For the purpose of this blog post, the assumption is going to be made that you're freelancing, rather than part of a company that you're employed by.
As of 2018, there are just under 18,000 people employed as photographers, and just over 8000 businesses registered as photographers.
Working as a photographer is hard- you spend a lot less of your time behind a camera, and a lot more of it chasing up clients, generating new business, and doing paperwork. Generally speaking, there's more time focused on running the business than there is pressing the shutter button.
Therefore, it makes sense you'd want to spend as little time as possible when it comes to invoicing whilst still maintaining a proper and professional standard- the standard you hold your photographic work to.
Before we delve into different ways to bill and the best way to go about invoicing, lets take a look at what you'll need to do to get yourself set up if you haven't already.
The first thing you'll need to do is set up some form of company to make it easier to handle your finances and deal with your taxes. In the UK, you have two choices when it comes to forming a company: Sole Trader, or a Limited Company (LTD).
Both have their advantages and disadvantages in the way of the amount of paperwork you have to do yourself, the amount of tax you'll pay, and the amount of personal liability you'll be exposed to. By heading over to the HMRC website, you can read about the differences between the two. It would also be worthwhile to chat with other freelancers to get an idea of what type of company would best suit you as an individual.
Billing as a photographer
There are a few different ways to bill clients within the creative industry- which itself varies upon the type of work being done.
- Hourly rate plus cost
- Per project
- Day (or half day) rate
Regardless of how you're billing, don't forget to include anything extra such as prints or licensing (if they aren't already included as part of the overall cost). Alternatively, you can include a set number of prints (or licensing terms)- it's entirely up to you how you'd prefer to go about it.
Why bill using these methods?
Depending on which route you decide to go, will naturally have an effect on how much you can make as a photographer. Below are the most common ways of billing a client:
Hourly rate, plus costs
When billing with an hourly rate plus costs, you can be sure that what you get paid is the amount of work you did- there's no chance that you might accidentally charge less than you planned if things take more time.
The possible downside is that the client might well attempt to use this hourly rate as a way of getting a discount- or nitpicking to remove any items they don't think are necessary to bring the total cost down.
When first starting out, this is the most common way of invoicing a client for your time.
On a per project basis, you have the advantage of getting more of the money up front. Either you can ask for the full amount before work starts, set milestones for the project so payments are in installments, or for a percentage of the total amount as a deposit with the rest being paid once work has been completed.
The potential negative of billing on a per project basis is revisions and changing what was originally agreed upon. When the client wants to change something, more time is put in which you've already charged for, and therefore can't ask for more on top of- even if things begin to get out of hand.
The end result is that there's a chance you'll end up doing more work than you get compensated for.
This can be a tricky method to figure out, especially for freelancers just starting out because it's likely that they will underestimate the amount of time the project will take and therefore the amount they've charged won't be high enough to cover costs.
Day (or half day) rate
For event photography it is common to set a day rate, meaning that there is a minimum cost regardless of the work carried out (or at least for the job to be accepted). This is useful for projects that will take some time and are quite involved, but don't necessarily span a large amount of time like a project would.
The problem with a day or half day rate is that some clients are likely to balk at the price because it will be set higher than an hourly rate which they might be more used to.
What should my invoice include?
- Invoice number: The format of the number can be whatever you like (e.g. 2018-01), but the numbers must be sequential and there must be no gaps between numbers on invoices issued.
- Date of issue: The date you've sent the invoice to your client.
- Date of expiry: The date that the invoice is considered overdue if payment hasn't been made
- Company details: Your own company details (company name, address, contact details, VAT no. etc).
- Customer details: their details (company name if they have one, address).
- Description: Each line of your invoice must include a description of what you're charging for, as well as the amount of hours per item (if billing hourly). If billing by project or day rate, a more thorough description might be appropriate- breaking down each item.
- Total: A total amount payable.
If you're using invoicing software such as Debitoor, then all the things you need to include will already be accounted for- all that's left for you to do is fill them in. If you've already saved customers under your contacts within Debitoor, along with your products, then you can save yourself some time by having these automatically fill in when you select them from the drop down menu.