How shoulder surfing threatens your security – Lexington Law

The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, act as legal, financial or credit advice. See Lexington Law’s editorial disclosure for more information.

Shoulder surfing is the act of peering over someone’s shoulder while they’re entering personal information—like a PIN or password—in public. It’s a practice commonly used by identity thieves to ascertain login credentials that are then used for scams, fraud and other criminal activity.

Shoulder surfing is the act of peering over someone's shoulder while they're entering personal information—like a PIN or password—in public, according to the U.S. Army Cyber Command.

Where Shoulder Surfing Occurs

The practice of shoulder surfing began with telephone booths as people would enter credit card information or their PINs on the keypad. It then spread to other areas with keypads, such as ATMs and gas pumps. 

Today, shoulder surfing is even more common due to the prevalence of smartphones, tablets and laptops. Identity thieves have mastered the art of subtle observation and keen listening, and they may even record people on a smartphone from a distance to review the footage later.

The fact is, shoulder surfing may occur anywhere groups of people are gathered. A 2016 survey found that 73 percent of mobile device users had observed someone else’s PIN—although malicious intent was not always indicated.

A 2016 survey found that 73% of mobile device users had observed someone else's PIN number, according to NYU Tandon School of Engineering.

Shoulder surfers may obtain sensitive information when people are doing any of the following:

  • Filling out forms that require personal information—both paper and online
  • Keying in a PIN at an ATM, point-of-sale device or gas pump
  • Entering login information on a mobile device, laptop or tablet in public
  • Verbally disclosing credit card information over the phone

How Shoulder Surfing Can Affect Your Credit

In the world of credit, shoulder surfers may misuse your sensitive financial information to make purchases using your account. Depending on the amount of information gathered, they may even open a new account or take out a loan in your name. 

If an identity thief runs up your credit card or exceeds the limit before you can catch it, it may cause your credit utilization to surpass the recommended 30 percent, which may hurt your credit score. 

If the identity thief applies for new credit cards or loans, this would likely cause new hard inquiries to appear on your credit reports. If there are multiple hard inquiries within a short time period, your score could drop substantially.

If the criminal fails to make payments on your stolen credit account—which is likely—then your credit score could see a serious dip until you’re able to clean up your report.

How to Prevent Shoulder Surfing

Shoulder surfing is a unique threat, but it can be easily prevented with proper security measures. The majority of Americans don’t know they’ve been affected by a data breach, and many still make crucial financial security mistakes, so adequate awareness is key. Consider the following safety precautions to stave off sneaky shoulder surfers.

Avoid Transactions on Public Wi-Fi Networks

According to our financial security survey conducted earlier this year, 17 percent of Americans reported making a purchase on a public Wi-Fi network. While encryption has made public networks safer, online shopping is still not risk-free. Approximately five percent of the top 10,000 HTTPS websites have security flaws that make them vulnerable to criminal hacking. To be safe, any transactions in public should be made on a cellular data connection.

Nearly one in five Americans have made purchases on public WiFi networks.

Cover Keypads and Touchscreens

Position yourself strategically when entering sensitive information. For example, if you’re in a high-traffic area like an airport, sit with your back to the wall to mitigate the possibility of someone peering over your shoulder. If you’re entering a PIN, cover the keypad with one hand while typing with the other. Additionally, consider a privacy screen filter for your computer or laptop, which prevents wandering eyes from reading your screen.

Create Strong PINs and Passwords

Use long PINs and passwords with a mix of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers and symbols. Consider using a secure password manager that stores login information automatically, reducing the need for manual entry. Whenever possible, use biometric authentication like facial recognition or fingerprint readers. 

Don’t Disclose Personal Information Out Loud

Avoid over-the-phone transactions that require you to speak or enter account information in public. When asked to share your Social Security number or account number in public—like with a bank teller—write it down instead of saying it out loud. Then, ensure the paper is shredded immediately after use. If you’re ever suspicious of why you’re being asked for sensitive information, ask. It may not be necessary.

Consider Contactless Payment

Forms of contactless payment—most notably, Apple Pay, Android Pay and Google Pay—add another form of security to your transactions, because they don’t require you to enter a PIN or swipe a card. 

