Many businesses rely on invoices as their primary method of payment for their offerings, so it’s important to get the invoice creation process right.
An invoice that’s easy to pay shows professionalism and encourages customers to work with you again. On the other hand, unclear or inaccurate invoices confuse recipients and prevent prompt payment.
Luckily, it’s easy to create a professional invoice once you know what one looks like. This guide walks you through how to create an invoice and shares tips on issuing one so you get paid on time every time. We’ve also included a simple template you can download and use as a reference for your own business.
What is an invoice?
An invoice is a document used by businesses to request payment for goods delivered or services rendered during a certain period. Aside from helping to keep your cash flow consistent, invoices also serve as records of work fulfilled for clients and proof of business income should you ever find yourself audited by the IRS.
How to create an invoice
Follow the step-by-step guide below to create your own invoice, using the example here as a reference. You can also download a sample invoice here.
1. Input company information
Start by adding the following information to the top of your invoice:
- Your company’s name, address, and contact information
- Your client’s business name and address
- Name, phone number, and email address of your point of contact with the client
Include your business logo in your header and change the colors and fonts to match those of your brand—these small touches make your invoice look more professional and help you maintain consistency across your customer communications.
2. Label your invoice and add dates
You’re not the only person communicating with your client. Labeling your invoice appropriately can help prevent it from getting lost or ignored in your contact’s inbox—a simple “invoice” at the top of the document will suffice.
Make sure to add a unique invoice number as well. This helps you organize and identify your invoices, which is especially helpful if you bill a client for similar items on a regular basis. The easiest way to label your invoices is numerically (e.g. starting with #0001 and working your way up), but an alphanumeric code works well too. The important thing is to remain consistent with your labeling scheme.
Next, enter the invoice date and the payment due date. While the payment due date is self-explanatory, the invoice date reminds the recipient of when the work was completed or the items delivered. If your business works on net-30 payment terms or something similar, this date also indicates the start of that period.
3. Provide an itemized list of goods and services
This section lists out exactly what your client is paying for. Without this list, a recipient who’s unsure about the fee breakdown may refuse to pay the invoice without additional clarification—which in turn can delay payment.
Your invoice should include the following for each line item:
- The service or product provided
- Number of hours worked or items delivered
- Hourly rate or price per item (if applicable)
Brief descriptions of each line item offer additional clarity into the project scope and cost. For example, a marketing agency may decide to break up its monthly retainer fee into specifics like “20 post captions for Instagram” and “Facebook ad management for July 2022.”
4. Calculate fees and the total amount due
If you plan to include service charges, fees, sales tax, or discounts on your invoice, break them out into separate line items as well.
After adding your subtotal and fees together, list the total amount near the bottom of the invoice. Ideally, you want this number to be prominently displayed—so use bold text or increase the font size so the total is easily found.
5. Include payment terms, instructions, and footnotes
Here, outline the process your client or customer should follow to pay the invoice and any penalties for late payments. You both should’ve already agreed to payment terms as part of your vendor negotiations, so this section serves as a reminder of that.
This is also a great place to add a personal note for the recipient. Your customers or clients are the lifeblood of your company, so thanking them for their business goes a long way. You may also want to include other details here, such as:
- Warranties or money-back guarantees
- Returns and exchange policies
- Information on your referral program
- Updates on upcoming sales or promotions
6. Double-check information before sending
Mistakes on your invoices can delay payment and make you look unprofessional. So before you send out each one, take a few minutes to confirm all of the information is correct.
To help you catch formatting errors, review the document the way your client would. So if you’re creating an invoice on Canva but sending it as a PDF, open up the actual file so you’ll know what your client will see when they receive it.
4 invoicing best practices for timely payments
Invoice as soon as possible
Some small business owners create and send out invoices once a week or at the end of the month to save time. However, that can create some serious cash flow issues—particularly if you find your company strapped for cash between invoice batches.
Plus, if too much time has passed between when you delivered on your contract and when you invoice for it, your client may have forgotten about your agreement entirely.
To avoid this, send invoices as soon as the engagement has ended. This ensures you get paid sooner rather than later (or not at all).
Offer multiple ways to pay
Providing customers with different payment methods gives them greater flexibility, positions you as easy to work with, and gets you paid faster.
Traditionally, businesses have paid invoices with paper checks or bank transfers. Today, companies have expanded their list of payment options with alternatives like credit cards, PayPal, Stripe, and even Apple Pay.
Sure, you might pay a small percentage in processing fees, but the quick delivery of funds and real-time notifications offered by these methods may be well worth the cost.
Take advantage of free invoice templates and invoice generators
To save time typing out the same information for each new invoice, create a template with these invoice details already filled in.
Invoice templates in a variety of formats are just a quick Google search away, or use the ones available from graphic design platforms like Canva—all you need to do is swap out the invoice information and update the branding.
Free invoice generators like Invoice Simple take a similar templated approach. Just plug in the appropriate information, and the program populates it into a standard template for you to download. This alternative offers fewer customization options than a template does, but it reduces mistakes when calculating tax and totals, for instance.
Whatever method you choose, just make sure to send your invoice as a PDF file to prevent someone from editing the information on it. Also keep a copy of the document for your records, as well as for invoice reconciliation and potential tax audits.
Look into invoicing software
Compared to templates and online invoice generators, invoicing software offers many more tools that streamline and simplify your invoicing process.
In addition to customizable invoice templates, you can set up features like automatic payment reminders and late payment penalties. The software then follows up on overdue invoices on your behalf, and automatically adds late fees to the bill once your conditions have been met. Plus, you can access past invoices at any time and review reports for greater visibility into the health of your business.
Simplify the way you process invoices with Ramp Bill Pay
Invoicing and billing are important to maintain the cash flow of your business, but they’re not exactly processes you want to spend hours of your day on.
Cut down on the time you spend on your supplier and vendor management invoicing process with Ramp Bill Pay. This tool automates your invoice processing workflow so you can spend more time on the work that matters, but with the reassurance that your finances are protected every step of the way.
Our AI-powered software logs the details from each invoice with 99.9% accuracy and gets approval from the right people to ensure timely payments. With Ramp, you can also take advantage of our expense management tools, account automation, and 1.5% cash back with our corporate card.
Explore the possibilities Ramp brings your company by taking a tour of the platform today.