How to Follow Up with Clients After Sending an Invoice
When you send a properly itemized invoice to a client, you’ll typically expect to receive payment promptly. Unfortunately, there will inevitably be times when you’re faced with clients who are forgetful, disorganized, or simply unwilling to pay up.
Regardless of the reason, you still need to get paid for your work, and that may require you to follow up on your invoices that are past due. While these situations can be frustrating, it’s always important to remain professional when approaching clients about outstanding payments.
In this article, we’ll provide some advice on how to follow up via email if an invoice isn’t paid on time. We’ll also discuss how you can handle the situation diplomatically, in order to retain a good relationship (if possible). Let’s get started!
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Why It’s Important to Follow Up on (And Prevent) Unpaid Invoices
Receiving payment soon after you send your invoices off to your clients is vital for keeping your business afloat and ensuring smooth cash flow. Unfortunately, there will be times when invoices aren’t paid on time, for any number of reasons.
In these situations, you’ll need to follow up with your clients on the late payments, promptly and carefully. If you neglect to do this, you may lose out on money you’re owed, as the client could have lost or forgotten about the invoice. They might also be confused about how and when to pay you.
In a moment, we’ll discuss how to actually deal with unpaid invoices. However, it’s also smart to consider how you can prevent this from becoming an issue altogether. With that in mind, here are some ways you can avoid seeing unpaid invoices in the future:
- Write thorough, clear invoices. They should contain all the information the client needs to submit payment.
- Include exact information about what you’re charging for. Make it clear exactly what services you provided, broken down into individual items where relevant. This will remove any potential ambiguity that might make the client hesitate to pay.
- Provide a specific due date. This makes it less likely that the client will put your invoice on the backburner, and forget all about paying you.
- Offer an easy payment method. Get to know what payment method is convenient for your client (e.g., online payment), and if possible, offer multiple options to them.
- Charge a fee for late payment. Make it clear your invoice payment terms that if the payment isn’t received by a certain date, you will apply an additional charge.
By following these simple steps, you should be able to avoid many situations where an invoice might otherwise have gone unpaid. However, there will still likely be times when a payment isn’t sent as agreed, at which point you will have to reach out to the client directly.
How to Follow Up on an Invoice (4 Tips)
In the next few sections, we’ll take a look at how you should proceed when following up with a client regarding a past due invoice. By actioning these four key tips, you can improve the chances of receiving your money and not burning your bridges with the client.
1. Don’t wait too long on an overdue payment
First, it’s important that you don’t let past due invoices go unpaid for very long. Sometimes people feel like following up too soon can come across as pushy or unprofessional. However, that couldn’t be further from the truth.
In fact, nothing could be more professional than expecting that your agreement is honored by all parties. As such, you should follow up on overdue invoices as soon as the due date passes. Be polite, and don’t assume malice or incompetence. Something simple should be enough, such as: “I just wanted to remind you that this payment was due yesterday. Could you let me know when to expect it?”
In cases where the client has simply forgotten to pay or lost your email, this is often sufficient to solve the problem. Once you’ve sent the initial payment reminder email, you’ll want follow up again within a week if you don’t hear back.
2. Be professional at all times in your invoice follow up email
While not getting paid is undoubtedly a frustrating experience, it’s important that you maintain a professional tone and attitude throughout the process. This applies even if it’s well past the payment due date, and you’ve received no word from the client.
The reality is that it’s simply not constructive to get angry, or to take the lack of a prompt payment personally. In fact, you’re much more likely to resolve the situation quickly if you maintain a calm, polite tone in all your communications with the clients about overdue payments.
Staying professional is your best chance to ensure that the client will do the same, whereas getting emotional is likely to provoke a similar response. It’s also worth remembering that the unpaid invoice could be due to an honest mistake, which means you risk burning a valuable bridge by sending an angry past due invoice email or throwing out accusations.
3. If emailing doesn’t work, call clients about late payments
If you’ve sent a few emails over the course of a week or two, and you’ve heard nothing back, it may be because the client is experiencing issues with their inbox. Your messages could be ending up in their spam filter, or they might simply have changed their address or provided you with the wrong one by mistake.
In this situation, it’s always a good idea to reach out through a different method. If you have the client’s phone number, for example, you can simply call them. In addition, see if you have another email address on file, or if there’s someone else in their organization who you can reach. Don’t be afraid to be persistent, and to try various forms of communication until something clicks.
4. If all else fails on the invoice follow up, get in touch with your lawyer
If this process has lasted well over a month with no response or payment, you may need to take legal action. At this point, you should contact your lawyer, who will be able to send a demand letter to the client. This will include the outstanding amount you are owed, as outlined in the original invoice.
Naturally, this is a last-ditch strategy. You’ll hopefully never be in a situation where it’s warranted, but you should be aware that it may be necessary. If the client is ignoring you or refusing to pay, you’re well within your rights to seek some help.
It’s vital to get paid for your work, but you may encounter situations where clients either forget or choose not to send you the money they owe. In these cases, you’ll need to be careful about how you follow up with them.
To recap, here’s what you’ll want to keep in mind when following up on your invoices:
- Don’t wait too long on an overdue invoice.
- Be professional at all times.
- If emailing doesn’t work, call the client.
- If all else fails, get in touch with your lawyer.
Do you have any questions about dealing with unpaid invoices? Let us know in the comments section below!
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