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10 Rules for Creating and Sending Invoices

by Alex Lipton, Legal Researcher at Shake

10 Rules for Creating and Sending Invoices

You poured hours into your latest project, and now it’s time to get paid. Follow these invoicing rules to increase your chances of getting paid — and create future business by looking more professional.

1. Start Early and Often

We get it — you’re not an accountant. You want to focus your time on completing your project, not on logging hours into some Excel file. But by logging your hours as soon as you complete them, you free yourself from two common headaches: rushing to create an invoice at the end of a project, and trying to remember the tasks and hours you worked. This also keeps you honest with your hours — a trait that all clients appreciate. There are free and low-cost tools available to help you track your time.

2. Include Your Contact Information

Leaving off your contact information is a surprisingly common invoicing mistake. Clients should have a quick and easy way of getting touch with you if they have a question about the invoice, without having to look you up.

3. Create a Unique Invoice Number

Referring to “Invoice #00065″ will be much more helpful to your client than referring to “that email about payment that I sent you last month.” It will also help you keep track of all of your invoices. If you want to step up your invoicing game, include a unique client identifier (for example, “SHK” for Shake) at the beginning of the invoice number to easily distinguish between invoices for different clients.

4. Make the Due Date Clear

When you make the payment due date clear to your client, you help avoid conflicts down the road.

If you have had issues with clients paying on time in the past, consider specifying a late fee or a discount for early payment.

5. Create an Itemized List of Tasks You Completed

Clients appreciate knowing exactly what they’re paying for, especially when you’re charging an hourly rate. Itemizing an invoice also helps divide up a large client expense that may be hard to swallow (say, ten hours of “work”) into small and easy-to-understand chunks of time (e.g. two hours of research, seven hours of design, and one hour of revision based on client feedback).

6. Send it On Time

If you want to get paid on time, you need to send your invoice on time. When you decide to send the invoice depends on the scope of the project. If it’s a long-term project, you might send bi-weekly or monthly invoices. If it’s a single design project for a small client, you will likely send one invoice at the end of the project.

7. Let Your Client Know How to Pay

Including information about how you prefer to receive payment on an invoice can make a huge difference in helping you get paid on time. Without clear information as to how to pay you, the client will have no idea what to do (“Should I send you a check? Who should I make it out to? How about cash once you’re done? Can’t we just use Venmo?”). If you email your invoice to clients, hyperlink to any payment system you use to make payment as easy as possible.

8. Track and Send Reminders

It’s been two weeks since you sent the invoice, but you still haven’t been paid. What should you do? Create a friendly reminder system to help your forgetful clients. One system we’ve heard about that could work well recommends that you email your client after two weeks (and write “emailed” on your copy of the invoice) and call your client after three weeks (and write “called” on your copy of the invoice). This polite approach helps you keep track of which clients owe you money — removing the hassle of constantly badgering your client.

9. Don’t Reinvent the Wheel

There are lots of free and inexpensive invoicing tools. Both Freshbooks and Harvest are excellent choices.

10. Make it Pretty

Ditch the comic sans. You’re a professional, and your invoice should reflect the quality of your work. Check out this example from a British designer and illustrator.


Your invoice is your ticket to getting paid — make sure you optimize it for best results!