It is safe to say that most freelancers are dreamers and creative types with vision and talent enough to make it on their own. While most have enough business sense to understand the difference between being in the red and being in the black, not many have independent knowledge and practice in the paperwork and filing necessary to stay above the line. The most crucial and enjoyable aspect of freelancing — and any business — is getting paid, but for most freelancers, this won’t happen without a professional and comprehensible invoice.

If you are a freelancer who is just starting out or an old hand who is frustrated by not getting paid for your work, you probably need some help when it comes to invoicing. Here are four fast focal rules to drafting invoices that put money in your pocket.

1. Use Trustworthy Services

Yes, you will save a bit of money by drafting and completing your own invoices, and yes, you can find thousands of free invoice templates online. However, you will save hours of hard work and headaches by opting for an invoice software or service that does it all for you right from the start. The problem with crafting your own invoices is that you are likely to forget crucial details, like addresses, dates, or invoice numbers, which make organization difficult for both you and your client. Popular invoice services have been put through the paces by other users, and thus, you can trust that your payment slips will be perfect every time. It is generally best to experiment with different invoice services before you commit to one; you should look for companies that allow you to create a free invoice before you sign up.

2. Compose and Keep to Your Policies

Before you accept another client, you should take some time to consider your ideal client — then imagine the opposite. You will inevitably encounter clients who are reluctant to pay, but before you can adequately manage the situation, you need to have strict policies that you unwaveringly enforce. These policies should include topics such as:

  • What forms of payment you accept
  • How much down payment or deposit is necessary
  • Whether final payment or completed project comes first
  • How much time can pass between project completion and payment
  • What type of fees accompany late payments

Your pricing is another important factor of your policies, and one that your clients should know upfront. Even if your competitors are charging low amounts for their products, you should make sure that your own prices never sink so low as to undercharge clients for your services. In general, cheap clients are more likely to skirt payments, and even deposits from those who pay up will be unsatisfyingly small if you put real effort into your work.

Once you have standard guidelines in place, you must provide each and every client with documentation of them. When clients know what to expect, they are much more likely to pay up when the job is done. Once you are comfortable demanding behavior that complies with your policies, you may be capable of more flexibility to accommodate bigger or broader clients, but be careful that you don’t abandon your guidelines completely.

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3. Be Available

Your invoice should always include various ways your clients can contact you, such as your physical address, telephone number, email, fax, and any others. You should expect to have many clients who neglected or have forgotten your policies and thus have questions about the invoice. Additionally, if you work with companies, your invoice will likely pass through dozens of hands before your payment is processed. The sooner you can clarify any questionable items on your invoice, the sooner you will get paid.

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4. Make Backups

There should never be just one copy of an invoice. If you send away the only evidence of your completed project, you find yourself in deep trouble when a client asks for another copy or you need to prove that a client has yet to pay. Every invoice you complete should have an identification number, and you should always have duplicates of every number. Then, using the organization system of your choosing, you can better monitor what money should be coming in and when.