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Professional Invoice Follow Up: A Guide to Getting Paid Faster (with Templates)

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We’ve all been there. “I don’t want to seem too pushy” and “Maybe they haven’t seen my invoice yet” are probably some thoughts that ran through your mind the last time you didn’t see a payment in your bank account or accounting software. A past-due invoice is risky to your business. Instead of waiting a few more days, following a professional invoice follow-up process is key to improving cash flow, decreasing the likelihood of past-due invoices, and sustaining a healthy relationship with your client.

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How to follow up on outstanding (past-due) invoices

A past-due invoice is a payment a customer hasn’t made by the due date agreed in the invoice payment terms that you set out. Late payments are not only risky to your business, but consistent ones are detrimental to cash flow.

When you’re dealing with past-due payments, the important thing is to not panic and stay positive, even if you have to work a little harder to collect.

Here is a step-by-step process for dealing with a client who doesn’t pay an outstanding invoice on time:

1. Be polite and courteous

Don’t be afraid to reach out to your client to communicate a past-due invoice. Ideally, you should be in a position where you have enough ongoing communications with them anyway, so that it doesn’t feel completely out of the blue. When you reach out, do it in a polite, respectful manner. Remember, no one responds well to an aggressive message!

Here are a few ways to do it:

Send a quick email

Request payment by sending a quick email. Indicate the invoice #, the payment due date, and end it with a request for action to pay. Most people are either working at home or on-the-go, so a simple, concise email should always do the trick!

Pro Tip: Be sure to make the subject title obvious. Example: “Invoice ## – Outstanding invoice requiring payment!”

Reach out via phone

It might seem awkward to call and request payment. But if you want to get something done as soon as possible, calling is always better than email. Start the call off by politely asking how their day is. Use a warm voice and don’t rush right into asking for payment. Once you bring it up, be concise and direct and if possible, try to secure payment over the phone by credit card or bank transfer. If that doesn’t work, send a follow-up email with a prompt to pay right after the call.

Pro Tip: With an accounting software like TrulySmall™ Accounting, you can add a credit card payment directly with the invoice, speeding up the process of getting paid. When sending a follow up email post-call, be sure to remind your client of that!

Potentially cut off existing work if that doesn’t work

Finally, if you don’t hear back from emailing or calling days (or even weeks) later, then you may want to consider cutting off existing work with this client. After all, you did the work thus far, so you deserve to get paid for it—on time. Chances are, by you cutting off ongoing services (like maintenance of their website or pausing on some graphic design work), your client will realize much sooner, which usually prompts them to pay you anyways!

2. Use well-crafted email templates that provoke action

Requesting for payment—or any action for that matter—is most successful when you’re concise and offer context. But being direct does not mean going out of your way to being aggressive. Just like you would start a polite phone call, your follow-up emails should be polite and respectful.

Below are 3 email templates that you can use to prompt action on the payment due date, day 15, and a day 30 mark of an unpaid invoice:

Day 1 follow up email template: one day past the due date

Subject: [Your Business’s Name]: Invoice #001 for [Product/Service] 

Hi [Client’s Name],

I hope you’re well. This is a friendly reminder that Invoice #001, which was sent on [sent date], was due on [invoice due date]. I know I sent the invoice at a busy time and want to ensure you received it. Attached is the original invoice for your review.

You can send payment by check or pay by direct transfer. Please let me know if you have any questions about the invoice.

Thank you,

[Your Name][Your Business Contact Details]

[Company Name]

Pro Tip: Accounting software like TrulySmall™ accounting enables you to include a digital payment link along with the invoice. It’s quick, seamless, and gives a much-needed nudge for clients to more than likely pay on the spot. In addition, the majority of invoicing tools also offer automated invoicing follow-ups that send email reminders on behalf of you. No need to worry, it all happens behind the scenes.

Day 15 follow up email template: 2 weeks past the due date

Subject: [Your Business’s Name]: Invoice #001 for [Product/Service] is Past Due

Hi [Client’s Name],

I hope you’re well. I’m contacting you in regard to the last correspondence regarding Invoice #001.

Our records indicate that we have not yet received payment for invoice #001 in the amount of [invoice amount], which was due on [due date].

The outstanding invoice amount is [invoice amount plus late fees, if applicable] and is [number of days] past due. Attached is a copy of the invoice, in case the original was lost. For your convenience, you may make a payment here: [link to online payment or other payment methods].

If your payment has already been sent, please disregard this notice. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact me at [contact number].

