Invoicing Tips For Freelance Video & Photography
When it comes to freelance video production & photography, many of us are closed off financially. This often stems from financial insecurity or discomfort with discussing the topic. But this industry often feels like the wild west: a broad wasteland of creatives operating on their own terms to build a career. Since there’s no instruction guide to this or employer making sure you get paid, we need to help each other out through trading advice.
In my past few years of experience, here’s some tips that have helped me standardize.
I use Wave for invoicing because it’s free and has robust features that fit my needs. It includes:
Free invoice management
Online payments (with credit card & bank account)
Cash flow charts (more effective if you use them for accounting)
So many other features
Wave has such a robust platform for no cost at all. It’s really impressive and I’m a huge fan of their platform.
For accounting, I use Quickbooks Self-Employed. It’s much easier to integrate into my lifestyle, with many features that I can easily use on a daily basis. Their mobile app is seriously a life-saver for accounting. Check out my article next week for accounting tips and features on QB Self-Employed.
Payment Time: Net30
Virtually all of my clients, I request invoice payments on a Net30 basis - which is 30 days for payment. I don’t enforce this with a penalty, but it lets the client know when payment is due. On average, my clients pay on average after 14 days.
Some agencies pay Net45, which is fine too. Just keep enough bills coming in to cover expenses months in advance. You should be operating with a few months of liquid income in a high yield savings account like Ally.com for slow months and late payments.
30% upfront, 70% upon completion
This will cover “gear expenses” (see below) and ensure that you don’t get completely stiffed. I’m more flexible with frequent clients and clients that I trust. So in the pre-production process, I draft up a cost estimate that includes how much I need to complete the project. This way they know how much I’ll be charging for equipment and my services, alongside any crew/props/etc. On average, the rates for projects come out to be 30% upfront, 70% upon completion. I tend to foot a little bit extra on the bill to cover expenses if I trust a client will pay the remaining balance upon completion.
Charge For Your Gear
This is also the simplest way to start raising your rate. Include the cost in your invoices as an “equipment charge” — they don’t need to know what’s rented and what you own. If they request an itemized list then charge everything as rented, because you’d be renting it to other productions if you didn’t charge for it on this production. You should always be charging for equipment costs (owned or rented) because most clients translate equipment costs to better video value. It’s a win-win.
Charge the client your “full rate” then discount to the budget range. This ensures that client understands your value, but allows you to secure the gig. Maybe give a reason for the discount too so it doesn’t seem arbitrary/debatable (examples: first client discount, holiday discount, owned equipment discount)
Smaller clients are always lost when it comes to payment. You need to tell them your preference in a straight-forward manner. I usually prefer check or venmo. Make sure the client pays in one of these methods:
Crypto (yes, cryptocurrency)
There’s no processing fee with these methods, so your payment doesn’t get chipped into. If you’re invoicing through Wave, there’s an option to disable credit card payments in the invoice settings.
Try these tips for any upcoming invoices you’re sending out. It’s an important step in the freelance process. Standardize your invoicing so you can focus your energy on the creative side of your business.