You've done the shoot, your client is happy, and you're sure your photographs have broken new ground in the history of image making. But now it's time to pay the rent. Learn how to write a professional invoice for your services.
This article has been contributed from the Summer 2008 issue of Resource Magazine, courtesy of the publisher. To subscribe to the magazine and explore Resource’s online features, visit the Resource Magazine website.
We live in a society, people, and within this society there is order, a way of doing things. Aaron Burr didn’t just show up in Weehawken one day and pop Alexander Hamilton in the spine with a .54 caliber bullet ball on a whim. He did the legwork. He wrote letters. He outlined explicitly what he was owed and explained in no uncertain terms that he intended to collect what was his—a simple apology. That was over two hundred years ago, and not much has changed. We’re not big on duels anymore, but getting paid is still very much in style. Luckily for people like us, that means writing a professional invoice, not killing people in New Jersey. Invoices are an extension of your personality, professionalism, and your overall outlook on mankind in general. If you send a client a clumsily written document asking for a couple hundred bucks like you’ve got a can of Pabst in your hand, chances are that’s the way you’ll be treated. You’ll probably get paid, but the phone won’t be ringing any time soon. So look alive, you business-savvy animals; this is how to look good on paper.
They say just writing your name is worth something on the SATs, but this is the real world where trains leave Cleveland heading east at 59 mph and other trains head west from Philadelphia at 76 mph. Who cares where this high-speed collision takes place unless one of them is carrying your check. Putting an emphasis on your name, address, SS number (or EIN one if you have a company), the date, and other contact information atop the invoice isn’t the worst idea you’ve ever had.
People love logos. They’re exciting, they make us hungry, and they instill confidence in those who do business with you. A company letterhead is like a sexy haircut, and sexy haircuts are never wrong.
Writing invoices is a lot like solving mysterious crimes—both weigh heavily on the fine print. But we don’t traffic in corpses and Zodiac ciphers, so always remember to include the job and invoice numbers, and any other particulars that pertain to the specific job you are referencing.
Let them know you’re thinking about them by including their mailing information on the invoice. Everyone loves attention, and it shows that you care enough to know who the hell you’re doing business with.
Here it is: your day in the sun. It is crucial to outline exactly what work you’re being compensated for, and what equipment was used. You also need to list days worked, the names of any assistants, transportation costs, and any other fees or expenses that apply to the job.
Sum It Up
The amount you’re owed is by far the most important thing in your life, and it should be lethally accurate. A slip of the calculator can lead to some serious bullshit and you don’t need that. Numbers can get confusing after a long day, so check the total and check it again. If you’re not sure, ask your weird neighbor with all the computer equipment to take a look at it. He may wear a robe all day, but he’s just the kind of dude you need for this sort of work. Never make eye contact, and do your best not to look at anything in his apartment. People are killed every day for knowing too much. Who are they writing this thing out to? You, that’s who, and the world’s a better place because of it. Below the description, give them the name your parents gave you (or your company’s name), and everybody wins.
Following in the fine tradition of Colonel Burr, be nice. Even though Hamilton deserved exactly what he got, Burr never acted in any way unbefitting a gentleman, and neither should you. Regardless of your experience, don’t forget to thank the client. Decorum goes a long way in this world, and we would all do well not to forget it. If you really feel like making someone’s day, include an extra copy of the invoice. It may just be a disembodied voice you’ve been dealing with, but somewhere in the world there is a healthy, breathing, living human being that could use a simple favor. Make up for all the times you didn’t rewind Road House back in '89. It’s the right thing to do.
Sign that thing on the dotted line like you know what you’re doing and treat yourself to a genuine pat on the back. You’ve done your job and you’ve done it well. Now you’ll be compensated accordingly, like a real person in the real world with a real job. And in case you don’t read the newspapers, the best thing you can do with your money is spend it as fast as you can wherever you can, like you’re some sort of loose cannon. Preferably on a nonrenewable resource or meat. Do it for your country. God save the king.