When it comes to avoiding identity theft and fraud, staying alert is crucial. If you suspect you may have fallen victim to shoulder surfing, first check your bank statements for any unusual activity. You may also want to review your credit report for any inaccurate information, which may negatively impact your credit score—even if it wasn’t your fault.

Lexington Law can help you dispute questionable negative items on your credit report. Contact us for a credit consultation to get your finances back on the right path.

Reviewed by Cynthia Thaxton, Lexington Law Firm Attorney. Written by Lexington Law.

Cynthia Thaxton has been with Lexington Law Firm since 2014. She attended The College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia where she graduated summa cum laude with a degree in International Relations and a minor in Arabic. Cynthia then attended law school at George Mason University School of Law, where she served as Senior Articles Editor of the George Mason Law Review and graduated cum laude. Cynthia is licensed to practice law in Utah and North Carolina.

Note: Articles have only been reviewed by the indicated attorney, not written by them. The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, act as legal, financial or credit advice; instead, it is for general informational purposes only. Use of, and access to, this website or any of the links or resources contained within the site do not create an attorney-client or fiduciary relationship between the reader, user, or browser and website owner, authors, reviewers, contributors, contributing firms, or their respective agents or employers.


How to negotiate with creditors

If you are dealing with calls from debt collectors, getting notices for overdue bills you still can’t pay or have old debts you’d like to settle to clean up your credit report, you may be able to take action. Many people don’t realize that all debts aren’t written in stone, and you may be able to negotiate with creditors to move your finances in a more positive direction. Here, learn how to negotiate with creditors and when it’s a good option to try.

When should you try to negotiate?

Negotiating with a creditor usually involves trying to get them to accept a debt settlement. This means that you agree to pay a portion of the debt instead of the full amount, and the creditor accepts this. Creditors are sometimes willing to agree to these arrangements because they know that an account already in collections is less likely to be paid, and they would rather have some money than none at all.

Working out a debt settlement can help you get current on accounts again or help you pay off old collection debt. However, there are some things to be aware of.

Successfully negotiating a debt settlement doesn’t make the debt go away completely. It will still show on your credit report until it ages off after seven years, and even if the creditor marks it as paid, the negative payment history can still affect your credit score. In some cases, starting to make payments on the debt again as part of a settlement agreement can also restart the statute of limitations on the debt.

In addition, you need to be prepared for possible tax consequences. Sometimes, when you successfully get a debt lowered by $600 or more, your creditor will send you a Form 1099-C. This means that the amount forgiven is considered income and may add to your tax bill.    

10 steps for negotiating with creditors

Attempting to negotiate with creditors can be intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be. Use these 10 tips to help you prepare a plan, handle the actual negotiations and be ready to follow up as necessary.

1. Be honest

It’s important to be honest as you negotiate with creditors. Saying you can make payments that you’re not able to follow through with or over exaggerating financial problems can actually make the situation worse. It can also make it more difficult to work together with the creditor for a mutually acceptable solution.

When you’re negotiating with creditors, know exactly how much you can pay and when. Be clear and factual when explaining factors, such as a layoff, that may have contributed to the issue.

2. Stay calm

It’s normal to be frustrated, worried and even angry if you’re in a position where debt collectors are calling, but it’s important to stay calm and professional when interacting with creditors.

For example, if you’re trying to get a creditor to remove a late payment from your report, you may remind them that you haven’t missed a payment before. Then, you can let them know that you were injured and unable to work for a few weeks, but you’re back to work now and future payments won’t be a problem.

Getting emotional can also indicate to creditors that you are in a desperate situation, and some may try to capitalize on this by being unwilling to negotiate or saying you have to make a payment before you’ve gotten the agreement in writing.

3. Have cash available

When you call a creditor to try to negotiate a debt settlement, it’s important to have the cash available right then. You’ll still want to wait to make a payment until you have the agreement in writing, but many creditors can send this via email instantly, which means you’ll need to be ready to pay soon thereafter.

Instead of giving creditors access to your banking information, consider using a prepaid card to make your payment or do a wire transfer.

