Invoice Like A Pro: Examples and Best Practices


Your invoice should be prim and proper, so that you can get paid by your clients efficiently. While invoicing is not a fun task, it’s a necessary one: by keeping clients informed of your expectations, you will get paid punctually and reinforce your professionalism. After going over some best practices for creating invoices, we’ll review some great (and not so great) online invoicing tools, so that you can spend less time creating invoices and more time doing the things you love!

So here are some general guidelines, best practices and examples that will help you make sure your invoices are up to spec.

1. Their Details and Yours

This is Mickey Mouse stuff, but you can’t afford to forget it. In addition to the client’s address, make sure to include the name of the client’s contact person who handles your account! A company with three employees can figure out what you’re doing; but in big companies, invoices get misplaced, especially if there’s confusion over who belongs to which project.

You’ll also need your company name, your name, address, telephone number and email address. If they have any questions about the charges, contacting you should be as easy as possible.

Design by Nancy Roy Creative1 | Full view2

nancy roy's invoice3

2. Itemized List of Services

People want to know what they’ve paid for. Most people will not pay for something described merely as “Design.” Tell them exactly what they have received: e.g. “Design of three-page static website for Sporting Goods Department.” Be as specific as possible. In five years, would both you and the client know what you meant by your description? Also, specify whether the charge is project-based or hourly.

Design by Hicks Design4 | Full view5

hicks invoice6

3. Include Your Terms

When do you expect the client to pay you? What happens if they miss the deadline? To be able to send follow-up or overdue notices or to charge interest, you need a rock-solid paper trail that no one can argue with.

Design by Francisco Inchauste7 | Full view8

Francisco Inchauste's invoice9

4. Let Them Know How to Pay You

Do you want a cheque mailed to you, a money transfer, flowers? Be explicitly clear about what you expect and in what form. It is usually best to discuss with the client beforehand their preferred method or to come to an agreement about a method you both like.

If you want a money transfer, provide all the necessary information. Foreign transfers need more than your account number: in some countries, you need your International Bank Account Number (IBAN10) or a Bank Identifier Code (BIC11). International transfers also double-charge you: the client’s bank might charge you $20, and your own bank might charge you another $15 to accept the payment. Make it clear which of you will absorb these charges, and talk it it out with them. PayPal is another option, but you still get charged a percentage of the transaction.

Design by Epic Web Agency12 | Full view13

epic invoice14

5. Numbers and Numbers and Records and Books

Referring to “invoice #9048,” rather than “That invoice I sent you last month, I think on a Tuesday,” is much easier to track for both you and your client.

Assign numbers to your invoices systematically, consistently and chronologically. Some people number their invoices by year (for example, 2009043 would be the 43rd invoice of 2009). You could also specify a code for the project. For example, BRAINEOS06 would be the 6th invoice for the braineos15 project that you’re currently working on. Having an invoice and project numbering system keeps everything in line.

Design by Graeme Duckett16 | Full view17

Graeme Duckett's invoice18

6. Thank Them, and Ask Them to Thank You

Money is often a touchy subject, so politeness about it is a good idea. Your clients are paying you money that they’ve earned with blood, sweat and tears, so let them know you appreciate it. You should also invite them to contact you if they have any questions and, more importantly, make it clear that you appreciate their present (and future) business.

Some people also welcome testimonials; for example, by adding, “Let us know how we did. Write a testimonial:” If you’re building your website’s testimonials page or want to complete the feedback loop, this is a great way to get clients to give feedback on your work. If they have suggestions for making the process smoother, it’s also a great opportunity for you to improve.

Design by BGG Design Studio19 | Full view20

bgg design invoice21

7. Don’t Forget: You’re a Designer

Imagine this, you’re at an expensive restaurant. Every detail is perfect: the food was fantastic, the service excellent and the atmosphere rich and plush. Then, you receive the bill, which is printed on cheap paper with low-quality ink. What would you remember about this experience?

Most people spend hours on their website design, business cards and resumes but then use a template for their invoice. The invoice is your last contact with your client, and it should share the attention to detail, branding and style of your other elements. By creating a beautiful, clear invoice, you are saying that you care about the little details.

