Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Professional Photographer's Invoice...

I can see some very basic information regarding how people discover my blog.  If they arrived via a search engine, it tells me the key word(s) used.  Not so much info that it gets to be Big Brother, but still enough to let me know why people are reading my blog.  

I mention this because there were several searches for creating a professional invoice as a photographer.  I was linked, because I have talked about invoicing in past blog posts.  However, I've never discussed it in much detail.  Hopefully, this will help solve that issue...  

I'm including this real invoice to help you get a better idea of what I'm talking about.  You can always scroll up and reference it, if you get overwhelmed by my random and excessive rambling.

Creating an invoice to submit to a company is very easy.  There are several ways to create it - Excel, Word, Fotobiz, Quicken and others.  You choose the program, but the basic info will be the same on all of them.  You need these basic items on it:  

First, your information NEEDS to be listed.  Your name and/or company name, with address and phone number.  Preferably an email address, too.  Why?  Someone in the accounts payable department may have to contact you with a question about payment.  Plus, they need to know who to send the check to.  Often, companies will have one person who hires you for the shoot, and another who pays you.  The payment person may not know how to reach you for questions regarding your check.

Side note: One of my larger clients does all freelance/contract payments by wire transfer to your checking account.  no paper check is mailed anymore.  They REQUIRE your email address to notify you when the transfer has been made.  Try to put it on ALL invoices these days.

Second, many big companies want your social security number, or your employer identification number (the company's equivalent of a SSC).  I put this on all my B2B invoices.  The advantage of getting an EIN is that you aren't giving your personal SSC to everyone in the world, and it doesn't really complicate tax time having two numbers to report.

Side note:  When I first started out as a pro, I had a registered business name, an EIN, and my camera.  I thought I was ready to go.  My invoices had the words "make check payable to Jason Janik".  It's funny how many people miss that and still sent a check made out to Janik Photography.  This was a problem, since I did not yet have a business banking account in the Janik Photography name, just my personal account.

This raises the question: Do you want to put your DBA on the invoice if you don't yet have a banking account with that name?  You might want to go to your bank and open a business account ASAP.  

The next thing you will want on your invoice is your client's info.  I put the business name, an attn: Joe Blow, company address, and company phone number.  The attn name is important, since many companies are huge and you'll need your main point of contact (like an editor or art director) listed.  

Next, you need a date.  This one is self-explanatory.  Put the date you create the invoice.  Sometimes, I have several days of shooting on one invoice, so a shoot date wouldn't really be best.  

Next, you need an invoice number.  I was taught this trick YEARS ago.  Use a date and a three digit code for your invoice numbers.  Always set your date as YYMMDD001, so all your invoices can be easily organized from year to year.  If you have three shoots to invoice in one day, let's say May first of this year, your invoices would be labeled 090501001, 090501002, and 090501003.  Get it?  I doubt you'll ever write more then 999 invoices in one day, so this system should be bulletproof.  

Next, list the product sold.  I put a quantity, which might be the number of hours shot at a corporate event... let's say four in this example.  Then a description, let's say it is labeled as "Standard Corporate/PR Photography Per Hour".  Then you have a space for the price.  My services start at $200 per hour, so a total of four hours for basic shooting might read as $800.  

Of course, you might have other charges or misc fees, like parking, shipping, rentals, or travel to add in.  All that would be listed the same way:  quantity of product, product description, and price per unit.  

Next, I have a spot where I can list misc details.  I might put information about the shoot there, or I might list an important order number that the client needs listed on the invoice for their internal tracking.  Either way, you have an extra space to add info, if needed.  

Next, you have a subtotal, so take that $800 for shooting, the $10 for parking, and the $20 for fedexing the images and add it all up.  That equals $830.  But you aren't done yet!  What about state sales tax?  

State sales tax is best described by your state's official website.  Every state is different, and I can't begin to discuss all the variations in percentage rates and rules.  Add to the fact that many business clients won't have to pay state sales tax, and it gets even more complicated.  If the business has a State sales tax and use permit, they may not be required to pay tax on your service.  Read more about the Texas laws here:  Sales Tax  

Side note:  Most of my clients are businesses with this permit, and are using my images to create a larger product for resale (like a newspaper with my images in it).  This is one way that sales tax would NOT be applied, but again, read your state's official rules to understand it better...  

OK, so, let's say you took photos for a client who is using the images in the packaging of their product for sale, and they provided you with their state sales tax permit number.  You won't add tax to your invoice, so you put a final Grand Total of $830.  Done!  Now email, fax, or mail it over and wait about 30 to 45 days for the check to arrive.



Anonymous elaine said...

This was very helpful! and I found you using Google to get info about invoices. Thanks!

April 19, 2010 at 11:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

thank you! this was a life saver!

October 12, 2011 at 10:28 AM  
Anonymous Shane said...

Thanks for the info Jason! Very helpful.

January 11, 2012 at 8:27 AM  
Anonymous Bill said...

Thank you for your in-depth description of what to do when it is time to be a pro. I just started my photography business in February 2012 and am realizing first hand how much documentation there is involved for what seems to be every little aspect of the business.

I was told, by many, At first document and save everything, this way your Accountant is happy. A happy accountant makes your life much better.

Trying to make all the invoicing and paperwork work in harmony may be frustrating, but it will pay off in the long run.

Thank you again.

July 7, 2012 at 5:38 PM  
Anonymous Ayush said...

wow.. there was so much that i simply was not aware of. an eye opener. thanks!

September 15, 2013 at 11:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You can negotiate terms with your customer and put it on the invoice also. For example NET 15, NET 30, NET 45 or NET 90, whatever you guys agree on. Try to slip past NET 15 first. Their accounting dept will pay it on the last day they can.

September 28, 2014 at 8:07 PM  

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