There's nothing more exciting than spending a Sunday night sending out invoices. Ok, I can think of at least 50 things that are more exciting, but as any freelancer knows, it's a boring-but-necessary part of life.

My invoices are perfectly adequate. They're clean and easy-to-read, created from a Google Docs template. I changed the information, the color palette, dropped in my logo and voilà - a branded invoice that's easy to use and, more importantly, gets me paid.

After sending an invoice or two tonight, I started to wonder what other designers put forth with their invoices. That's when I stumbled on the gem on the right:

LEFT: my current invoice template  RIGHT: invoice design by Made in England

LEFT: my current invoice template 
RIGHT: invoice design by Made in England

Graphic designer and illustrator Cookie, of Made in England, is even so kind as to offer a free, downloadable version of his beautifully-designed, whimsical template.

Want to create your own custom invoice? Get started with the tips below. 

Things to consider:

1.  Legibility
Don't go overboard on design. This is an invoice, after all. You'll likely be submitting to someone whose job is to review and pay out all accounts as efficiently and accurately as possible. The most important factors are that your invoices are clear, easy-to-read and feature all necessary info with nothing extraneous to confuse or distract the reviewer. Don't let design flair get in the way of getting you paid. 

LEFT: Attractive, but the important information gets lost to auxiliary, unnecessary text RIGHT: A clean, well-designed invoice that puts the emphasis on the prices Images via Behance - left, right

LEFT: Attractive, but the important information gets lost to auxiliary, unnecessary text
RIGHT: A clean, well-designed invoice that puts the emphasis on the prices
Images via Behance - left, right

2.  Identity
Your invoice is one element of your overall brand identity, and likely the one that your clients will see most often. Make sure your invoice design fits within your brand identity via consistent typography, color palette and, of course, your logo. Yes, free templates are great, but they're not uniquely yours. If you do start with a free template, be sure to tweak it enough to match your brand identity.

Meth dealers need good identity and invoice design too. Brilliant work inspired by Breaking Bad by Andrew Hetzel

Meth dealers need good identity and invoice design too. Brilliant work inspired by Breaking Bad by Andrew Hetzel

3.  Ease of Use
Your invoice should be a tool, not a burden. Remember, the more time you spend creating and sending invoices, the less time you have for actual project work. Be sure that however you build your template, it's easy to quickly fill out and send to clients. So yes, while your Photoshop layout may look the best, there's a reason Photoshop isn't marketed as a spreadsheet tool. Create a design you can import into Google Docs, Excel or InDesign - programs designed for quick input of text.

A cohesive, well-designed identity and invoice. Image via High Six Media

4.  Tracking
Once your invoices are out to clients, it's up to you to keep track of them. You don't want to forget to follow up on overdue accounts, or worse, errantly follow up on an invoice that has already been paid - making you look disorganized to your client. 

Set up a system that works for you. One method is to keep a simple two-page spreadsheet with tabs for PAID and UNPAID invoices. With each entry, include date submitted, client name and contact info, invoice number, project description, total $ amount, and a link to the invoice pdf and any necessary receipts.  Whenever a check comes in, make sure to move the invoice from UNPAID to PAID as soon as the deposit clears in your bank account. Then, schedule time once a week on your calendar to review this spreadsheet to make sure it's up to date.

Depending on the amount of work you have, you may want to keep a separate spreadsheet for each quarter. If you don't have numerous clients or open projects, one spreadsheet per year may be enough.

This will keep you organized and paid, and will make your tax guy very happy.

So get out there and put your best design self forward. Remember that your invoice is the last thing a client sees at the end of your project, and may just be the thing that scores you repeat business.

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