Designer’s business guide: Anatomy of an invoice

We dissecated the perfect invoice to help you on the steps of creating your own design service invoice. Bonus: exclusive invoice template free download.

Ready to create the perfect design service invoice?

As we mentioned on our previous post, your invoices should be carefully crafted to avoid misunderstandings between you and your clients, and of course, so you get paid on time without stress.

Just like the way you’ll choose to bill (i.e. hourly, flat, value-based) makes its statement, the appearance of your invoices will also speak either on your behalf, or against you – man, you’re a designer, after all! You should have the most awesome design for your invoice.

These are the 10 essential things you must take special care about the anatomy of an invoice:

1. Keep your email subject line short and consistent

If your customer is expecting an invoice from you, you don’t need to do a lot of explaining. They’ll see the email, they expected the email, and they’ll open the email. The most important thing is to keep the format consistent so it’s not overlooked. No one likes surprises.

2. Clear payment terms that cover when and how you want to be paid

Specify, specify! Avoid further questions and delays, and even more important, misunderstandings.

3. Your contact info

Your teacher always reminded you of the importance of putting your name on your work. No name, no credit. The same principle applies here. You’ve got to put your name on it. When you leave your contact information, your customers will always be able to quickly contact you if they have any questions about the invoice.

4. Your client’s contact info

So it’s clear who is paying who and for what, and so you can keep your own invoice copies better organized.

5. A numbering system for easy reference for both you and your clients

Now, you choose how to number the invoices – if according to which client your billing, or if according to your own track. Our tip: keep it simple.

6. Show your work

The more details you give about the work you’re charging for with the invoice, the less questions your customer will ask about what they are actually paying for.

7. Good to have

Say “Thank you for your business”. Why? It adds a dash of positivity, which never hurts the speed of your payment, and adds professionalism to the relationship. Here are examples of Business Thank You Notes.

8. Accept online payment from your clients

Another thing you can do to make your client’s life easier (and thus keep them longer and maybe even get more clients) is to make the payment process as easy as possible. So when you send your invoice (promptly) after finishing a project, let your clients pay their invoice from the comfort of their home/office by accepting online payment. Yes, there will be a transaction fee, but think of it this way: you’re making the payment process so convenient for your client that you could likely increase your rates a bit for being so delightful to work with. Just like the price difference between economy and business class on a flight.

9. Request advance payment (aka Deposits)

Ok, here’s one tip that’s less about your client’s happiness and more about your well being. Before you begin working on a project (especially a big one) request a deposit. More details here: 7 tested ways to absolutely conquer as a freelance designer.

10. Don’t forget to follow up with clients

Give a quick check in to see how they are enjoying your product / service after the project is completed. Nothing extensive, just a reminder that you care about the results you might have brought them. Your clients will be appreciative that you’ve taken the time to show you care. Therefore they’ll form an even stronger, more positive association with you, making it easier to think of you next time they’ll need something.

Some special WordPress invoice tools we recommend:

This is an incredibly robust plugin that offers a lot of features. At its foundation, this plugin consists of the Web Portal CORE WordPress plugin, which can then be expanded upon thanks to several included extensions. It works by fully integrating into whatever theme you’re currently using and relies on short codes to make it all happen.

You can toggle features on and off, control permissions, and change the layout and design of your invoices and emails simply and easily. Each client gets their own private login and portal, making it so each client’s files are only accessible by that client. Send your completed invoices via email as a PDF attachment or let your clients view them online—it’s up to you.

Sliced Invoices
A flexible, well-supported, and easy-to-use WordPress invoicing plugin to create professional quotes and invoices that clients can pay for online.

Sliced Invoices is an invoicing system that is easy to use and it comes packed with features to help make your quoting and invoicing a breeze.

Exclusive freebie: Design service invoice template

Download our exclusive Adobe Indesign / Apple Pages template:

The Elumina team developed this beautiful invoice template with all featurings that an invoice must have.

It contains:

  • Where to place the payment (PayPal, bank wire)
  • Due date
  • Penalty for late payment
  • Invoice number
  • Company logo
  • Both companies’ addresses
  • Company bank account
  • Company contact info
  • Task description based on hourly rates

Also, check this stunning InDesign lookbook template.

We dissecated the perfect invoice to help you on the steps of creating your own design service invoice. Bonus: exclusive invoice template free download.