Invoicing, like many life skills, may seem obvious to those of us who have been doing it for years. But it's only obvious when you know how. So how do you draft your very first invoice, and what should go in it?
Essential ingredients of an invoice:
- A heading at the top, saying "Invoice"
- Your name, your own brand, or your company name (if you have a company). If you don't have a company, you can put your own name or simply a trading name, which can be anything. "Awesome Animation", "Garage Films" - or whatever. A trading name is just that - the name you trade under.
- Invoice Number. These should be sequential. Begin at number 1 and start counting (never send out two invoices with the same number - you will confuse everyone, including yourself).
- Today's date.
- Your terms. These are usually "payment due within 14 days" or thereabouts.
- Supplier name and address - that's you, the supplier of services
- Client name and address - that's the person or company you are invoicing.
- Description. This is a description of the services you have done. Be as specific as you can.
- Amount owed. This is the price for the job. This should be agreed with the client in advance. Clients don't like nasty surprises. You won't need to charge VAT yet (unless you turn over more than £83,000 a year) so you can leave that at zero.
- Your bank details. These must go on your invoice. Without this you won't get paid.
What should go in the VAT section?
Probably, nothing. VAT stands for "Value Added Tax". It is a tax on goods and services. Your business needs to turn over at least £83k a year before the Government wants you to charge VAT. As a sole trader just starting out, you are not very likely to need to worry about this for a while.
Check Your Invoices Carefully
Always make sure you double-check every invoice before you send it out. Nothing is more embarrassing than getting it wrong - and clients will not appreciate it.
How long should you wait for payment before chasing up your invoice?
Start chasing after about four weeks. Chasing clients after a few days or even a week or two is bad manners. Most companies tend to do their accounts once a month, usually near the end of the month. Generally, the bigger the company, the longer the wait. Be patient! Everyone pays in the end.
The Escape Studios Animation Blog offers a personal view on the art of animation and visual effects. To find out more about our new BA/MArt starting in September 2016, follow this link. To apply, visit the offical page here.