Invoice Guide for Self-Employed & Sole Traders

9 min read
  • Facebook icon
  • Twitter icon
  • LinkedIn icon

Need to create an invoice? Read our one-stop guide to invoices from the product experts at QuickBooks, including step-by-step instructions for your UK business.

You’ve set up a business and sold your first products or services. Now you need to write an invoice to send to your customers to ask for payment. Alternatively, you may have been in business a while, but want to make sure your invoices are professional and include all the necessary details.

What is an invoice?

An invoice is a document used to record and itemise transactions between a buyer and seller. If you’re a sole trader or self-employed and registered for VAT, you’ll need to send an invoice to be paid for your work by customers who are also registered for VAT.

What should all invoices include? 

Whether you’re self-employed or a sole trader, all invoices have some key features. If you’re creating an invoice from scratch or using a template, you should include the following information:

  • Company name, address and contact information (Company number if applicable)

  • Business logo

  • A unique invoice identification number

  • Client name and address

  • A description of the goods or services you are invoicing for 

  • The date of the invoice 

  • the amount(s) being charged

  • VAT amount if applicable

  • the total amount owed

These will give your client the contact information they need to stay in touch about payment. A professional invoice helps to build trust, avoid late payments, and clear up any confusion.

How to create an invoice - a step-by-step guide

Now you know what an invoice is and what it should include, use our step-by-step guide.

1) Choose a professional layout or template

You might think that fine-tuning the layout of your invoices is time wasted, but in business, every document you send to your customers should look professional. 

Using fonts and styling that match your branding, including a business logo and maintaining consistent formatting will all help to create the right impression.

Using our free invoice generator is a great place to start.

Other ways to create an invoice template

Google Docs 

To create an invoice template in Google Docs, follow these instructions after logging into your Google account.

  • Click the “+ New” button and scroll down to Google Docs. Click the arrow next to it and select “From a template.”

  • Type “invoice” in the search bar on the templates page; this shows a variety of invoice templates, so you can select the best option for your freelance business.

  • Tailor the page using the invoice template selected. You can add or remove custom entry fields as needed.

Microsoft Word

Within Microsoft Word, there are pre-existing invoice templates that can be used if you’re self-employed or a sole trader. Use these instructions to create an invoice within Word.

  • Open Microsoft Word and on the main page click “New” on the left-hand sidebar.

  • Navigate to the search bar in the middle of the page, type in “invoice” and hit enter, and then choose the invoice template that suits your needs as a freelancer.

  • Update your new template as needed, then save it to your computer. Keep in mind that you will also be able to save it as PDF so it is easier to send it to your clients.

Microsoft Excel

Within Microsoft Excel, there are pre-existing invoice templates. Use these instructions to create an invoice within Excel.

  • Open Excel and on the main page click on “New” on the left-hand sidebar.

  • Navigate to the search bar in the middle of the page, type in “invoice”, hit enter, and then choose the invoice template that suits your needs as a freelancer.

  • Update the invoice template as needed to fit your freelance business needs, then save it to your computer.

2) Add your company name and client details

Every invoice you send out should have your business name clearly displayed in a large font at the top of the page. It can either be centred or left-aligned. 

You should also include the word ‘invoice’ at the top of the document so that your client will know exactly what they’re receiving and who it’s from straight away.

Next should come details about your company and the client. You should include the following:

  • Your company’s address and contact details (this may be your own address if you’re self-employed or a sole trader)

  • Your customer’s company name and address, along with a contact name to make sure it reaches the right person - if you’re not sure what contact name to include, always give the client a quick call to check

  • If you operate a limited company, you should also include your formal registered name, company registration number and VAT registration number

3) Include an invoice number, supply date and issue date

According to the website, there are certain details that, by law, every invoice should include. Among them is a unique identification number, also known as an invoice number. An invoice number is essential because it gives you an easy way to track whether payments have been made and who made them. 

Your invoice must also include a supply date, which is when the goods or services were provided. You’ll also need an issue date, which is when the invoice was sent to the customer. Failing to include any of those details can potentially cause payment delays and lead to invoices being rejected by your clients.

