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7 Brilliant Invoicing Tips for Creative Freelancers & Designers

Written by on October 03, 2016

When you’re in the creative industry, either as a freelancer or designer, you know you’re not paying that much attention to your invoices and accounting. You know you should be, but you’d rather focus on improving your craft and creating that perfect product.

Even then, most creatives are never fully satisfied with their work because there’s always something to improve.

But creative freelancers and designers need to remember one thing: in order to continue running your business, you need money. And if you want to have great business, you need to improve your financial thinking and procedures.

To help you out, today we’ll look at simple but brilliant invoicing tips for creative freelancers and designers you can start using today!

#1 Make a strategic (and negotiable) pricelist

The golden question: how much to charge? It’s one of the most important invoicing tips for creative freelancers, as well as designers, and one that cannot be overlooked.

Essentially, your pricelist depends on a wide variety of factors:

  • Experience
  • Location
  • Level of competition
  • Variety of services
  • Speed

It is important to take into account all those factors when creating a pricelist. If you’re a 10-year war photojournalist living in Manhattan, you’ll be charging a lot more than a freshman at Arizona State University for the same product.

When you’ve figured out your pricelist, since you’re in the creative field, remember one thing: prices are always negotiable.

Before you even make your quote, let it be known that all your service prices are negotiable depending upon certain factors. You don’t have to list those factors. And, in reality, 80% of your clients won’t negotiate much at all.

But it does present you as practical, and in the case of a negotiation, your clients and you will both get something good out of it.

#2 Make terms clear from the beginning

Once a client contacts you, or you’ve persuaded your creative skills are par excellence, you’ll need to create a fantastic quote or estimate to pull them in. Remember, you don’t have them yet, so spend some time in fully hashing out a quote that’s indicative of your talents.

But don’t forget about the other part:  you need to make everything crystal clear from the beginning. Before the beginning, actually.

In the quote and back-and-forth discussions that you have with your potential client, make the following terms very clear:

  • Price: come up with a good price, then after negotiations, state and repeat the price
  • Payment due date: don’t do 30 days, make it 15 or fewer and use the clear ‘Please pay within 15 days’ rather than the outdated ‘due upon receipt’
  • Interest on late payment: this is optional, depending on the size of the project
  • Upfront payment in full or partial: this is good for showing your customer’s commitment
  • Number of revisions allowed: two is a good place to start, but down’t allow endless revisions

Setting these terms up front and in highly visible ways will help prevent any problems or surprises later. It is a bit business-y, and it can sometimes dull the creative excitement on both ends, but it is absolutely necessary.

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#3 Organize your paperwork

You don’t have to adhere to the stereotype that creatives are artistically messy. Your hair may be frumpy. Your clothes may or may not be hanging over your door, floor, and ceiling lights. But don’t let that extend to your invoices.

Keep them organized. If you’re still living in the paper age (Neanderthal!) keep your invoices and other important physical, losable documents in a clearly seen, organized folder. Right next to your musket and powdered wig.

Or you can join the 21st century and keep your documents online for easy access or just use invoicing software. Revolutionary!

This may not come as a big surprise, seeing as we at InvoiceBerry do create amazingly simple and flexible online invoicing software, but it’s much easier to keep everything stored where you can’t really lose it.

Besides that fact, you’re also able to quickly create your invoices, store them online (no more searching through shoe boxes for client info), and even create reports when tax season comes.

Get with the program.

#4 Make beautiful invoices

A list of invoicing tips for creative freelancers and designers wouldn’t be worth much without this one: be creative. Not just in your work

Use your talents to create a great invoice. If you’re a photographer, graphic designer, illustrator, animator, game designer or whatever, why limit your talents to your work?

Your invoice is a document that your clients will be seeing on a hopefully regular, increasing business. So why use your Dad’s old black and white Word 95 invoice?

Don't be stuck in the Stone Age with an invoice straight from Microsoft Office 95. Be creative and send out beautiful, attractive invoices
Don’t be stuck in the Stone Age with an invoice straight from Microsoft Office 95. Be creative and send out beautiful, attractive invoices. Image source

You don’t still use Times New Roman, so why stick with the plain, boring and outdated stuff?

