invoicing for writingInvoicing - Easy!

by Ann Harth

 

I am assuming that many of you have the same amount of experience with invoices as I did when I started my writing business: That is …none.

If I'm wrong, you may want to skip this month's article. If I'm not -- or you just want to see how someone else does it -- read on.

My first few paying jobs filled me with inconsistencies: Excitement? Yes. Dreams of a thriving business? Of course. Fear? Most definitely. 

Suddenly I was faced with emails asking for quotes, contracts and invoices and my belly went ballistic. What did I know about these things? These were legal documents that only lawyers knew about as they sat in their leather office chairs in their air-conditioned offices, overlooking vast areas of big cities. Or was I wrong?

The more you understand something, the less frightening it becomes. We talked about quotes last month and I will get to contracts another time. This month, we're focussing on invoices. 

What is an invoice?

To put it simply: An invoice is an itemised list of services or goods that have been provided and the amount owing for each. It's a letter asking for payment. A bill.

Pretty basic, right? There are hundreds of programs on the Internet that will allow you to download invoice templates and sample invoices. Some are free. Most are not. I wasn't happy with the idea of buying a template that would tell me how to ask for money. I thought I could do that pretty well all by myself. 

So I did.

As I've said before about the varied and often unconventional methods I use in my home business, this may or may not be the 'normal' way to do things. It may not even be the most efficient, but I like 'simple' and many of my clients do too. I use two main methods of invoicing. They work for me and I'm willing to share. 

Before I write an invoice, I review the terms of the contract. The contracts I send to my clients are extremely detailed and each step is mentioned in order of what I will provide when. They also include schedules of payment. For instance, depending on the client and the size of the job, I usually ask for a certain percentage of the total payment to be paid up front. Sometimes I will break the work into stages and ask for payment before each. If I am dealing with a client for the first time, I am always careful to send an invoice and receive payment before I begin work. Why? I experienced a perfect illustration for the necessity of this practice just last week.

I was asked to rewrite a manuscript. It would have been an extensive edit and many hours of work for me. I calculated my fees and sent a quote. The price was set and the prospective client was eager to start. We both signed the contract and I sent the first invoice. Two days later, I received an email explaining that the project would need to be postponed indefinitely. Fine, no hard feelings. Things happen. But if I had started work and already spent a few days on the rewrite, I would have been a touch annoyed. That said; I would have only had myself to blame.

Method 1: Simple Invoice

When I am working with someone within Australia, I will snail mail or email them a very simple invoice. I include:

    * Both names
    * Contact information
    * Date of invoice
    * Date for payment
    * List of services and costs and any details that need clarification
    * Total balance

Sample:

 Peggy Poodle
7 Curly Fur Way
Canine City, 1000

12 September 2005

Invoice # 101010101

 Invoice to:   Lilly Pilly
                   94 Wattle Street
                   Bushland, 3333

For Services:

 Ghostwriting Stage One:  Teach Your Pigs to Fly (working title)

Stage one: 50 pages @ AUS$100.00                                                 $5000.00                             

Stage two: 50 pages @ AUS$100.00                                                $5000.00       

 Total                                                                                                $10,000.00

 This Payment                                                                                    $5000.00                                                                     

 Note: 50 % payment for ghostwriting 100 pages.

 Please remit to:

Peggy Poodle
7 Curly Fur Way
Canine City, 1000

Payment due by 31 February 2006

Thank you

Keep a good record of your invoice numbers and when payments are due. If invoices aren't paid within 30 days, friendly reminders aren't out of order. If you stick to the don't-send-the-work-until-you've-been-paid rule, it's not usually a problem. Your clients will be eager to pay so they can see your work. If it's someone you've dealt with before, chances are it will be a simple oversight and he will thank you for bringing it to his attention.

As for charging tax, it's probably a good idea to talk to an accountant about your specific situation. They will be able to tell you what you can charge your clients and the sort of records you must keep for the tax department.

The above method of invoicing is simple. All it requires is a minor grasp of arithmetic, a copy of your contract and a stamp or a send button on your computer. But as easy as this one seems, the next is even more painless.

Method 2: Paypal

Paypal is possibly the most helpful service I use. Not only can I request money, but I can also create electronic invoices and send reminders with the push of a button. If record keeping is a challenge for your creative mind, Paypal will keep a record of all your transactions for you. Even if your computer crashes, you will not have lost your financial information. 

You will discover another huge bonus with Paypal when you start to work for overseas clients. I have had successful transactions with clients from Australia, the US, the UK and India. Paypal does all the hard work for you and, after you have registered and given all the necessary information, your payment drops into your bank account in the correct currency.

To sign up for Paypal visit www.paypal.com and start navigating your way around the site. I find it's the easiest way to go.

Invoicing at a glance:

  • Don't be afraid. You're asking for money that you will earn.
  • Consider breaking the project into stages.
  • Don't start work before you have been at least partially paid.
  • Check out Paypal as the easiest invoicing option. 

Next column: Do you need a website?
 

© copyright Ann Harth. Ann Harth is a freelance manuscript assessor, copyeditor, proofreader and ghostwriter as well as a published author. She writes in all genres of children's fiction from picture books to young adult novels as well as adult fiction and non-fiction. She has successfully completed several text-editing projects for university students and authors, and is the assistant fiction editor of www.moondance.com, a  literary on-line magazine. She is also on the creative writing staff of www.storydog.com, a website for children.

More information on the freelance services that Ann Harth offers can be found on her website at www.annharth.com.

 

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