4. Present a plan of action

Any time you try to negotiate with someone, it’s important to know exactly what you want out of the deal and what you’re willing to give, also known as the “terms” of the deal or settlement. Going into the negotiation with a plan shows the creditor that you’re serious about trying to settle, and it provides an instant starting point so you can get to a resolution faster. Knowing what you want also helps you stick to the plan if the creditor tries to get you to pay more or accept different terms.

5. Ask for modified loan terms

In some cases, you won’t be able to negotiate for a debt settlement. The creditor may be unable or unwilling to accept the settlement, or it may be something like a mortgage or student loan that isn’t eligible for settlement. In these cases, you can still try to negotiate certain aspects, such as interest rates or minimum payment amounts, or ask for a forbearance to help give you more control over your financial situation.

6. Cover worst-case scenarios

There are times when negotiations aren’t possible because you don’t have the money to pay. In these situations, the best thing to do is be honest with the creditor. Let them know that you want to pay but can’t and that you probably won’t be able to pay in the near future either.

Mentioning bankruptcy may help motivate the creditor, as they would rather get a little bit of the money than lose it all under the protection of a bankruptcy. They may be willing to accept a small amount of money instead of nothing at all.

7. Be persistent

Creditors can be difficult to negotiate with, and you may have to call multiple times and present your settlement offer only to have the creditor refuse to settle. Don’t give uyp and continue to be honest, courteous and matter-of-fact in all of your interactions. Also, don’t be afraid to call back and try again if the creditor refuses to negotiate the first time.

8. Keep a record

Always keep written records for every communication you have with a creditor. Record important details like the date, time and length of the call, the name of the person(s) you spoke to and general notes on the conversation.

9. Practice follow-through

This ties into the first point, but when you’re dealing with creditors, it’s important to always follow-through with what you say you are going to do. If you set up a payment plan, make sure to actually make the payments as promised. Creditors deal with people facing financial difficulties and strain on a daily basis, and they may be more willing to negotiate with those who are taking steps to help themselves.

10. Get professional help

While you can do everything that a credit counseling agency can do, this doesn’t mean that you should. Dealing with creditors requires a great deal of time and energy when it comes to making phone calls, dealing with paper trails and keeping records of who said what when. A professional company or attorney can sometimes help take some of the burden so you can focus on continuing to work toward a better future.

What if negotiation doesn’t work?

While negotiating with creditors can help in many situations, there will be times when it doesn’t work. Whether the creditor refuses to negotiate or your financial situation is dire enough that negotiations aren’t going to actually make a difference, there are other debt relief options, such as bankruptcy, that you may want to consider. Filing for bankruptcy is serious and is usually considered a “last-resort” option. If you think that your situation may require filing for bankruptcy, make sure to speak with an experienced bankruptcy attorney who can discuss the details of your case.

Reviewed by John Heath, Directing Attorney of Lexington Law Firm. Written by Lexington Law.

Born and raised in Salt Lake City, John Heath earned his BA from the University of Utah and his Juris Doctor from Ohio Northern University. John has been the Directing Attorney of Lexington Law Firm since 2004. The firm focuses primarily on consumer credit report repair, but also practices family law, criminal law, general consumer litigation and collection defense on behalf of consumer debtors. John is admitted to practice law in Utah, Colorado, Washington D. C., Georgia, Texas and New York.

Note: Articles have only been reviewed by the indicated attorney, not written by them. The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, act as legal, financial or credit advice; instead, it is for general informational purposes only. Use of, and access to, this website or any of the links or resources contained within the site do not create an attorney-client or fiduciary relationship between the reader, user, or browser and website owner, authors, reviewers, contributors, contributing firms, or their respective agents or employers.


What is a Subprime Mortgage & How Does it Work

Subprime mortgagesSubprime mortgagesWhen you are in the market for a mortgage, you may be told by a lender that you qualify for a subprime mortgage. What you will notice is that the loan will be offered at a higher rate than conventional loans. This raises a few questions; what is a subprime mortgage and how does it work? Read on to find out more on this.

