As a freelance musician, or freelance anything, making sure you get paid for your services can be a tedious task. Individuals or small contractors might be overwhelmed or not very organized and you’ll have to follow up to make sure the check gets in the mail. Large companies tend to have a lot of red tape, and your invoice has several departments to pass through before a check is processed. To speed up your payment, look like a true professional, and make your own book keeping more organized, you should get in the habit of creating detailed invoices for every job performed.
What goes on an invoice?
In it’s most basic form, an invoice is simply a bill stating how much is owed to you and where to send payment. For the sake of professionalism, I recommend including a little more information. Some companies may require certain information before they can process an invoice, so it never hurts to ask before submitting. The information I include on all my invoices was, at one point or another, required by a client.
- The word “INVOICE” – This is easily overlooked, but how else will people know what you’re giving them? Some large clients might require a properly labeled document for processing.
- Date – Record the date you are sending the invoice to your client on the document, and perhaps even the date(s) of the services performed.
- Invoice Number – Similar to a check number, the invoice number will make it easier to refer to the specific job performed.
- Purchase Order Number – Also referred to as a P.O. #, these are used on invoices for products. For example: If you design a poster for somebody, you do not need a P.O. # for your service. However, if you’re the printer that sells the actual posters, then you may need a corresponding Purchase Order number.
- Bill To: Address – This is the address of your client–the person or company you are charging for your services. Even if you’re emailing your invoice, it’s still good business practice to include the Bill To address for the sake of specifically identifying that client. On some occasions, if I’m just billing an individual person, I will use their email address and phone number instead of a mailing address.
- Amount Due – Don’t forget to tell them how much they owe you!
- Services Performed – My invoices include a basic table that breaks down the job and how the Amount Due was calculated. I use four columns:
1. Time/Amount: How many units of measurement I’m charging for (hours, sheets of music, etc.)
2. Rate: To specify how much I charge for one unit of measurement
3. Service/Job Description: A brief summary of the work performed. Sometimes I might include a separate page for a more detailed description.
4. Line Total: This should be the Time/Amount multiplied by the Rate. Add up each line total for the Amount Due.
- Payment Terms – This may vary from client to client. My default term is “Due upon receipt.” Terms for Net 30 means the payment is due within 30 days of the invoice date, Net 60 would mean the client has 60 days to pay, and so on. You may also request payment by a certain date. A good rule of thumb is to ask for payment upon receipt unless the client has asked for a different set of terms before services are rendered.
- Payment Instructions – On my invoices, I simply have the words: “Please Remit Payment to:” followed by my name and mailing address. This verbiage is a formality required by some of my past clients, so I include it on every invoice.
- Tax ID (optional) – If this is your social security number, I do not recommend including it on your invoice. This information should be on file if you’ve turned in a Form W9 for tax purposes. But if you have a business tax ID, it doesn’t hurt to put it on the invoice to help processing.
Is there a standard layout for invoices?
The short answer, no. I’ve seen invoices that are no more than the above information listed down the side of a Word document. I’ve also seen very creatively branded invoices. The most important consideration is that your invoice is easy to read. Invoice templates can be found in standard accounting software programs, or you could use the Tables feature in your word processing program to do something similar. If you haven’t seen an invoice before, look at a packing slip from Amazon or any company that ships you something you bought. That is pretty much how most invoices look.
If you want to get creative, be consistent and keep the important information away from your fancy design elements. I used to work in the Creative department at a record label that employed a handful of designers on a regular basis. Each of their invoices was uniquely branded, but also very easy to read. I noticed a few advantages to their branded invoices. First, people remembered whether or not they’d seen the invoice, which helps if the invoice has to go through several people’s hands before it’s paid. Also, branding your invoice simply looks more professional. Putting your logo in front of the people that hire you one last time just might help you get another gig.
What file format should I use?
If you can email your invoice, I recommend sending a PDF. That way it can be opened on any computer, and it can’t be altered. I’ve also received invoices that are no more than the information mentioned above in the body of an email. That might work, too. When in doubt, mail your invoice!
Here is a basic invoice template as described above. There are two formats, both are available on Google Docs which you can download and edit on your computer: