Invoice format tips for beginners

Small Business Guides

3 min read

Sending clear and complete invoices ensures you look professional, and helps you get paid on time. Here are the dos and don’ts of invoice formatting.

Basic invoice format – what goes where

Your customer has just opened your invoice. Here are the 7 things they should see – going from the top of the page to the bottom:

  1. Your details
    Your name and contact details are required. If you're VAT registered, include that number. And your company number too, if you have one.
  2. Their details
    Identify the person or organisation that you’re billing, and include their physical or email address.
  3. Invoice number and date
    Make this big and bold. If you call about an invoice and quote the number, it should be easy for your customer to pick it from a pile.
  4. Description of goods or services
    List the products or services supplied. Put costs against each item so customers can see how the bill breaks down.
  5. What the customer owes
    Most people want to see the cost before anything else so bold it. Make sure you’ve applied any discounts and added tax, if you're VAT registered.
  6. Customer reference
    If your customer has given you a reference or purchase order number, include it. This will increase your chance of being paid promptly.
  7. How to pay
    Tell them when the money is due and how they can get it to you. Include links for credit card payment, for example, or account details for bank transfers.

Use our free invoice template

Templates will help you get your invoice format right, because all the fields are preset. You just have to open it up and fill it out.

Download our free invoice template.

You can give yourself a head start by setting up templates for specific types of jobs, or certain customers – with a lot of the details already filled out.

Bonus tips to save hassles

  • Include a foolproof set of instructions telling customers how to pay.
  • Put the invoice number in the file name and email subject line so it’s easier to search.
  • Convert your invoice to a PDF (or send an online invoice) so it’s harder for frauds to interfere with it.

Keep your invoices simple (and short)

Limit your invoice to a single page, if you can. It’ll be easier for your customer’s office staff to process.

There will be times – hopefully a lot of times – when you’re invoicing a really big sale. If you can’t fit it all on one page, provide a summary on page 1 and add details to subsequent pages.

After you've got invoice formats nailed

After you’ve been in business for a while, and you've got your invoice formats straightened out, you'll want to speed things up. Smart invoice templates can do things like remember your prices, total costs and add taxes for you. Find out how software can automate these tasks and others.

Knowing how to format an invoice is just the start

A clear, well laid-out invoice is your first step to getting paid, but there’s much more to do. Check out our other invoicing guides to help you get what you’re owed.