Subprime Mortgage refers to a mortgage that lenders typically offer to borrowers with low credit ratings.  People usually mistake ‘subprime’ as reference to the interest rates that these kind of loans attract; the term however refers to the credit rating or score of the borrower.

How Subprime Mortgage Works

To understand how subprime mortgages work; let’s look at the different requirements that lenders impose on these loans.

Credit Scores for Subprime Mortgage

This class of mortgage is typically offered to borrowers whose credit score is below 640 points. That said lenders have varying ‘cut off’ points for different classes of loans. It’s possible to get lenders who will offer subprime mortgages to customers with as low as 500 points. With such low points, one cannot qualify for a conventional or ‘prime’ mortgage.

Credit scores are used as a measure of a person’s credit worthiness. Fico scores are the most widely used credit scores and they are calculated from information found in a consumer’s credit report. The scores are given in a range of between 300 and 850 points.

Higher scores present a picture of a borrower who is good at credit management; a person who is capable and willing to pay off a loan, hence such borrowers present an acceptable level of risk. As such they are offered mortgages at lower interest rates and other less stringent terms.

On the other hand, borrowers with low credit scores are seen as bad credit managers. As such they present a high risk to the lender since they are deemed potential defaulters. To mitigate this risk, lenders can refuse to finance such people and if they do it at tougher terms are imposed.

Down Payment on Subprime Mortgages

Before the financial crisis of 2007, borrower could get loans with zero down payments. This held even for those with less than stellar credit histories. This however changed when the housing market crashed. Since then you can expect to pay at least a 5% down payment on a home even with an excellent credit score.

Since the housing crisis was largely blamed on subprime loans, paying a down payment on them became a necessity. While prime loans go for low down payments, subprime borrowers typically put a down payment which is 3 percent points higher.

Subprime borrowers are also held to a much stricter verification process; this includes a thorough look at the source of the down payment, current and future income prospects as well as other lines of credit.

Loan Terms on Subprime Mortgages

There are several classes of subprime mortgages. This are classified depending on the loan term and the interest rates structure. Here are the common ones;

Fixed-Interest Mortgages: This loan is offered on a 40 to 50-year term. It comes with low monthly payments but at much higher interest rates.

Interest-Only Mortgages: For this loan, the borrower only pays interest; borrowers are  not be required to repay the principal amount at least during the initial term (first 7-10 years). Thereafter, he can repay the principal or choose to refinance.

Adjustable-Rate Mortgages: With ARM loans, a borrower will begins with a fixed interest rate and later the rate is adjusted. Typical ARM mortgages come at 2 to 3-year fixed rates to begin with and switches to variable rates for the remaining term.


Subprime mortgages are a good option for prospective homeowners with bad credit history. As such they could be the only reprieve for borrowers who have previously been declared bankrupt or whose debts outweigh their income. These loans come at high interest rates than conventional loans and also at higher down payments. They also attract more scrutiny of a borrower’s finances before approval.

For assistance with credit repair and getting approved for a conventional loan, contact Credit Absolute.


Final days: Earn up to 90,000 Delta SkyMiles on Delta credit cards, bonus now exclusive to TPG – The Points Guy

Earn up to 90,000 SkyMiles with new welcome bonuses across Delta cobranded cards – The Points Guy

Advertiser Disclosure

Many of the credit card offers that appear on the website are from credit card companies from which receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). This site does not include all credit card companies or all available credit card offers. Please view our advertising policy page for more information.

Editorial Note: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.


Last chance: Increased Amex Delta offers expiring – The Points Guy

Last chance: Increased Amex Delta offers expiring soon – The Points Guy

Advertiser Disclosure

Many of the credit card offers that appear on the website are from credit card companies from which receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). This site does not include all credit card companies or all available credit card offers. Please view our advertising policy page for more information.

Editorial Note: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.


