It’s the last day of the month. You’ve negotiated fair terms for yourself as a freelancer, blogger, or influencer in solid contracts with your brand partners, all your sponsored posts are now live, and this month’s collaborations are a wrap. But before you celebrate all that hard work (well done!) and get ready for the next round of freelance work, there’s one last item on your to-do list: invoicing.
If you have a few collabs with big brands, invoicing at the end of the month may be a snap. But if you’re a freelancer with multiple partnerships or a higher-volume micro-influencer with a lot of smaller payments to keep track of, it takes more work to stay on top of things. But as a creative freelancer, how do you put together a professional invoice and manage and track your payments once you’ve requested them, and how can you do it faster and more efficiently and help eliminate late payments?
If it all seems daunting, the good news is it’s easier than you think! By drafting an invoice template that includes all the information you’ll need to get paid as a freelancer, figuring out a process and schedule that works for you, and keeping a few tips and tools in your back pocket, you’ll be on your way to success. Below, we’ll show you how to design an invoice template and set a schedule for invoicing that fits your freelance business.
You can find free invoice templates and invoice generators or invoicing software online (Microsoft Office, FreshBooks, and QuickBooks offer customizable options, though you may need to be a subscriber), or you can create your own freelance invoice from scratch.
Before you design the template, you’ll need to know what information your brand partners require in order to process your payment. If your client or brand partner has outlined specific requests, such as including a PO (purchase order number) or part of your EIN on each invoice, you can incorporate those into your template so that it will work for all your brand partners, or you can customize a template for each client. (Don’t have an EIN but need one? You can learn more about EINs for the self-employed on the IRS’s website, or ask your tax preparer for more info.)
A word of caution about including personal information: submitting invoices via email isn’t always secure, so be sure to limit any sensitive information to what is absolutely necessary and requested in order to get paid. Never include your social security number or bank info.
Once you know what, if any, specific info your brand partners will need on your freelance invoice to pay you, you can start drafting the template. It doesn’t have to be fancy, but if you already have a logo or letterhead for your personal brand or company, feel free to use it.
If you’re a spreadsheet wiz, you may want to design an Excel or Google Sheet invoice that can automatically calculate the total cost to the client from the subtotals for all your project line items. Otherwise, create a template in any word processing program you prefer.
Some clients will specify when they would like to receive your invoices, say, at the end of the month or at the conclusion of a project. If your agreement includes those terms, be sure to follow them. But if your client hasn’t stated a preference, find a rhythm that works for your business. Depending on your invoice volume, you can schedule time for yourself once a week or near the end of the month to stay on top of it. Set reminders on your phone or calendar if that works best for you.
Using your template, fill in all the relevant information for each brand partner’s invoice. Remember to assign each invoice a unique number so that you can track it on a spreadsheet or with online bookkeeping software. Double-check that all the info is correct before sending it out. There’s nothing worse than accidentally sending the wrong invoice to the wrong client.
Once your invoices are ready to send, draft a quick email to your client contact and attach your invoice. You may want to have a template for this as well. In the subject line, but sure to include your name and a shortened project title or the month and the word “Invoice.” This will help the recipient identify your email and know to prioritize it. According to Harvard Business Review, at some point in their freelance careers, more than 70% of freelancers face challenges getting paid, so you’ll want to do all you can to make it easy for your clients to process your invoices.
If you don’t use accounting software, you can track your invoices manually in a spreadsheet. At the top, create headers. The basics to include are Company/Brand, Invoice Number, Total Amount, Date Sent, Date Received. Use whatever works for you. If you receive 1099s at the end of the year from your brand partners, you’ll want to total up your payments for the year and compare them to the 1099 at tax time. You may want to use highlighting to note which payments have been received and flag those that are outstanding or overdue so you know when to follow up with those clients.
If you notice payments are late, send a friendly email to your client contact or billing contact to remind them that payment is due. If this becomes a recurring problem, you may want to renegotiate your payment terms when and if it comes time to sign a new contract with that client, or reevaluate that relationship altogether.
If manually generating invoices, tracking them, and sending follow-ups for late payments starts to take more time than you can or want to spend, one option is to automate the invoicing process. There are online invoicing systems available for large and small businesses, and some bookkeeping services can manage the invoicing process for you for a monthly fee.
Another option is Lumanu’s invoice generator, included when you use Lumanu payments. Designed for social media creators and influencers, Lumanu offers a built-in invoicing tool that generates invoices automatically, sends them out, and nudges the payer with follow-up reminders to help eliminate late payments. Just input the company name and email address for your brand sponsor, add a short project description and the cost, and choose a payment due date that fits your contract terms. Lumanu does the rest! Your brand contact will receive a professional invoice with everything they need to pay you.
Lumanu also helps streamline onboarding, handling the vendor approval process and tax paperwork so you don’t have to. And because it’s taken care of the first time you use Lumanu, there’s no need to enter sensitive personal or banking info with each invoice, keeping it safe and secure. And unlike online bookkeeping services or some influencer marketing platforms, there are no monthly fees. You’ll never pay more than $10 or 2% per invoice, whichever is less.
No matter which invoicing process you choose, make sure it works for you and your business. When manual invoicing begins to creep into the time you need to focus on the creative part of your business, the things you love most, consider automating as much of it as you can to get paid faster and more efficiently and to keep more of your hard-earned money.