4) Write a description of the goods and services provided

You should give a brief description of each of the products and services you’ve supplied on a separate line along with their associated costs. The description does not need to be particularly detailed, but it should be enough for your customers to identify what they’re paying for. 

Without clear product or service descriptions, your customers are far more likely to query an invoice. That could cause unwelcome payment delays.

5) Calculate the subtotal and grand total

As well as detailing the quantity of each product or service provided and the associated costs, you should also provide a subtotal and grand total, with each on a separate line. The subtotal should be the cost of the goods and services before any fees or tax. The grand total should be the full amount owed, including VAT, shipping costs and any discounts that may apply.

6) Provide payment terms and options

If you’re self-employed or a sole trader, you should always discuss your payment terms with your clients before you agree to do business with them. That will help to reduce the risk of late payments and make sure your expectations are understood. You should also include a payment due date on your invoice and make sure that it’s clear.

It’s also important to set out the different payment types you accept and provide the information your customers will need to make them, such as bank account details. Giving customers a choice of payment methods can be beneficial; the easier the process is, the faster they’re likely to pay you.

Given the late payment culture in the UK, it’s also worth explaining the actions you’ll take if a payment is not made on time. You’re legally entitled to charge interest at a rate of 8% plus the Bank of England base rate on late payments for business-to-business transactions. You should state your intention to do so in the invoice’s terms and conditions.

Sending professional invoices out on time means you get paid faster. Discover how QuickBooks makes all the difference.

Buy now & save 75%

7) Include a personal note

It’s always nice to include a personal message in the invoice to lighten the mood and leave a positive impression. You may want to thank the customer for their business or offer them a future discount.

Next steps to collecting customer payments

Once you’ve written your invoice, the next step is to record it and send the invoice to your customer. The easiest and fastest way to send an invoice is online. That way, you know there won’t be any untimely delays that could potentially damage your cash flow.

If you’re looking to simplify your invoicing process, consider using QuickBooks’ easy to navigate invoicing software to speed things up and improve your cash flow.

Benefits of using QuickBooks invoice software 

As a small business, using invoice software can save time. With QuickBooks, you can easily send customised, professional invoices from your phone or computer. Here are some benefits:

  • You can convert estimates to professional-looking invoices in no time

  • Flexible billing, so you can easily apply late charges, discounts or tax

  • Invoice in multiple currencies, with automatic adjustments for country

  • Spend less time chasing payments with an online invoicing feature

  • Give customers a variety of options for payment, including PayPal

From avoiding the awkwardness of chasing up customers to setting up recurring invoices, using QuickBooks streamlines your invoicing and allows you to focus on your business.

Manual invoices vs invoice software

Here are the key differences between creating a invoice manually and using specialist invoicing software.

Invoice software

  • Create and send different templates with an optional ‘Pay Now’ button 

  • Track outstanding invoices and get an alert when they’re paid or viewed

  • Send payment reminders to customers to help ensure you’re paid on time

  • Set up regular recurring automatic invoices on a schedule if you need to

  • Pull in customer information automatically to use across your invoices

Manual invoices

  • Involves more steps to create and send, and for customers to pay you

  • Requires entering details each time and calculating sale information

  • Need to be manually tracked, organised and monitored every time

  • Payment reminders and past-due payment invoices aren’t automatic

  • Late payments from your customers can lead to cash flow problems

In summary, using a template makes it easier to invoice companies or clients for your work. But, using invoice software is even easier.

We hope you’ve found this article about how to write an invoice useful. If you want to learn more about invoicing and getting paid on time, visit our small business blog.

The information on this website is provided free of charge and is intended to be helpful to a wide range of businesses. Because of its general nature the information cannot be taken as comprehensive and they do not constitute and should never be used as a substitute for legal, accounting, tax or professional advice. We cannot guarantee that the information applies to the individual circumstances of your business. Despite our best efforts it is possible that some information may be out of date. Any reliance you place on information found on this site or linked to on other websites will be at your own risk.

QuickBooks is here to help.

We hope you’ve found this article about how to write an invoice useful. If you want to learn more about invoicing and getting paid on time, visit our small business blog.


  • Facebook icon
  • Twitter icon
  • LinkedIn icon