Making an invoice can be very confusing. What must be included? Are invoices legally binding? Should I charge tax? What kind of invoice do I need?It isn’t that there is no help online; it’s that there is too much. An internet search for “how to make an invoice” returns more than 85 million results – some helpful, if you can find them, and others… not so much.Enter Definitive Guide to Invoicing. We talked to legal experts, studied authoritative publications, and made our own extensive independent research, all to make invoicing clear and simple for you. We also painstakingly prepared 144 professional invoice templates to give you a head start on creating your own, and all for free! You can also build your resume.
invoice on a laptop

What is an invoice?

An invoice is a request for payment – a detailed bill – for goods or services rendered.
The definition, according to Black’s Law Dictionary is:

invoice, n. — An itemized list of goods or services furnished by a seller to a buyer, usually specifying the price and terms of sale; a bill of costs.

According to the Oxford Dictionary is:

invoice, n. — a list of goods sent or services provided, with a statement of the sum due for these; a bill.

How does an invoice differ from a bill?

Both an invoice and a bill are demands for payment of goods or services but they carry slightly different connotations as you can see in these Merriam-Webster Dictionary definitions:
bill iconBill: an itemized account of the separate cost of goods sold, services performed, or work done: invoice
invoice iconInvoice: an itemized list of goods shipped usually specifying the price and the terms of sale: bill

“The distinction between these two words is actually more a matter of custom and the business being transacted”, a professional editor with expertise in etymology, lexicography and dictionary construction explained. For example, an attorney charges for billable hours. Work that is commissioned often comes with an invoice. At a restaurant, you get a bill for items already delivered and for which payment is immediate. From a supplier, you get an invoice for goods ordered or received and for which payment is expected.

How does an invoice differ from a receipt?

An invoice is a request for payment. It is sent by a seller before a product or service has been paid holding an invoice paper
A receipt is a record of payment. It is sent by the seller after the item has been paid for as proof of purchase.bag of groceries with a receipt

How to make an invoice

It may be hard to believe but there are no mandatorylegal or otherwise – items that must be included on invoices. That is likely due to the fact that invoices themselves are not considered legal documents. There are, however, widely accepted “best practices” of what to include, which are aimed at making sure you get paid by helping your customer or client understand exactly what the bill is for. Incomplete, incorrect, or unclear invoices could remain unpaid until questions about them are answered. So, it’s important to include:
what invoice is made of
  • the word “Invoice” prominently
  • The name of the person or company expected to pay
  • Your name or the name of your company
  • Your logo
  • Your contact information
  • A line-item list of goods or services provided and their costs
  • An invoice number
  • The date the invoice is issued
  • Additional fees, if any (i.e. shipping costs, taxes)
  • The total amount due

A helpful way to understand why to include any of those items on your invoice is to turn the tables: imagine you are the one receiving it.

What information would you need before you could pay for goods or services? Here are the questions you would likely ask if you received an invoice – and tips on what you can do to keep your clients or customers from asking the same questions:
invoice icon

What is this?

Put the word “invoice” at the top of the page so you customer knows immediately what they are looking at.
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Who sent this invoice and how can I contact them if I have a question?

Include your name or your company name, postal and email address, phone number, and any other information your customer might need to get in touch with you.
list icon

What am I being asked to pay for?

Include a line-item list of the goods provided or services rendered and the cost for each as earlier agreed upon.
calendar icon

When was this invoice made?

Include the date the invoice is issued.
reference number icon

If I have a question or problem, how will the seller know what invoice I am asking about?

Give each invoice a unique number so it can be easily referenced. You can number your invoices any way that makes it easy for you to keep track of them.
customer support assistant
total cost icon

What’s the bottom line? How much do I owe?

Make sure the total cost is on your invoice and is clear to the buyer.
credit card and cash icon

How and where can I pay this invoice?

Include details and the necessary information on how you want to be paid. Keep in mind, the easier you are to work with – and pay – the more return customers you will get.
person icon

Is it for me?

Make sure the name of the person or company expected to pay is on your invoice.
payment icon

Is this invoice legitimate?

Use a logo if you have one, as it makes you look more professional and it increases your chances of getting paid by up to 300 percent, according to, an online invoicing and time-tracking company that studied 250,000 invoices and their results.
flipchart with growth graph
sandclock icon

How long do I have to pay the invoice?

Don’t leave the payment due date up to your client. It’s best to avoid wording like “payable on receipt” because people often misinterpret that to mean “pay whenever.” Be specific. Give them a number of days they have to make the payment. If you use the trading term Net 30– or 10 or 15 or 60 — (the numbers representing the number of days the client has to pay) or any of the many other payment terms, make sure you can afford to wait that many days to be paid.
magnifying glass icon

What are these other charges on here?

