Chasing overdue payments is a stressful exercise that can permanently damage a relationship with a client. Learn how to ask for payment politely and get paid.
Every freelancer will tell you that the least exciting part of running their online business is chasing payments. You hope that every client will pay on time, but there will always be clients that dash those hopes.
When a payment is late, it puts you in an awkward position. You want to stress to the client that it’s critical that they settle the overdue payment, but you want to do it in a polite, professional way.
To stress the point that the payment is overdue, especially after you have already reminded the client, you know you have to be direct and use stronger language. And therein lies the challenge.
How do you politely ask for payment on an invoice that should have been paid weeks back?
It’s every business owner’s challenge. A challenge that you have to overcome if your business is to thrive.
You don’t want to be that struggling freelance writer who is constantly thinking that maybe they should just get a regular job. So in this article, we will teach you how to ask for payment politely and actually get paid.
Let’s get started.
How to Politely Ask For Payment
Nearly 29% of freelancers are paid late by their clients. That’s too many people who spend time chasing overdue payments when they should be working.
It’s not always out of a lack of desire to settle invoices that your invoices don’t get paid on time. For small business clients in particular, it's likely that the owner or department heads have a lot on their plate and have genuinely forgotten!
That’s no consolation for you because you are running a business and have expenses to pay. Still, you want to be professional and send them a gentle reminder.
So do you write that polite letter or email requesting overdue payment?
How to Write A Polite Payment Request Email
You could say there is no polite way to request an overdue payment. That’s why many people struggle with writing payment request emails.
There’s actually a skilled way of doing it, but nobody really bothers to learn it because you never expect that some of your clients will delay payment.
The trick is to strike a balance between being polite and direct. But you want to be sure the client got the invoice in question. If they say they didn't, don't argue. Give them the benefit of doubt and then stress that the payment is now overdue.
Below are some tips on how to strike the right tone when writing a payment request email.
Be as friendly as possible
The subject line of your payment request email is the first part of your email you must nail. If the subject line is poorly written, your customer might not bother reading the rest of the message.
Here are a few tips to keep in mind and make sure your email gets read:
- Do not threaten customers in any way. If you can’t find any nice words to use, the generic ‘Overdue Payment Reminder’ works fine. Be direct but polite.
- Consider referring to the emails you send as "contract updates" instead of reminders
- When it is acceptable, you should use the name of your customer.
Attach A Copy Of The Invoice
It will help you maintain a polite and friendly tone with the email if you assume the invoice may be one of the things that escaped your client’s attention. With that mindset, it will make sense to attach a copy of the invoice to the payment request email.
Even though you are disappointed the client hasn’t paid on time, you should hope that the contract can be rescued. So you should try to be as helpful as you can, reminding them what invoice is overdue. As you do that, take a minute to review the contract.
An invoice is not legally binding. Your contract serves as the foundation for your invoice because it is a legally binding agreement. If you do not have a contract or a formal estimate that has been agreed upon, it will be more challenging for you to collect payment on the original invoice.
Remind the client how long the payment is now overdue
It will portray you as organized if you include all the details of the overdue payment, including:
- The invoice amount
- The invoice number
- How long the payment is overdue.
Your contract and invoice need to be crystal clear on what your payment terms are. The payment procedure, the deadline for making payments, and any late fees that will be applied should all be outlined in the contract.
At the very least, the date or time range within which payment is required, such as "Net 30 Days," should be included on your invoice.
Add Your Payment Details
You also want to remind the customer how you would want to be paid. This could be a payment link or your bank details. The goal is to make it as easy as possible to settle the overdue invoice.
This prevents the client from delaying payment further through more back-and-forth communication as they ask for this information.
Offer more payment methods
To write polite payment request emails that get you paid, you must imagine things a client would say to delay payment further. What is it they may ask that you provide or remind them? What excuse could they give for not settling the invoice?
For example, they may say that they have been busy and haven’t had time to go to the bank to make the deposit.
So if possible, give them the option to pay via credit card or direct transfer. Give them a payment link so they can pay from anywhere they can access an internet connection. That effectively removes the excuse they were going to give you.
Keep the payment request emails short
However polite you want your overdue payment request email to be, it’s not the place for chit-chat. Shoot straight to the point of your email.
Email etiquette dictates that messages should be concise and to the point, and the same holds true for payment reminder letters. You, of course, have a lot you wish you could say, but try to restrain yourself.
There's no harm in keeping your feelings about the overdue payment to yourself, even if they're raw. A few short paragraphs are usually all you will ever need to remind a client that an invoice is overdue.
So here’s how might that email look:
Overdue payment request email template
Bringing what we have so far discussed together, here is how your first attempt at politely requesting payment for an overdue invoice should go:
Subject line: Payment reminder for overdue invoice
Hi [client’s name],
I hope this email finds you in good health. I’m writing to remind you that the invoice I sent you on [insert the date when you sent the invoice] is now overdue. Please find a copy of it attached below.
My payment information: [your details].
How to Politely Ask For Overdue Payment (Second Email Reminder)
If the first payment request reminder email is tough to write, consider the tough job of writing a second reminder. You are likely getting frustrated the client isn’t treating the matter with the same seriousness as you, which makes staying polite even harder.
It is getting hard to do, but you still want to remain firm but professional. The client must get the subtle hint that you are getting frustrated at the non-payment of your invoice.
You also don’t want to be left with egg on your face if it turns out that the payment has actually been made but is just yet to show on your end. This can happen with international payments.
I have had an invoice that took two weeks to show in my bank account. It turned out the delay was actually caused by my bank. They had long received the transfer but a ‘glitch’ in their system prevented it from reflecting in my balance.