Sephora Credit Card Now Available (4% Rewards At Sephora)

In March it was announced that Sephora would be launching co-branded credit cards with Alliance Data. Those cards have now launched and are available for sign up. Currently there are three cards available:

  • Sephora Credit Card (store card)
  • Sephora Visa® Credit Card (and Visa signature)

Card Benefits

  • Card earns at the following rates:
    • 4% back in rewards on purchases at Sephora
    • 1% back in rewards on purchases outside Sephora (Visa cards only)
  • 15% off your first card purchase at Sephora
  • $20 Sephora credit card reward after you spend $500 outside Sephora within the first 90 days (Visa cards only)

Our Verdict

Overall this card is fairly basic, the 4% back in rewards on Sephora purchases is nice but using the card outside Sephora doesn’t make any sense at all because other cards earn 2%+ cash back on all purchases. I guess if you spend a huge amount of money at Sephora signing up for this card could make sense, but realistically you will be better off signing up for a card with a large sign up bonus instead.


Freelance Invoice Templates – What to Include & How to Draft

Freelancing is a great option if you want the freedom of choosing the work you do and the flexibility of dictating your own availability. But, like everything else, freelancing comes with a learning curve for most.

Being highly skilled in your given area of expertise doesn’t necessarily equate to knowing your way around the financial aspects of working for yourself.

A good place to start is with professional invoicing. Properly billing your clients will help you to get paid on time and via your preferred payment method. It also helps to document your income and track payments from individual clients, keeping you organized and on top of your financial freelance game.

What to Include in Your Freelance Invoices

Although every professional freelancer will need to include different details in their invoices, there are a number of standard basics you should have.

1. Contact Information

Contact information for both you and your client is essential for any invoice. At the very least, be sure to have:

  • Your client’s business name and address
  • Your name, company name, address, phone number, and website

Including contact information in your invoices serves a few purposes:

  • It helps to organize your information by client
  • It gives the client a number of ways to contact you with questions or concerns
  • It helps to distinguish the tax amount you should charge based on your client’s location

2. Invoice Number

Each invoice you send to a client should have a unique invoice number. Regardless of how you choose to number your invoices, each one should be customized every time you send an invoice to a client, whether it’s for the first time or you bill them regularly.

For example, you can order invoices in a variety of ways, including:

  • Basic sequential invoice numbers, starting at 001 for your first invoice, 002 for your second, and so on
  • Using years or months with an individual invoice number (2022-001 or 2022-01-001)
  • Mixing letters and numbers to indicate a specific client associated with an invoice number (like GS-001 for Greg Smith’s first invoice)

Invoice numbers allow you to track payments for specific billing periods, helping you to keep track of which invoices have been paid and which clients need a gentle reminder.

Don’t spend too much time worrying about how to organize your invoice numbers. If you only send out a few invoices per month, keep it simple and straightforward. You can always change or update your numbering system when you get a new client or come up with a better method.

3. Payment Information

The purpose of your invoice is to get paid, so it makes sense that you would include payment information on it. But there are some details that may not have crossed your mind that help you to get paid on time and using the method you prefer.

Include the following information to get paid when and how you want to:

  • The date you send the invoice
  • When payment is due
  • How the client can make a payment
  • Any additional payment information, like who to make payment out to or what email address to use

It doesn’t have to be complicated. You can write a message as simple as, “Please make payment via PayPal to within 14 days.”

As long as you include the sent date and the payment terms, it will be easy for the client to determine by when they must pay your invoice. And adding in your payment details means you’re more likely to receive payment via the method you prefer and to the account associated with your business.

Plus, by not including a specific payment due date, you won’t have to update it each time you send a new invoice.

4. Service Description and Cost

The biggest and most detailed part of most invoices is the section where you describe the services you rendered and their associated costs. How you detail this information will vary greatly depending on what you offer and how you bill your clients.

Most invoices will include a column for:

  • Quantity of items, like how many articles you wrote or webpages you created
  • A description of the items, like a blog title or client phone call
  • How the price is calculated, if applicable, such as the cost per hour or per unit
  • The total price for each individual line item

For example, a line item for a blogger could look something like this:

Number of Hours Description Hourly Rate Total
5 Article (10 Best Hiking Spots) $25.00 $125.00

Individual line items should clearly indicate what a client is being charged for, how much your rate is, and the total amount for the project. Breaking information down into sections keeps both you and the client organized and on the same page.

