Freelancing in any field means you have to do it all. Project management, marketing, invoicing and accounting, general admin…and of course, your actual job too.
But for many freelance writers, the financial side of running a business is the most challenging.
You’re a creative person and accounting doesn’t always come naturally, right?
The good news is that if you take a bit of time now to set up a proper invoicing system, you’ll find the whole process a lot easier in the future. You’ll have the right steps in place so that you don’t have to spend time worrying or thinking about it.
Here’s how you can master the art of invoicing in a few easy steps.
6 Steps for Setting Up Your Invoicing System
An invoicing system doesn’t start with the invoice. It actually starts here:
- Decide on Your Payment Terms
Your payment terms are how and when you want to be paid. These need to be set up before a project gets started and ideally communicated to your client at the quoting phase. This way, there are no surprises for anyone when the time comes for payment.
There are plenty of ways you can do this as a freelance writer. For ongoing work, you can opt for retainers where you have a set number of hours or the amount of content you produce monthly. With this setup, you can invoice on the same day each month and set the length of time that the client has to pay you (1 week, 15 days, 30 days, etc.).
For ad hoc or one-off projects, you should have different payment terms. Bigger projects, or projects with new clients, could have a deposit required before work starts, with the balance due upon completion.
- Set Your Rates
The next step is to have a set way of charging a client. This makes your life a lot easier when it comes to creating quotes for projects. Most freelance writers will charge either by word or by hour spent on the project. You could also do a flat rate based on the word count per article or piece of content that is briefed to you.
It’s true that each project you get is different and there can be numerous factors impacting how you put together a quote. However, having your set rates as a baseline to work from will make it a lot simpler to build a quote. You also know exactly how much your services and expertise are worth, giving you a solid starting point for any negotiations with a client.
- Set Up Standard Agreements
In this step, you’re ensuring that you’re legally covered and that both you and your client know exactly what to expect from the project. It’s so important to put this information down in writing and ensure that your client has sight of it before any work starts.
As with your standard rates, these standard agreements are a starting point for each project. You can build specific agreements each time you begin talks with a new client or head into the negotiation phase for new work with an existing client.
- Build Your Invoice Template
Now we get to the really important part—how to make an invoice. This document is obviously a vital part of your invoicing system and needs to be professional, clear and accurate. Whether you’re using accounting software to generate invoices or you’re using a template in Word or Excel, it’s still important to get the setup and the details right.
Start by ensuring that the invoice has your branding. You want it to look like every other communication that you send your clients. If you have a logo for your freelance writing business or use specific colors in your quotes or proposal documents, add those to your invoice.
The layout for your invoice then needs to be set. Add your details at the top, your client’s details come next, then the line items (what you’re charging your client for) and then the individual prices, followed by the total due and your accepted payment methods. All of this information needs to be carefully laid out so that it’s easy to read and understand.
- Create an Invoice Tracking System
One of the most important parts of your entire invoicing system has to be a method of tracking your invoices. Each invoice should have a unique code. This code can just be numbers, starting at invoice 01 and working your way up. Another option is to use an alphanumeric system; letters for each client plus the number of the invoice.
The reason for a tracking system is so that you can trace the invoices you’ve sent out, which ones were paid, and which ones are still due to get paid. Without a system like this, it can be incredibly difficult to stay on top of who owes you what, and that makes it impossible to stay on top of your cash flow for your freelance business.
- Set Up a Schedule for Sending and Following Up on Invoices
Finally, you need to have a schedule for drawing up and issuing your invoices, and following up payments with clients. This schedule is crucial for creative people who don’t always have the best track record with doing their admin. Calendarize a day every week, couple of weeks, or month that you sit down and create your invoices. And stick to it!
On this day, you should also go through your tracking system and see which invoices are due and which ones are past due. This is a good time to send out reminder emails.
Invoicing is About Consistency and Professionalism
Having a proper invoicing system for your freelance writing business gives you something that can help you to stand out from the crowd of other writers—professionalism.
You’ll find that clients worth having will appreciate the effort you put into your invoicing and be far more inclined to work with you again and again. It’s one of the easiest ways to attract new work and to ensure that you get paid for the writing that you do.