Most importantly, make sure you have all the necessary information. Make sure there are no spelling mistakes and that your spacing is consistent. Customize your invoice as much as you can. Your logo is a must, but colors and a style that match your other branding items will make it a joy to pay (well, as much as is possible).

Design invoice22
A vintage UK design from the year 1936. In some situations it may be worth considering sending a nice vintage design to your customer. Source23.

The invoice is a boring document, and one often neglected. Andy Clarke from Stuff and Nonsense24 has had “fix up my invoice” on his to-do list for 10 years. This was a fairly typical response from many I had asked!

Jon Hicks lamented that, “The problem is that a lot of tools for invoicing make it quite hard to customize the template. I use Billings25, which is a great app, but doing basic things like getting elements to line up require a pound of flesh!”

Further Invoice Design Examples

Whether you’re using invoice software or designing your invoice from scratch, creating a beautiful invoice is possible. Here are a few examples.

Design by Chase (holdsnowater)26 | Full view27

Design invoice28

Design by Cameron McEfee29 | Full view30

cameron mcefee invoice31

Design by Thomas Maxson | Full view32

epic invoice33

Design by Microspective34 | Full view35

Microspective's invoice36

Design by Julie Fitzgerald | Full view37

julie's design invoice38

Design by Stereotypes39 | Full view40

stereo design invoice41

Design by Veerle Pieters for Devia42 | Full view43

Design invoice44

Design by Ole Martin Buene45 | Full view46

DEM's invoice47

Design by Impulse Studios48 | Full view49

Impulse Studios' invoice50

Design by Sugar Rush Creative51 | Full view52

sugar rush's invoice53

Design by Yummygum54 | Full view55

yummy gum's invoice56

Online Invoicing Roundup

Designing and tracking invoices yourself is a lot of work. A lot of online invoicing applications would save you much time and keep you organized (especially designers like me, who would lose their head if they forgot to attach one!). Hundred of online services are out there. Here, I’ll review seven apps based on their ease of first time use, cost, customizability of the templates, usability and more.

Quickbooks Online57

quickbooks logo58

  • Cost?
    From free to $34.95 per month.
  • Free option?
    Yes, for up to 20 customers. And a free trial is available.
  • Customized invoice design?
    two stars
    Changing the logo is a convoluted process (I ended up using Help, which detailed a six-step process to get to it), and the logo ends up only 1 square-inch. You can choose between about 13 different templates, but I didn’t like any of them. You can change the font and size of various elements (such as the title), which was nice, but the placement of some of the items left a lot to be desired.
  • Time to create a customized invoice?
    The first time, I gave up in frustration. It wouldn’t let me set up a UK address, so I set up a hypothetical business, an option it allowed. The second time I pretended to have a business in Beverly Hills 90210 and managed to get in. It still took me about 20 minutes to get it together, having discarded my saved invoice a few times after trying to customize it.
  • Usability?
    one star
    The landing page is okay, but the app itself is a bit crowded and disorganized. It tries to show you where quick start items are, but I felt lost. It is inconsistent too: some pages have an ugly brown header, while others had a newer design.
  • Recurring payments/actionable late payments?
    Yes/Yes. It shows a list of overdue invoices, and an automated email service has just launched.
  • Other accounting features?
    You can track everything, I’m sure, but could I find anything? Would I even want to now?

Other pros?
It’s probably easy for people who are familiar with QuickBooks, because you can import existing books. It seems to solve every conceivable problem, so if you have very particular needs, this might be best for you.

Other cons?
This application immediately made me angry and frustrated. It also can’t be used on Firefox on the Mac (but does work with Safari) or in any country outside the US.

Simplify This59

Simplify this logo60

  • Cost?
    From $9 to $29 per month.
  • Free option?
    Free trial.
  • Customized invoice design?
    one star
    You can add a logo, but I couldn’t find any options for changing color or layout or even find a preview.
  • Time to create a customized invoice?
    I gave up after 25 minutes.
  • Usability?
    one star
    The logo is okay, but the spacing isn’t super-clean or consistent, and I was confused by which items were associated with which accounts and how to actually generate an invoice.
  • Recurring payments/track late payments?
  • Other accounting features?

