What is a Shipping Invoice and How to Create One [2024]

Shipping Invoice

If you’re a business owner who plans to export your goods to a buyer in another country, you will need to provide a legal document that will serve as proof of agreement between you and the carrier. For this, you will have to use a shipping invoice.

A shipping invoice is a document that goes by many names and is primarily used by sellers who send their shipments overseas. But why is this document so important, and how do you make one?

In this article, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about shipping invoices and show you how to create them effortlessly using an invoice generator.

So, let’s get right to it!

What is a Shipping Invoice?

A shipping invoice serves as a binding contract and an agreement between you, the shipper, and the freight carrier. Also known as a "bill of lading," "trucking invoice," or "freight invoice," this legal document outlines the details of a shipment, such as:

  • Type of goods transported
  • Country of origin of each item
  • The quantity of goods
  • The total cost
  • The final destination of the shipment

This invoice must be shipped along with the goods sold so that both the shipper and the person receiving the shipment can sign it.

It’s most commonly used in international trade, and it can also be used as a shipping receipt once the goods reach their final destination. Essentially, a shipping invoice serves as evidence that the items sent by the seller have been transferred in good condition.

What is the Difference Between a Commercial and a Shipping Invoice?

People often mistake a shipping invoice for a commercial invoice, as the two documents are quite similar. Still, in fact, they are completely different.

Firstly, a shipping invoice can function as a title of ownership because the responsibility for the products shipped is transferred to the carrier while in transit. Once the buyer receives the products, ownership of the shipment is transferred to them.

On the other hand, a commercial invoice can serve as proof of sale and agreement between two parties, but it cannot function as a title of ownership.

Secondly, a commercial, or a business invoice, is required to identify the products being sent. This way, the customs officers can determine the shipment’s worth based on the taxes and other rates applied. A shipping invoice doesn’t specify any taxes or any other duties applied.

What Should a Shipping Invoice Include?

If you want to avoid any issues with your shipment, your invoice needs to include all the necessary information. Here’s a breakdown of everything you must include in your shipping invoice:

#1. Shipper and Receiver’s Contact Information

The first section of your shipping invoice needs to clearly display your contact information, such as your full name, phone number, business address, email address, and a website (if you have one).

You also need to precisely enter the receiver’s contact details, including their name, phone number, address, etc.

When filling out this section of your shipping invoice, make sure to double-check everything. Your contact information needs to be correct, as the other parties may need to get in touch with you if there seems to be an issue with your shipment.

#2. Date, Invoice Number, and a Reference Number

To avoid delayed shipments and any difficulties with governing transport laws, make sure to include a date and a unique invoice number in your document.

Properly numbering your invoices can help you keep track of them, which can make the annual filing of taxes and filling out the W-2 form much easier.

But, most importantly, you need to enter the purchase order number or a reference number. These numbers are necessary for record-keeping purposes and for releasing the shipment for pickup or delivery.

#3. Shipment Instructions and Notes

In this section, you need to include any particular instructions and notes about your shipment for the carrier. You can specify whether the shipment will be subject to a special designation depending on its contents.

For example, if you’re sending hazardous materials, you need to specify that they’re hazardous so that the shipment will be handled with care.

You must also choose the manner in which your goods will be shipped, such as sea, air, or land transportation.

#4. Descriptions of Goods and Pick up-Date

Next, you must describe the items that have been shipped in detail and state:

  • Price per unit
  • Quantity of the product
  • Type of container (e.g., box, envelope, etc.)
  • The gross weight of the containers

Also, don’t forget to include the overall net and gross quantities of the shipped items and the pick-up date.

#5. Price and Value of the Shipped Items

Once you provide a breakdown of your goods, you need to specify the exact price of the shipment, along with its commercial value.

#6. Additional Notes

In the “Additional notes” section, you can include any additional charges that your customers need to pay, such as service pricing, export transit, shipping services, etc.

You can also include a “thank you” note to maintain a friendly tone.

How to Make a Shipping Invoice

Now that you know what to include in your shipping invoice, you’re probably wondering how to make this important document. You can either create it from scratch on your own using tools such as Microsoft Word or Excel, which can be quite difficult and time-consuming, or use an online invoice generator.

Using an online generator is considered a much easier and more efficient method, as it only requires you to:

  1. Fill out the required information in an invoice template
  2. Review your document
  3. Download your invoice in PDF form

Once you’re done, you’ll instantly be able to print out your invoice so you can send it along with your shipment or forward it to the buyer of your goods via email.

Benefits of Using an Invoice Generator

Besides being an easier method of creating an invoice, you should use an invoice generator because it:

  • Saves you plenty of time. Instead of wasting time manually creating your shipping invoice from scratch, you’ll only need to fill out the empty fields in the template. On top of that, you can reuse the template for different clients.

  • Gives your documents a professional look. An invoice generator will provide you with a template that’s designed according to your preferences and has a professional look to it. This will ensure your clients know you mean business, and you’ll be more likely to stand out from the rest of your competition.

  • Makes bookkeeping as easy as pie. By using an invoice generator, you will get a digital copy of this important document. This means that you’ll be able to store your invoices safely on a cloud, where you can access them at all times. To top it all off, your documents will be safe from any natural disasters and cyber threats.

Different Types of Invoices

Besides the shipping invoice, here are some other invoice types you can create with an online generator:

Invoice Type


Freelance Invoice

This type of invoice is commonly used by freelancers who charge for their work at hourly or daily rates.

Writer Invoice

This type of invoice is used by both part-time and full-time writers.

Construction Invoice

A construction invoice details the work completed on a construction site, outlines the project, breaks down the required materials, etc.

Photography Invoice

As its name suggests, a photography invoice is used by people who provide all sorts of photography services.

Credit Invoice

Also known as a credit memo, this type of invoice is used to detail a refund.

Deposit Invoice

With a deposit invoice, you can ask to receive part or all of the money for your work in advance.

Contractor Invoice

A contractor invoice is used by independent contractors who bill clients for the goods or services provided.

Tax Invoice

This invoice type is used by sellers of services or products that are subject to taxes.

Advance Invoice

An advance invoice is usually sent to the client or customer before the work starts.

Final Thoughts

At the end of the day, if you plan on shipping your goods to a buyer from another country, you will need a shipping invoice. You’ll be able to use the document instead of a shipping receipt, and on top of that, it can act as proof of sale.

If you don’t want to waste any time creating your shipping invoice from scratch, feel free to use our online generator. We’ll provide you with a personalized invoice template that is easy to fill out and can be used for multiple different clients!

Key Takeaways

  • A shipping invoice is a legal document that outlines the details of the shipment and serves as a binding contract between you and the carrier.
  • The biggest difference between a shipping and a commercial invoice is that the latter can’t be used as proof of sale, while the former can.
  • Typically, a shipping invoice should include the shipper and receiver’s contact information, reference numbers, shipment instructions, and a description and price of the shipped goods.
  • Although you can make a shipping invoice manually from scratch, the best way to go about it is to use an online invoice generator.


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