www.inkthinkerblog.com — Recent articles on invoicing at FWJ (which I linked to yesterday) and The Golden Pencil have gotten me thinking about general freelance invoicing practices. And the thing is, there are no general practices. We all seem to have a vastly different way of doing things. Some I’ve seen over the last few days (paraphrased, with my comments) include:
- I invoice using PayPal. But what if the client doesn’t use PayPal?
- I use the client’s template for every client. Oh my GOD, that is insane.
- I use my own template for some clients and the client’s template for others. How do you keep it straight?
- My clients have never requested an invoice. I’m sorry, WHAT?
My feeling on invoicing is (a) that it needs to happen and (b) that it needs to be consistent. The actual method you use for invoicing doesn’t really matter as long as your invoices are professional and include all of the necessary info, but you need to be invoicing and keeping records of your income no matter what. There must be a paper trail (or pixel trail, if you do everything electronically like I do) of your income, if for no other reason than to have a record to turn to if someone fails to pay.
I started out with MS Word for invoicing, but that got old fast because I hated having to go to a million different files to update payments and never having everything in a central location. I switched to QuickBooks Simple Start, and then upgraded to QuickBooks Pro when my client base expanded. I love QB because it lets me get to everything in one place and the invoices are highly customizable.
One theme I’ve been hearing lately is that each client has a custom invoice template they want their vendors to use. Are they kidding? Do they think the business world revolves around them? I have neither the time nor inclination to do some company’s accounting department’s job. If I give you the information you need, there is no good reason for you to requiring that I submit it in your template. That’s just an unreasonable request. You’re mandating how my business conducts its accounting. You can’t do that. And besides, I have to create a QuickBooks invoice for you anyway to keep my recordkeeping straight, so you’re making me do twice the work and not paying me for it. That doesn’t work for me.
But I’m willing to “compromise,” by which I mean making you think I’m giving in when I’m actually making my own life easier. One of my favorte things about QB is that I can create a custom invoice with fields and layout that I designate. Two of my clients have their own QB templates, simply beacuse the data they need to process my payment is different from the rest of the work I do.
- One requires an article number along with page numbers and hours, plus a cost code on every invoice.
- One gives me multiple daily assignments with an assignment number, different assignment types, and due dates they need to cross-reference their overall monthly report.
I don’t have a problem with providing the info my clients need. In fact, I’m happy to do it. But I’m not going to make double the work for myself just because their people can’t handle a slightly different piece of paper that still has my address and the amount they own me on it. Rather than just using the invoice template they gave me and resenting them several times each month, I said, “Look, my accounting program requires me to enter the data whether you use the invoice or not. I’m willing to customize a template that looks like this and lets me use my regular program, but I can’t send you MS Word invoices.”
Additionally, my clients have different preferred invoice timing, and that I do attempt to follow. The multiple-daily-assignments people get an invoice at the end of each month and mail me a nice, fat check before the middle of the following month. The other custom-invoice client gets an invoice every week or two — but each batch of weekly assignments gets its own invoice even if I send the invoices for multiple weeks on the same day, because that’s how they like it. Another client gives me anywhere from one to three article assignments each week and gets an invoice for every 10 articles. No problem. Because THAT doesn’t make my life more difficult.
For one-off projects, like editing a book or something like that, payment is 50% up front and 50% on completion unless it’s a whole huge heap of money and we agree to divvy it into thirds or quarters instead. Large or ongoing projects are billed at milestones depending on what makes the most sense for the individual project.
So, how do YOU handle invoicing? What programs and techniques do you use? How frequently do you invoice? And when do you count payments as late?
Tags: freelance writing blog, freelance writing, freelance, writing, invoicing, creating an invoice, quickbooks, microsoft word, MS word, using your own invoice template, using a clients invoice template, charging for your work, payment structure, when to send an invoice, how to send an invoice, freelance writing jobs, the golden pencil, inkthinker, kristen king
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