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Running a business

How to follow up on overdue invoices: a guide and payment reminder letter templates

You’ve done your part: you delivered the product or service. Now it’s time for your customer to do their part: pay the invoice.

Almost every small business owner knows the frustration of an overdue invoice. QuickBooks found that more than a quarter of small businesses say it takes more than 30 days to get paid, and more than half of small business owners say late customer payments are the source of their cash flow problems.

This guide will help you follow up on late payments and includes payment reminder letter templates to help you write professional, friendly payment reminders.

Use the links below to navigate through the guide, or keep reading to learn more.

What is an overdue invoice?

What is an overdue invoice?

An overdue invoice is a payment a customer hasn’t made by the due date agreed in the invoice payment terms.

Late payments are a risk to your business—after all, you can’t pay your bills if your client doesn’t pay theirs. When you’re dealing with overdue payments, the important thing is not to panic and to stay positive, even if you have to work a little harder to collect payment.

Here are some steps you can take if your client doesn’t pay an outstanding invoice on time.

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How to follow up on overdue payments

1. Agree on a preferred invoice payment method up front.

For faster payments, hold the invoice conversation right at the start, before you do the work. If it’s too late for that, don’t get upset. There’s always next time.

However, it can be easier to get payment if you’ve determined these two specific logistics of what your client wants and needs in an invoice:

  • Who should get the invoice: sometimes it’s the client themselves, sometimes it’s the accounting department and sometimes it’s both. Make sure you know the procedure to expedite smoother, faster payment.
  • How they like to pay: offering your customers more payment options, such as credit card, eCheque or direct BECS bank transfer, ensures that there’s no holdup for an easily avoidable reason.

It’s an extremely common situation: a client becomes accustomed to paying for almost everything one way, only to become inconvenienced when that payment method isn’t available. If they pay for everything by credit card and you’re asking for a cheque, they may not ever find the time to locate their chequebook, get a stamp and put the cheque in the mail.

If your client hasn’t paid you on time, asking, “Would you prefer to pay another way?” may be all it takes to get paid on time in the future.

2. Make it clear on the invoice what your customer is paying for

Clients are more likely to pay on time when the invoice makes what they’re paying for crystal clear. That’s why you want to make sure you’ve included all the information a client needs.

This could include:

  • Consultation time
  • Hours spent on specific tasks
  • Research time
  • Distinct project numbers for predefined deliverables
  • Cost of materials.

If you haven’t yet catalogued your products or services, it’s a worthwhile exercise that can make everything from marketing your business to sending invoices more efficient in the future.

You should also check that your payment terms and due date are featured in a prominent place on your invoice design. Without clear payment terms, it’s your word against theirs when an invoice is actually “late”.

You may be tempted to put “immediate payment”, but that can be confusing to some clients. Adding a date gives them a concrete target to meet. The most common payment term is “net 30”, which means the recipient must pay their invoice within 30 days of the invoice date.

Be proactive and remind customers of their outstanding payments. Sending a reminder that their payment is due next week gives them a heads up and may get the money you’re owed into your hands more quickly.

3. Establish a process for following up on overdue invoices

Having “the conversation” about overdue payments is a huge source of anxiety, especially when paying your own bills on time depends on the cash flow this late invoice represents.

However, like everything else we’ve discussed, having a system for following up on late payments can help you keep calm and move on to your other work.

Accounting software does make following up on late payments easier, because, unlike manual systems like Word or Excel, you can sort invoices by client name or due date and set up automatic invoice reminders for overdue payments.

How to write a payment reminder letter

When writing an overdue invoice letter, include the following details:

  1. The invoice number
  2. The date the invoice was issued
  3. The invoice due date
  4. The transaction payment terms
  5. The amount owed, including any late fees
  6. Instructions for payment
  7. Your phone number and contact information.

This will help ensure your customer has all the information needed to pay the overdue invoice.

To make it easier to send these polite reminders, QuickBooks allows you to create automated messages that you can send your clients. If you’re not automating reminders with QuickBooks, starting with a payment reminder template can help you write a professional and friendly payment reminder email.

Overdue invoice email templates

Day 1: the payment due date

If you haven’t received the payment by the due date, check to see if the customer has even received the bill. Using QuickBooks allows you to see if your client has viewed the invoice, which can tip you off that they might just have overlooked the email.

Either way, send a polite email reminder mentioning that perhaps the invoice has gotten lost in the shuffle. That might be enough to jog them to remember to send it. Or, they may say “The cheque’s in the mail”, in which case you know the amount due is coming soon.

For your convenience, here are some invoice reminder email templates you can use in your first email reminder to your customers or clients. Remember to customise them to your specific business and match the tone of your relationship with them. These are meant to be guides to help you get started.

Payment reminder email template

Subject line: [Your Business Name]: follow up on invoice #XXXXX for [product/service]

Body:

Hi [Customer’s Name],

I hope all is well. This email is a friendly reminder that your payment for invoice #XXXXX, which was sent on [sent date], is due [due date].

We wanted to take this opportunity to see if you’ve had a chance to look over the invoice and confirm that everything is ok and on track for payment by [due date]. Attached is the invoice for your review.

Please let me know if you have any questions or concerns.

