So, you’ve just completed a project for a client. You’re waiting for them to pay you for all the work you’ve done.
But, they don’t.
It’s a common scene that happens to all freelancers and small business owners.
Unfortunately, you’re likely to experience it many more times in your business.
How can you ask customers to pay you without jeopardising your relationship with them?
Firstly, asking customers to pay you for work that you’ve completed for them is not unreasonable.
However, there are more effective ways of asking for payment than sending off quick angry emails.
Below are our suggestions for the best ways to get clients to pay your invoice.
Set up a schedule of when you will email customers
You shouldn’t leave it until it is too late before you chase up a client about paying you.
Set up a messaging schedule for when you’ll contact customers. You can set up payment reminders such as the following:
- A week before payment due date
- On the day of the invoice payment due date
- A week after the due date
- Two weeks after the due date
- A month after the due date
Your business looks more professional and organized when you put in place a payment reminder schedule, rather than rude and last minute. You can easily set up automated payment reminders with our small business invoicing solution.
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Get paid faster with automated due date reminders (and without the awkwardness).
How to remind customers to pay you before the invoice due date
The emails you send your client before the invoice is due should serve as polite reminders.
You don’t want to come across as too pushy or demanding.
Make sure your email is:
- Gives customers notice to get the payment sorted
- Concise and clearly outlines what you want them to do
- Helpful and that your business can be contacted if a customer has any questions
Example email that you can send before the invoice payment due date:
From: [Your name] To: [Your client's name] Subject: Payment for [work you did] Hi [client name], I hope your customers are enjoying [the work you did]. It was great to work with you. I've attached the invoice for the work I completed. Like we discussed, the total comes to [cost] which you can pay via [payment options]. If you've got any questions, feel free to contact me. Thank you and please let me know if there is any work I can do for you in the future. Kind regards, [your name].
In this email, you’re reminding the customer that they need to pay you in a way that is helpful and friendly. You’re also flagging the opportunity to do more work with your customer in the future.
How to ask for a payment on the due date
The email you send your client on the due date should also be a polite reminder. However, this time you should be more direct about the action you want to take.
Make the focus of your email content about the invoice payment but continue to use polite language.
Example email that you can send on the invoice payment due date:
From: [your name] To: [your client's name] Subject: Invoice payment due today Hi [client's name], I trust that you are a bit busy but I just wanted to send you a quick reminder that the payment for [the work you did] is due today. I've attached the invoice to this email. The total cost is [insert amount] and you can pay via [payment methods]. Please let me know if you have any questions about the payment. Thanks, [your name].
This email should directly state the fact that the client needs to pay you today.
Avoid adding any other content to your email that could distract your customer from the fact that they have to pay you.
The language used is still polite and informative but it clearly tells them that they need to pay you today.
How to ask for a payment when your invoice is overdue
So you’ve emailed you customer several times but you haven’t heard back from them and they still haven’t paid you.
Don’t go into panic mode straight away.
Most of the time, it’s nothing personal and it probably just slipped your customer’s mind.
Once an invoice is overdue, you should be firm about the fact that it is overdue and your customer needs to pay you. However, don’t be rude because it might mean that they are less likely to pay you.
Ensure that your overdue invoice payment email reminder is:
- Firm but does not personally target your customer
- Emphasises that the payment is overdue
- Clearly states that your customer needs to pay you
Example overdue invoice payment reminder email
From: [your name] To: [client's name] Subject: Overdue invoice payment Hi [client name], According to my records, I have not yet received payment of [payment amount] for invoice [invoice number] due on [due date]. I've attached the invoice with the amount due which you can pay via [payment methods]. If you have already made the payment, please let me know. If you have not made the payment, please do so as soon as you can. Thanks, [your name].
This invoice payment reminder email template can be used at any point past the payment due date. If a late fee is written into your invoice terms and conditions or contract, you should also mention this in your email.
Even as time goes on, refrain from being rude and unprofessional. Threats and accusations will only ruin your reputation and threaten future work whether it be with your client or their friends.
General invoice tips to get you paid on time
Unfortunately, clients not paying you may be part of running your business.
However, there are a few things that you can do to protect yourself against clients not paying and prevent it from happening again. Our invoice payment tips include:
- Always record the work you are doing. Maintain clear documentation of the work you’ve done and the communications you’ve had.
- Make it as easy as possible for your clients to pay you. Offer different payment options and give them clear instructions about how they make the payment.
- Send invoices to customers straight away. The longer it takes for a client to get the invoice, the longer you’ll need to wait for them to pay it.
- Create a contract. Invoices aren’t always legally binding on their own but a contract is. Contracts can protect you from clients who do the wrong thing, especially when the services you are doing cost a lot.
- If possible, ask for a deposit or get paid upfront before you perform the service. There is no better way to prevent clients from dodging a payment than to get them to pay for it in advance.
FAQs on asking for payment from customers
What to do when customers don’t pay your invoice
Emails can be often ignored and lost in your customer’s inbox. In those cases, you should call them.
Generally, a phone call is enough to spur customers into action. You might realise that the reason customers weren’t paying you had nothing to do with them but was an error on your behalf.
Whatever reason they give you for why it hasn’t been paid can be sorted out over the phone. You’ll probably reach a solution quicker than you would over email.
For the best success when calling a client, make sure you do the following:
- Clearly explain who you are and your business
- Tell them why you are calling
- Avoid bringing up anything not related to the payment
- Speak clearly and politely
- Don’t make any accusations regardless of how heated your customer may become
- Explain what your customer needs to pay you
- Explain how your customer can pay you
- Define any late fees that customers are required to pay
Your customer may make an excuse as to why they can’t pay you. If it’s reasonable and acceptable to you, ensure you ask them to define when they will pay you. With a date, you appropriately follow up with them on that date.
If they don’t pick up your phone call, don’t panic. They might be in the middle of something else or they might not recognise your phone number. Follow the call up with a text and then call them back either in a few hours or the next day.
If you customer appears to be ignoring you and not paying the invoice, you can try visiting their office.
What to do if a customer says no to paying my invoice?
- Clearly communicate the need for payment. Explain the terms of your transaction with reference to invoices, contracts or other documentation. Talk to your customer in a respectful manner about non-payment.
- Write a letter of demand. In the event that talking does not work, you can send your customer a formal demand letter requesting payment. Write a letter in which you state the amount owed, the date by which payment is expected, and the consequences of non-payment.
- It may be helpful to hold a mediation. For large amounts, consider using a mediator for a non-payment dispute. Both parties can reach an agreement with the help of a neutral third party.
- Consider a debt collection agency for substantial invoice amounts. Be careful which agency you go with if you go down this route and try to find one that is registered to an official debt collection association. Keep in mind that this method will require you to pay the agency a percentage of the debt recovered.
- Taking legal action may be your last resort in recovering the debt. The best course of action should be determined by your lawyer.
How to politely chase up invoices
Clients not paying you is something that all small business owners will face at some point in the careers. You might feel uncomfortable about chasing them up or be worried that you’ll come across as rude.
Always remember that you are well within your right to ask for the money you’ve worked for. In summary, you can ask for payment from customers professionally with our tips below:
- Be direct in your approach but use professional and friendly language when doing so.
- Try to set up a messaging schedule so that your payment requests come across as professional conduct rather than pushy demands.
- Outline what your customers need to pay you and how they can make this payment in your payment reminder emails.
- Never make accusations as more often than not, someone has just made a mistake along the way or slipped up.
Remember that you are defined by your professional conduct and that the most important thing about business is maintaining good relationships.
Learn how to make an invoice to ensure timely payments with our small business tutorial.