how to invoice as a freelancer

How To Invoice As A Freelancer: Step By Step Guide + Tips

If you ask any freelancer what the favorite part about their work is, you’ll only get one answer—Getting paid!

There’s nothing like that moment when you receive the payment for a project you’ve been working on for days or weeks. Then seeing the numbers go up in your bank account is an incredible feeling.

Creating an invoice is one of the first steps that lead you to that moment. Without an invoice, your clients will not pay you for your work.

Today, I’ll show you how to invoice as a freelancer. I’m going to use Bonsai, one of my favorite tools, to show you how to create, send, and automate your invoices.

This guide is for both beginners and experienced users. Keep reading for all the tips.

Why Use Invoices?

why use invoices

When I first started freelancing, I had no idea what an invoice was.

I used to send my finished work to the client and they will just send the payment. It was simple.

Even when I was using freelance marketplaces like UpWork, there were no requirements to send invoices to clients.

But things changed when I started working with clients directly. When my first direct client asked me for an invoice, I had to Google the term to figure out what it is. And then I put together a very boring-looking invoice to get paid.

Now, you might be wondering the same thing, why use invoices? Could you not just ask the client to pay you and be done with it?

Okay, think about this. When you buy something expensive from a shop like a TV or a smartphone, do you not ask for a receipt or an invoice? You want proof of your purchase, right?

Well, when you invoice as a freelancer, it does the same job. You give your client proof of your work with the total amount you charge for the job. It will also show details about the work you did, how you charge for the job, your contact details, and more.

More importantly, invoices are very important when calculating your taxes as well.

Needless to say, creating invoices for clients is something you should be doing from the very first day you start your work as a freelancer.

What To Include In An Invoice

There are different types of invoices out there and when you invoice for freelance work, you need to include some specific details that are important to your client.

The basics of every invoice are:

  • Your name, address, email, and contact information
  • Invoice number, invoice date, and due date
  • Detailed descriptions of the project and work you did
  • Time or hours you’ve spent on the tasks (if you charge by hourly rate)
  • Clearly calculated prices and the total amount for the invoice
  • Information on how to pay the invoice (eg: bank account, PayPal address)

These are the must-have information for creating an invoice. Additionally, as a freelancer, you can also create a detailed project overview for the client to see how you’ve approached the job. It will show your client how much work you’ve put in for the job.

You can also include a payment processor to allow the client to pay your invoice with just a click of a button. This makes things more convenient for the client to make the payment.

And, you can go a step further to automate your invoice. So that your client can receive an invoice on a set date, automatically. This is a huge time-saver for you and your client, especially when you’re working with multiple clients on long-term projects.

Now, usually, you can’t do any of these tasks with the traditional PDF invoices. But you can do all these and more when using online invoice generation tools, like Bonsai.

How To Invoice Clients

Creating an invoice using Bonsai is a very smooth and simple process. In fact, you can just set it up once and have Bonsai send the invoices automatically.

It’s a useful feature for freelancers who have long-term clients that make payments every month or every week.

Here’s how it works.

Step 1: Login To Bonsai

First, signup for a Bonsai account, if you haven’t already.


Then log in to your account to access the dashboard.

Bonsai offers a free trial for you to test it out without any commitments. Or you can always signup for a free account to explore the app. And even get add-ons for your account to access tools like Bonsai Cash and Bonsai Tax.

Step 2: Create A Client Profile

From the Bonsai dashboard, you can manage your clients, projects, invoices, and more.

bonsai dashboard clients

Start by adding a client.

Just head over to the Clients section >> click on the New Client button. Then add all the information about your client.

Step 3: Create A Project

Now, head over to the Projects section on the dashboard and add details about your Project.

Bonsai dashboard projects

Here you can add the tasks and steps you’ve completed in your project. Add collaborators, allow clients to see your projects, and even add contracts to the project.

This part is not required but it will help you manage your projects and clients more efficiently.

Step 4: Create and Send Invoice

Onwards to creating the invoice. Go to the Invoices section on the Bonsai dashboard.

Bonsai dashboard invoices

From here, you can create a new invoice. Select your client from the list and the project you want to invoice for. Then, you can Create the invoice.

Bonsai dashboard invoices 2

You can customize the invoice by adding your information and the client’s contact details. This will automatically appear on the invoice since you’ve already added the client’s information on the Bonsai Clients portal.

Bonsai dashboard invoices 3

And then add the details about your project and the work you did, including the pricing and even tax rates.

Bonsai dashboard invoices 4

You can also connect Stripe or PayPal to allow clients to pay you directly from the invoice. And add a late fee to encourage clients to pay on time.

Bonsai dashboard invoices 5

When you’re all set, just hit Send Now button to send your invoice to your client. That’s it!

Step 5: How To Automate Invoices

Another cool thing about using Bonsai is that you can setup automatic invoices.

To create automatic or recurring invoices, just go to the Invoices section and create a new invoice.

Bonsai dashboard automate invoices

From this page, set Invoice Type to Recurring and choose whether you want to send it weekly or monthly. And then create the invoice as you normally would.

It’s a great feature that will give you peace of mind knowing that you’ll get paid on time.

Bonsai is a premium tool that allows you to not only create invoices but also manage multiple clients, create projects, send proposals, time tracking, and so much more. A multipurpose tool like this is worth paying for as it allows you to be more productive and save time.

You can use its free trial to check out the app. And you can cancel or pause your subscription at any time you want. Plus it features lots of useful integrations like Quickbooks, Zapier, Slack, and more too.

Other Ways To Create Invoices

I know things can be tough when you first start freelancing. You want to save every penny. So if you’re low on your budget and can’t afford Bonsai, there are other ways to create invoices too.

These methods may not be as easy or effective as using Bonsai but if your main goal is to get paid, it will get the job done.

The best free alternative to using online invoice-generating tools is to use a pre-made template. There are invoice templates you can download and edit using MS Word or Photoshop to create simple invoices for clients.

It takes some work to edit, customize, and export these invoices every time you want to invoice a client. And there’s no way to automate this process either. But it’s free!

Free Word Invoice Template for Freelancers header

You can grab this Word invoice template for free. Remember to customize the colors, text, and information before you send the invoice.

In Conclusion

One important thing you should remember is that when creating invoices, using one style of invoice with the same branding design is the proper way to send your invoices as a professional.

If you send invoices with different designs to different clients, you will look like an amateur. So pick an invoice with a good design and stick to it.