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How to ask for payment professionally [6 email templates]

Late payments and overdue invoices are frustrating. They stifle cash flow and cause working capital to dry up fast. To make matters worse, over 29% of businesses fail because they run out of cash.  If you don’t have the funds to make payroll, pay suppliers, or satisfy the many other business obligations, you risk having to take on debt and expensive late fees and penalties. It makes business owners wonder how to ask for payment professionally.

The obvious truth is that the owner of a growing business depends on long-standing professional relationships. If a client has overdue unpaid invoices, you’ll need to be careful when collecting payment or risk losing a hard-won customer.

In a 2020 Atradius survey, the number of companies that couldn’t pay their suppliers due to customers’ overdue payments on outstanding invoices increased to a whopping 32% from two years ago. So, what’s the answer? And how do you ask for payment professionally without losing your customers?

Writing a polite payment follow up email to your client

Everyone makes mistakes. Even your best customers and those with a record of on-time payments aren’t exempt. And although no one likes to collect from a bad payor or late-paying client, misplaced bills won’t cancel out your negative cash flow. A polite email reminder is the first step of how to ask for payment professionally.

The first step is a call or reminder sent via email or snail mail reminding them of the past due status of invoices. That gives your customers the chance to explain their situation for the overdue invoice. 

If your late-paying customer hasn’t made payment within a set period of time, a couple of late payment reminder emails may get the results you need. Your friendly reminder email should be courteous, respectful and tactful. Otherwise, you may never see the funds.

How often should you send a payment follow-up email to a client?

Research shows you can improve reply rates by 65.8% just by sending a single follow-up professional email reminder. Because your original email may have ended up in a spam folder, give your customer the benefit of the doubt. A polite reminder may pay off. 

One week before the payment is due, try sending an email to your customer like this:

Email Subject: [Your Business’s Name]: Invoice #111119

Email Body:

Hello [Client’s Name],

I hope this email finds you well. I understand this may be a busy time for you, but I  wanted to send out a friendly reminder that the payment for invoice #111119 will be due next Wednesday, October 6th.

Please feel free to reach out with any questions about this invoice.

Thank you in advance.

If a customer still hasn’t paid on this late invoice, follow up on your initial email after one week with a friendly payment reminder. If that doesn’t work, send another reminder in two weeks, then one month later. Be clear about how late the invoice is and ask them to reach out if they have questions or concerns. By now, however, your invoice may be overdue and your cash flow is suffering. Don’t panic.

You’re not alone. Hilton-Baird reports that as a result of late payments, 79% of SMBs (small- to medium-sized businesses) are forced to chase down invoices during regular business hours, which results in 48% making late payments to suppliers, and 10% turning down new business.

What if your payment request email doesn't work?

Writing an email asking for payment isn’t the easiest request you’ll ever make, nor is it the best use of your time. If you’ve done all you can to collect on an original invoice, sent outstanding payment reminders and additional payment reminders but still haven’t received payment, you may consider using a collection agency or placing a lien on their business as a last resort. 

The problem may actually be how an email is written. Being overly polite may mean you didn’t communicate the urgency of your request for past-due payment. However, an aggressive tone can irritate your customer. 

6 email templates: How to ask for payment professionally

Use these 6 email templates to ask for payment professionally — and get paid now.

Version 1: The first invoice email (a few days overdue)

Email Subject: [Your Business’s Name]: Invoice #111119 Past Due

Email Body:

Hello [Client’s Name],

I hope you’re doing well. This email is a reminder that Invoice #111119 was due this past Wednesday, October 6th, and is now one day overdue. I understand you are busy and want to follow up to ensure you received my last email reminder dated September 29th. I’ve attached the original invoice to this email.

We’ve outlined payment options in the original invoice, but please feel free to call if you have any questions.

Thank you,

 

[Your Name]

[Your Business Contact Details]

[Invoice Attachment]

Version 2: The first invoice email (a few days overdue)

Email Subject: [Your Business’s Name]: Invoice #111119 Past Due

Email Body:

Hello [Client’s Name],

During this time of year, when your business is in full swing, emails can get overlooked. So, I am following up on an email dated September 29th regarding overdue payment on Invoice #111119. For your convenience, I have attached the invoice here.