If you have multiple rates with a single client, break your invoices into sections by including a table like the one above for each separate pricing structure.

For example, your rate might be different for writing versus editing. If you provided both services to a client in the same billing cycle, break out your writing charges from your editing charges as separate line items on the invoice.

5. Additional Charges or Discounts

Before you calculate the total amount due, account for any additional charges or discounts that apply to your client’s bill, such as:

  • Taxes
  • Costs for subscriptions, materials, or supplies the client has agreed to pay for
  • Deposits
  • Promotions
  • Outstanding amounts owed from previous bills
  • Travel costs being reimbursed by the client
  • Charges for work that you subcontracted to another freelancer

Describe these billable amounts and their corresponding costs in the same way you document your services. Group any additional costs together so that your invoice is easy to read and understand.

6. Total Amount Due

At the end of your line items, include the total amount due. This amount is made up of your service costs, additional charges, discounts, and any applicable taxes or fees. It’s the total amount due for your billing cycle that you are asking the client to pay.

If you have clients in other countries, designate the currency the invoice is in as well — for example, CA$2000 or US$400. If a client pays you in a foreign currency, make a note of how much you received in your native currency to keep your accounting records up-to-date and accurate.

7. Payment Terms

One of the last items on your invoice will be your payment terms if you have any. These are typically made up of payment-based clauses outlined in your initial contract with a client, such as:

  • Interest charges or late fees for past-due payments
  • Accepted payment options, such as debit or credit card, e-transfer, or check
  • Typical invoice due dates
  • Whether you offer discounts for early payment

This section of your invoice shouldn’t be long. It should simply reiterate the payment terms that were in your original contract without going into specific details or legal jargon.

Including a brief reminder of your payment terms in each invoice ensures your clients are consistently aware of your expectations for timely payments and the consequences of partial or late payments.

Not only does this information act as a reference point should any payment disputes arise, but it also encourages your clients to pay you on time and in full.

8. Optional Invoice Upgrades

After you put together the basic elements of your invoice as described above, you can make some small upgrades to your invoice template to boost your professionalism and to improve whatever invoicing system you use.

For example, you could:

Use a Logo and Branded Colors

If you have a logo for your freelance business, your invoice is a great place to showcase it. The same goes for any brand colors you use on your website or in any of your other professional documents, like your contract or quotes.

Well-designed freelance records set you apart from other contractors who use generic, basic templates by highlighting your professionalism and legitimacy as a serious business owner.

Create and Send Digital Copies

Online invoicing is the way to go if you’re a freelancer. Not only are digital invoices easier to send and harder to lose than their paper counterparts, but they also make keeping track of your records a breeze.

Ideally, you’ll want to save a PDF version of each invoice you create to send to your clients and to save on your computer or cloud storage.

If you have a client who requests physical invoices, it’s still a good idea to make a digital copy for yourself. Doing so will help you to avoid the hassle of losing or misplacing your only copy and having to start over again.

Add a Thank-You Message

A simple thank-you message at the bottom of your invoice is a great way to add a little warmth to your freelance business. It shows clients that you appreciate them and softens your request for payment by adding a personal note of appreciation.

For example, you can say:

  • Thank you for your business!
  • Thank you for supporting freelancers!
  • Thanks for supporting local businesses!

If you send physical invoices, consider writing out or signing the message by hand for added personalization.

How to Make a Freelance Invoice Template

You have a variety of options when it comes to making your own invoices. You can use invoicing software, or you can do it yourself.

Most accounting software comes with invoicing tools, so if you already use a platform to track or accept payments, check whether you can use it to make invoices as well.

If you want to use an invoice generator, you can find free invoice templates on the following platforms:

Or, you can draft your own using a freelancer invoice template from:

Regardless of which method you use, save time by keeping your invoices consistent and using the same template each time. Customize each invoice for each billing cycle to include the correct line items, amount due, and payment due date.

Why Freelancers Should Use Professional Invoices

There are many benefits to using professional invoices as a freelancer.

1. They Help You to Get Paid on Time

One of the major hassles of being a freelancer is having to chase after payments. When clients pay on time and in full, it means that you can cover your bills and budget accordingly. But, when they don’t, you could be left scrambling to cover your expenses and make ends meet.

