Freelancing: What’s in an Invoice?

Invoices are the lifeblood of a freelancer: they’re how you get paid! So what needs to go into one?

What you’ll want to make is a template, that you can re-use as you (hopefully) do more work for the same client, or that you can repurpose for use with a new client. Your invoice should include:

Your name and contact information
Invoices usually go through HR, not your contact (or not only your contact), so you’ll need to make sure you have your name, phone number, and email address. I think these days physical addresses are optional, unless you are getting your checks mailed to you! Make sure you update this if any one of these items changes.

Invoice number
You’ll need to have invoice numbers on your invoices for each client you work for. It’s on you to keep track of these, and to keep the invoice numbers for each client separate. Some employers will have a format they prefer, but if not, I suggest coming up with two letter company codes to go before each of your invoice numbers.

For example, if you were working for Pepsi and Coke, you could keep track as follows:


Of course, you’ll be keeping a list of your invoices (see below), so they’ll be separate—I’m just demonstrating here for the example.

Invoice submission date
It’s critical for both you and your client to know when you submitted your invoice, so please include the date under the invoice number. And be honest with your dates!

The personal name to whom the invoice should be addressed, the client’s company name, and the company address
You always want to make sure this information is on your invoice, in case it gets misplaced or misdirected within your client’s organization!

A table for filling in the actual work you did
Using a table will make filling in future invoices much easier. The table should include the following columns:

  • Quantity
  • Project serial number (optional)
    • This is meant for jobs where any assignments you get come with a project number (for example, when I was a freelance proofreader, this would have been for ISBNs).
  • Title of project
  • Hours spent/pay rate quantity
    • The title of this column will vary, but it is meant to indicate the quantity by which your pay is being calculated. For some people, that will be hours spent; others, the pages/images/illustrations completed, etc. Label this in a way that makes sense for you.
  • Pay rate (your total pay per that line item)
  • The final line should have a “total” column, for the total due per the invoice.
  • A notes area
    The value of a notes area will become clear as you start freelancing—this is where you can create stipulations for your work and for payment of the invoice. This is where you’ll want to create and include rules for all the things you do/don’t want to happen in your client relationship. For example, if the client says they pay in 30 days, include a “Net 30” here to make sure your payment should be processed on time.
  • Signature lines for you and your client (optional)
    In our digital age, few invoices are actually truly signed anymore. However, by adding a signature line, you’ll give the expectation that the invoice should be signed, and honestly, it just looks more professional.
    After you submit an invoice, make sure you keep a record of the invoice number, amount due, date submitted, and date of expected payment. Keep this document private and secure, but refer back to it at least once a month (I’d advise every two weeks) so you can make sure your invoices are being processed and paid.

    When you start working with a new client, make sure you read over their invoicing policies thoroughly, and ask any and all questions you need to in order to make sure you know how it works, and that you and your client are on the same page about how, and when, you’ll get paid. Happy invoicing!

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