Coincidentally enough, InvoiceBerry’s just recently a new series of awesome, creative Photoshop, InDesign and editable PDF invoice templates for absolutely free. There’s also the great variety of online invoice templates in our software to choose from.

That means you don’t have to start from scratch (and add to your workload). Download our free invoice templates, add your logo, fonts, colors, whatever, and ship them off in a matter of minutes.

When your clients get your beautiful creative work, and then a beautiful invoice to boot, you will stick out as not only a wonderful artist, but also a wholesome business person.

#5 Invoice faster to get paid faster

To be honest, all of these tips will help you get paid faster and more easily. But if you’re a creative, there is such a thing as energy drain. Especially once the project is finally finished and you can send it off. You loved doing it, but you just want a break from it all.

Energy drain then leads to procrastination, and now it’s two weeks later and you still haven’t sent that damn invoice!

And that’s how you end up not getting paid on time, because you didn’t send your invoice on time.

Before you’ve even finished your project, take a ten minute break and start your invoice. It doesn’t have to be 100% specific (especially since you’re probably working on a time basis), but you can add in all the other details.

There is no other guaranteed way for you to get paid faster.

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#6 Add all the details on the invoice

Don’t just add the client information, job description, rate, quantity, subtotal and total to your invoices. One of the best invoicing tips (and a must really) is to make it easy for your customers to actually pay you.

Don’t force them to scroll through their email and find your bank information, or even worse slog through physical documents that no one uses anymore.

Put the following in your invoice:

  • your bank account information
  • the payment terms (the ones we discussed earlier).
  • the due date, the penalty, whatever you’ve agreed on.

That way, the client can pay you immediately when he or she receives the invoice.

Even better, add a Paypal or Stripe option so that they can pay you directly without having to deal with archaic bank processes.

While you’re adding things to your invoices, add in a thank you note as well. Studies have shown that adding a “thank you” note to your invoices can get you paid faster.

When you’ve created beautiful work, a beautiful and memorable invoice, on time and with all the necessary details, there’s no reason why you won’t get paid faster.

#7 Follow up and be firm

There’s one reason why you won’t get paid faster—it’s your client’s fault. It could be that they forgot, it could be that they didn’t receive your email or snail mail papyrus-invoice. Or it could be that they just don’t want to or are unable to pay right now.

So how do you get them to pay faster?

Step 1: The polite email

The thing about creatives is that sometimes they’re higher on the introvert spectrum than others. Introverts in general tend to be more quiet, passive, and sensitive. That’s all fine and great for your art possibly, but when it comes to late payers, you need to switch it up.

It doesn’t mean visiting their offices in the real world with an aluminum baseball bat in hand.

Start with a follow-up, professional email, and remember to be polite. Using words such as “please” and “thank you” in your emails will make you seem not only more professional, but also incentivize your clients to pay faster.

Step 2: The polite call

If you still haven’t received payment after another week, you could send another email. But even better is to go back to the way our ancestors once communicated: by calling them on the phone. A live, human voice on the phone to your client will be enough of a motivation to get paid faster.

Don’t just call and say: “Money!” Instead, be more tactful and ask: Have you received my work (obviously they did)? How did you like it? By the way, I was wondering if you’ve had the chance to send payment yet? Maybe there was a problem with my work?

Obviously your work was amazing, but in order to smoothly ask about late payment, you’ll need to coax an answer. Also, if you use “had the chance to,” it’s an easy out for them to claim they were busy and get on it immediately.

Step 3: Everything else

If that still doesn’t work, firmly ask for your payment, stating that if there was no problem in receiving or using your work, there shouldn’t be any problem in sending out the payment.

You may even have to threaten legal action, and in those situations, it won’t be pleasant for anyone.

It will rarely get there, but for your business’ sake, you’ll have to prepare for it.

More great invoicing tips for creative freelancers and designers…

These tips are tailored to the creative industry and made especially with freelancers and designers in mind. They are only some of the best invoicing tips in general, so you can check out my other post on that.

Sorting out your invoices and your finances in general will help your business grow. It will take away financial stress from your life and lead you to even better success! 

Got any other great invoicing tips for creative freelancers and designers? Let us know in the comments below!

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