Did you know that American small businesses were collectively owed 825 billion dollars in unpaid invoices in 2016?
When you operate as an independent contractor or a small business, delayed or unpaid invoices can put you at a financial loss. Considering that approximately 20 percent of US businesses fail in their first year, often due to cash flow issues, learning how to write an outstanding invoice email is a crucial skill. Read on to find out how to craft an invoice email that can’t be ignored.
What to Do Before You Write Your Overdue Invoice Message
When a client owes you money, you’re understandably in distress. After all, you didn’t go into business for the purpose of chasing late payments.
However, don’t let the stress from nonpayment propel you into thoughtless action. Before you write that unpaid invoice message, take some time to regroup. Gather all the documents and correspondence concerning the invoice, and then get to the business of writing your message.
- Check Your Documents
- Find the original invoice. Take note of all of the specifics prior to crafting your email:
- Note the date it was sent
- Note the date it was due
- Note the ID number of the invoice
- If you originally sent the invoice via snail mail, insure that it was sent to the correct address. Also, make sure that this overdue invoice is not being confused with another invoice for another client.
When business is booming, mistakes can happen. Double-check all of the above details so you can be sure that the missing payment is no fault of your own.
Review Previous Correspondence With the Client
Before you send an email, review your previous correspondence with the client. All of your communication related to bills and contracts should be recorded. Take a look at your signed contract to remind yourself of any overdue payment clauses that were stipulated.
Check one last time to make sure the payment was not posted electronically or that you didn’t receive a check in the mail in the past day or two.
The nature of your latest correspondence with your client will tell you how to proceed with your message:
If your client is ignoring you entirely, they are most likely trying to dodge the payment. If you’ve checked in with the client about other projects and they responded, the client may have simply forgotten to pay the invoice.
Set a Timeline and Course of Action
Now that you’re sure about the specifics of the overdue payment, it’s time to plan your next steps. You’ll write the outstanding invoice email, but what should it achieve?
When a professional financial institution deals with money matters, they get as specific as possible about any terms of payment, any deadlines, and any possible interest on outstanding payments. In order for your message to be deemed professional, you must include any such terms as well:
- Do you require payment within a week of sending the email?
- Will you charge interest on the outstanding payment?
- Will you send the client’s case to a debt collector after several attempts of resolving the invoice?
- Coming up with a plan of action will determine the tone and ultimate purpose of your email.
How to Craft Your Outstanding Invoice Email
Crafting an email about an unpaid invoice should be specific and to the point. It should be presented in a cordial yet professional tone that leaves no question about the purpose of the message. Write your email using the following suggestions.
Make It Specific
When collecting an overdue payment, details are your friend. Fill your message with as many details about the overdue invoice as possible.
However, include all of the specifics in letter form instead of itemizing them in list form. Here’s what to include:
- Include a clear subject line (preferably the invoice number in question)
- Include the original due date of the invoice
- Include the overdue amount in the body of the message
- Attach the original invoice
It’s an important courtesy to attach the original invoice for the client’s reference. Not only does this make it harder for the client to dispute the overdue payment, but this gesture makes it harder for the client to further delay the payment.
Don’t Be Generic
It’s great to have an outstanding invoice email template on hand, but don’t stick strictly to the script. Your email should be personal.
Address the client by name, and include a small pleasantry about a project or recent memory that’s specific to them. For instance, mention that it was your pleasure to meet with them two weeks earlier about their long term plans with your company.
A generic message about an outstanding payment won’t win any points with the client. Furthermore, it will make your request seem less urgent.
Keep It Firm Yet Friendly
Though emotions over nonpayment can run high, do your best to keep your cool while composing your message. An angry email may intimidate your client enough to pay up, but you may lose the client in the process. You don’t want to battle with the client, especially if the issue of nonpayment is a one-time incident.
Regardless of the offense, it’s in your best interest to keep all written communications professional.
- Start with a warm salutation: Dear (Client’s name)
- Open with a warm statement specific to the client.
- Continue with a clear yet friendly reminder of the unpaid invoice.
- Encourage the client to call or write back with any questions.
- Stay transparent about the consequences of nonpayment, but keep the tone professional.
- Close with a cordial statement.
In addition to writing in a friendly yet professional tone, keep your message short. Prompt messages that are clear and to-the-point make the most impact in business communications.
Close With a Call to Action
Remember how you planned out the consequences for nonpayment?
It’s important to include those consequences as a call to action at the end of your message. For instance, “We look forward to receiving your payment in full within two weeks.”
If this is a final notice for an outstanding invoice, it’s appropriate to end with a warning of legal recourse. Keep your warning as cordial as possible. Any mention of legal action is often enough to push clients to pay quickly, but do not overuse this tactic.
Do You Need More Help?
Even if one client skips out on a payment, it’s enough to cause a financial imbalance in your company. No amount of debt or budget shortage will do your business any good.
While you wait for your outstanding invoice email to work its magic, you still need capital to operate. Work with us today for some alternative financing options. We can help your business reach its potential even when clients don’t pay on time. Let’s work together to afford every possibility for your growing company.
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