Other pros?
It offers a lot of interaction: e.g. each item gives you a pull-down menu, where you can edit and set as “Contacted,” “Lost” and “Change to customer,” but I’m unsure what any of these are for.

Other cons?
Maybe I’m not very good at this, but I couldn’t figure out how to do anything. It shows a “How to” page before the interface; but, of course, I didn’t read it, and then couldn’t figure out how to get back.


Curdbee logo62

  • Cost?
    Free, or upgrade for $5 per month.
  • Free option?
    Substantial amount of features for free.
  • Customized invoice design?
    three stars
    You can add your own logo and change the header color. The design is decent but very limited.
  • Time to create a customized invoice?
    Five minutes.
  • Usability?
    four stars
    Quite well designed and easy to use. A few things required extra clicks, but it never lost me.
  • Recurring payments/actionable late payments?
    Yes/Turns red, but is not actionable.
  • Other accounting features?

Other pros?
I was pleasantly surprised by this little app. It creates a decent invoice and does it simply. It also has strong integrations with PayPal and Google Checkout to make payments even easier! And upgrading is inexpensive.

Other cons?
You get PDF functionality only with the upgrade; but at only $5 per month, it is definitely affordable!


Freshbooks logo64

  • Cost?
    From free to $149 per month.
  • Free option?
    Yes, a substantial number of features for few clients.
  • Customized invoice design?
    five stars
    Limited. You can add your logo and choose between two plain design options, which look a bit like Microsoft Word templates.
  • Time to create a customized invoice?
    Five minutes.
  • Usability?
    five stars
    Nice and clean. You can also partly customize the colors and replace the logo with your own. Easy to navigate.
  • Recurring payments/track late payments?
    Yes/Yes (can be automatically sent by email.
  • Other accounting features?
    You can track expenses and create reports.

Other pros?
It has great, brief explanations for new users. You can customize the whole application to match your brand and specify permissions on tabs for clients and employees. Seems to scale well for big businesses. It also integrates 10 popular payment gateways.

Other cons?
I couldn’t figure out how to change my currency for individual clients. I might have missed it, but it wasn’t immediately obvious to me.

Less Accounting65

Less accounting logo66

  • Cost?
    From free to $24 per month.
  • Free option?
    Yes, it has some invoice and reporting features for free, and a trial offer.
  • Customized invoice design?
    four stars
    You must create a template to make an invoice. You can add a logo, choose between three different layouts and change the colors.
  • Time to create a customized invoice?
    Five to ten minutes.
  • Usability?
    four stars
    Simple and easy to use. Awkward placement of some elements, such as the permanent bar at the bottom, but you get used to it after 10 minutes.
  • Recurring payments/actionable late payments?
    Yes/Not yet.
  • Other accounting features?
    Yes, you can track your business expenses here.

Other pros?
Getting started is easy because things behave as you would expect. It also integrates with 37 Signals’ management tools, FreshBooks and more.

Other cons?
When I wanted to create my first invoice, a template wasn’t available, so I created one, but upon returning, I found all of the information I’d entered so far for that invoice was gone! I hate re-entering data in forms (even if only for a minute).

Free Agent67

Free Agent logo68

  • Cost?
    $20 per month, with discounts for yearly subscription and referrals.
  • Free option?
    Free trial, but won’t let you do much until you register your bank account.
  • Customized invoice design?
    four stars
    You can add your own logo and choose between seven attractive templates. You can’t change the color, but I found a template I was happy with.
  • Time to create a customized invoice?
    Took at least 10 minutes; I couldn’t figure out how to get back into it because it required my bank details.
  • Usability?
    four stars
    Well designed and easy to use. Once I got around bank account entry problem, it was great.
  • Recurring payments/actionable late payments?
    Yes/It shows a list of overdue invoices, and an automated email service is currently in development69.
  • Other accounting features?
    You can track all business expenses and do your business accounting.

Other pros?
Clear navigation and plenty of explanation for first-time users, with pull-down help bars in case you need them. You can also upload bank statements to track your invoices and expenses against your bank account. And you can customize the front page’s appearance.

