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Billing Best Practices for Freelance Web Designers

Proposals, Invoices, and Billing for Freelance Web Designers


When you're working with clients, you need to present a profeessional image. And this includes your communication with them to get the project as well as your invoicing or billing process. By following these best practices for proposals and invoices, you can be sure you're presenting a professional face to your clients.

Web Design Proposal Best Practices

In most cases, especially with new clients, you will need to write a proposal that details what you're going to build for them, how long it will take, and how much it will cost. A proposal can be a specific statement defining the parameters of the project, but most designers leave in some wiggle room to allow the client to negotiate what they need and can afford. Start with a Web design project request form that you have the client fill out. This will give you an idea of what they're looking for and what they can spend. Then you can build your proposal.

All Web design proposals should include:

  • Scope of work - describe in as much or as little detail as you want what the project is as you understand it. I like to get as specific as I can so that there are hopefully fewer misunderstandings.
  • Time frame - include the dates that milestones will be accomplished as well as the final launch date.
  • Cost - don't forget to mention how much the project will cost. You can be as detailed as you like. I find it helps to spell out what they are paying for and why, especially with higher priced projects.
  • Company details - include your name, your company name, address, phone number, and email contact. Don't forget to describe your company and why you are perfect for the job.
  • Privacy statements - it's a good idea to remind the potential client that this proposal is a business document between you and them. They should not be re-using this content for any purpose without your express permission.

Some other things to think about with your proposals:

  • Don't submit proposals to companies that haven't asked for them. If you're trying to find new clients, use a simple letter rather than a full-blown proposal.
  • Treat your proposals as contracts. While they haven't been signed, most proposals turn into the meat of the contract between you and your client, and the more professional you are the better.
  • Don't promise anything you can't deliver. If you don't know PHP, don't include PHP in your proposal unless you have hired a sub-contractor to work with you on that section.
  • Give your proposals an expiration date. You don't want to write a proposal and then be asked to follow through on it 2 years later when you've raised your rates by 75%.

Web Design Invoicing Best Practices

Once you have a client and you want them to pay you, you need to invoice or bill them. When you invoice may be determined by the contract, but you may also periodically submit invoices for work as you go along. Whenever you invoice you should make sure your invoice includes:

  • Your name, address, and phone number
  • How you want to be paid
  • The name, address, and phone number of your client
  • Description of the services being invoiced for
  • The date the services were completed
  • The price, including the rate if applicable, for the services
  • The total amount due and when it's due by
  • Schedule for late fees, if any

Nearly every invoice you'll ever see will have an invoice number on it. But how do you decide what that number should be? It's up to you, but here's a simple method to create a unique number for every client:

  1. Give each client a number
  2. Count how many invoices you've sent to that client
  3. Combine the two numbers as 4 digit numbers to make an 8-digit number (0s for placeholders)

Using this system, your first client's first invoice would be "00010001", and your 409th client's 23rd invoice would be: "04090023".

Tracking Invoices

Once you have your invoices sent out, you need to know whether they've been paid. The best way to do this is to sign up with an invoicing service. There are many online you can use. But if you don't want to use an automated one, you'll want to set up a system. Here's how I do it:

  • I invoice every 2 weeks to my clients, unless we've set up a different schedule in the contract.
  • Once I've sent out any new invoices, I go through my outstanding invoices.
  • If there are invoices I haven't seen payment for, the first thing I do is email the client to make sure they got the invoice and I mark "emailed" with the date on my copy.
  • If two weeks later I still haven't received payment, I call them. I write "called" with the date on my copy, and include any notes from the call.
  • Late fees begin accruing for most of my accounts after 6 weeks, so at that point, I send another invoice with the amount due and the late fee tacked on.

Hopefully you never get farther than that, but if you do, you can then move to attaching more late fees, and eventually bringing in legal counsel to get your money. I recommend that if payment is more than 6 weeks overdue, you suspend work for that client until they pay their bills.

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