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How to get paid

Trade show stand of illustrator Abigail Burch
Abigail Burch's stand at Pulse 2018. Photo by Damian Griffiths

Always agree how much you will get paid - and when - with your client before you start the work. Ideally, you should get this in writing to ensure there is no misunderstanding. Send an invoice promptly after you have completed the work.

Invoices

An invoice is the bill that you send to your clients to get paid. You normally send an invoice when you have delivered your products or completed providing your services.

In certain circumstances you may want to be paid before delivery of goods or services (e.g. if you are delivering products to a new retailer, working on a large commission or an international project). If you have agreed to be paid up-front you should send a pro forma invoice, which is a binding agreement.

You need to keep a copy of all your invoices (and any invoices you receive from your suppliers) as part of your financial record for HMRC, the government’s tax department.

Many accountancy programmes such as Sage or apps such as QuickBooks have invoicing tools.

Save your invoice as a PDF to prevent any information being changed and send it to your client via email unless your client has requested a paper copy.

Download our invoice template: Invoice templates (PDF 1335KB)

What to do if you haven’t been paid

If your invoice says that you require payment in 30 days and you haven’t been paid, call the client to check that they have received your invoice and intend to pay it. Some large companies have longer payment terms (e.g. 3 months), so it’s worth talking to your clients about payment before you start work.

If they have changed their mind but have signed a contract, you have every right to have that order fulfilled, regardless of whether or not you can resell the products. Follow up with a reminder invoice by email and by post. If that doesn’t work, you might consider visiting them in person.

If none of the above works you can send a ‘letter before action’; a letter stating that if the contract isn’t fulfilled within seven days, formal court proceedings will begin. A free ‘letter before action’ template is available on the Citizen’s Advice website.

Receipts

If a customer buys something from you and pays straight away (for example at an exhibition or market) you’ll need to issue them with a receipt instead of an invoice.

You can buy paper receipt books with carbon paper for events if people pay by cash. Brands such as iZettle now offer simple and affordable kits to take card payments and email receipts to customers.

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