Other cons?
Because I was just testing this app, I didn’t want to enter my bank account details. It’s a great feature, but for those who don’t need it or just want to play around, it’s annoying.


Invotrak in Invoice Like A Pro: Examples and Best Practices71

  • Cost?
    Four options, from free to $45 per month.
  • Free option?
    Yes, but you can’t add a logo, and only 2 invoices, and two clients per month.
  • Customized invoice design?
    Two Stars in Invoice Like A Pro: Examples and Best Practices
    They have the option to add a logo if you’re upgraded and the choice between 5 different template styles. They are very plain though, and non-customizable. I personally don’t like them at all!
  • Time to create a customized invoice?
    Five minutes.
  • Usability?
    Three Stars in Invoice Like A Pro: Examples and Best Practices
    It’s okay. Most things are easy enough to figure out, but they seem to have some weird ways of getting to where you want to go. Not a bad experience but not exactly drool worthy.
  • Recurring payments/actionable late payments?
    No/Not that I can see. It turns the line red if it’s overdue, but there’s no actionable things here.
  • Other accounting features?
    It has a punch-in system for tracking time.

Other pros
They make an effort to add helper text along the way, but I didn’t notice it until 15 minutes in.

Other cons
It doesn’t auto number the invoices, so you have to remember what the last invoice number you gave a project.


blinksale logo73

  • Cost?
    From $6 to $24 per month.
  • Free option?
    A 30-day trial is available (a credit card is necessary).
  • Customized invoice design?
    five stars
    Nice templates, but you can also create your own CSS-based version! Yay!
  • Time to create a customized invoice?
    Five minutes.
  • Usability?
    four stars
    Very nice and easy to use.
  • Recurring payments/actionable late payments?
    Yes/Yes. It has a customizable email message for overdue notices. You can view all of your overdue invoices in one place and send each with one click. You also get history of when you sent your reminders.
  • Other accounting features?
    You can receive Blinksale invoices from other companies you purchase from.

Other pros
A lot of explanation for new users, and the input fields show examples of data, making it easy to see what to do next. It integrates with Basecamp and PayPal. And sent invoices can be linked to your client’s own Blinksale account.

Other cons
You can’t test this application without submitting your credit card details, even for the free trial. You also can’t create PDFs on the “Bronze” plan (the ideal plan for part-time freelancers). Finally, it doesn’t automate the numbering of your invoice IDs (although it tells you your last one).

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Kat Neville is a freelance Canadian web designer (living in the UK) who is constantly coming up with too many ideas for new websites. She also loves arts and crafts, gardening and going on adventures. You can find her design work at

  1. 1

    You should also take a look at OroTimesheet for time tracking and invoicing. It is really easy to use and very affordable.

    You can visit the company’s website at

  2. 152

    Anthony Everette

    July 4, 2011 7:13 pm

    Great article and some fantastic designs. For a minute I thought they were just a tease and I wouldn’t be able to create anything near as stunning. Thankfully though I got far enough down to the recommendations and tried curdbee. The only problem I have is that the free version sends your invoice laden with advertising. Ah well, you get what you pay for (or dont).

    Thanks again.

  3. 303

    Georgina Nibbet

    July 18, 2011 1:27 pm

    Great looking invoice form guidelines to help small businesses manage their finances. I referenced these before moving onto the templates that I found here.

  4. 454

    I’m a designer and just started using I used to use freshbooks, but they were missing the accounting functionality. Tallyzip brings is all together, which is rather nice.

  5. 605


    may I add for the “Online Invoicing Roundup” cronsync

    Cronsync is a web based time tracking and invoicing solution. It simplifies and professionalizes billing and invoicing procedures and shows you how profitable clients and projects are.

    Best, Jakob

  6. 756

    i am using
    it works amazing.


  7. 907

    great guide, made a fab invoice. do we have a page where we can upload our invoices and rate? would be nice for feedback!

  8. 1058

    Wow! What a helpful page – I’ve bookmarked it. The sample invoices are FANTASTIC!!! Thanks.

  9. 1209

    I would like to add inqonto

    Besides online invoicing it covers all relevant items for your accounting without getting lost.


  10. 1360

    This is one of my favorite Smashing Magazine articles. It’s try, an invoice could be your last contact with a client. Thank them for working together. And work on your branding.

