Business of Writing

» Invoicing

As a writer, being paid is important, but it often requires submitting an invoice and becomes a necessary part of the business aspects of your career. Whether it’s to receive payment for a consignment sale of books, as a freelance writer for various jobs, or perhaps as a presenter at schools or for conferences and the like, a professional invoice is needed.

This practice is necessary for the bookkeeping aspects of your freelance writing business or as a self-employed writer for your own records and tracking system. There are several ways to create an invoice, including as a Word document, Excel, through an accounting software program, or through online services like PayPal. Many of these programs include a variety of invoice templates for you to use. You can also easily download an invoice template of the internet. Whatever method you choose, an invoice requires certain elements to ensure your payment reaches you in a timely manner.

Essential Elements of an Invoice

  1. Title: Place the word “Invoice” at the top of the page.
  2. Include your contact information: Also at the top of the invoice, include your name, address, phone number, email address, and even your website. Make it easy for a customer to contact you and to pay you.
  3. Create an invoice number tracking system: You need to have your own unique invoice numbering system for keeping track of late or lost payments and for the person receiving the invoice to look up the information when required. Even if other publications or companies annex a number (purchase order) to their assignments or business transactions that have to be on each invoice from you, set up your own numbering system. Consider a simple one, such as the year your work is submitted or completed, followed by subsequent numbers for each individual invoice. E.g. 2016-01, 2016-02, etc.
  4. Add the customer’s, (publisher, editor, organization, etc.) details: Be sure your invoice includes your customer's full company name, address, phone number and email, plus the required annex number they’ve assigned you, if applicable. Consider noting the name of the individual contact (editor, publisher, accountant, office manager, etc.) who authorized the work in case further contact or clarification is needed.
  5. Invoice date and payment terms:  Clearly note the date the invoice is issued, and the due date of the payment, which is often within a month of the invoice being submitted. Other terms of payment include payment method (cheque, credit card, PayPal, online transfer/deposit), and details of any late payment.
  6. Quantity, description and price of services or goods rendered: The body of the invoice is usually laid out in columns. Each invoice line should state:
    •  the number of units (quantity of goods or services purchased, such as the number of hours billed, count of items)
    • the unit type (flat rate, per hour, per item)
    • a brief description of the good or service purchased (if the invoice is related to a purchase order from the customer, include the number of that order)
    • the unit price
    • total amount owed
    • a breakdown of relevant taxes. If you are charging GST, provide your GST number (in Canada, you don’t need to register unless you earn $30,000 or more from your writing-related income)
    • handling charges and other add-ons to the invoice should be clearly itemized
    • The invoice should also have a total of all line items at the bottom with a notation to indicate that number is the total sum owed
      # of units Unit Type Description Unit Price Total Price
      6 per item ABC Book 15 90
      1 flat rate Creating Lively Characters in Fiction 200 200
      5 per hour Editing the Novel "Lifeblood" PO #574638 40 200
          Sub-Total of Units    
          Handling charge/other Add-ons (if applicable)    
          Final Total Owed   490
      GST #86868598 (if applicable)
  7. Thank you message: Consider adding a thank you message box to your invoice template. You could also note other important information.
  8. Sending your invoice: Invoices may be sent electronically to the client as documents, excel spreadsheets, PDF’s, or other online systems, with payments also being received electronically or by cheque.


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