Thank you,

[Your Name][Your Business Contact Details]

[Company Name]

Day 30 follow up email template: 1 month past due date

Subject: [Your Business’s Name]: Invoice #001 for [Product/Service] is 30 days PAST DUE

Hi [Client’s Name],

This email is to remind you that your invoice is now 30 days past due and I am seeking your immediate attention. Our records show that we have not yet received payment for invoice #001 in the amount of [invoice amount], which was due on [due date].

[Optional, if applicable] As your invoice is now past due, a late fee of [amount] has been assessed.

The outstanding invoice amount is [invoice amount plus late fees, if applicable] and is [number of days] past due. Attached is a copy of the invoice. You may make a payment here: [link to online payment or other payment methods].

Please let me know the status of your payment.

If your payment has already been sent, please disregard this notice. If you have any questions or concerns or would like to discuss payment plan options, please contact me at [contact number].

I appreciate you addressing this at your earliest convenience so we can work out this matter.

Thank you,

[Your Name][Your Business Contact Details]

[Your Company Name]

3. Create (and stick to) a follow-up schedule

Nobody wants to have “the conversation.” We get it. That’s why creating and sticking to a follow-up schedule is key.

First, think about how much of the invoice follow-up process you want to manage through email, and when you want to take it to the phone. You may want to manage everything via email until you’ve hit the 14-day mark. Whatever time frame you choose, be sure to choose one that’s right for your business—but don’t feel obligated to stick with it. 14 days may make sense to pick up the phone, but you might realize that say, 10 days or fewer works better over time.

Once you have your invoice follow-up timeline, next up is creating and sticking to a follow-up schedule.

Let’s say it starts with the date you send the invoice and ends 30 days after the due date. What’s the frequency of your invoice reminders?

Here’s a sample schedule:

  • Initial send of invoice (date variable)
  • Reminder 7 days before the due date
  • Reminder on the due date
  • Reminder 7 days after the due date
  • Reminder 14 days after the due date
  • Final urgent reminder 30 days after the due date

If you offer products or services that require upfront payment, you may want to send more than one reminder before the due date for the upfront portion. Though it’s up to the client to pay the invoice, multiple reminders can decrease the chance of uncomfortable situations where you need to follow up with them to request payment. Yes, the onus is on the customer to pay the invoice.

4. Don’t turn a blind eye to red flags

Much like identifying red flags early on when you meet a potential dating partner, red flags for clients operate in a similar way. When it comes to invoicing, late-paying clients can be frustrating, but consistently late-paying clients are the ones that you want to steer clear of.

Red flags can appear in more ways than just a single late invoice. Ask yourself:

  • Is this the first time the invoice payment is late?
  • How many times have you followed up?
  • If you stuck to a follow-up schedule (like the one above), how often are their payments still late?
  • Are they responsive to your invoice follow-ups? (email and phone calls!)

By asking yourself these questions, you can paint a much clearer picture of various red flags or “sprouting seeds” of red flags that you can catch, rectify and take action early on. After all, if you can catch them early and show them your expectations, it’s much better for your invoicing process in the long run.

5. Be flexible when you need to be

You don’t see payment, but you also haven’t spoken to your client. That’s why reaching out to confirm is so important before you jump right into panicking or following up. Chances are, they might have seen your first invoice follow-up, but then went on vacation for the last 2+ weeks. Or, they may be going through something personally. Whatever that might be, don’t forget to be flexible with them—when you need to be, of course.

6. Send and accept online payments

We can all agree that automation trumps manual efforts, right? Enabling payment along with the invoice you send will significantly increase the chance of you receiving payment on time or better yet, early. Unless your client has a pre-agreed upon payment method, like bank transfer or cheques, you should always try to move payments online, where possible. TrulySmall™ Accounting, for example, allows you to send your invoice with a link to pay online using Visa, MasterCard, or American Express. Once paid, you’ll see the updated transaction in TrulySmall™ accounting pulled from your business bank feed. Once a match is found during bank reconciliation, you’ll get notified that a “Match” is found! What a breeze.

Conclusion

Following up on late invoices and unresponsive clients can be frustrating, but it doesn’t always have to be. Test out some of the best practices in this article to start elevating and improving your professional invoicing process. To take it one step further, try TrulySmall™ Accounting today (for free!) to find out how our simple accounting software can supplement your invoice follow-ups and best practices so that you can get paid faster. And if you’re only looking for a simple invoicing solution, send your first free invoice today with TrulySmall™ Invoices. We promise it’s as easy as it looks!

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