When you’re getting started as a freelancer, it can be intimidating to invoice your first clients! It’s hard enough to land a discovery call, much less get someone to pay you as a freelancer.
If you’ve tried sending PDF invoices, requesting payment through PayPal, or any other roundabout invoicing methods, it’s time to get more streamlined! It doesn’t have to be so convoluted or headache-inducing. Here are 4 simple steps to get that invoice going and get you paid!
Step 1 | Create a proposal
After you’ve gathered the information you need from your lead, whether through a questionnaire, a discovery call, or some other method, you’ll probably want to send a proposal. This step just makes sure that the client fully understands what they’re getting AND what they’re paying.
Your proposal should include the services to be rendered, the price for those services, and when payment(s) will be due. If you have an incremental payment option, this is a good place to state that. That way, the client isn’t blind-sided by a 100% upfront charge or doesn’t get scared away, thinking they need to pay it all at the beginning of the project when in reality you spread out the payments.
Even if your services and packages are very clearly stated on your website and were communicated before this step, it’s still a good idea to send the proposal, just in case.
Step 2 | Get a signed contract with clearly stated pricing
This is another cover-your-butt step and one that you should NEVER skip. Even if it’s an incredibly minor project, having a contract in place protects both you and your client. Without it, wires can get crossed and you’ll have no recourse to remedy the situation.
- The scope of work (what you will and will NOT provide the client with at the end of the project)
- The pricing, in unambiguous terms
- The payment terms (e.g. if you have net terms, if you have incremental payment plans, etc.)
- The cancellation terms (what happens if you or the client are unsatisfied and wish to cancel the project once it’s begun)
Both the client AND you should sign the contract, whether digitally or on a hard-copy. You can include initial sections to make sure the client acknowledges reading each section of the contract, too. Make sure that the client has no way to edit the contract directly, though if they have concerns, they should bring them to you so that you can address them or make modifications before they sign the contract.
Whatever you do, do not send the invoice before you and the client have signed the contract.
Step 3 | Add each service or product to invoice
Okay, so the client has accepted the proposal and signed the contract? You’ve signed the contract too? Great – you’re good to go with that invoice now!
On the invoice, add each service or product as a separate line item. Sure, it may seem like creating a website design is all one service, but you’re probably creating a wireframe and offering a couple of mockups and such before providing the actual design. You don’t necessarily need to give each line item its own portion of the full price, though you can certainly do that, but adding separate line items gives the client a full picture of what they’re paying for.
Don’t forget to include net terms and overall payment terms, if applicable. Spell out how much is due when on the invoice itself and if your net terms include accruing interest on late payments, make sure that’s on there too.
Step 4 | Send invoice to the client and include a link to payment collection
Now’s the easy part! Send that invoice to the client. You can do this via a PDF or a program like Dubsado. Whatever method you choose, if you’re able to track the email to ensure they received it and opened it (programs like Dubsado do this automatically), this will help you ensure that the client actually received the invoice. (You’ve probably heard the, “Oh, I never got that email!” sob story and known it wasn’t true but had no way to prove it, right?)
When you send the invoice, make sure to have a clear way for the client to pay. This could be a link to your Square payment portal or if you use a program like Dubsado, they can pay directly through the invoice itself. Make this part of the process as frictionless as possible. If it’s hard for the client to pay, this is going to stall the project and make for a negative client experience. This is why I love using Dubsado for my clients, because it makes everything easy and enjoyable.
Optional: have the contract and invoice tied together
If you use a CRM like Dubsado, you can also have the invoice tied to the contract and even the proposal. This means that you can have it set up so that once the client accepts the proposal, it immediately gives them the option to access and sign the contract. Once the contract is signed, the next window gives them the invoice and payment options! This saves on emails and the time spent sending and receiving those emails. If a client is ready to go, being able to do all three steps at once can get the project on its way quickly AND saves your inbox from those extra emails. Win-win!
Woohoo – you’re now ready to invoice your first client! You can integrate the invoice process into your overall business workflow, too. If you’d like to find out more about business workflows and systems, check out these related posts:
- How to choose the right CRM for you
- How to create a killer freelance project system
- Dubsado vs. 17hats
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