Originally published as 'How To Invoice Like A Pro' at CutCommon Mag
Why is it so uncomfortable for freelance classical musicians to talk about money?
Freelancers in other industries, particularly tradesmen, manage this end of their business efficiently and confidently, but self-employed musicians often struggle with the process of quoting, invoicing and chasing payments.
My suspicion is that our awkies are because small business skills are not compulsory in our education. When national statistics show us that almost all music graduates are self-employed, higher education must reform to meet the needs of the 21st Century working musician to improve graduate outcomes.
Playing your instrument well will not create a career in music. There are plenty of great musicians who are struggling financially and feeling out of control of their career. You need to develop business savvy and entrepreneurship to elevate your talent into a sustainable career. Many musicians choose to care only about the music, and this ends up being their downfall.
If you need to learn or brush up on your booking, invoicing and credit control skills, here is a step by step guide. The most important factor is that you choose to maintain control of the process from start to finish. By establishing a business-like, professional expectation and staying organised, you have a best chance of being paid the agreed rate at the agreed time.
1. Get it in writing
You must get everything in writing. No exceptions! If you have had an offer of a gig over the phone, ask for an email confirming all details. Make a diary reminder to follow this up if you haven’t received it in 48 hours. Remember, you can choose to be in control of this process. You are not bothering the organiser by asking for this information, it is a reasonable and standard expectation.
When the email comes through, check it thoroughly to ensure the details correct and it contains all the required details (see the example below). If you have not received an email in 48 hours, here is a sample you can use:
Dear [Insert Name]
Thank you for your call, I am really looking forward to performing with you.
Confirming these are the details we agreed:
- Gig Name
- Start and Finish Times
- Payment [cash or cash cheque on the day] or [invoice with payment in 14 days]
[Insert Your Name] [Insert Your Number and Website]
2. Managing payments
If payment is by invoice, have this printed and take a copy with you to the gig to hand to the organiser and also email as a pdf, not Word document, to the organiser. Make a diary reminder to check for payment two days before the invoice is due; if you have not received payment, send the organiser a polite email reminder that payment is due.
Dear [Insert Name]
Thank you inviting me to perform at [Insert Gig Name], I really enjoyed the gig and look forward to performing with you again in the future.
Confirming that as per my email of [insert date of original email], payment is due 14 days from the invoice. Could you please ensure this payment is processed in the next 2 days.
I have attached a copy of the invoice.
[Insert Your Name] [Insert Your Number and Website] [Insert Invoice]
When creating an invoice, you should include all the details from your original email – e.g date of invoice, invoice number, name and contact details of the organiser, your name and contact details gig name, date, time, location, fee and don’t forget the payment method including bank details if required.
3. Ditch the awkies
Just like we work at our technical repertoire or orchestral excerpts, practising this stuff makes it easier even though it might be awkward and uncomfortable at the beginning. You are not being difficult by insisting that this process is followed, it is standard business practice.
5 minutes: copy the template emails here and save somewhere you can access at all times.
30 minutes: set up an Excel spreadsheet to track all your gig income in one place which will make it easier at tax time and save it somewhere you can access at all times. Or investigate a small business accounting package. There are plenty of online, low cost, easy to operate products available.
1 hour: then create your own invoice template in Word and save somewhere you can access at all times. Remember that this needs to be emailed as a pdf, never a Word document which can be edited by others.