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How to Make Professional Invoices in a Word Processor

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Difficulty:BeginnerLength:MediumLanguages:

It's finally happening—you've launched your new business or freelance venture and finally landed your first client! The project brief is in, the ideas sounds great, and things are going swimmingly—but what about getting paid? Whether you've agreed to a fixed price or an hourly rate, you'll need to formally request payment for your work once your project is complete, with an invoice. And while the thought of creating invoices might seem daunting to first-timers, it's actually fairly simple and you only need a basic desktop or web-based word processor to get started.

Just as you expect a bill after purchasing an item at a store, so too does a client expect an invoice detailing the services rendered after working with you. This document not only enables clients to pay you, but also helps you keep your accounts in order. Besides, once you've created your first invoice, you can simply re-use the base document as a template for all your future projects.

In this tutorial, I'll show you what an invoice needs, and how to create professional customized invoices that will impress clients and get your payments quickly—using just Word or any other word processor you already have.

What is an invoice, and why do I need one?

An invoice details services rendered or products delivered by one party to another, and indicates the payment owed to the supplier. Without it, any money that exchanges hands between the supplier and the client can't be accounted for—and accounting for it is important when you need to determine how much money your business is bringing in, and how much you'll be taxed. Plus, your clients may have accounting teams that you may not directly interact with, and they need to know what to pay for, whom they owe, and how much.

With an invoice, all this information is readily available, making transactions faster and easier. They're one of the little necessities of business life.

What does an invoice look like?

Let's look at a sample invoice—presented by a photography service to a clothing company for product shots—and understand all the information it includes:

Annotated invoice
An example invoice.

1) Your company identity
This makes it easy to identify your invoice and allows you to present yourself professionally when requesting a payment.

2) Your company's address and contact information
This lets your client know where to send cheques and correspondence, and where to go for questions and feedback.

3) Invoice title, reference number and invoice date
The invoice title indicates which project the client is being billed for, and makes it easy to differentiate between other invoices received from your company. The reference number makes the invoice easy to find later in both the client's and supplier's databases. The date of issue of the invoice is especially important, as it helps determine when the payment is expected to be made.

4) Client company name and address
This lets the client know which branch or office the invoice is addressed to.

5) Payment due date
This date is based on the agreement between the supplier and client, and lets accountants know how soon the payment needs to be scheduled. Payments are generally requested upon receipt of the invoice, within a week or within a month, and this field can reflect that.

6) Notes
You can use this field to briefly describe the project, mention any contact persons at the client company, or include any terms related to the project. In this example invoice for a photo shoot, the notes mention that the digital photo files will be delivered online in various formats suitable for print and web use.

7) Line items
This is where you can present an itemized breakdown of what you're billing your client for, and include details like the quantity of deliverable products, project expenses incurred, billable hours or even milestone payments for projects with longer timelines. It's important that these items are descriptive and laid out so they're easy to read (especially the total due amount), so that your clients have minimal trouble processing your payment.

8) Remarks
This includes details on how you'd like to receive payments, as well as information like your tax registration number. In some jurisdictions, you'll need to have the number right next to the tax amount, so be sure to check with your local bureau before designing your invoice.

9) Thank you note
Just because you're doing business doesn't mean you have to be clinical. Thank your clients for their business—it only takes a sentence in your invoice footer!

Simple, isn't it? You can put together this invoice from scratch in just five minutes, or speed things up by using a template.

Creating an invoice with any word processor

Instead of creating a complete invoice each time, it's far better to build a template that you can re-use just by changing your client name and filling out line items. Let's start by creating a new document, and add in the necessary elements shown in our sample invoice, starting from the top:

An invoice in Word
A sample invoice in Word.