    I used to work with freshbooks, now I work with

  11. 1511

    Not only have you listed a few invoicing applications, but gave design examples that can be used as templates for invoicing. Nice work!

    I’d like to add our own invoice creator to your list: BeachCandy ( We’re all about simplicity, and might appeal to freelancers who want simple invoicing.


  12. 1662


    Salestastic is a system that has just come out. They’ve got a free for life account going at the moment too. Perfect for freelancers. Worth checking out:

  13. 1813

    This was very useful, even 3 years later, thank you!

    I hope Cameron McEffee found his typo–misspelled received–because that is a gorgeous type job he’s got going on.

    Stereotypes is my No. 1 favorite in this post, absolutely sublime.

  14. 1964

    Great article. You’ve hit most of the best invoicing practices and given some great sample invoices.

    If you want to get paid faster, include a small discount for early payment or a small fee for late payment. This can help move your invoice to the top of a stack of invoices with no incentives. If you provide an incentive for early payment you can cover your costs by slightly increasing your rate. Either way, you can save yourself from having to send follow-up invoices.

    If you are a freelancer or a small team doing creative work, I’ve created an app specifically for your situation, Scoreboard:

  15. 2115

    Great article!
    If it could interest your readers, I use Abak Software since more than 5 years and tt works dramatically well.

  16. 2266

    These look gorgeous even after 3 years. We used them for inspiration to create free invoice templates (word, excel) on Not everyone can afford using complex invoicing solutions, sometimes word invoice template is all you need.

  17. 2417
  18. 2568

    Jack Avetisyan

    June 8, 2013 5:14 pm

    Nice article but in all honesty no one cares what your invoice design looks like. Just make it clean, simple and easy to follow. No one is going to frame this. I use freshbooks for all my invoices and it does the job.

    • 2719

      True, but specially as a designer it IS part of your corporate design and should imho be an example of your abilities, like every piece of business communication.

      • 2870

        Our Invoice Software is a simple and easy to use Invoicing software suitable for all types of businesses. Simply enter customer details, product details, pricing etc. and your invoice will be automatically generated.

        Invoice Software

  19. 3021

    I’ve started using for my invoices and I really love its for its simplicity and effectiveness.

  20. 3172

    Great roundup & examples!

    But to me it’s funny to see how a lot of the things recommended as “best practices” here are actually legally mandatory to be on an Invoice in my country (that is Austria). :D

  21. 3323

    Hello, thanks for sharing this list! But I miss my new favorite system

    It is new online business management software with lots of advantages. They can handle your invoices easily and you can create professional proposals with their creator. Great stuff! Anyway, you can check your company performance with their useful tools. You can try it for free, especially great for small or medium companies. Check it now, if You have free time!

  22. 3474

    How come nobody mentioned

    Smashing Magazine, I guess people would like to see a complete round app of such apps too. Hope you would consider adding Invoicera, the next time. It’d be great to see things from your perspective.

  23. 3625

    is a great online invoicing site that is free.
    A one time fee for removing their small link in the footer is available also but the interface and functionality is great.

  24. 3776

    Just the kind of advice I was looking for, thank you!

  25. 3927

    I have my own small business and use, cannot understand why this is not on the list. Very simple and easy to use. Recommend to all small business owners.

  26. 4078

    Thanks a million for this! Love that it’s dense with value and visuals. Rare to come upon a post so relevant and charming.

  27. 4229
  28. 4380

    Use Pancake! You can completely brand and theme it!

    If you use for your online invoicing you can completely control the branding side of things, so your sweetly designed invoice will look as you want.

    Using a monthly service like any of those listed above means you need to use their invoice designs, Pancake let’s you design your invoices.

  29. 4531

    Great list! I think that your focused to much in visual appearance of the invoice, but personally I think that usability and functionality around documents is more important then visual appearance! For me (small business owner) the most important thing is the whole package, modules that I get with the app. So I searched the web and found one that suits perfectly for me. I’m using for invoicing and expense tracking and payment manager. I’m using module for sending overdue notices directly to partner email and address and also I’m sending email newsletters once a week with marketing module. I really like this app!


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