How to invoice a client

How to invoice and get paid

So now I’ve covered how to set your rates, how to track time spent on client tasks, how to avoid time-wasting clients and how and when to fire a client, it’s time to tell you how to invoice a client so they can pay you! This is how to set up easy standard ways of invoicing so you can just do the work and bill your client without any stress, worry or confusion. 

Before you even think about invoicing

If you’ve read any of my previous advice then you’ll know it’s imperative that all your clients know exactly how much you charge, when you invoice, how you like to be paid and what your payment terms are before you do a single stroke of work for them.

If you haven’t had this conversation with your client then you’ll only have yourself to blame if it all goes horribly wrong.

Tip: I invoice all my new clients after two weeks in case they turn out to be bad payers. I explain this to them before I start work and they’re always fine with it. It’s far better to get shafted for two weeks work than a months’ worth!

How I invoice my clients

I invoice my own clients in two different ways:

1) If they’re a regular client then I add them to Invoicely (it used to be called Invoiceable which is an online invoicing system. I use the free version but you can pay around £3 a month to have the “powered by” notice taken off the bottom of each invoice. I like it because it’s clean, simple, easy to customise and free.

You can choose to get paid directly through PayPal with it but remember that PayPal will take cut so I’d personally unselect that option!

Tip: I also add a note to the top of the invoice that says “please see attached time report for a full breakdown on hours”. When you add your bank details to the bottom of the invoice template consider writing this sentence: “Please note: all invoices are due within 14 days, no further work will be undertaken once an invoice becomes outstanding”.

It’s polite, professional but helps clarify the situation so you get paid!

I use the free time tracker Toggl to track client tasks, export the record as a pdf then attach it to a personalised email. You can choose to email the invoice straight from Invoiceable but I opt to save it as a pdf, attach it with the time report to the client email and then rename and save the invoice in payment folders labelled by year on my computer. In the UK you need to legally keep all your financial records for six years.

2) If it’s a one-off client then I complete a Word doc invoice template then email it to the client as a pdf with their Time Report. I then save the invoice to my desktop as above. You can find a copy of this template in the downloads section.

Tip: Invoicely will tell you if an invoice is overdue but you’ll have to put a reminder in your calendar if you’ve sent a Word doc invoice. I also keep a little Excel sheet in a personal desktop folder with my monthly income and outgoings and mark payments in green once they’ve been settled.

You can pick one or the other of these systems. I use both because I occasionally have a one-off client and can’t be bothered to add them to Invoicely as a client!

I have a blog post called how I keep my financial records that outlines the exact step-by-step processes I use.

What your invoice should have on it

Obviously the costs and services you enter on your invoice will depend whether your client is on a retainer, being charged a set fee for the task or paying an hourly rate. These things may also vary depending on which country you’re in so make sure you know what your legal obligations are.

  • The word Invoice!
  • Your company name and address
  • Your client’s name and their company name and address
  • The date
  • A unique invoice number – online invoice systems will automatically generate this
  • A clear description of the tasks/services and the dates you completed them
  • The total time you spent on the task and the price for the task
  • The total amount to be paid
  • Your payment terms – when the invoice is due
  • Your bank or PayPal details
  • If you’re VAT registered then state your VAT No, the VAT rate and enter the amount of VAT on each line
  • If you’re a Limited Company you need to add your registered company address and company number

I also have my mobile number on the invoice and the two written paragraphs as mentioned above.

What if the client doesn’t pay you?

You will always have a nightmare scenario where one or two clients don’t pay you on time – especially when you first start out and you don’t know how to identify them.

Refer to my previous article on how to handle late payers and find some overdue payment letter templates in the the Downloads section.

Conclusion

There are loads of invoicing systems out there so just pick one you like. There are free ones and paid ones that provide quotes, invoicing and payment facilities and everything in between. But you don’t need a fancy one – just find one that works for you. Free is good when you’re starting out and I still use a free one myself.

We all love being Virtual Assistants because we get to help people right?

Of course we do… but none of us are running a charity.

We’re professionals, so make sure you charge what you’re worth, clearly outline how you work, what you charge, what your payment terms are… and make sure you get paid!

Make sure you have all your legal contracts and policies in place to avoid getting sued or screwed!

11 Comments

Pauline

Fab! I’ve just set up Invoiceable – perfect! Does everything I need it to do. I’ve used Toggl for a couple of years now – which is equally brilliant – and used to use that to show the breakdown of hours / tasks etc., meanwhile creating a less automated invoice!
Invoiceable + Toggl = Perfect! Much better use of time! Thank you!
Another step closer to getting there now! Thank you. 🙂
PA. 🙂

Reply
Anne-Marie

How do you accept payments, via e-transfers, or PayPal or is there another service you can suggest?

Reply
Joanne Munro

Hi Anne-Marie, never use PayPal as they take a cut of the money for facilitating the transaction. I write my bank details on the invoice (online or single pdf) just write your account number, sort code, name of bank and the name of your account then they can pay you directly. I have a blog post called How to Invoice and Get Paid and an invoice template in the download section. x

Reply
Bill

Great tools. Invoicera is great. So is INV24 also. Cool online invoicing tools. Great apps that make your life easier

Reply
Sarah Edwards

Hi Jo

How do you make sure that word created invoices do not have an invoice number that is duplicated by the invoices that are auto-generated in Invoicely? Can you tell invoicely that you have manually created an invoice and add it in?

Sorry, hope that this question makes sense.

Sarah

Reply
Joanne Munro

That does indeed make sense! I usually set up my own different set of numbers, so JM001, JM002 etc which are completely different than the ones in Invoicely. This seems to legally be ok.

Reply
Patrici

Hi Joanne, I’m thinking of taking on a va job in another state. I’m in New York and they are in Oregon. Did you ever worry about identity theft? The manager asked me for my account number. Is there a website or system to prevent that?

Reply
Joanne Munro

Hi Patrici, identity theft is a problem but not with clients in that way. It’s things like putting your personal details such as your name, address and date of birth online (on Facebook or LinkedIn for instance) that are the problem.

Someone is way more likely to take those details and steal your identity that way. It is perfectly normal to give your bank details to clients (they are on your invoice) as that’s how they pay you. It’s your credit card number you don’t give out – account numbers are fine.

You can discuss it further in the Facebook group – the link is in the sidebar to your right on a laptop and at the bottom on your cell phone. x

Reply
Vickie

Hi
Please can you give me advice.
I am just starting out and will use an invoice template for now.
If I have 3 regular clients, should I have a separate invoice numbering system for each one i.e. Job A invoice number 1, 2, 3 etc etc Job B invoice number 1, 2, 3 etc or should I just number the invoices as I complete each job. i.e job A no 1, Job B number 2 etc Sorry, it’s hard to explain what I mean!
Thanks, Vickie

Reply
Joanne Munro

Hi Vickie, all your invoices must have different numbers and it doesn’t matter which client they go to. So client A might have invoice numbers 1, 2 and 3 then client B will have invoice numbers 4 and 5, then client A will have invoice number 6. Does that make sense? This will help. Many VAs use a free invoicing system like Invoicely or Wave and they will assign the numbers for you.

Reply

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