Quote vs. Invoice: What are The Key Differences?

January 15, 2024

As a business owner or freelancer, it is important to know what a quote and invoice represent, and during what phase of the sales process they should be used.

James Fyfe
Co-founder - CEO

Do you need help with the difference between a quote and an invoice?

No worries, their definitions can be confusing for people that don’t deal with financials. But as a business owner, knowing the differences between quotes and invoices is essential.

A quote and an invoice are commonly used documents when completing a business transaction.

However, both serve different purposes.

A quote is an estimation of cost or offer for the potential customer to consider before deciding to buy goods or services.

If the customer accepts the price and terms of the quote, then the seller can move forward and send the potential customer the final invoice to request payment.

So while not the same, they are heavily related to each other in a business’s sales process.

In this article, we will dive deeper into the difference between a quote vs. invoice, their usage, the different types for each, and best practices when creating both documents.

A Person Doing Bookkeeping Using a Laptop

What is a Quote?

A quote, sometimes referred to as a quotation, is a preliminary estimate of the cost of a product or service offered to a potential customer prior to a sale. It is a document that details the work to be done, materials needed, labor, and the estimated cost for completing a project or service.

Quotes are a vital tool for businesses, as it enables them to convey the projected costs and terms of a project to a potential customer. Both parties gain an understanding of the project’s scope, time frame, and costs to be incurred.

Additionally, it serves as a foundation for negotiation. It helps establish a clear understanding of the work’s terms and conditions before a final agreement is reached.

A service quote helps customers also understand things such as:

  • services rendered,
  • payment terms,
  • payment options.

Formal quotes help customers make more informed decisions on the goods or services they want to buy.

What Are the Types of Quotes?

Quotes can be broadly categorized into two main categories: fixed-price and open-price quotes.

Open-Price Quote

Open-price quotes are more adaptable than fixed-price quotes, and the cost may vary depending on changes in the project’s scope or materials cost. This type of quote is usually used for projects with more open-ended specifications or when the customer is open to negotiating the final cost.

There are other types of quotes, such as time and material quotes, cost plus quotes, and unit price quotes. Each has its own use case and is tailored to specific industries or projects.

Fixed-Price Quote

A fixed-price quote is a quote in which all the costs are set and cannot be altered, regardless of any changes in the project’s scope or services requested.

Contrary to an open-price quote, a fixed quote lists each task to be completed after visiting a job site and streamlining a business’s needs.

In this type of quoting process, the customer is already on the same page regarding the scope of work. This makes it easier for the seller to justify the project’s cost, so there won’t be any disputes later on. 

This quote type is commonly used for projects with clearly defined specifications, and the customer desires a fixed cost for the project’s completion.

When is a Quote Used?

A professional quote is often used in the early stages of the sales process, particularly when a customer is considering a product or service and wants to know the cost before committing to a purchase.

Quotes are also used when a customer wants to compare prices from different vendors or when a customer wants to negotiate the price of a product or service. They are commonly used in industries such as construction, freelance work, consulting, and professional services, where a clear understanding of the cost and terms of a project are needed before finalizing an agreement.

Quotes play a crucial role in the sales process, as they can help establish trust between a business and a customer, which can lead to long-term business relationships.

Man Signing a Sales Contract

What are the Best Practices for Preparing Quotes?

When writing a quote, several best practices can help you ensure it is done effectively.

Understand Customer Requests

One of the most important things to remember is to fully understand the customer’s needs and project scope before writing the quote. This will help ensure that the quote is accurate and reflects the product’s or service’s true cost.

Additionally, it’s essential to be transparent and clear when writing a quote, including all the necessary details, such as the cost of materials, labor, and the expected time frame. This will help potential customers understand exactly what they’re paying for and avoid misunderstandings.

Be Honest and Realistic

Another important aspect of writing a quote is being honest and realistic. This means that the final costs should not be too low or too high but rather reflect the actual cost of the work.

It’s also a good practice to include any terms and conditions, warranties or guarantees the business might offer. This information lets prospective clients clearly understand what they can expect from the company.

Be Responsive and Prompt

Another critical aspect of writing a quote is to be responsive and prompt. Customers expect quick turnaround times, so it’s important to provide the quote on time. This will help establish trust and build a positive relationship with the customer.

