Want to get paid faster and make a good impression on your clients? How you create and send invoices matters. This guide walks you step by step through your best options.
When to send an invoice
Bottom line: Send your invoices as soon as you've delivered your products or services. As soon as they’re done and shipped, send that invoice too.
Of course, sometimes the timing depends on the agreement. If it's a deal for monthly services, check your contract to see if you're supposed to get paid at the beginning or end of each month.
If the contract doesn't say, send your invoices sooner rather than later. As a general rule, the sooner you send your invoices, the sooner you'll get paid.
How to send an invoice: Getting ready step by step
If you've never sent an invoice before, start with a professional invoice template. You can find great examples in popular word processing software. Businesses often add their own colors and logos for branding.
Here are the key components an invoice should include:
Invoicing software can help by generating a unique invoice number automatically and walking you through the process.
3 ways to send an invoice
Once your invoice is ready, you have 3 main options for sending it. Let's walk through each one.
Option 1: Snail mail
If your clients won't accept anything else, you can always print your invoices and send them through the mail. The thing is, invoices can get lost or even stolen that way. (Bad actors like to copy invoices and change the contact address to try to get your payments.) It's also the slowest and most expensive method, and the time it takes to print and mail invoices can add up fast.
Option 2: Invoice email
Emailing your invoices is a step in the right direction. There's less chance that they'll be lost or stolen, and they'll get there faster—which means you may get paid faster. Just make sure you enter the invoice email address correctly.
If you're creating your invoices by entering each item into an invoice template in Word, Pages, or Google Docs, you'll need to turn each invoice into a pdf and attach it to an email. Again, if you're sending a lot of attached invoices every month, that can take a lot of work.
Option 3: Invoicing software
Invoicing software automates the invoicing process, saving a lot of time. It can keep track of your invoice details for you—payment terms, due date, contact details, hourly rates, payment details, and even late payments for unpaid invoices, handling payment reminders and other routine tasks automatically.
It also helps you accept online payments so you can get paid faster.
Plus, invoicing software makes payment easier for your clients by including payment links with payment options like credit cards, debit cards, or ACH bank transfer automatically. It's no wonder online invoice payments tend to arrive faster.
How much does it cost to send an invoice?
That depends on which method you choose. Sending paper invoices is the most expensive, including paper costs, printing costs, envelopes, and postage. Sending invoices via email or online invoicing software doesn't usually cost anything per invoice.
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How to send an invoice for freelance work?
Sending an invoice for freelance work is basically the same as sending an invoice from a company. Simply include your personal contact details instead of a business address.Just remember that freelance income isn't like wage income—in the US, the IRS doesn't take out your income tax as you go, so you'll have to pay that tax later. Your clients will send you a 1099 form at the end of the year that reports the payments you received.
Do invoices need to be signed?
It doesn't need a signature. Technically, an invoice isn't legally binding unless both parties sign it, but that's not common practice today, at least not in most cases. The underlying contract is the legal document—the invoice is just a way to request payment.
*Based on a 2021 survey of over 2000 BILL customers