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5 Golden Rules When Following-up Late Invoices

How many times you’ve sent an invoice and waited for the clients to pay you even with all that time you gave them? If you’re in business you’ve probably been in this kind of situation before. Due invoices are reality, every business owner know this and need to prepare for scenario like this. Every late paying customer is unique, and have his own reason for delayed payments. But if you deal with enough such customers you’ll notice behavior patterns and you can categorize them in several types, from the forgetful to the chronic ones.

I know money are food for your business, and without cash it could starve and die. But beating your head over late invoice payments won’t make the problem magically disappear. Instead you should embrace such customers, and deal with them in the most painless way. And if you came across extremely difficult client, client that don’t appreciate the work you’ve done for them, than you should avoid such clients from the very start.

Below are listed 5 tips on how to deal with overdue invoices, improve your payments rate and ensure stable cash flow for your business.

1. Remind them before it’s late

First thing is to give your clients little time and make them feel comfortable when it comes to paying you. Yes, I know it’s your right to ask for the money if you already finished your part of the deal, but never push it too far if you’d like to have repeatable business with the same client. Even with this flexible time period many clients simply won’t pay you on time for various reasons.

So don’t wait for the due date to approach. If you notice the payment deadline is approaching you can remind your clients and ask for the payment. That way you’ll refresh their memory so they can put you higher on their to-do list. This reminder should be with friendly tone, noting too harsh, just to remind them that you’ve done the job, that the payment due date is near and it would be good to consider a payment.

2. And remind them often

You should never underestimate the power of follow-ups. When it comes to collecting your payments you should never feel embarrassed or uncomfortable when asking for your clients’ money. Sometimes it takes contacting the customer more than once to get paid as some of them are absent-minded, or in lack of money or maybe even obnoxious when the time arrives to pay their bills.

You can setup your own routine for sending reminders. Although every client is distinctive from the others the best way to handle the reminders is with generalized approach. You can make your own schedule where you follow it for every client. For example, you can remind your clients 3 days before the due date, and after that remind them every 5 days.

You need to set your tone appropriate for every reminder. As I stated above the first reminder should be friendly, and every after should build-up to more formal and serious tone. If you got in situation where your clients are simply ignoring you, you can use even harsh language. And hopefully you won’t have to be too extreme and call a collection agency.

3. Put reminders on auto-pilot

The whole point of reminders is to secure stable cash flow, the lifeblood for your business. But if you have to deal with late paying clients on regular basis you’ll caught yourself overwhelmed with all that reminders. You’ll spend more time reminding your clients for payments than doing actual work and growing your business. Just imagine if you have to check daily on your clients, how much they owe you, who’s approaching the due date and who’s past due.

You can certainly use Excel spreadsheet and manually keep records for every client, but this won’t help you much in the long run. So the best thing is to automate the reminders, as I’d like to say put them on “auto-pilot”. The best thing for proper invoice management is to use suitable invoicing or accounting software that is able to send emails on your behalf. That way you can initially setup all the reminders, schedule them and apply those email reminders for every client in future.

Many of the invoicing services like Invoicebus, Harvest or FreeAgent already have built-in auto reminders and follow-ups so you can easily compose and schedule all reminder emails. Have in mind that this invoicing services handle just the emails part of the reminders, so if you need to remind your clients by phone you’ll still have to do that yourself. Or maybe get a collection agency do the calling for you, but note that those can incur significant fees.

Late payment reminder

4. Accept flexible payments

Another way to handle due invoice payments is by making the payment easier for your clients. By this I mean to offer them partial payments and make the overall payment process dead simple. Some of your clients can’t afford to pay the whole amount you’re charging, but this shouldn’t discourage you from giving them chance to pay percentage of the total sum. And if we’re talking about some regular client you do business with, than offering such partial payments can deepen the business connection between the two of you. Just make sure you aren’t spoiling them as many can abuse your good will and request such partial payments frequently in future.

Another thing is to make the payments more flexible by accepting online payments. Many online invoicing services offer options to connect your PayPal or Stripe accounts. This way you can instantly get paid online, avoiding the classical process of waiting for the money to be deposited in your bank account. With the online invoice payments the whole process is simplified and streamlined, so if you think this is the right thing for your business it’s worth checking it out.

5. Reduce number of due invoices

This isn’t actually a tip for following-up late invoices like the four above. This is a tip how to avoid your invoices from getting late in the first place. Prevention is better than cure. So how to prevent one invoice from getting due? There’re several things that can improve your bill collection – one of them is to send the invoices in advance. Many consider that you should always send your invoices after you’ve done the job, but this rule shouldn’t be taken for granted. And if you decide to send the invoice after you’ve finished with the work, than make sure you don’t wait too long and send the invoice promptly with the finished goods.

You can experiment with sending the invoice before you deliver the goods and even ask for advance payment, at least a partial one. That way you’ll be sure the client is committed and serious with you. Know that you have also bills to pay so don’t be afraid asking your clients for upfront payments. This for sure will keep you motivated and dedicated to your client’s project and cut the due invoices pile.

Conclusion

Many people in business have to deal with late paying customers, but using the techniques listed above will make the whole process easier and give you peace of mind. If you think you can’t handle everything listed in the article try implementing some of the tips in your business and see how they’ll improve your invoicing and stabilize your cash flow.

Bonus download

Reminder schedule with high success rate

Additionally to the tips mentioned above the invoicing experts at Invoicebus prepared amazing guide on how to handle late invoice payments in the best possible way. Inside you’ll find ready to use email templates and call scripts you can use for your clients when asking for payments. Go ahead and download the PDF guide.

About author

Dimitar Stojanov
Dimitar Stojanov 2 posts

Dimitar Stojanov is co-founder of Invoicebus - painkiller for small businesses' invoicing hustles. Meanwhile he fights the status-quo, exits the comfort zone and strives for clear and useful design. Greet him on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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