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First the System then the Habit of Regular Invoicing – Part 3

regular invoicingThis is Part 3 of charging and invoicing for your writing. Part 1, Let’s Talk About Invoicing and Invoices for Freelance Writers is here. Part 2, about Flat Fees, Hourly Rates or Retainers, is here.

If you don’t have a system it’s impossible to develop the habit of regular invoicing. Business systems you design and use will help you create a truly pleasurable and profitable freelance writing business. Regular invoicing is a major part of your success.

Now, what I mean by system in this case, is a pattern you create and follow to make regular invoicing a snap. The result is every invoice gets sent in a timely manner and you have a way of keeping track of which one’s are paid and which ones need to be reminded or worse.

Create a list of what regular invoicing looks like

The way to build a system is to first chunk it down in its component parts, like this:

  • Decide how you want to invoice. In my case I use PayPal, but as mentioned before there are other ways to invoice – see Part 1 of this series for more info.

  • If you’re going to create a template, add your logo and contact information. I uploaded a logo and my standard contact information. Before I used PayPal I created a graphic I used on my Word invoices. But you don’t need to be fancy. Your name and contact info at the top is plenty.
  • Decide what information you need about the client on each invoice. I usually use the name of the client and their email address as a bare minimum. With PayPal I’ll send the invoice with that email address. If they’ve got a company name I’ll add that, and may even add their street address and phone number.
  • You also need a product or service description to go on the invoice so the client knows what they are paying for. Items like “3 500 word blogs” or “Chapter 3” or “10 PowerPoint slides” all work. Keep it simple and clear.
  • If you’re billing by the hour, you’ll need both the number of hours worked for the period your invoicing for and your rate. One reason I like PayPal for invoicing is if I am billing hourly, or by units of some sort, each with their own price, the invoice automatically adds up and I can be sure the total is right.
  • Know what payment terms you’re going to use – I generally add “Due on receipt” unless something else has been worked out in advance.
  • Decide where you’re going to keep your copy. Again, I leave my copy in my PayPal account.
  • How will you know when to followup if you need to is another issue. I note on my Google Calendar something like “has Bob paid?” on the date I’m expecting payment. When payment is made I just delete that. You’ll also have to decide when to send reminders – two weeks is my practice. I send three reminder before I start making calls and writing letters.
  • Think about when you want to send an invoice. For most of my projects I bill as soon as they are complete or by the month. Some people like to work on invoices weekly – even monthly. Monthly seems to long to me to at least review my invoices. I generally bill when something is finished- I mean I send whatever I’ve completed and then create and send the invoice right away. How you do it isn’t nearly as important as you set up a process that gets it done.
  • Finally, when money comes in you need to track that too.

Turn your list into a checklist

That’s 10 steps! Use this as a guide to create your own list of steps – you’re likely to add more or end up with less.

One of the quickest ways to create a system is to use your list as a checklist you dig out each time you create an invoice. By the time you’ve done three or four you’ll have discovered any holes in your system and you can add them to the list. Use the list as a checklist until you’re in the habit of invoicing. Keep the list for future reference and so you can make appropriate changes when necessary.

Have I left anything out?

Write well and often,

Anne Wayman, freelance writer

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