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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.

Related blogpost: How to Become a Retail Vendor: a Simple Guide

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.

Want to learn more about how late payments affect small businesses, and how to ask for payment professionally?

Then download our late payment email templates e-book now.

For starters, you can use these 6 email templates to ask for payment professionally. They include:

📝 The best times to send your payment follow up
📝 Recommendations for how often you should follow up
📝 Different versions for different scenarios
📝 Exact language to remain professional but firm
📝 What to do when your emails go unanswered
📝 A smart alternative to chasing late payments

payment email template

Want to save these late payment email templates to have in your back pocket? Download our free PDF!

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