Not all of your clients will pay invoices on time. The big question is, what do you do with these late payers? Do you wait forever, hoping they finally “get to it”, remind them every day about it, or just give up on it completely and move on? More importantly, how do you follow up on unpaid invoices? Do you have to be harsh and act like a nasty debt collector or should you be really, really polite?
In this article, I’ll teach you the art of how to properly follow up on unpaid invoices the right way and dealing with delinquent customers.
When is the Right Time to Follow Up on Unpaid Invoices?
You have to know the right time to follow up on that late invoice. So when is this? Well, I can tell you right away, it’s not every day nor is it a whole year after you’ve sent the invoice in the first place.
The first case will just make you look desperate and, trust me, if the client didn’t respond to your follow up email yesterday, it’s a low chance they’ll respond today. As for following up after a year, well, the client will at this point simply forget that you even exist.
There are four reminders that you should send (hopefully you’ll need fewer) to follow up on unpaid invoices:
- A week before the invoice due date arrives
Your first reminder should come one week before the actual due date. At this point, the client still isn’t late so the purpose of this reminder is to keep in friendly touch with the customer and than them again for their business. At the same time, they’ll see that you’re tracking down your invoices and should make an effort to pay by the due date.
- A day before the due date
Consider this reminder optional, but still very useful. A lot of people like doing things the last minute and this may be the case here as well. This reminder should be very, very short, just the bare essentials like “your invoice #59539 is due tomorrow!”.
- On the due date itself
Here, you still need to give the customer the benefit of the doubt as they are technically not late yet. That means, yes, get straight to the point, but it should still be a friendly reminder.
- A week after the payment was due
Okay, now we’re entering the actual “late” territory. Remind the customer that the invoice is overdue, but don’t just say something like “you’re a week late on paying”. Remind them exactly how much they owe you, what’s the invoice number, the date you’ve sent them the invoice and its due date.
Also, it could be that the client misplaced the invoice or they never got it. Be sure to send them another copy along with this email.
- Two weeks after due date
That’s it! Now they’ve done it. The client is two weeks overdue and it’s time to get serious. Of course, by “serious” I mean be very direct. You should still remain professional and polite, but none of that “did you get my invoice?” or “could you pay the invoice?”. It’s time to ask directly for payment.
What’s potentially even more important is to establish that they are not ignoring your emails in the first place. Ask them to reply to your email to ensure they’ve got it.
- Final reminder – one month later
At this point, the client has managed to successfully ignore your every reminder and in a way make a fool of you. Well, this reminder is there to show them that you won’t stand for that. It’s time to pull out the “big guns” and that means letting them know you’ll be charging them a late fee (as per the terms you’ve agreed previously).
By now, you’ve probably had it with this client, but that’s no excuse for threats and name calling. Be direct, let them see you mean business, but remain calm and professional. For your own sake, not theirs.
Late clients can be frustrating and so is reminding one that keeps ignoring you to pay. But if you want to get your money, you need to keep asking for it. Hopefully this will make it easier for you to follow up on unpaid invoices.
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