Creating a template:
If you’re confident using programs such as Excel, it’s recommendable to create a template from scratch. This allows you to include all and only the specific information which is relevant to your work, and gives you the freedom to structure the document as you see fit. Excel offers the advantage of being able to calculate totals or VAT amounts based on pre-defined formulae, which saves having to do the Maths manually. If you’re not confident working in Excel, either have a go at creating a template in Word, or search online for a ready-made template which you can then adjust to suit your needs.
What to include:
- The word “Invoice” at the top of the page
- Your name, company name if applicable and address
- Optionally, your qualification and/or job title
- Client name and address, specifying the name of the actual person who commissioned the translation
- Invoice date
- Invoice number
- Each invoice must have a unique reference number. Create an invoice number which will allow a sequence to
build up over the months and years - i.e. YYMM## (for the third invoice in March 2011: 110303)
- Job details
- Brief description
- Client’s project/order number, if applicable
- Date of assignment and delivery
- Rate (i.e. cost per word) and units (i.e. how many words)
- VAT if applicable
- VAT rules vary from country to country, you’ll need to check what applies for your country
- Total amount due
- Make this clear - in bold or a larger font - so it doesn’t get lost among the other numbers and information
on the invoice
- Payment period
- A payment period of 30 days is fairly standard. If you are involved in a project which is spread over
several weeks or months, a good idea would be to agree upon a system of regular invoicing with the client.
This could be done on a monthly basis, or it could be split up into three parts as is common in other
industries, i.e. a payment upon assignment, a payment midway through the project, and a final payment
- A “thank you” note
- Your bank details
- Account holder
- Bank name
- Account number
- Sort code
- IBAN / Swift numbers if your client is based abroad
Sending your invoice:
Always check whether new clients are happy to receive your invoice by email or whether it has to be signed and sent by post; be aware that in some countries, invoices sent electronically are not recognised by law.
If you send your invoice electronically, make sure it’s saved in a “read only” format, such as a PDF file.
A rule of thumb is to write your invoice in the language spoken where the client is based. This holds especially true for larger companies which may have a separate accounting department responsible for processing your invoice. If this is a language you don’t speak, i.e. if an Italian agency hired you for a Russian – English translation, then writing in the language you’ve been communicating in would be the next best option.
Many translators use bilingual invoice templates which can overcome the possible language barrier mentioned above: if this is a route you choose to go down, make sure the information is laid out clearly and concisely.
When to invoice:
It’s completely up to you when you choose to do your invoicing. There are translators who send through their invoices on a per job basis, waiting a couple of days after the finished job has been sent, whereas others prefer to set time aside at regular intervals, i.e. sending out invoices at the end of each month for all jobs completed within that month (preferred for regular clients).
Contrary to the advice given on many online forums aimed at freelancers, sending the invoice together with the completed job might not be ideal in the case of translators. Although you may have finished the job assigned, it could be that additional files are sent for translation shortly after delivery which you might then want to invoice together with the rest of the project.
When it comes to tracking jobs and invoices, organisation is key. Use a spreadsheet or table to keep a clear record of all your jobs, including specific details as listed above. Have columns where you can enter the invoice date, and mark off jobs once they’ve been delivered and subsequently paid. Not only will this allow you a clear overview of your business, but it will also mean that the invoice details are ready to be copied and pasted directly into your template.
If you belong to the ever reducing population of printer-users, it might be an idea to keep hard copies of invoices in a folder, then you can simply cross them off or throw them away as payment is received.
You should also keep an “invoices” folder on your computer, with subfolders for “pending” and “paid” invoices. It’s also worth keeping a “templates” subfolder where you can store invoice templates for different clients.
It’s completely up to you how you proceed with clients who haven’t paid your invoice within the specified period. A general suggestion in the translation community is to leave sending late-payment notices until a week after your payment deadline as delays could be incurred which are out of the client’s control, such as delays at the bank with wire transfers. If payment has still not been received by this point, send a polite yet firm reminder, including the invoice number, and ask that the receipt of this reminder be acknowledged.
This article is by no means the be all and end of the world of invoicing, but rather aims to erase some of those question marks which tend to appear when you have to come to grips with a completely new process. As with any financial and legal aspects of business, you should always check what laws and regulations apply to invoicing/bookkeeping in your country.