Cha-Ching! You just got your first paid freelance writing assignment. Edits go smoothly, the publication date is set, and there’s just one last thing to do.
“Shoot me over an invoice and I’ll submit it to accounting,” your editor says.
That’s when the frantic Googling commences. Because you’ve never created an invoice before. And you’re not sure where to start.
I’ve been exactly in this position. So I checked the first invoicing tool my freelancer friends recomended. Freshbooks made it so easy for me to create my first invoice that I was instantly sold. It’s now my go-to invoicing tool — and it helps me with other business tasks, too.
Here’s everything you need to know to open a free Freshbook account, create your first invoice and get paid.
1. Create your free Freshbooks account
Good news: Since you’re new to invoicing and Freshbooks, you need not pay for anything (yet). Freshbooks offers an honest-to-goodness truly free 30-day trial. You don’t even need to put in your credit card. So simply head to the Freshbooks homepage and get started by entering your name and email.
What happens when your free trial ends? You have to choose one of their paid plans. The most affordable Freshbooks plan is called Sprout, which gives you a maximum of five clients at $9.95 month.
When I sent my first invoice few years ago, Freshbooks was totally free because I only had one client. Since their pricing structure has now changed, I asked their customer service what they could offer new freelancers. While that free option is no longer formally available, they told me they will consider moving users to a more affordable option or even extend your free trial until you land more clients to make the paid plan worth your while. Just make sure to contact them before your 30-day trial ends and ask about other options.
2. Add your first client
Adding your first client is the next step. The only required information is the name of the company you’re invoicing and an email address. Your editor might want to receive the invoice, or they may want you to send it straight to their invoicing department instead. So check to make sure you’re dropping in the right email address here.
You can add other information in this step such as the company’s mailing address. But if you don’t have this info and your client doesn’t require it, then don’t worry. Hit save, and you’re ready for the next step.
3. Create your invoice
You’ll see that your invoice number and date of issue are pre-filled. You can change these if you like, or just leave them as-is.
Then you’ll need to enter a few details:
Task: Create a new task describing the type of work you’re invoicing for. For example, it could be a blog post, online article or editing services. If you create more invoices down the line, you can reuse these tasks or create new ones.
Time Entry Notes: Use this area to give more specific details about the project. Keep in mind your editor may receive many invoices from other writers, so try to be as specific as possible.
Rate and Hours: If you’re paid hourly, enter your rate and hours in these two columns. If you’ve agreed to a flat fee per project — for example $50 for one blog post — then enter your project total in rate and bill for one hour. If you’re billing for multiple assignments (go you!) then add a line and repeat the above steps.
4. Add terms and notes
You aren’t required to add anything to these terms and notes boxes. But should you? It’s always a good idea to agree on terms with a client beforehand, so this is a great place to add a reminder. You can use the notes box to send along a friendly note to your client to let them know you enjoyed working together and look forward to your next assignment.
According to Freshbooks, you’ll get paid five percent faster if you add a dash of politeness to your invoice. A simple “Please pay your invoice within 30 days” in your terms and “Thank you for your business!” in the notes can go a long way.
5. Hit send
Once you’ve double checked the details, you’re ready to send! When you click send by email, you’ll receive a pop-up to review the email subject and body your client will see. You can edit both of these to further personalize your invoice.
You can also mail a hard copy invoice to your client. Since it’s your first invoice, Freshbooks will cover the cost of the postage and envelope. It will be sent via first class business mail within one business day by the United States Postal Service. And of course, you’ll need your client’s proper mailing address.
6. Get paid
Now all you have to do is wait to get paid! There are a few things you can do ensure payment and remind clients in case they forget to pay.
- Be sure to set payment terms, and include those at the bottom of your invoice; for example, a 15 percent late fee after 30 days. If you like, you can charge interest on late payments automatically. When you write your terms, click Set Default Terms > Late Payment Fees > Enable Late Payment Fees for all invoices.
- Log into Freshbooks at anytime to see if the client has viewed your invoice. If they haven’t, you can easily resend it.
- Automatically send late payment reminders. Go to settings > emails > late payment reminders. You can set up to three reminders that auto-send if your client doesn’t pay within a certain time frame.
Ready to create your first invoice? Try a trial run first by sending an invoice to yourself. Make a new client (yourself) and follow the above steps. Then you can review your invoice, see what it looks like from the client’s perspective and make sure you’ve got the process down.
Sounds easy, right? Head on over to Freshbooks to give it a whirl! Happy invoicing!
Do you use Freshbooks to invoice your clients? If you have any other tips and tricks to share, we’d love to hear them in the comments!