 

Thank you,

[Your Name]

[Your Business Contact Details]

[Invoice Attachment]

Two weeks overdue

Version 1: Follow-up email (two weeks overdue)

Email Subject: [Your Business’s Name]: Invoice #111119 Past Due

Email Body:

Hello [Client’s Name],

I hope you’re well. I am reaching out to you regarding Invoice #111119. This is a reminder that payment was due on Wednesday, October 6th, and is now two weeks overdue. Please send payment as soon as possible by check, credit card, or direct transfer.

As per my company’s payment terms, you will be charged a late fee of 2% per month for invoices 30-days overdue. I have attached the invoice to this email for your reference.

Please let me know if you have any questions.

 

Thank you,

[Your Name]

[Your Business Contact Details]

[Invoice Attachment]

Version 2: Follow-up email (two weeks overdue)

Email Subject: [Your Business’s Name]: Invoice #111119 Past Due

Email Body:

Hello [Client’s Name],

I am contacting you to confirm you received my previous email dated October 26th regarding Invoice #111119. This is just a reminder that payment in full was due Tuesday, October 6th.

As emails are often left unopened, I would appreciate a reply to this email to let me know you received it? I am looking forward to hearing from you.

Thank you,

[Your Name]

[Your Business Contact Details]

1 month

Version 1: Reminder email (30 days past due, extremely late invoices)

Email Subject: [Your Business’s Name]: Invoice #111119 – 30-Days Past-Due

Email Body:

Hello [Client’s Name],

I hope you are well.  Regrettably, you have made no payment on Invoice #111119 that was due October 6th and is now 30-days past due. I would appreciate the amount of $11,350 to be paid as soon as possible to avoid late fees.

Please reach out to discuss any questions regarding this invoice. I look forward to your immediate payment.

Thank you,

[Your Name]

[Your Business Contact Details]

Version 2: Reminder email (30 days past due, extremely late invoices)

Email Subject: [Your Business’s Name]: Invoice #111119 – 30-Days Past-Due

Email Body:

Hello [Client’s Name],

This is our final notice regarding your past-due account with us. We have not received a response from you regarding your 30-day overdue invoice #111119 for $11,350.

We must receive payment from you within 15 days after receiving this notice to avoid further collection action from an outside agency.

If you have any further questions, you may contact us [Phone Number] between 9 am – 5 pm.

I look forward to your immediate payment.

 

Thank you,

[Your Name]

[Your Business Contact Details]

When you consider that an average office worker receives about 121 emails each day, it’s little wonder that email doesn’t always work as a way to collect invoices. Still, it is by far the most convenient and customary way to mail invoices and collect payment. But, if you continue to have outstanding invoices even after making multiple attempts to collect via email, you may want to try another method.

Speak to the Client By Phone

After reaching out via email, the next step of how to ask for payment professionally should be to pick up the phone and speak directly to the client or someone in the billing department.  As with your email template, you’ll be far more successful if you are polite and professional when you call.

Start by asking if they received your emails and the issue that’s preventing you from receiving payment. If possible, secure the invoice amount in full over the phone. If that doesn’t work, see if your customer agrees to a specific date to send your money or begin to make monthly payments. Remind them civilly that the invoice continues to incur late charges.

Research Collection Agencies

When all else fails, it may be time to escalate the situation and get outside help to collect your money. Collection agencies can be very persuasive at collecting overdue invoices. Even so, they can charge a hefty fee for their time, sometimes as much as 50% of the total invoice amount owed. Unfortunately, even partial payment is better than nothing at all. But you will likely also lose a customer. If this is the route you choose, make sure the collection agency is reputable and a member in good standing with the Commercial Collection Agency Association.

Tired of chasing payments?

With invoice funding, you get paid without the wait (or time spent managing accounts receivable.)

Get started by creating a free FundThrough account, or connecting your QuickBooks, OpenInvoice, or WorkBench account to start funding an invoice. 

 

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