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What Goes in a Proper Invoice?

When I first started contracting, I was amazed at the amount of paperwork stuff I had to figure out. Frankly, I just wanted to get paid. So in that vein, for those of you have sent the following type of message:

Dear Client,
Where is my money – its been over a month?
– xoxo Contractor

and recieved the following in response

Dear Contractor,
Upon reviewing your invoice, we noticed you are missing everything except for the amount. Please send us a revised invoice and we will place you back in the payment queue for next month.
-xoxox Your every loving AP department representative

I highly recommend getting a proper invoice figure out.

First question, how are you getting paid? Is this a fixed rate contract? Time & Materials? Sale of Good? Well, we can’t help you much on the last one as we don’t deal in it (sales tax and all that), but with the first two, let go through it.

So what actually goes in an invoice? For those of you who are not using QuickBooks to track your business, we will lay it out here for you.

Use with all invoices:

  • Your Business Name – the check will be made to this name
  • Your Business/Mailing Address
  • The Client’s Name
  • The Client’s Business/Mailing Address
  • Invoice Number
  • PO Number
  • Project Name
  • Terms
  • Due Date
  • Total Amount Due

Fixed Price

If your bid was fixed – you do not need to expose what happened behind the scenes. One line item with the product or service description and price suffices.

Short and simple.

Time & Materials

If you are charging by time and materials, then you have two options:

1) Submit an invoice and a timesheet separately

Include a line item for time spent and the cost
Include a line item for material and the cost

A line item should include the following:


Time Description Rate Total
25.5 Design & Chop of the xxxxxx Website 25 637.50
  Helvetica Nueue Font (approved by client) 1 29.99

2) Integrate your time sheet into your invoice

Include a line item for each activity & block of time.


date Time Description Rate Total
3/23/07 2.5 Rough out some concepts 25 62.5
3/24/07 0.5 Review 1st comps 25 12.5
3/24/07 3 Round 2 comps – focus on web 2.0 style 25 75
you get the idea…
4/1/07   Helvetica Nueue Font (approved by client) 1 29.99

Which is better? That totally depends on what your client likes and what software you use to track you time. What you don’t track your time? Personally I use QuickBooks, which has an awesome time tracker that integrates directly with billing. Peter is on a Mac & uses iBiz because QB seems to hate Mac users (don’t we all). We are still looking for an integrated solution and will certainly blog on it when we find that.

Some Specifics

Terms: You can put whatever terms you like, but frankly, you’ll probably get ignored or snorted at if you request less than net 30. I’m not saying that it is bad to try, just that very few companies every pay that quickly. For example, we pay all our contractors at the first of the month. Why? Because we are busy, and I set aside a day each month to handle all our accounts payable. So, if you happen to be working with us, a smart thing to do is figure out what day that is and get your invoicing lined up. This is pretty much true with everyone. I have learned to make friends with someone in the AP department in most of our large clients, as nagging them seems to be the only way to ever truly get paid. We have had Fortune 500 companies be months late, not because they can’t pay, just because the bureaucracy is that bad. The squeeky wheel gets paid.

PO: if you are working with a company that uses PO’s, don’t miss this. Best way to have your payments get delayed indefinitely.

Some Samples

We asked one of our contractors if he would be willing to make a generic version of his invoice since it is far and above the clearest an nicest we receive from our collective group.

Download Invoice Template

Have fun, make some money & make a difference.