Providing clients with clear and straightforward information about the total amount due, when to pay it, and accepted payment methods leaves little room for error or miscommunication. Sending accurate and thorough invoices builds your reputation as a professional and legitimate small-business owner.

2. They’re Great Accounting Records

Invoices are ideal records for a variety of accounting purposes. For example, they come in handy:

  • When tracking client payments or unpaid invoices
  • During tax season to calculate your total income
  • If disputes arise and legal action is necessary
  • For budgeting, to know how much you can expect within a billing cycle

3. They Give You Control Over Payments

As a freelancer, some payment methods are more convenient than others. For example, cash and checks can be less than ideal because you either have to wait for the mail to come or set up an in-person meeting with a client to receive these forms of payment.

Invoices help to set and enforce payment terms, like the payment methods you accept and when you need to be paid by, making your freelance life easier. Although you may need to make exceptions for some clients, consistent payment terms outlined in your invoices leave less room for interpretation.

Final Word

There really is no downside to using invoices as a freelancer. From making you look more reputable and professional to increasing your chances of getting paid in full and on time, invoices come with an abundance of benefits.

Whether you use accounting software like FreshBooks, or you create your own templates, make sure your freelance invoices are clear, consistent, and customized for each client to maximize the advantages great invoicing can offer you.


Is a Smart Home a Smart Buy?

Any home can become “smarter” with the addition of a smart speaker to access Alexa, Cortana, or Siri hooked up to thermostats, light switches, television sets, and the garage door. Add a Ring security system, and a robot vacuum cleaner and your house will probably be the smartest in the neighborhood.

Most homeowners can buy and install these themselves, but owners can’t compete with a smart home built from scratch by a professional home builder. They have all the amenities listed above plus excellent Wi-Fi in every room, switches that unlock doors and dim lights, sensors and camera to detect motion and smoke, motorized blinds, a gizmo that turns water faucets and showers off and on, and a hub using Z-wave technology hooked up to a router to make sure everything runs smoothly. About 35 percent of all newly built homes today come with at least one device that uses smart-home technology.

smart homesmart home

Smart home builders believe an “automated home” gives them a competitive advantage over existing homes and traditionally-built new homes that require owners to get up and open the front door when it rings and turn a faucet manually. Automated homes are particularly popular with millennial buyers.

Pros and Cons of Smart Homes


  • Some systems allow you to better monitor and regulate your energy use.
  • Lighting and remote communication help keep your house secure when you are away by creating the illusion of someone being at home.
  • Automation can even adjust watering times for your garden or lawn.
  • Checking your doors and windows remotely reduces your security concerns while you’re away.


  • Available systems are incredibly varied. Be sure to research your system thoroughly before you buy.
  • Different brands aren’t always compatible with one another.
  • Most systems have a monthly subscription fee. It’s important also to be aware of the additional fees hidden within contracts. Read contracts thoroughly to avoid unpleasant surprises.
  • All systems require power to operate, so be sure your home has a backup power supply. Blackouts and brownouts can render your systems inoperable. Smart home automation systems won’t work without a reliable internet connection.
smart home hubsmart home hub

Cost and Value

An automated home system that is bought and installed by the owner can cost from $40 for a starter kit to $15,000 for a hardwired system, according to Jeff Collins of the Orange County Register. Hardwired systems are preferable to wireless and are much easier to install as a house being built than retrofitting an existing home. Most builders consider smart home technology to be a standard feature and do not charge more for it.

For a homebuyer considering buying a home, a built-in hardwired smart home system will add value to the home and make the home easier to sell, just as homes with central air conditioning systems are worth more than homes with window units. As time passes, smart home living will become part of American home and hardwired systems will become the norm. Hardwired systems will become a standard feature, and homes without them will be penalized just as buyers expect to find central air conditioning today.

Steve Cook is the editor of the Down Payment Report. He is a member of the board of the National Association of Real Estate Editors and writes for several leading Web sites, including Inman News. From 1999 to 2007 he was vice president for public affairs at the National Association of Realtors.