a sample/reference, Breanna! I love the design layout and colors of your invoice. =)
    I first found out about you and your blog through Katie’s blog, paperfashion.net, soon after you re-designed her blog. Since then, I’ve been visiting your blog regularly and I absolutely love everything about your blog and work!
    I’m a designer myself — an in-house designer. Just dreaming and hoping to make my living as a full-time freelancer or small business owner someday…so I can be a stay-home mom when I have a family. I feel so lost when I think of doing so, though, and reading blog posts such as this helps me stay hopeful and motivated.
    Thank you again!

    -Jessica

  12. Stephanie T says:

    Such a helpful post! I always struggle with the amount of information to include on my invoices, and the dreaded disclaimer. Thanks for sharing!!

  13. Kory says:

    This is super helpful. My only question is when you started doing this did you have any problems getting people to pay? I have been using pay pal simply because I want to have an official record somewhere that I’ve sent the invoice and I know they should be paying it. I would love to transfer to sending my own invoices though.

    • bre says:

      Thank you Kory!
      I think I’ve only had problems with people paying once or twice, where they just maybe forgot? That’s the thing, though, with doing your own invoicing. You don’t have some program automatically telling you when someone has paid. It’s all on you! I have a huge financial chart that I have set up in iWork’s numbers program where I record WHEN I send out an invoice as well as when i RECEIVE the payment. I make sure I do this right away whenever I receive a check or payment, just so I don’t forget. It can be a lot of hard work, and that may be the downfall. Gotta pick your battles! xx.

  14. Lee says:

    Hey Breanna,

    This is Lee from Pancake, I just wanted to say thanks for thinking of us and wanted to mention that Pancake is entirely theme-able.

    So if you could make your beautiful invoices into html (which from the looks of it should’nt be an issue), you could use them with Pancake. We built it so that you had complete control over your clients interaction with your brand.

    If you’d like to know more I’m happy to answer any questions you have.

    • bre says:

      Hey Lee,
      Thank you SO much for taking time to write on here – I appreciate it. I’ve definitely poked around on Pancake and love the interface. You guys did a really really good job, especially design wise. I saw that you can customize it 100% and that definitely intrigues me. I think it IS something I’ll try in the future, but I know it’ll be a lot of work to tap into my development skills to make it work like I want to. Thank you so much again! – Bre.

  15. JP says:

    This is so helpful, Bre. And your invoices are beautiful! Definitely bookmarking this post for future reference — thanks again!

  16. Zoe Rooney says:

    Lovely invoice design! I feel you on wanting total control over design and layout. I use Pancake and like Lee mentioned in his comment it’s very theme-able (more so now that even a few months ago, with recent changes). Here’s what my estimates & invoice look like using Pancake: http://zeeohee.com/2012/08/se03-on-pricing/ One thing I love about this system is that users can pay via a number of payment gateways right online through the invoice itself. I use PayPal and Stripe (credit/debit card) and then Pancake keeps track of payments that have gone through. I am not as good as you are about immediately recording things manually, so that is something that makes a huge difference for me.

    • bre says:

      I remember seeing your estimate (using pancake) for our project together and being SO impressed, haha. Pancake is so awesome and I really really do want to use it. I love that it feels more legit, ya know? After seeing my invoice, do you think it would be easy to code on the backend?? I’m not a coding genius like you, but I can get my way through most everything. I guess I’m just a little nervous at how long my design would take and if I could use my fonts, ya know?

      ALSO, do you have to pay to use Stripe as a gateway? I’m totally interested / intrigued.

  17. Zoe Rooney says:

    There is no monthly fee for Stripe, they charge by the transaction similar to PayPal (2.9% + 30 cents per transaction). For a credit card processor, that is pretty amazing as a lot of them charge more and/or monthly fees and/or more for Amex, etc. They direct deposit your payments on a rolling basis 7 days after the original payment goes through. Also they have really OUTSTANDING customer service/ support. Like, off the wall amazing. I had a client who had an issue unrelated to their service but with payments that were processed through Stripe and they went way above and beyond to help in any way they could, so I am a fan for life.

    Pancake-wise, you definitely would need to use web fonts for any dynamic text. The trickiest part for me was getting the fonts right in the downloadable PDF version of the invoice, but I finally figured that out. I think you would need to make some small changes to the way you have the line items divided out (Services/ Reimbursements) but I think everything else could be done. You might even be able to do those using some conditional PHP. I have a second local installation of Pancake and I’ll totally try it out when I get a few minutes and email you screenshots of the results :)

    • bre says:

      You rock, Zoe. And as always, you have SO much knowledge on this stuff. Thank you! Definitely share screenshots if you have any success. :) I’m still super intrigued, ha!

      However, the 2.9% throws me for a loop. I understand it’s necessary and covers the service. But with large payments like $1,000+ …. that percentage becomes more substantial, ya know? Do you just deal with it – or do you adjust your pricing to cover that cost? Just curious.

