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Allan is the cofounder of LessAccounting, loves his family more than breathing and builds weird lamps for fun.

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Collecting Unpaid Invoices the Easy Way

Written by on Jun 13

The purpose of this article is to help you when 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.

unpaid invoices late

Get Your Facts Straight

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.

How long will I wait before I contact the customer?

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.

Making Contact

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 first email. 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:

Unpaid Invoices Collection Example Emails

Here’s an example of an email that’s clear yet friendly:

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.

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.

unpaid invoices

When Unpaid Invoices Become Very Late Invoices

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:

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.

What Just Happened?

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.

Unpaid Invoice Starts to Get Ugly

So what happens if nice emails don’t work???

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