Be clear and concise in labeling shipping, handling or other fees as well as sales tax or value added tax (VAT) if applicable. Include a sales tax for taxable items sold to in-state buyers. It’s legally required but complicated because sales tax rates, as well as what is considered a taxable item, vary by state and even by cities within a state. The Marketplace Fairness Act, a bill that would change that ambiguity by requiring remote (online) sellers to collect and remit sales taxes based on where their customers live , has been languishing in the U.S. House after being passed overwhelmingly by the Senate in 2013.
girl working on a laptop

Tips for getting paid more quickly

When Freshbooks looked at their data around invoice payment terms to learn which wording was best for getting paid on time, main takeaways were:
tip one

Be polite

Simply saying things such as “please pay on time” and “thank you for your business” will increase your chances of getting paid.

tip two

Be specific about the due date

Using a term like “due on receipt” to many customers often translates to “pay when you can”. A more specific “due in 21 days” or “please pay by August 3rd, 2016” is clear and much more effective.

tip three

Charge interest for late payments

If you decide to charge interest for late payments, be polite there, too. Chose wording like, “Thank you for your business. Please process this invoice within 21 days. There will be a 1.5 percent interest charge per month on late invoices.”

You can also spare yourself the headache of chasing down payments by agreeing on a time frame with your client before you even start work or provide goods. Experts agree that the invoice should be raised immediately and the payment terms agreed upon in advance.

Can I revise an invoice?

Yes. There likely will come a time when you have to correct an error you made on this first invoice. Whether you forgot to charge for something or forgot to issue a credit, you can send out a revised invoice. Make it clear to your customer that the original bill has been changed, and keep your own records in order by doing these things:
  • Change “Invoice” to “Revised Invoice”.
  • Change the date of the revised invoice.
  • Give it the same invoice number but add an “R” at the end. For instance, invoice 2928 becomes invoice 2928R.
  • Highlight what charges have changed or have been added. You can do that by changing the color of the font, increasing the size of the font, boldfacing it or underlining it.
  • Change the “total amount due” and extend the due date if necessary.
  • Include a cover letter explaining what has changed.
revised invoice

Free Invoice Templates

There are many different invoicing solutions – invoicing software, online invoice makers, CRM… But if you are a small or a medium-sized company and don’t issue many invoices, a simple invoice template is much easier and quicker (not to mention it’s free).
settings iconFull control of the way your document looks
word doc iconIf you already know how to work with Microsoft Office, there is no learning curve
free iconIt’s free forever

Creating an invoice from scratch could take a lot of time. Making tables, aligning components, choosing proper fonts and colors, creating formulas to get your data automated… That’s a lot of work! Good news is, we’ve done all the donkey work. Our samples provide basic structure and layout, so all you have to do is fill out the blanks. Below you will find 144 free invoice templates:

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38 generic blank invoice templates: neutral and traditional, elegant and professional (19 designs in MS Word, and 19 in Excel)
106 invoice templates for specific uses

Blank Invoice Templates in Word

Notebook Invoice Template Word

Notebook Word

Technicalities Invoice Template Word

Technicalities Word

Banker Blues Invoice Template Word

Banker Blues Word

Continue to see 19 Blank Invoice Templates in Word.

Blank Invoice Templates in Excel

Banner Blocks Invoice Template Excel

Banner Blocks Excel

Modern Minimalist Invoice Template Excel

Modern Minimalist Excel

Waterfall Invoice Example Excel

Waterfall Excel

Continue to see 19 Blank Invoice Templates in Excel.
proforma invoice example

Proforma Invoices

A proforma invoice, also known as a preliminary invoice, is a quotation of what the proposed goods or services will be and what they will cost. It includes all the details of the buyer and seller, as well as descriptions of the goods involved in the transaction. If everything in the proforma invoice is agreed upon, the commercial invoice that will follow will be the same. If the amount or cost of the goods or services is renegotiated, the commercial invoice will reflect those changes. Continue to see 8 Proforma Invoices Templates.
commercial invoice example

Commercial Invoices

A commercial invoice is what’s commonly referred to as simply an invoice. Also called a sales invoice, a billing invoice, or a purchase invoice, it provides all the details of the transaction between the seller and the buyer. Continue to see 23 Commercial Invoices Templates.
freelance invoice example

Freelance Invoices

A freelance invoice is designed to be used by people providing work in fields such as graphic design, photography, copywriting, computer programming, website design and development, consulting, video production, and translation. Although it is much like a service invoice, it offers ways to charge for services arrived at through different measures. For instance, freelancers could charge by the word, by the number of images, or by the length of a finished product. Continue to see 8 Freelance Invoices.
photography invoice examples

Photography Invoices

Essentially same as freelance invoice templates but made with typical photographer billing scenarios in mind: lump sum, flat rate, itemized, hourly, with or without licensing. 4 layouts, each in Microsoft Word and Excel. Continue to see 8 Photography Invoices.
service invoice example

Service Invoices

A service invoice is used to bill for professional and non-professional services, such as consulting, child care, or tutoring. It is not to be used when billing for tangible objects. It is useful to reflect different services that are billed at different rates or partially billed. Continue to see 18 Service Invoices.
Rent Receipt Example

Rent Receipts

A rent receipt, also called a rental invoice, is given by a landlord to a tenant as a record of rent received. Although not legally required in every state, it is a good idea to provide one in the event of a dispute. Continue to see 10 Rent Receipts.