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How to Properly Name Your Invoices

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There’s a special moment during every project when you’ve finally finished your work and are eager to get paid. You log in to your time tracking software and draft the invoice, but before you hit send, you have to name it.

Ugh. Really? So you start typing and end up with one of these:

  • {Project Name} 1st 25%
  • {Project Name} Second Installment
  • Final Payment for {Project Name}

You know you can do better, but it’s not a big deal and you’ve got more important things to do, right? Not so fast.

On the surface, invoice naming conventions might seem trivial, but your clients care and you should too. Every aspect of your business should be thoughtfully planned and organized. You have to get the little things right.

Most freelancers don’t spend time thinking about the best way to name their invoices, but caring about the seemingly trivial aspects of your business (that other freelancers ignore) is what will set you apart in the eyes of your clients.

Caring about the seemingly trivial aspects of your business (that other freelancers ignore) is what will set you apart in the eyes of your clients. You have to get the little things right. #freelancing #invoices #business Click To Tweet

Don’t Be Careless

It’s not that naming an invoice is such a daunting task. It’s that by the time you’ve finished your work and are eager to get paid, the name of your invoice just doesn’t feel important. But imagine you’re a client whose project is divided into 4 payments. It would be frustrating to receive 4 invoices with these names:

  • Project Name 1st 25%
  • Project Name #2
  • Invoice #3
  • Final Payment

This would be especially annoying if the client ever had to go back and find these invoices. What if they had to rename each one before archiving them because they’re more organized than you? That wouldn’t be a good experience for them.

You should always be thinking about your freelancing business form the client's perspective to ensure the decisions you're making also make sense for them. #freelancing #business #clients Click To Tweet

Be Consistent

Working with you should be simple and effortless. Consistent invoice names are an easy way to make your client’s lives easier and keep your business organized.

It doesn’t matter what naming convention you use as long as it’s consistent for the same client. That means you can experiment over time and find what works best for you based on the types of projects you receive.

A sample invoice generated using Harvest.

Related: Want to start sending $2,500+ invoices each month? Learn how to raise your rates, find better clients, and get more repeat business by joining my free weekly newsletter.

Keep in mind that your invoices should always include a few key elements:

  • Your Name + Address
  • The Client’s Name + Address
  • Issue Date
  • Due Date
  • Subject (Invoice Name)
  • Invoice ID (Unique and typically a number)
  • Breakdown / Line Item Details
  • Total Amount Due

Each invoice will likely be sent as a PDF, which means all the details above won’t be queried in a search. Not every element needs to be repeated in the subject line, but it’s important to include a few key details to make your invoice easy to search, find, and archive.

Invoice Naming Patterns

The name of your invoice (that is, the subject name and/or the file name) should be a summary of the invoice details that make finding the invoice as simple as possible. Below are a few examples of the most common naming patterns I’ve use for my invoices over the years.

If I know exactly what phases I’m doing, I’ll name the project and the phase:

  • Invoice for {Project Name} Deposit
  • Invoice for {Project Name} Wireframes
  • Invoice for {Project Name} Visual Design
  • Invoice for {Project Name} Development
  • Invoice for {Project Name} Final Payment

If it’s an ongoing retainer where there’s no known end date or I’m doing a variety of work, I’ll use the date range as the invoice name:

  • Invoice for {Client Name} UI/UX Design (06/01/2018 – 06/30/2018)
  • Invoice for {Client Name} UI/UX Design (07/01/2018 – 07/31/2018)
  • Invoice for {Client Name} UI/UX Design (08/01/2018 – 08/31/2018)

If it’s an ongoing retainer where I’m invoicing the same amount each month, I’ll include the month:

  • Matt Olpinski + {Client Name} Monthly Invoice (September)
  • Matt Olpinski + {Client Name} Monthly Invoice (October)
  • Matt Olpinski + {Client Name} Monthly Invoice (November)

If I know the exact number of invoices I’m sending, I’ll include the invoice number:

  • Invoice 1 of 2 – Matt Olpinski UI Design for {Project Name}
  • Invoice 2 of 2 – Matt Olpinski UI Design for {Project Name}

Your invoice names should always have a logical, predictable pattern for the same client. The payment schedule you establish with the client should help you determine the best naming conventions upfront.

This consistency will help you stay organized and keep your clients happy by making each invoice easy to search, find, sort, and archive.

Time Tracking & Invoice Software

I’ve been using Harvest for years to track time, send invoices, and record income. It’s an elegant, yet powerful tool with a handy mobile companion app. It even handles, expenses, fixed-price projects, teams, ongoing retainers, and advanced reporting.

harvet app

Harvest is just $12 a month for 1 person and unlimited projects. It’s perhaps my most used freelancing tool and after 6 years I’ve never needed a feature that it didn’t offer. If you sign up via the link below, you’ll get your first month for just $2.

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Helpful Tips

Every time you send an invoice, you’re asking your clients for a significant amount of money. This is a critical (and memorable) moment in your relationship where that client has to watch hard-earned money leave their bank account.

If your invoice looks unprofessional or it’s difficult to find, your clients might think twice before hiring you again. Don’t give your clients any reason to think you might not be the perfect person for their project.

  • Strive for consistency when naming the invoices for each of your clients
  • Make your invoices easy to search, find, sort, print, and archive
  • Include key details such as dates, your name, project name, or invoice number
  • Think from your clients perspective to make their life easier
  • Pay attention to the little things so you can stand out from the crowd

Last updated on April 10th, 2020

About Matt Olpinski
Matt runs his own web design and development company Matthew’s Design Co. and teaches thousands of freelancers how to succeed through his personal blog, newsletter, and community for freelancers — The Freelance Institute.
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