Creating a professional-looking invoice not only helps to legitimize your business or service; it enables you to get paid accurately and efficiently. When creating invoices for your organization or for yourself as an independent contractor, you should be sure to always include the following:

Header: The word INVOICE should be in large letters centered across the top of the document.

Payer’s Name and Address: The company or person that is issuing the payment, along with the mailing address, should be listed.

Payee’s Name and Address: The name of the person or company being paid should be listed, along with the mailing address; the payee’s email address will also suffice. If the mailing address is unknown, the invoice will be delivered through email, and the payments will be transferred electronically instead of by check.

Itemized Listing of Goods or Services: Depending on the type of work that is being billed, a description of the work that was done should be listed. For example, if the invoice is for a certain product, the product name, quantity, per-unit price and total price should be listed on the invoice, typically in columns that run vertically on the page.

If the invoice is for services (for example, the completion of a design or writing project), then the name of the project, a brief description of the type of work (i.e. graphic design, writing) and the hourly or flat rate should be listed. If it is an hourly rate, the number of hours worked should be included. If payment is per piece, each piece completed should be listed separately.

Underneath the listing of products or services being billed, there should be an invoice total that’s clearly marked to avoid any undue confusion.

Date: It’s important to include the date the invoice was issued, as well as the date(s) of the work completed or when the products were ordered or delivered—you can discuss this preference with your client and/or business to make processing easier for both of you.

Invoice Number: An invoice number is not generally required, but it may help in keeping invoices organized. Larger organizations often have complicated billing systems that may require a certain invoice number or code. Remember to discuss this with your client before submitting your invoice. No matter which system you use, be sure that the invoice number goes up incrementally each time it is sent.

Terms: You’ll want to be sure to note the payment terms. Whether the payer or the payee, it’s important that everyone has an expectation of when the payment is to be made. Most invoices have a 30-day term, meaning they must be paid within 30 days of receipt to avoid any late fees or penalties. This is usually written as “Net 30” on the invoice. Every organization should establish their own payment terms depending on the type of business they do and the type of vendors with whom they work.

Most invoices are created with either Microsoft Word or Excel, and there are templates built into those programs that can be used as a base. Many people prefer Excel, but you may consider saving your invoice as a PDF so that it is less likely to be tampered with by the recipient (and they can read it even if they don’t have Microsoft Office).

There are very few requirements for an invoice, but including these pieces can help ensure you get paid on time.