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The ABC of ELT

Invoicing for Freelance English Language Teachers

As an English teacher, chances are that you might have to invoice someone for classes or lessons they have. This could be an individual who has one to one classes, or it could be a business to whom you provide lessons. It may even be something you have to do as part of a language school to prove you have met your required hours (even if they have an obligation to prove you with a minimum number of hours and then penalize you for not giving you those hours.) I’ve had to do this for a few years in different situations now and I wanted to improve my invoicing situation. I’m still working on getting my dream invoicing system (where I basically have to do nothing and yet still send invoices and get paid) but here’s a bit of a lead in and some different Invoice for English Language teachers options you have.

What you need in an Invoice

As a teacher, you probably have a couple of simple needs with invoicing. You need to send someone a break down of the services you provided during a certain period, the rate for those services and then a summary of how much you are owed based on that information. In other words,

  • hours worked
  • rate per hour
  • total due.

You’ll also have to include:

  • who you are,
  • who the client is
  • then probably some numbers for tax purposes based on the relevant local laws in your area.

That last point I deliberately wrote as simply as I could but in truth it can be rather complicated. The only issue is I have no idea what it means for you. In my case, I have to list the relevant part of the law which excludes me from having to take “VAT”, plus put in my companies official registered number, add my business stamp, and also provide the bank details which I can be paid in…although that last part is a company requirement.

Those company requirements can get tricky as well as they may need extra information with each form and may require you to fill out a break down of the exact details of the classes you taught, on which dates and the total time for those classes.

This means lots of attention for fairly basic actions and calculations which are very important as you want to get paid quickly and correctly. Here are some soltuions. (By the way I am not being sponsored by any of these companies and have no vested interests.)

Simple Invoicing for English Language teachers

There are a variety of invoices that you can probably create today using extremely basic software that probably came with your computer or you can find online. These are found in word processors which have simply layout tools. The problem usually comes in having to re-enter the same data every week, and the risk of getting some of that data wrong. You can improve this by making a template and then using that template each time.

Google Docs

Anyone can set up a free Google account and get a Google docs account so it’s a great place to start. The fact that you can probably access your account on any computer (tablet or phone) as long as it has an internet connection and print off wherever you happen to be is also a great advantage. There are also some built in Invoicing templates that can be useful for to check out.

Microsoft Word

Microsoft word is still a widely available software option and just like Google Docs, you can get some inbuilt invoice templates to adapt AND you can find some fancier templates online which you can download for free.

Pages

Pages is apple’s alternative to Word and is free (with some conditions) when you get an Apple device, be that iPhone, iPad or Macintosh. Pages also features an invoice template which you can adapt, putting in your information and setting it up to show what classes you have taught.

Online invoicing tools

There are a few online invoicing tools which you might want to look at, some of these are free and offer limited functionality, others have some special extra functions but often have a recurring cost. In generally, these seem to be a bit over engineered for us freelance teachers but I’ll include them anyway.

Free: FreeInvoiceMaker

There are a few websites like this so I’ll just mention this service. It’s called Free Invoice Maker and it’s a site which you can use to create an invoice which you can print off (or send) online. They have a few basic areas for you to fill in. They look okay but don’t feature certain features you might want.
Check it out

Update: ZipBooks

Zipbooks is another “free” option with a cloud based system that helps you track time, create invoices and email them with a payment gateway to your clients. This is how the service pays for itself. They take a cut from every payment made via the payment gateway. If you print out invoices, well you never pay.

Check ZipBooks out

Freemium

The vast majority of the other “free” services are freemium services. So they have a free level (usually one customer, a tiny number of customers or they take a cut of any payments made online). As such I’m including these as paid options. In the second case they are taking a cut of your fee so you are paying. In the first case (few customers) they may be of limited use. In addition, most of the paid service offer similar free services to the services which advertise as being freemium.

Premium

Most of these options are aimed towards graphic designers, web developers, and similar professions. As such they tend to focus on timers and deliverables. They also tend to have payment gateways built in targeting American users. The often are free with one client (which could be great if you only have one client) and have a subscription for more than one.
Honestly, I think they aren’t set up for the freelancer working with clients not from the US or UK but, they might work for you so I’ll leave them in.

Freshbooks

Freshbooks is something I hear about all the time on Podcasts (you may have too) but I’ve never used. It has some good standard features, can link with some other service but costs $15 a month for five clients.

Harvest

Harvest is another tool similar to freshbooks but it looks like it might be better for teachers. It has a free level which can have unlimited clients (but only 2 projects…so maybe that means you can only have 2 separate invoices a month). This lacks some of the add ons but it could be worth a try.

Zoho Invoice

Zoho Invoice is the service I’m experimenting with at the moment. It has a free level which is up to five clients but that doesn’t include the cut it takes from online payment service. Luckily non of my clients pay via online payment services, instead they do bank transfers so I can use it for free. It also has some time tracking services built in too.
Finally, a key factor for me is their iPad app is pretty nice and powerful and seeing as I use my iPad for 90% of my work (especially when out and about) having the option to send an invoice quickly is great. The previous mentioned services also have mobile apps but they don’t seem as full featured or useful to me. Admittedly I haven’t spent too long with either of them due to their limits.

What about you?

How do you do your invoices? Have you got a high tech solution or something more low tech and what problems do you face? I’d love to know some of your insights.

About Chris Wilson

I’m an English Language teacher based in Krakow, Poland. I enjoy writing, using technology and playing the Ukulele.

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