Let’s face it, the digital space has made invoicing a lot easier than it used to be.
Currently, to create an invoice, all you need to do is follow a template. Rest assured, we have you covered there. But, because there are so many different businesses that you might work with, it’s worthwhile to consider exactly how an invoice works.
To do that, let’s take a look at a few examples of invoices and explain the basic sections, as well as provide you with the tools and several invoice templates that you use for free.
In this how-to, we will cover:
But first, let’s cover the most important point.
What is the meaning of an invoice?
An invoice is a commercial instrument, a document or put simply, a written verification issued by a seller to a buyer. It includes the list of services or products with their cost. The invoice is given to a buyer or client. An invoice shows that there is an obligation from the customer’s end to pay for products or provided services.
Now let’s dive right into the three invoicing tips that will get you paid (+ ready-made free invoice templates)!
1. The parts of an invoice you should know
The structure of your invoices will vary slightly, but the general flow of an invoice is:
- Your name/your business’ name
- Customer name and contact information
- Goods or services (line items)
- Sales terms
- Signature area
Typically each kind of invoice follows a similar format. Your business may call for unique specifics like clauses, return policies, or disclaimers. Make sure to adapt the invoices you create to fit your distinct business needs.
2. Creating your own custom invoices
Because every business is different, you will likely need to customize your invoices. One of the most important modifications you can make is adding an electronic payment method. Luckily, there are many tools out there that make this super easy. The most common example is PayPal, but we’ll talk a little about this later.
3. Invoicing best practices
Unfortunately, simply administering an invoice is not a guarantee that you will get paid. To ensure payment, you need to be aware of some invoicing best practices.
We’ve covered a couple of the best ways to receive payment on an invoice but let’s add the following important elements:
- Be grateful and gracious (thank the customer — plainly!).
- Ask for feedback (this is particularly important — it will help to keep customers coming back and could uncover a helpful customer testimonial).
- Make it clear when you need to get paid — Net 7? Net 15? Net 30? They won’t know if you don’t tell them.
The simple truth of the matter is that your customer may just forget to pay your invoice. To plan ahead, we suggest developing a tactful follow-up plan to get paid before things go awry.
Some businesses offer a discount to customers who pay early or on time to help steer them towards payment. Others set up an automated email response to let their customers know as the due date for an invoice approaches or reminds them to pay when the outstanding balance becomes past due.
Although it is important to follow up and get paid, you don’t want to come off as pushy with a Mafioso-style non-payment follow up.
Are you sending professional invoices that get you paid (on time)?
You have to put some thought into your invoicing routine. Simple cobbling together a bill of sale is not the best idea — sure it’s easy enough considering everyone has a word processor on their computer. But making smart use of invoicing practices and implementing a few of the latest cloud-based tools will help you get paid on-time, every time.
Be smart — treat invoicing just as what it is: one of the most important parts of your business!
Let’s review three commonly known tools that help users create invoices: PayPal, Stripe, and PandaDoc.
PayPal is one of the biggest operating systems worldwide for online payments. PayPal is a great electronic alternative to checks and money orders.
How to create an invoice on PayPal
To make a PayPal invoice is super easy. It does not require any additional training from users plus it’s absolutely free with no fees and setups. However, the options to create invoices are limited and the resulting output isn’t as professional-looking as sending your own custom invoice.
As we mentioned before, adding an electronic payment method is one of the most important invoice customizations. PayPal makes this super simple. Inside PayPal, under the “Merchant Services” tab, you will find the option to create your own PayPal payment button. You can attach the button to any document that can handle HTML and send it as an invoice, making receiving online payments a breeze.
How to send an invoice on PayPal
If you are wondering how to send an invoice on PayPal, rest assured this is also pretty easy. To do this, all you need to do is to send it through your email or share a link — everything from creation to sending takes just a few minutes. By the way, you can save a PayPal invoice template for future quick sends, saving you a ton of time.
Stripe is another big industry player that provides solutions for online payments with little requirements. If you have a business plan or a marketing plan to create a subscription service, an e-commerce store or a marketplace, Stripe has you covered.
How to create an invoice in Stripe
Stripe provides two types of invoices based on the frequency of payments. It can be a one-time charge or an amount that a customer has to pay on a regular basis, like a subscription. In both cases, the software creates a Stripe invoice every billing cycle.
Users can create invoices for a one-time bill from the Dashboard inside the software. They will be created as drafts where you can add additional information like discounts, tax percentage, and more.
How to send an invoice in Stripe
Subscriptions, as well as one-time invoices, can be sent manually or automatically. To make payments easier, users can include customizable payment pages.
You probably know that PandaDoc meets all the requirements on how to write a professional quote. But PandaDoc doesn’t just work with quotes. You can also create and send invoices too with the help of PandaDoc.
To make it even easier, we’ve provided many basic free invoices. In addition to the simple ones, we’ve created more than a dozen other templates to meet any business need. Let’s have a look at some of them, and by the way, they can be customized to fit your needs.
- Rental invoice template — for landlords who need a quick and simple invoice. Though this invoice template was made with rental properties in mind, you can edit it and apply it to any sort of rental agreement.
- Design proposal template — for all designers. Whether you are a Web designer, graphic designer, or interior designer, you can covet this handy template, fill in the required information and start sending out professional invoices to your customers in minutes.
- Commercial invoice template — will take care of your transborder shipments.
- Tax invoice template — for charging VAT or sales tax.
- Proforma invoice template to get paid in advance.
What type of invoicing system do you use? We’d love to add some perspectives on different industries’ demands. Please feel free to drop us a line in the comments below.
Originally published May 6, 2014, updated July 13, 2018