chapter 9

Invoicing and Payment | How to Make Sure You Get Paid

I have a confession: I think invoices are exciting. I know, it seems like accounting drudgery, right? Let me open your eyes to the wonderful world of sexy invoicing. Yes, I said sexy. Invoices aren’t accounting nonsense, they’re a powerful tool that can demonstrate professionalism to your customers and most importantly: get you paid!

In the U.S., there are no laws around what has to be on your invoice. I recommend some standard things to start:

  1. Your logo 
  2. Your contact information 
  3. The date the invoice was first sent 
  4. When the invoice is due 
  5. What the invoice is for, broken down into line items if necessary 
  6. How to pay you 
  7. Who it’s for

I go one step further and include my business’s Tax ID to make record keeping easier for the client and reduce any potential delay in payment by having them ask.

If you’re a designer, you probably want to design your invoices and send them as one-off illustrator documents. If you send one invoice a month, that’s fine, but if you’re sending them weekly or daily, fight the urge to reinvent the wheel and use a cloud invoice software to save yourself a ton of time.

I personally use and love Hiveage, but Freshbooks is equally good, and Harvest is powerful, especially if you’re doing time-based billing in teams. Of the three, there’s no wrong choice. There’s more than just those three of course, but I’m only recommending the ones I’ve personally used.

As for payment options, you want to make it as easy as possible for clients to give you money so offer three payment options: Credit Card, PayPal, or check by mail. Your clients will likely pay in that respective order too. I love getting paid via credit card because it means the least amount of effort for me; Hiveage let’s me know I’ve been paid, and Stripe deposits the money in my checking account. Boom.

Alright, that’s the technical stuff. Now how about the fun stuff like email templates?

Here are the templates I use every day with my business invoices:

New invoice notification

Account Alert: Invoice [invoice-number] is now available for payment

Hi [primary-contact-first-name],

Your invoice for [invoice-summary] is now available. To pay your invoice now, visit: [invoice-url]

If you need anything, or have any questions at all, we’re here to help. Just reply to this email.

Thank you!

Payment receipt

Account Alert: A payment was received

Hey [primary-contact-first-name],

Thank you for your payment! Details below...

Date Received: [paid-date]
Payment Amount: [paid-total]
Receipt: [receipt-url]

If you have any questions or comments, just reply to this email. Thanks again! In order to maintain the high quality of our work (and to provide valuable feedback), we ask that you fill out this short review form.

Payment reminder #1

Account Alert: Your payment is due today. [Invoice [in- voice-number]]

[primary-contact-first-name], the payment date for your invoice is today. To keep [business-name] in good standing, please pay by end of day.

To make a payment now (and avoid service interruption,) please visit: [invoice-url]

Thanks for being a valued client!

Payment reminder #2

Account Alert: Payment reminder for overdue invoice [in- voice-number]

[primary-contact-first-name], the payment date for your in- voice has past.

To keep [business-name] in good standing (and avoid service interruption,) please pay now at: [invoice-url]


Let’s talk about an uncomfortable truth: overdue invoices. I send my invoices with net-15 terms. That means customers have 15 days to pay before the invoice becomes overdue. A client not paying is a risk we take as freelancers, but we can minimize risk. I never work without a minimum of a 50% deposit, and I always offer a 10% discount for clients who will pay 100% upfront (and at least half pay upfront.)

Here are some notes you may want to include with the invoice depending on the situation: 

  • “Once your deposit is paid, your next steps are to invite us to your Shopify store. Here’s instructions...” 
  • “Know someone else who could benefit from our service? Referrals are the best compliment you can give us.” 
  • “Want the latest news on improving your Shopify store? Sign up for our exclusive client-only newsletter...”

Do you see what we’ve built here? It’s more than just invoicing, it’s a semi-automated system that gets you paid with the highest level of customer service and professionalism. And that’s why I love invoicing.

About the author

Kurt Elster is a co-founder at Ethercycle and a passionate designer with an obsession for growing businesses. Chicago-based Ethercycle has expertise in both design skills and business acumen, specializing in high-end responsive websites. Last year, the websites they designed received over 12 million visitors and $10 million in revenue.

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