You know how to do the work, you’ve landed the clients, and now it’s time to make some money! So how do you actually go about getting paid for the work you do?
That’s exactly what I’m going to share with you in this post: how to invoice your clients for the work you do and how you can accept their payments with ease. Grab your business hat and let’s jump into it!
Before you begin a project and/or after a project is completed, you’ll need to create an invoice for your client. The invoice is simply a document that lists out the services you’re providing, and gives the total amount to be paid under the terms of your agreement.
You can create an invoice manually with your favorite word processor or spreadsheet software like Pages, Numbers, Word, Excel, or Google Docs.
Alternatively you can also invest in accounting software packages or cloud-based applications that can generate invoices for you. They can also offer additional features like expense tracking, time tracking, and account reports which are very helpful.
I personally have experience with and use Freshbooks for my freelance business. Freshbooks is an online invoicing, accounting, and billing software. It helps get me paid faster and makes generating invoices simple with just a few clicks.
You can sign up for a free Freshbooks account (no credit card required) to give it a try!
If you’re creating your own invoice from scratch, make sure to include:
- Your logo
- Reference invoice number (e.g. Invoice #00012) — This makes it easier for both you and the client when referencing to which invoice you’re talking about.
- Both your business info and the client’s
- Itemized tasks or services with the costs
- Chargeable taxes (typically not applicable for services, but double check in your area for what’s recommended)
- Total amount due
- Payment terms (e.g. Pay within 14 days of receiving this invoice)
- Payment options (e.g. PayPal, Square, or mailed check)
With that I’d like to share with you how to set your payment terms, and how you can accept client payments after sending the invoice.
Setting payment terms
Just as important as how much the project cost, both you and the client need to understand how and when the project payment will be made.
Clarify in your invoice the due date for the payment of the balance due and specify that the files will only be delivered once the payment is successfully received.
Working under these terms will discourage clients from practicing unsavory behaviour like not paying you or stealing your work. You should also avoid sending any usable files until you’ve been compensated, although sometimes the circumstances may not allow this.
Some larger clients pay on “net30” – meaning they wait 30 days of receiving the invoice to pay you, so plan accordingly in situations like this. It’s not preferred by most freelancers, but is necessary at times. For example you could be doing work for an agency and the reason why they may pay net30 is because it gives them the time (30 days) to receive payment from their client. Once they get paid, they take your cut of the earnings and send it to you.
Here’s an example of some payment terms in its simplest form that you’d include on your invoice:
Please send payment within 14 days of receiving this invoice. If you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to contact me. Thank you.
It’s important to add that negotiation of these terms must occur prior to starting the project and should be agreed upon in the contract. Before I send a contract I lay these terms out in my initial email when sharing my process with the client.
Try to use the same terms for most projects, negotiate when needed, and always get a down payment. For almost every project, a 50% down payment is standard. The smaller the project, the larger the down payment. On small, less time consuming work, it might even be best to invoice for 100% upfront.
Accepting client payments
Thanks to the power of the Internet, most payments can be handled online, which makes getting paid almost instantaneous for you. However, when accepting payments online, know that processing fees typically apply.
Most people nowadays have a PayPal account, and that’s probably the simplest option in taking payments. Alternatively you can take credit card payments in person or over the phone with a Square card reader. (I’ve done it plenty of times.)
If you decide to invest in and utilize accounting software like Freshbooks, they allow clients to pay directly from the invoice. This makes accepting payments extremely simple and secure for both you and the client.
If you’d like to skip all of the tech and processing fees, you could also have the client send a check in the mail as long as you don’t mind the wait and possible hassle of it bouncing.
In the end it’s up to how the client would like to handle the payment (PayPal, credit card, or check), so just be prepared to offer a simple solution.
Again, the majority of the time PayPal will be the go-to service for payments, and it’s pretty straightforward. If your client isn’t very tech savvy, then offer to take a payment in person, over the phone, or through the mail via check.
There are undoubtedly other ways to accept payments online. Some I may not be familiar with or have any experience in using, so perhaps you have and would like to leave your thoughts in the comments?
Also, if you have any questions on how to handle client payments (or about anything in general), please don’t hesitate to ask. I’m an open book and will try my best to answer.