My own experience reminds us of the need to always remain professional and not use language we will regret later if it turns out the client had actually paid.
You can use this email template:
Subject line: Invoice for [your service or product] now two weeks overdue
Hi [client’s name],
I wanted to quickly remind you that the invoice attached below is now overdue by two weeks. I have yet to receive payment. Could you please update me on the status? I would also appreciate an approximate date for the payment.
My payment information: [insert your bank details here].
How to Politely Request Payment for an Invoice Overdue By A Month (Third Email Reminder)
It’s getting to that stage where you might be forced to take actions that you don’t particularly enjoy taking. You will likely have to use language that’s a tad too strong than how you normally communicate with clients.
You may instinctively end up admonishing the client for ignoring your previous communications, but you should still try to be polite. How to do that with so much time already wasted on these reminders is the challenge.
It’s not rude to remind your client of the terms of your contract and what it says about invoices that are overdue this long.
In case they no longer have a copy of the contract, attach one to the payment request email. If late payment charges now apply, inform the client.
If you and the customer are working together regularly, it’s time to let them know that you may have to put the project on hold until the overdue invoice is paid.
The client has already received several payment request emails, so you can use more direct, stronger language. Remain courteous, but don't be afraid to stand up for yourself.
Here is a template you can use:
Subject line: Invoice is now overdue by a month
Hi [client’s name],
According to our contract, the invoice for [your product or service] should have been pid over a month ago. The payment is, therefore, a month overdue. Please refer to the invoice attached to this email.
I’d also like to remind you that as per our written agreement, a late fee can be applied to invoices that are past [x] number of days overdue.
Please reach out if you have any questions regarding the payment. If not, please make the payment as agreed.
My payment information: [your bank details]
What To Do When Your Payment Request Emails Are Being Ignored
If it's starting to feel like your client is ignoring your payment request emails, there are a few things you can do to grab their attention. Here they are:
1. Use different modes of communication
When a customer avoids payment, having multiple ways to contact them can be helpful. If your follow-up emails haven't been replied to, pick up the phone and call them. A ringing phone is harder to ignore.
Alternatively, if it’s a company, see if you can contact someone else within the organization. Ideally, this should be someone from the same team as your contact person.
2. Consider factoring
Factoring involves selling your invoices to a company in exchange for an upfront payment. Typically, the company will offer you a percentage of the invoice's value.
Kabbage, for example, offers 75%, which is quite a bit of money, especially if you've been dealing with an outstanding invoice for months with no payment forthcoming.
3. Pursue legal action
Many small businesses are hesitant to pursue legal action since it is costly, time-consuming, and draining. But sometimes it is the only remaining card you can play.
Get in touch with an affordable small business lawyer in your area and ask them to handle the process for you. The threat of legal action can sometimes be enough to get people to pay the amount owed.
You can also inform the client that you intend to file a claim in small claims court. Your state or country will have laws that stipulate the value of unpaid invoices that can be taken to court. It is usually in the thousands but less than $10,000.
Clients do not have to take advantage of small businesses. Demonstrate your willingness to advocate for yourself.
How Not To Request Payment For Unpaid Invoice
Sometimes we set ourselves up for payment trouble by the way we engage with clients. It’s important to treat the relationship as professional at all times. The client is not your friend, even though it may feel like that with people you have worked with for a long time.
Let's go over a few examples of how not to request payment.
Email sent before the due date
Subject line: Payment for services
Hi [client’s name],
How are you doing today? Hope you're well and not too tired (like myself!) Anyhow, I was just about to finish up with your project. It was quite time-consuming, and I think I did a really good job at it!
I’m attaching the invoice for the job. Make sure to pay for it on time!
Here’s what's wrong with the email:
- The subject isn't clear
- You didn't attach any payment information
- There is no information on the invoice
- You didn't specify a due date
- You‘re asking for the payment before submitting the work
- The tone of the email is too casual.
When a payment is a month overdue
Subject line: Late payment fee on Invoice
Hi [client’s name],
It's been a month since you haven't paid me. I'm not sure what you're waiting around for! When I delivered that web page I did for you, I was not late.
Additional costs will be added to your statement because you are 30 days late. The bill will climb by $90 every day. Pay me via PayPal ([emailprotected]) or direct transfer what you owe me (12345667890).
If you do not pay within a week, I will go ahead and hire a collection agency and file a lawsuit against you.
Here’s what's wrong with the email:
- It has a rude tone
- It is emotional
- It is threatening.
We all wish we could get paid on time, but delayed and overdue payments are a fact of business. Many clients do indeed want to settle their bills on time.
Unpaid invoices can cause stress and affect your ability to serve other clients and run a successful business. Still, it’s critical that you remain professional as you chase payments.
However hard it may seem, you should still maintain a hope that the client will make good on what they owe and that the business relationship can still be salvaged. Be firm but keep a polite tone in your communications with the customer.
Take The Pain Out Of Requesting And Following Up On Overdue Payments With IntaSend
Whether you're a small business owner or a freelancer, collecting payments doesn't have to be a nightmare. Remaining professional and maintaining a polite tone as you follow up on overdue payments can make things much smoother and lead to positive outcomes.
IntaSend makes requesting and following up on business payments easier and faster. We have tools for raising invoices and generating no-code payments that you can send to clients and increase the chances of getting paid on time.
IntaSend removes the challenges that can often prevent clients from paying on time. We make it easy to get paid, however way the client prefers to settle their invoice. Sign up for an account today and take the pain out of chasing payments.