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The purpose of this article is to help you get paid when a client isn’t paying their invoices on time. You can prevent this situation by keeping outstanding invoices from killing your business.
Before you send a nasty email open your calendar, get your copy of the invoice you sent, and get your facts straight. (Your LessAccounting invoice dashboard has all this information.)
Don’t embarrass yourself by jumping on a customer without knowing what you’re talking about.
Set aside the factors that are beyond your control. If the post office lost your invoice, or the customer’s spam filter ate your email, that’s not your fault. Stick with what you know and what you can control.
Some businesses give a customer two weeks past the due date, while others give them one week. There are even those that contact the customer before the due date, just to remind them it’s close.
Pick what you think is reasonable. Test it on your customers. Tweak it if necessary.
As the first means of contact, most businesses start with email. It’s a low-stress solution and it might be a quick fix.
After all, your email may spur the customer into action.
Maybe it is something simple like a spam filter issue.
The customer reads your reminder, feels bad, and sends you the check that same day.
So don’t go into a rage on that past due invoice letter. In fact, don’t rage in any of your contacts. Be cool and professional. Anger and threats won’t help what is already an awkward situation.
Let’s look at some email examples:
Here’s an example of an email that’s clear yet friendly:
I hope this note finds you well. I want to follow up on an invoice I emailed on April 1. I haven’t received the payment yet, so I wanted to ensure the email isn’t lost somewhere in depths of cyberspace. Would you please check to see if the accounts payable department has received it? I’ll be happy to resend if necessary. Otherwise, I look forward to receiving payment within a week.
I really appreciate your help! Thanks!
See what Ms. Adams does here? She states when the invoice was sent, but takes into account that accidents happen. Maybe the original email was lost?
Also, note that last line in the paragraph: “I look forward to receiving your payment within a week.” This is a classic “Call to Action.” She makes it clear she expects the payment, and she expects it within a certain time period.
Here’s one from Patrick Coombe of Elite-Strategies that uses subtle, but effective tactics.
We wanted to touch base with you about your account here with us. We hope that you are satisfied with the services that we’ve been providing over the last 4 months, and based on your feedback on our last phone call we’ve noted that you are satisfied based on the amount of return you’ve been getting on your investment with us.
As of last week, your account is past due. We are a small business and each payment is necessary to fuel our operations, which includes the in-house technicians that we pay to work on your campaign.
You can pay us by check, credit card, or PayPal.
If you have any questions, please let us know and we’d be happy to respond.
Thank you for your patronage.
Mr. Coombe reminds the customer of their past satisfaction with his service. He goes on to explain why payments are vital to a small business, and he gives the customer three options for payment. If you’ve had problems with a particular customer in the past, you may want to take a more direct tone.
Depending on your plan and your patience, very Late can be two weeks late or two months late. But you know the statistics now, so you realize that the longer this drags on, the less chance you will be paid.
The very late email is the last one you will send. Some people skip this step and go on to the phone, but maybe you’re not ready for that uncomfortable conversation quite yet. So here are some examples you can use to write your own very late email.
This first example maintains a friendly tone, but has several points we can learn from:
I hope you have are enjoying a productive week.
Request: Payment or a phone call today to discuss payment options.
I noticed that your invoice is overdue by 25 days and wanted to reach out to make sure that you received our original invoice and my reminder email on 5/15.
I’m concerned that you may not be aware that your invoice is 25 days overdue to reach out to you immediately before a late fee of X% is added to your outstanding balance.
.. I have included it here just in case you hadn’t received it or misplaced.
Could you please reply to me via email or call me directly at 800-908-1568 by the end of the day and let me know you received this?
As a reminder we do take payment by CC, direct deposit or with a check.
If you have any questions or concerns regarding the service we provided on 5/1 or on your outstanding balance please call me personally so that I can make sure that you have an excellent experience with us.
As always we are grateful for your support and loyalty.
Garrett Miller of cotria uses the format above. He points out exactly how late the bill is, and mentions a possible late fee. To make sure the customer read his email, he asks them to email or call by the end of the day. This model is warm, but still calls for action.
You took control of a bad situation.
The customer didn’t pay, and that sucks, but you did something about it. The information above gives you a lot of options and concrete examples of how to carry them out.
Take what works for you, use it, and teach it to others. The next time a customer doesn’t pay, you won’t panic because you’ll be ready. You have a plan.
So what happens if nice emails don’t work???