Of all the things you do as a freelance writer, invoicing is the task that brings the money. You can submit all of the beautiful well-written work in the world, but if you don’t send an invoice, you’re probably not getting paid for it.
Even though invoicing is quite possibly the most important part of the project for us, we freelancers often think of it as an afterthought. We slap on the amounts and send them out without thinking about whether our invoice is actually giving the impression we intended. If you’re making one of these mistakes, it’s time to tighten up your invoicing process.
Sending Them Too Early or Too Late
Timing is everything in invoicing. You send them too early and your client wonders why you’re jumping the gun. You send them too late and the client wonders who are you and why do you want to be paid. (It’s happened to me!)
If you’re wondering when to send your invoice, check back with your project contract. My contract says I get paid half at the start of the project and half upon completion. I send an invoice as soon as we agree on the project and an invoice as soon as I’ve confirmed my work is done.
Sending Them to The Wrong Person
To receive money for your invoices, you must send them to the person who can actually give you the money. Sounds simple, right?
Well, sometimes your contact person isn’t the person who makes the payments. Especially when working with agencies, these two positions are separation. You’d assume that the contact person would forward the invoice on to the money person, wouldn’t you? Don’t. You know what they say about assuming.
Check your contract and invoice to the person it specifies. Otherwise, send it to your contact person and ask that they forward it on to accounting if necessary.
Forgetting to Put Your Logo On Them
Every piece of communication is a branding opportunity for your freelance writing business. Putting your logo on your invoice reinforces the brand and also reminds the person paying the bills who you are right away. It doesn’t take the place of your name and payment information, but it does stick in the client’s mind.
If you’re using Freshbooks, PayPal or some other third party program, there are ways to personalize your invoices in the settings. Make sure you take a few moments to do it.
Not Putting Specific Information on Them
Your invoices should be as specific as possible for both your benefit and the client’s. Instead of just writing an amount on them, specify the work done for that amount. If you were working hourly, don’t forget to explain the hours associated with each line on the invoice.
This helps your client keep accurate records and if you ever have to take client to court, it helps reinforce what you did and why you should be paid for it.
Forgetting to Say How You Want to Be Paid
So, you’ve sent the invoice on time. Check. You’ve double checked that the specifics are correct. Check. Now, did you tell them how to pay you? Your invoice should specify what payment methods you take. It should also give any other information the client will need, such as the email address for PayPal or the mailing address for a check.
Don’t take a certain payment method? That should already be in the contract but the invoice is a great place to remind the client of the original terms.
Not Stating Your Late Payment Terms
Late payments happen in the best of situations, even when the client has the best of intentions. However, having a late payment policy will prompt some clients to pay you before they pay contractors without one. It also factors in some compensation for the time inconvenience.
Many freelancers are scared of instituting a late fee in their contracts but I’m not sure why. I’m sure your client charges one to its customers. Why shouldn’t you, too? If you have late payment terms, it should be in the contract, but reminding the client on the invoice covers makes it crystal clear.
Not Following Up
Now, if you’re making this mistake, you must have so much money that you just don’t miss a couple hundred dollars. For the rest of us, having too much money isn’t a problem we’re experiencing. This is why you absolutely have to keep track of your invoicing.
Should you invoice a client and then call them repeatedly during the next 48hours for payment? No. However, if your payment is overdue, it’s time to get in contact. It could be an oversight or some other problem you need to fix.
My late fees kick in at a week overdue so that’s when I place a tactful phone call or email. You’ll have to decide when it makes sense for you.