As a small business owner, your survival entirely depends on getting paid. There’s no beating around the bush. Thankfully, designers are usually good at the balance act: you run the business side of things and do all the designer invoicing yourself.
Whether you do it all is one thing, but doing it well, well, that’s another.
In this guide, we’ll be covering:
- Why bother invoicing as a freelance designer?
- How to approach designer invoicing (steps)
- Designer invoicing tips
- Roundup: ready, set, invoice!
Why bother invoicing as a freelance designer?
Invoicing is your lifeline. Freelance designers are typically a one-person show. From researching, acquiring clients, and doing the work all the way through to creating an invoice and sending it out, invoicing is how you ultimately get paid.
But that’s not all. Invoicing is also a way for designers to showcase their work and design style. Invoices can be used as a further extension of your brand. How you present your logo, colors, typography, and layout, communicates to your new and existing clients what your small business is all about!
How to approach designer invoicing (steps)
Step 1: Do research on all new clients
New clients are full of unknowns. Whether you acquired a new client through word-of-mouth, a friend, or simply won the contract—there is still plenty of ambiguity.
Find out if they’re reliable payers, how they like to communicate, and what their invoicing/payment expectations are. Once you get a feel of your new client, it’ll also help dictate what your invoice might look like.
Remember, long-term clients are always a good thing, especially if you can work your way to recurring payments, such as a retainer.
Step 2: Learn about how and when they like to pay
Setting up your payment terms and method is one of the first things designers should communicate with their clients.
Establish policies for methods and timelines when it comes to money. These include:
Method. Which payment method does your client prefer? Is there a method that you prefer, such as through a bank transfer?
Timeline. When should payments be made? The initial kickoff is a good time to initiate conversations about payment timelines and expectations. Get on the same page early, such as payments within 15 days (net-15), so that expectations are established right away.
If you have more than one client, things might get a little trickier since one client’s payment method may differ from the next. Be sure to stay flexible and adaptable throughout this process! Trust us, your clients will appreciate it.
Step 3: Get to know them (or their accountant) on a personal level
Just like you’re running the accounting side of your own design business, so is your client. If they run a bigger organization, they’ll likely have an accounts department or an accountant. Either way, be sure to act with professionalism whenever you deal with your client or their accountant over the phone, in video calls, or in-person.
At the end of the day, your connection with them will influence how easy it is to follow-up on a late invoice or to clarify anything in the process. It also doesn’t hurt to throw in a joke or two for a few laughs! After all, a business relationship is still at its core, a human interaction.
Step 4: Create your ideal invoice!
While there is no exact format to set up your designer invoice, there is a standard skeleton that you should follow when you approach designer invoicing.
Why start fresh, when you can start from a pre-built invoice template? As designers, you know how important the groundwork of branding, design, and overall creative direction is when it comes to your invoices.
To lay the proper groundwork for your designer invoicing, here’s what to include on your invoices every time:
1. Business name and info
Your business name is a foundational element of a professional invoice. It identifies your business and establishes your brand.
2. Invoice #
A unique invoice numbering system helps you stay organized, especially come tax season.
3. Date of invoice
Date of when the invoice was generated and not when the goods were supplied.
4. Payment terms
Any terms or other contractual descriptions you would like to include.
5. Qty/hrs worked
The number of hours worked or quantity of services provided.
6. Bill to (client information)
Your client’s information including their full billing address.
7. Flat fee or hourly rate
The amount you’re charging per hour or for a specific service.
Any other fees or taxes that you may charge on your invoice.
9. Total, including sales tax
The total amount of your invoice after any sales tax, discounts, etc.
Designer invoicing tips
Designer invoicing tip #1: Create a filing system from the outset
Invoices add up over time and can get messy if not properly tracked and managed. As a designer, it’s important to stay organized so that you know where you know where each invoice and documentation is. Create folders and subfolders for each client and be sure to label each invoice with the current invoice number and date.
Each invoice should have an invoice number to refer to for easy tracking purposes. Something like this should work fine:
Invoice 001 Truly Small 28-02-21
By creating a filing system with consistent naming conventions, you’re also making it a heck of a lot easier to file your tax return come tax season.
Pro Tip: Invoicing software or accounting software has built-in invoice naming conventions and tracking systems that make this a whole lot easier for designers. For example, TrulySmall™ Invoicing catalogs every invoice you create within the app so that you can easily view them whenever, wherever. Simply head to the “All” tab within your iOS or Android app to view all existing invoices, “Drafts” to see unsent invoices, and “Unpaid” to view any outstanding invoices.
Designer invoicing tip #2: Use cloud-based invoicing software
Another tool designers can leverage for invoicing is leveraging cloud-based accounting software. Often used as an all-in-one accounting tool, designers can not only invoice with it, but you can also store your bank feeds in real-time, categorize business expenses for deduction purposes, view dashboards of your income and expenses (and more), as well as export reports like your income statement and P&L statement if and when your accountant needs it.
Pro Tip: Invoicing is the lifeline of your business, so invoicing software alone, like TrulySmall, can get you up and running to get paid as a freelance designer in no time. However, if you’re looking for a more comprehensive solution, then be sure to consider Kashoo—which integrates all of the latest technology, like machine learning, to make accounting easier than ever for small businesses.
Designer invoicing tip #3: Send follow up messages as soon as invoices are late
As a freelance designer—or any freelancer at all—you’ll have to remove your ego in certain situations. If following up and doing the chasing isn’t your thing, well, that’s got to change! The sooner you follow-up on late invoices, the sooner you’ll get paid. For example, if your payment terms are net-30 days and your client ignored the terms for one month, you should reach out as soon as the 31st day comes. As a freelance designer, every day matters because your cash flow is on the line.
Roundup: Ready, set, invoice!
Invoicing doesn’t have to be a difficult or tedious process. In fact, it can be a positive experience for both you (the supplier) and your client (the buyer). Armed with all the right tips, steps, and tools to approach your designer invoicing process, you should have everything you need to invoice well and get paid.
Interested in a simpler invoicing solution? Join other truly small businesses today by sending your first invoice in TrulySmall™ Invoices. It’s free and also available on iOS and Android!