A consulting business is one of the more popular freelance endeavours.
Compared to more transactional freelance work, however, it’s not as easy to develop a consultant’s invoice. A freelance writer can charge by the word or page; a freelance graphic designer can develop an invoice based on a design proposal. Consultants often have more nuances to the work they do and what they charge.
A consulting invoice template becomes an important tool for a freelance consultant. Invoices need to capture the relevant information to expedite the objective - getting paid on time.
And while asking for payment may not be the favorite part of running your business, it’s an essential one, and it needs to be done right. Having a template can speed up the process and minimize the hassle.
Let’s look at how to develop a consulting invoice template that makes it easy for clients to understand, and ensures you get paid.
Even with access to an invoicing system, you’ll want to follow our 9 tips.
It’s hard to believe, but there are those who still swear by their paper and postage invoicing system. Switch to an electronic invoicing system that makes it easy to create and send bills, and save money as well.
It also means you can “carry” your office with you, as you can create, send and check invoices from anywhere. You can also automate invoicing with recurring payments and reminders. Some invoicing systems will notify customers, let you know when customers have read and paid the invoice, and allow you to connect invoices with proposals, time tracking and more.
Whether you’re choosing an online service or building an invoice from scratch, a template will allow you to build certain information into a re-usable document that you can use every time you bill a client for work.
Information to add to a basic invoice template includes:
If you save that template, you can use it and update it to send each time you complete work for a client.
You’ll need to include customer information on the invoice. That means the business name, the person to whom the payment request should be directed, the billing and/or mailing address (physical and electronic) and your preferred payment method.
If you’ll be invoicing the same client on a regular basis, like in the situation of a retainer relationship or a project with milestones, you may want to have a consulting invoice template created specifically for that client. You’ll then only need to update the section on the completed work and the payment due date each time you prepare an invoice.
This is where a consulting invoice template can differ from other freelance work. While a graphic designer may be able to invoice for a completed project, and a writer may be able to invoice for a completed blog post, for instance, a consulting invoice needs to explain the services provided and their cost. A consulting invoice template can’t simply have a dollar amount on it.
Your fees may be dependent on the consulting being provided. For instance, it could be an hourly rate for time spent with the client. It could be based on a completed piece of work, or milestones toward completing the project. The consulting invoice should be connected to the proposal and contract that you signed with the client that initiated the work. That makes it easy for the client to see that the work that was agreed to has been completed.
After detailing all the work and the cost for that work, include a section for relevant taxes, and provide information on any discounts, if applicable.
Here’s an example.
If you provide a discount to a regular client based on volume of work, indicate what the full-price cost would have been, and then the discounted cost. That helps the client see the value in the long-term relationship they have with your business.
Then, include a total amount due as well. That makes it easy for the client to know exactly what they owe you.
Having an excellent consulting invoice template isn’t just about creating one-off invoices. It also becomes a record-keeping system, in which you track all the invoices sent and the payments made.
This is especially helpful at tax time, but it’s also important when you’re juggling work with multiple clients, or doing significant work for one client that involves long periods of time and several milestones. You’ll be able to track where you are in each project and with each client.
You should be sending your invoice as soon as the work is completed. This keeps the work fresh in the mind of the client and helps encourage prompt payment. If it has been a long-term project for which partial payment has already been made, include that information as well.
Be sure your payment due date is correct, and be sure the invoice template has late payment terms. Make sure you allow sufficient time for the client to submit payment, but don’t make your terms so long that you don’t have cash flow.
Don’t be afraid to add a personal note to the client at the end of your consulting invoice. After all, you worked hard to gain the work, in part by getting to know the client and creating a personalized proposal. Treat the person who will pay you the same way.
If the work is complete, consider asking the client if they would be comfortable to serve as a reference, or if they would provide a testimonial.
Set up a system whereby you provide a gentle reminder to the client if a certain period of time elapses and you haven’t been paid. For instance, two weeks after sending the invoice, or a week before the due date.
The same is true of late payments. If your late payment time frame elapses, you’ll have to send a new invoice with the late fees added, and a new total amount due.