Dear Agony Aunt,
I’ve had a story published for the first time ever. It was awesome to see my name in print…and for the fact that they paid me to do it! However, now I need to invoice and I want to look professional but I’ve never created an invoice before – what do I include?
Hello First-Time Freelancer,
Congratulations on your first paid gig!
So, straight up, you need to include particular information on your invoice:
– the words 'TAX INVOICE' – the date of the invoice – your name – actual postal address – banking details including BSB, Account number and Account Name – you need to list what you are being paid for, i.e. 'Writers' Fee for X Magazine', include a project code or job reference if they have given you one – the amount of money you are charging with a $ sign in front of it – if you are charging GST (ie you are registered to do so) then you need to note whether the fee is inclusive or exclusive of GST. The invoice should list the GST separately. – if you are not charging GST (and let's face it, most of us aren't) you need to state that you aren't registered for GST – your ABN – Include a payment timeframe such as: ‘Please pay within 14 days.’
There are templates available through accounting and word processing software, but always tailor these to your own business (for instance spelling for the pedantic among us: change the US ‘checks’ to the AUS ‘cheques’ – that is if someone is paying you in such an arcane fashion). And I stress: do make sure that you indicate your GST status and include your ABN, as the poor accounts folk are often chasing up that information and they won’t pay you until they have it. If you don't have an ABN then you might need to supply a hobby declaration form. But really, go ahead and get an ABN. (You can do it online in under five minutes here.) It's free and will mean that you will receive the full fee. Beware though! The tax department will ask for tax from whatever money you have earned so keep a little aside from all freelance payments just in case the ATO comes knocking at tax time.
Once you have completed the work, don’t dilly-dally: send your invoice straight away. Otherwise you are less likely to send it and speaking as someone who chases artists for outstanding invoices: it’s irritating. And for your own accounting purposes keep a spreadsheet with a list of your invoices and note when they are paid (you will thank me come tax time and you can use this spreadsheet or a calendar reminder system to make sure your invoices have been paid). And don’t forget to add 'Writer' to your CV – it’s always good to keep track of any professional development, all the better to spruik yourself with for the next job, and in these busy times it can be easy to forget all the great things you’ve actually done.
It sounds as though you’ve done well here First-Time Freelancer, but as an aside for those new to freelancing, when doing work for any publication or event always ask about the pay rate before doing the work. It may be that there isn’t any money in it for you, but that’s for you to then make an informed decision about whether the work is worth doing for other reasons.
Best wishes for your budding career,