You were so excited to work with a new client, but after two weeks of radio silence and an overdue invoice, the rose-tinted glasses are starting to fade to black.
So, how do you politely ask for a client to pay her overdue invoice without damaging the relationship? And, more importantly, how do you communicate that you’re not okay with this kind of behavior in the future?
To be clear, this is different than a client refusing to pay an invoice. This is for clients who may have looked at the invoice but made a mental note to pay it later, had a credit card decline and hasn’t solved the issue, or hasn’t been in contact with you at all.
Here are three scenarios you might encounter with sample emails to help you get paid without burning any bridges.
Scenario 1: Your client has an overdue invoice.
If one of your clients has an overdue invoice, it’s likely that they’ve just forgotten about it. So consider that before you get upset or start to feel underappreciated.
When this happens, send a short email over to your client. If you sent yourself a copy of the invoice, find that email and forward it with a message like this:
Subject line: Did this fall through the cracks?
I hope you’re having a wonderful Wednesday. I’m forwarding this invoice along as I suspect it may have fallen through the cracks of your email inbox.
If you have any questions about it, just let me know.
I prefer this method over using the standard “send a reminder” feature in most cloud-based bookkeeping software for service providers because it adds an extra warm touch.
Scenario 2: Your client’s credit card was declined.
Telling a client that his credit card was declined can be a pretty embarrassing exchange for both parties. However, you can lower the amount of awkwardness by using the right language. Here’s an example.
Subject line: Quick question about this month’s payment
I hope you’re having a great day. 🙂 I’m writing because I just attempted to process your monthly payment and your credit card was declined.
Could it be because it’s expired, or have you had any fraud alerts recently that I should know about?
Let me know how you’d like to move forward.
In this example, you’re removing any judgment, suggesting the blame on the credit card as opposed to her, and you’re showing concern.
Scenario 3: You haven’t heard at all from the client.
It sucks, but sometimes clients and contractors alike go radio silent on you. When that happens, I find it’s best to decide how many times I’ll follow up before I consider the debt as uncollectible.
For me, the magic number is three.
Here’s an example.
Subject line: Checking in on you
I haven’t heard from you in a couple of weeks. You haven’t responded to my emails about the invoice payment or any of our project correspondence, so I just wanted to check in and make sure things are okay with you. I’ll admit that I’m worried since you’re usually so quick to respond.
If you need more time to pay or need to push pause on our work together, all you have to do is let me know and we can figure something out.
I’m here for you. 🙂
Decide Your Policies in Advance
A lot of the time, these kinds of awkward situations can be avoided if you decide on your late payment policies in advance and then get written approval that your client has read them.
An example of a late payment policy is something like:
If you haven’t paid your invoice within a 7-day period, I’ll have to push pause on our work together until payment has been collected. Before that happens, though, I’ll send a gentle reminder via email to complete payment. If, after another 7-day period, I don’t hear anything from you or payment isn’t completed, I’ll send another email letting you know that I’m pausing our project. I do this so I can create the best work possible for all of my clients and so we both feel like we’re in a mutually beneficial client / contractor relationship.
This clear communication in advance will let clients know where you stand and increase the likelihood that you’ll get paid on time.
Have other questions about how to handle tricky client correspondences like this? Leave a comment below!