Furthermore, it is essential to be consistent in the format and layout of the quote to make it easy for the potential client to understand and digest it.

Overall, following these practices can help ensure that a quote is written effectively, increase your chances that a client accepts your quote, and lead to long-term business relationships.

What is an Invoice?

Portant's Google Sheet Invoice Template

An invoice is a formal document of a payment request issued after a customer approved your quote. It is a detailed document that includes information such as the products or services provided, the cost of those products or services, and the transaction date. It is also used to bill the customer for the goods or services provided to maintain a business's income.

An invoice also includes details of payment terms, including the due date of the payment, and the contact information of both parties. It’s important to note that an invoice is not a legally binding document. It doesn't establish any kind of contract but serves as proof of the transaction and a reminder for payment.

An invoice also includes various other details such as the invoice number, the reference number, the payment method, and any taxes that might be added to the cost of the service or product.

Here is a more comprehensive guide from our blog on how to write an invoice so you increase your chances of getting paid.

When are Invoices Used?

Invoices play a critical role in documenting financial transactions and are typically issued after a sale has been made and the goods or services have been delivered.

There are a few instances when invoices are used to collect payment.

Record of Business Transaction
A Person Checking Busieness Transcations Paying Using a Smartphone

Invoices serve as an official record of the transaction for both the customer and the business.

Invoices are widely used in various industries such as retail, manufacturing, and other professional services, as they are an essential tool for businesses to manage their cash flow and track their financial performance.

Recurring Payment

In addition to being used in one-time transactions, invoices are also used in situations where there is a recurring billing An example is a monthly subscription service or when there is a long-term contract between the customer and the business.

Signing of a Sales Contract Between Parties Involved

Invoices are also used when payments are made in installments or when a credit system is in place.

Invoices also play a crucial role in international trade; they are used to provide customs and tax authorities with the necessary information about the goods being imported or exported.

Tracking Payments and Outstanding Balances

Invoices are also used as a means of tracking payments and outstanding balances. They are often used in accounting and bookkeeping to track expenses, revenue, and other financial transactions.

It is also important to have accurate and up-to-date invoicing records to comply with tax regulations and other legal requirements. 

Best Practices for Writing a Professional Invoice

It doesn’t matter if you are a business or a freelancer invoicing clients; to create a professional sales invoice, you need to follow some essential steps to ensure you get paid.

To write an effective invoice, it is vital to include all the essential information, such as the date of the transaction, the customer’s name and contact information, a detailed description of the products or services provided, and the total cost.

Additionally, it is essential to be transparent and clear in the invoice by including the full cost, any taxes, discounts, and any other relevant charges that may apply.

Example of the Full Costs on Portant's Invocice Template

It is also vital to include the payment terms(including the late payment policy), the due date of the payment, and the contact information of both parties. This will help to ensure clarity and understanding of the payment process.

Furthermore, including any terms and conditions and any warranties or guarantees that the business might offer can be beneficial as it helps to set clear expectations and boundaries.

Another key aspect of the invoice process is using a consistent format and layout, making it more digestible for the customer.

This can be achieved using a standard template or consistent design across all invoices.

Finally, it is important to be responsive and prompt when providing invoices, as customers expect quick turnaround times. Providing an invoice in a timely manner can help establish trust and build a positive relationship with the customer.

If you want to automate your invoicing workflow and send your next invoice via email in just a few clicks, then start using our free Google Doc invoice template, and get started in a matter of minutes.


If you are a service business or business that sells goods, quotes and invoices will become part of your ongoing sales efforts to run a successful business.

That’s why it is important to distinguish at which stage of the sales process to send a quote or an invoice to your customers and learn the best practices for creating the two documents.


Q. What is the difference between a quotation invoice and receipt?

A. A quote is a document that estimates the cost of a product or service before a sale is finalized. On the other hand, a receipt is a document that confirms that a payment has been received and serves as evidence of the purchase.

Q. Can payment be made on a quote?

A. It is not possible to make a payment using a quote as it is only a preliminary estimation of the cost of a product or service before a sale is finalized. Payment is made through an invoice primarily.

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