You know what my favourite part of my job is? Invoicing!
There’s nothing sweeter than finishing a job well done and sending off your invoice.
But if our inbox is anything to go by, invoicing is something that many copywriters struggle with. So it’s rather timely that we have Shauna Maguire here to tell us how best to get it all done.

So you’ve started life as a copywriter. And things are pretty sweet.

You’ve got a logo and fancy new website, your business cards are all over town and your social media’s going great guns. You’ve got your first runs on the board with some new or even repeat clients and your portfolio’s growing faster than the grass on your front lawn after a week of rain.

All in all, you’re feeling pretty damn good about going solo.

But in the excitement of seeing your clients multiply and your bank balance grow, there’s one thing you might’ve failed to properly prepare for.

Set up the right systems and you’ll be laughing all the way to the bank. Fail to do so and you’ll spend valuable time chasing every dollar you’ve sweated blood, sweat and tears to make.

Ready to shake your money maker? Behold your new copywriter’s guide to invoicing.

Set clear payment terms and conditions

At some point or another one of your clients is going to ‘forget’ to pay your invoice. Sometimes it’s truly an oversight, other times it’s deliberate.

But there’s no need to panic.

By setting clear payment terms and conditions – and making your clients aware of them at the beginning of your working relationship – you not only present yourself as a professional, you also establish a legal right to chase after any missing money.

Start by clearly outlining your payment terms in your Terms and Conditions – this gives you a legal leg to stand on in times of crisis. Make sure you also state them on your invoices and in the email you send the invoice with. That way, no one can argue they didn’t know how, or when to pay you.

Wondering what you should put in your payment terms? Here’s some food for thought.

Invoice 50% up front

One of the biggest issues you’ll face as a freelancer is maintaining a consistent cash flow. Keep those coffers full by invoicing 50% of each job up front. It commits your clients – emotionally and financially – as well as keeping the proverbial wolf from the door.

Invoice 100% up front for small jobs

Just like Linda Evangelista, some copywriters won’t get out of bed for less than $10,000 a day. Alright, that’s a lie – but you’ll find many established copywriters will only take on smaller jobs if the invoice is paid up front. What constitutes a ‘smaller job’ varies from copywriter to copywriter, but $300-$500 is a good starting point.

Don’t want to invoice everything up front? Invoice incrementally

Along with invoicing 50% upfront, you can keep your cash flowing with incremental invoicing. If you offer 2 rounds of revisions, why not invoice 50% upfront, 25% on submission of your first draft and the final 25% on completion?

No money = no work

Your clients need to learn from the get go you’re a professional they should take seriously.

So in addition to invoicing up front, it’s a good idea to let your clients know you won’t begin their project until you’ve received the cash. To protect against dodgy clients who’ll do everything they can to avoid paying your bill, consider making this deposit non-refundable.

Set a payment date – and stick to it

As a freelancer, your cash flow can be irritatingly intermittent. So take control of the money you do have (or will have once you’ve been paid), by setting strict invoicing periods. Payment terms of 7-14 days are common and entirely reasonable.

On that note, it’s essential you make your clients aware of the consequences of late payment. This should be outlined in your Terms and Conditions and may include:

  • Interest charged on late invoices – from the date due to date paid
  • Legal action – debt collectors, small business tribunals, solicitors

And if worst comes to worst, don’t be afraid to enforce your rights. You did the work, you deserve to be paid for it. And ultimately, if you don’t stand up for yourself, who will?

How would you like to be paid?

Along with telling your clients when to pay you, you also need to tell them how to pay you.

For most copywriters, bank transfer is the way to go. But if you’re working with international clients, PayPal is also a good option. Just remember they take a cut (2.4%) of every chunk of money you transfer to your bank account, so you’ll need to decide whether you absorb that cost or build it into your pricing.

Learn to love invoicing software

Want to earn money like a professional? Then ask for it like a professional. Excel spreadsheets and invoices created in Word are all well and good when you’re doing one off jobs for friends and family. But when you’re running a business (and trying to make real money), it won’t cut the mustard.

Professional invoicing software – like Xero and Freshbooks – makes it easy to create and keep track of your invoices. Linked to your bank account for quick as a wink payments, they make asking for money almost as easy as spending it.

If you’re just starting out and can’t justify the subscription cost, Wave offers a basic yet customisable invoicing system for free (gotta love that).

Over to you

Are your invoicing ducks in a row? What systems have you implemented to make getting your moolah as hassle free as possible?

Shauna-MaguireBio

Shauna Maguire is a Brisbane based copywriter who loves helping business owners tell their stories their way. She used to be a lawyer – but don’t hold that against her. Check her out at www.takemywordcopy.com.au.

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