Supplier company logo and address

  • Add a two-column, single-row table (Insert > Table > 2x1)
  • In the left column, add your logo by clicking Insert > Picture or Insert > Image and importing your logo. If you don't yet have a logo, you can simply type your company name here using a simple typeface with a large font size.
  • In the right column, type in your company name with the appropriate suffix and then add the address, phone number, website and email address (optional) below. Select this text and right-align it for a clean layout.
  • When you're finished, remove the table borders by right-clicking the table and selecting the No Border option (Microsoft Word), or by reducing the border thickness to 0pt (Google Docs).

Invoice title, reference number and invoice date

  • Type in these details below the supplier logo and use a large font size for these fields.

Client company and payment due date

  • Add a two-column, single-row table (Insert > Table > 2x1)
  • In the left column, type your client's company name and address.
  • In the right column, type in the payment terms as agreed upon between you and your client.
  • When you're finished, remove the table borders by right-clicking the table and selecting the No Border option (Microsoft Word), or by reducing the border thickness to 0pt (Google Docs).

Notes

  • Type these details below the client company name and address, using a medium font size.

Line items

  • Add a four-column table with multiple rows (you can always delete the extra empty rows later) from the Insert > Table menu option. Add titles for each column: Item, Quantity, Unit Cost, and Total.
  • If you bill by the hour, you can change the Quantity and Unit Cost titles to Hours and Rate. Alternatively, if you have no use for those two columns, you can remove them by right-clicking and choosing Delete Cells > Delete entire column (Microsoft Word) or choosing Delete column (Google Docs).
  • Add a light color shade to alternate line items to visually differentiate them, by selecting a row and clicking the Shading button, with a light fill color selected (Microsoft Word), or by right-clicking the selected row, opening Table properties and choosing a cell background color (Google Docs). For the last few rows that indicate your sub-total, discount and tax amounts, use a slightly different shade.
  • When you're ready to use this template, fill out each line with billable items and their costs. Make sure the total payable amount is in a larger font size.

Remarks

  • Type these details below the line items, using a medium font size.

Thank you note

  • Choose Insert > Footer, type in your text and then center-align it so it looks neat and clean.

Be sure to use consistent typography and complimentary, professional colors in your invoice, so it looks like a continuous document and not a random arrangement of different elements.

That's it! Save this document as your invoice template, and make copies of it to create fresh invoices each time, changing the necessary details (client company name, invoice title, invoice date, invoice reference number, and payment due date) for your new projects. When your new invoice is finished, save it as a read-only PDF by choosing File > Save as and selecting PDF in the file type (Microsoft Word) or File > Download as > PDF (Google Docs). All that's left is to attach it to a courteous email to your client.

If you'd like to save yourself some time, you can go ahead and use our free, easy-to-customize invoice templates for Microsoft Word or Google Docs, available in the attachment box on the top right above—just change the necessary details and you're good to go!

What about estimates?

Now that you've learned to create an invoice, you can just as easily create an estimate, since it uses the same layout. The only difference is that an estimate includes the word "Estimate" in the title and may have more conditions in the Notes section, explaining that the costs included are indicative and not final.

Creating an invoice using Invoiceable

While it's easy enough to create an invoice using our guide or our templates, you can also choose to use a web app for the task—and Invoiceable is a great free choice that's easy to use and includes a great mix of features. Sign up, add your company details and logo, add client details and start creating invoices just by filling out a few fields that are already laid out for you. The app also allows you to create estimates, convert estimates into invoices with a single click, track your company income with simple charts, and maintain a database of client contacts, download PDFs of your invoices and even send them right from within the app to your clients.

an invoiceable invoice

Invoiceable makes it easy to create, send and manage invoices with layouts ready to be filled.

Conclusion

Incorporating invoicing into your workflow helps your clients pay you on time, keep your accounts neat and tidy and keep your accounts, and makes for a professional way to close the loop when completing a project—and it's dead simple too, whether you choose to use an app or your own customized templates. Rather than needing to worrying about finding the perfect invoicing app, you can just use a customized template through the steps in this tutorial, using the word processor you already are use.

What are your favorite invoicing tips and hacks? Let us know in the comments below.

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