  18. Zoe Rooney says:

    I don’t specifically adjust pricing based on payment gateway (which in case someone reading is curious, is actually against PayPal’s TOS if you have a fee just for that payment method). It also isn’t explicitly built into my rates. I don’t have a great, thought-out reason for why, but my general thoughts are that (a) I do want to stay reasonably affordable and (b) the convenience (which is what I’m paying for, in my opinion) is mostly on my end, not necessarily the client’s.

    Convenience is the main reason I use it – I just cannot deal with processing checks on a regular basis, or the relevant record keeping and bank-going. When I look at the fee against the time all that stuff would take me (as well as gas for my guzzler-but-kid-friendly SUV), it pretty much balances out or is less to pay the fees. That said, I occasionally do take checks, particularly for more “corporate” projects or deposits that are tendered far in advance. Some of my larger designer clients also pay via direct bank transfer, so there are no fees on those particular payments.

  19. jensen says:

    These post are always so helpful, thank you!

    It would be lovely if you could do a post on how you organize your files. I know you talked a bit about your organization process a while ago, but I always seem to have trouble with figuring out a good file organizing/naming/management system and no one really talks in depth about that.

    Also, I love you blog redesign, it looks great!

  20. rachael says:

    after all these comments, i’m sure you are filled to the brim with freelance posts! i work full time with a small agency and do freelance on the side. in both, support AFTER the project is completed seems to be a bit of an issue.

    if a client calls you about a problem they are having with their site, whether it be big or small, do you just bill them afterwards depending on the time you spend? some of my clients are often not very tech savvy, do you go in and do site maintenance every once in a while (update wordpress, themes, plugins etc.) or do you train your clients to do this themselves?

    not completely on topic, sorry! but would love to know your thoughts. :)

    • bre says:

      Ha, I now have topics scheduled until FEBRUARY! I’ll definitely cover this one, don’t worry. :) Long story short – so you don’t have to wait – I just charge hourly for maintenance after a project is closed. But it can be a tricky topic, especially with web stuff and availability and all that jazz, so I’ll write about it later on. xx.

  21. Katherine says:

    This post (heck all your posts) are so helpful. I’m just starting to do some freelance web work and don’t really have a good invoicing system yet. Your advice and everyone’s comments have given me some great ideas to follow up on in order to get the business side of my work in shape. Thanks so much.

  22. Dara says:

    Great post! I’m always curious about how other people handle their invoicing and estimating and things like that! I also stubbornly use my own PDF invoice, but may or may not switch over to a more automated system soon.

    Question: how do you reconcile releasing files only after the final payment has been received and working right up to a deadline? Do you invoice your clients at least 20 days ahead of time? That’s always the tricky part for me, because I feel weird asking for payment before my work is all done.

    Thanks for sharing so much info! :D

  23. Mel says:

    Great post I love to hear about other peoples method of organising things :)
    I’m redesigning my invoicing template now and all the advice and comments are super helpful!

  24. Shauna Nep says:

    You are amazing. That is all.

  25. sheryl says:

    I love your invoice design – I feel that way about invoices … I prefer to still do it through a design program so I can make it look exactly how I want it to!

    Loving your blog changes, it’s so nice and clean!!

  26. [...] Invoicing – on Breanna Rose [...]

  27. [...] of great info about invoicing (don’t miss the [...]

  28. morgan says:

    LOVE these series of articles – thank you so much for sharing the information. I’ve found a lot of people feel very proprietary over their info and personal practices so I am very grateful to you for being so open. I would love to know how you handle estimating /proposals and contracts – do you have a separate estimate and stand alone contract following the approved estimate? I’ve bundled mine into one document, but would love to know how other people to do to find the most efficient way. I would also love to know more about your file management and organization. I struggle with project numbering and have really only used numbers for invoicing. But studios I’ve worked for used a numerical system and I’d love to know if that works on a smaller scale and how to best keep track of everything.

    Thanks again for all the great information!

  29. [...] This is a beautiful invoice (and great advice) from Breanna Rose. [...]

  30. [...] was really pleased ( and PUMPED ) about all the discussion that happened during last week’s “Be Free, Lance” session and took notes on what [...]

  31. [...] post on invoicing came at the perfect [...]

  32. rachel says:

    always so helpful. I’m starting off freelancing a lot (with a full time design job) and all your tips have been incredible helpful! thanks so much!

  33. [...] seamless. And it tracks who has and hasn’t paid up! For more invoicing insights, check out this post by Breanna [...]

  34. Michelle says:

    Really insightful, practical post. This inspires me to get my invoicing system more organised this year!

    xx Michelle

  35. [...] or so everyday to research a subject I didn’t feel confident in. Whether it was contracts, invoicing, project management, or who knows what – I had to figure it all [...]

  36. […] Invoicing. This is a straight up informational post on the ins and outs of invoicing clients. Plus, tips and […]