Picture this: you finish a huge project for a client. You love the materials and, more importantly, they love the materials. All seems well. Until 6 months later you realize you haven’t been paid. You thought you sent an invoice, but you realized it was just an email with the amount they owe. The client says you didn’t provide enough information for them to pay at the time, so they don’t owe you anything now. What a nightmare.
Few people become photographers in order to deal with business administration tasks. However, since 63% of photographers are self-employed, admin is a reality for hundreds of photographers around the world. Unfortunately, if you’re self-employed, it means you can’t just focus on being a great photographer. You’ll have to invest time in running a good business and handling clients, something an entrepreneurship course can help with if you’re brand new to running your own business.
The amount of “handling clients” depends on how big or small you are, from a whole corporation to a single freelancer, but there’s one commonality for every self-employed photographer: the invoice.
Invoices are the final step that enable you to get paid for your work. They are a continuation of the experience you provide your clients and are an extension of the photography contract you have with clients. While the key point of an invoice is to clearly state what your clients owe you, there’s a secondary element to invoicing: the best invoices make it easy for the client to pay you.
While a robust photography contract will help keep you protected if the client tries to pull a fast one on you, the invoice is just as important for ensuring you get paid quickly. We’ve compiled 10 things you should always include on your photography invoice so you get paid faster. Here’s what you need to include:
1. Your / your company’s name and information
It sounds obvious, but you want to make sure people clearly know who sent the invoice. This step helps you avoid the excuse of them “not knowing it was from you,” so they deleted the invoice. If your company has a logo you can include on the invoice, too.
2. The word “invoice”
As any good sales training will teach, you have to make it clear that the document is an invoice. Since it has numbers on it, most people will make the correct assumption (especially with the “amount due” line near the bottom). However, being clear with the word “invoice” will avoid confusion where the client assumes it’s either a price sheet for future services or, perhaps worse, a receipt for an invoice already paid.
3. Client information
Including client information on the invoice has two benefits, one for you and one for the client. On your side, it’s clear who you’re sending the invoice to so you don’t accidentally put the wrong line items on the invoice. For the client, it’s clear that it’s to them, which is helpful for their record keeping.
4. Invoice number
An invoice number will help both parties with taxes and reconciliation. In most accounting systems, you’ll need to align income or expenses to a specific invoice – invoice numbers make this easy.
5. Invoice date and payment due date
Payment terms should be clear in your photography contract, but including the details on the invoice provides a good reminder. It helps you for sending follow-ups, if need be, and ensures the client doesn’t have any confusion on when payment is due.
6. Line items of what you provided
If you’ve ever taken an accounting course, you’re probably familiar with the term “line item.” If not, it’s just a break down of the items you provided. Make sure to break it down to as granular a level as you have in your contract. This could mean per picture, per day, per hour, or whatever other “per” you use to price your services. A good rule of thumb is to take any formula you use to get your total price, spell out both as a line item on the invoice so it’s transparent. For example, if you have a $500 invoice that’s $50 an hour for 10 hours of work, show this breakdown in the line item. For more complex pricing schemes, it may help to look into Excel courses and know your way around a spreadsheet.
7. Price and taxes
Each line item on your invoice needs to have a price shown with any applicable taxes added to the price. Then make sure you provide a total cost number (both with and without taxes) at the bottom of your invoice with the currency of payment clear. This is the real purpose of your invoice – to tell them how much to pay you – so make sure you’re including everything.
8. Tax number
If you have a project with another business, they will require your tax ID number so they can file their taxes appropriately. While you can give this to them manually, including it as part of your standard invoice template makes this step much easier. Learn more about tax numbers from the Government of Canada’s official site.
9. How clients can pay you
While the invoice is meant to tell clients how much they owe, it’s important to include how they can pay you. If you’re using invoicing software like Wave, Freshbooks, or Quickbooks, payment collection options may be automatically included. If not, though, be clear about what kinds of payment you accept – credit card, bank transfer, cash, PayPal, etc. – and the process for the client to pay you. This step alone can increase how quickly you get paid since you’re removing all possible obstacles to the client paying you.
Most invoices will include a note at the bottom. This could be explaining anything in the invoice that needs more detail or reminding them of any specifics such as invoicing terms (like paying 25% up-front and 75% on completion). You may also use the notes area to remind the client of any late fees that may apply. If you’re not worried about any of these things, then you can leave a friendly note thanking them for their business.
Looking for more photography resources to help run your business? Here are some suggested reads:
How to price your photography
Studios management software to help level up your photography business
Photography business and camera insurance: Complete Guide