Here’s a (blank) example of the invoice that I send to clients after I finish freelance projects
It’s pretty common that I see a lot of freelance illustrators, designers, and photographers use something that looks like it was pulled from a base template in MS Word — your bank statements are probably nicer to look at. Functional, they may be, but I think invoices, (just like your resume,) are another place to express yourself visually to your clients, and may just be a cherry on top to a lasting impression.
I don’t think an invoice has to be over-the-top, and you usually don’t want to include images or textures because if your client prints it out, chances are more than not it will be from a black and white laser printer — so if you use colors in your formatting, they have to still be perfectly readable in grayscale. A background texture that may ordinarily be readable in color can make text illegible in gray.
What I think is most important is to visually distinguish your invoices as being important documentation, or very obviously “I AM AN INVOICE.” Something that makes things easy for your client to 1) not lose track of it and 2) more easily find YOUR invoice since it doesn’t look like the mounds of others they may have on the virtual table. (For all I know, these are probably not even real problems — but I like to help out any minor way I can.)
Remember to include stuff like an invoice ID number, both in the file and in the file name. Something unique, (like a date, like 121107,) that they can toss to you in case any mention of an invoice has to come up, both parties will know exactly which one is being referenced. Whenever possible, save it and send it as a PDF. They’re more universally readable (and HARDER TO EDIT) than any other format.
My design for ESTIMATES are the same as this one, except they’re blue, and the bar on the side is solid — not striped. On my estimate is where I list all of my terms and conditions, such as all work performed will have to be paid, additional rates based on certain other tasks, etc, all that.
Lastly, be sure to have a “THANK YOU / FOR YOUR BUSINESS” on there somewhere. You want your invoice to seem like something positive by the end of it, not a bill for utilities.
I do all of my layout design like this in Adobe InDesign. But you can easily do this same kind of stuff in MS Word, Apple Pages, hell even Google Docs — and that’s free!
With all that, there’s little excuse, as an artist, to give your client invoices that look like these.