Thank you,

[Your Name]

[Your Company Name]


Invoice due email template

Subject line: [Your Business Name]: invoice #XXXXX for [product/service] is due today

Body:

Hi [Customer’s Name],

I hope this email finds you well.

This email is to notify you that payment for invoice #XXXXX for the amount of [invoice amount], which was sent on [sent date], is due today.

We have not yet received payment for this invoice and ask that you kindly confirm an ETA for the payment. If payment is not received by [late fee penalty date], a late fee will be charged.

We hope to avoid a late fee penalty, so if you have any questions about this invoice, please let us know and we will be happy to clarify.

Thank you,

[Your Name]

[Your Company Name]

Day 15: two weeks late

When your payment is two weeks late, that’s when you may start feeling panicky.

If you haven’t received payment after your first reminder, that’s a good time to make a polite phone call to reconfirm they have the invoice and see if they have any questions. Sometimes they’ve neglected to tell you that there’s some specific information they need for their own system, like a PO number. Or it could be that your invoice has been overlooked because one of your customer’s employees is out of the office. There is almost always a good reason why your invoice hasn’t been paid, so don’t be shy about asking.

Here is an overdue invoice email template that you can simply copy, paste, edit and send to your customer:


Overdue invoice email template

Subject line: [Your Business Name]: invoice #XXXXX for [product/service] is OVERDUE

Body:

Hi [Customer’s Name],

I hope all is well on your end since our last correspondence.

Our records indicate that we have not yet received payment for invoice #XXXXX in the amount of [invoice amount], which was due on [due date].

The outstanding invoice amount is [invoice amount plus late fees, if applicable] and is [number of days] overdue. A copy of the invoice is attached in case the original was lost. For your convenience, you may make a payment here: [link to online payment or other payment methods].

If your payment has already been sent, please disregard this notice. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact me on [contact number].

Thank you,

[Your Name]

[Your Company Name]


Day 30: one month late

A payment this late may feel like it is bordering on rude, but that doesn’t mean you should be. Keep calm and stay professional in your follow up.

If you have already spoken with the client, resend the invoice, along with any new charges, and reference the conversation you had and any concrete plans they had stated to send payment. In addition to email, send it via snail mail, which might get their attention.

You can also begin assessing late payment fees—but this is important—only if you had first explained it in your new client onboarding.

Hitting a customer with an unexpected late fee could cause more animosity than it’s worth. However, it’s perfectly fine to state your terms for late payments right up front and then be sure to itemise them on the next bill.

At this point, you may want to increase your persistence. Be clear that you need to be paid and make sure you’re talking to the right person. If you are dealing with the accounting department, it might be time to get your client involved again, as they have a vested interest in seeing you get paid in a timely fashion so the work can go on.

That’s because this is an ideal time frame to cease current and future work. Politely let your client know via email that you will have to stop working on current projects until the bills are current.

Here is a 30-day overdue invoice email template that you can simply copy, paste, edit and send to your customer:

30-day overdue invoice email

Subject line: [Your Business Name]: invoice #XXXXX for [product/service] is 30 days OVERDUE

Body:

Hi [Customer’s Name],

This email is to remind you that your invoice is now 30 days overdue, and I am seeking your immediate attention.

Our records show that we have not yet received payment for invoice #XXXXX in the amount of [invoice amount], which was due on [due date].

[Optional, if applicable] As your invoice is now overdue, a late fee of [amount] has been assessed.

The outstanding invoice amount is [invoice amount plus late fees, if applicable] and is [number of days] overdue. A copy of the invoice is attached. You may make a payment here: [link to online payment or other payment methods].

Please let me know the status of your payment.

If your payment has already been sent, please disregard this notice. If you have any questions or concerns or would like to discuss payment plan options, please contact me on [contact number].

I appreciate you addressing this at your earliest convenience so we can work out this matter.

Thank you,

[Your Name]

[Your Company Name]

Day 60: two months late

If 60 days is considerably past your invoicing terms, you may want to consider:

  • Using an invoice factoring agency
  • Sending the bill to a collection agency
  • Writing the invoice off as bad debt and moving on.

Here is a 60-day overdue invoice email template that you can simply copy, paste, edit and send to your customer:

60-day overdue invoice email

Subject line: [Your Business Name]: invoice #XXXXX for [product/service] is 60 days OVERDUE—please send payment ASAP

Body:

Hi [Customer’s Name],

This important message requires your immediate attention. I have contacted you on several occasions regarding a now 60-day overdue payment.

I have not yet received your payment for attached invoice #XXXXX for the amount of [amount], which was due on [due date]. Please be aware that, as per my payment terms, you may be charged additional [late fees or interest] on payments received more than [number of days] past the due date.

If your payment is still not received by [final date], your account will be referred to a collection agency. This can be avoided by submitting your payment as soon as possible.

Again, if you have any questions or concerns about this payment, please contact me on [contact number]. I hope we can settle this matter as soon as possible.

Kind regards,

[Your Name]

[Your Company Name]


Takeaways: friendly reminders can help you get paid

No business owner wants to deal with unpaid invoices, but it’s likely that most will encounter late payments at some point. By proactively setting up systems and processes that provide clarity around your accounts receivable and keep you protected, you’ll be able to focus more on doing the work and growing your business, and less on the administrative headache of getting paid.

Of course, the timeline outlined in this guide represents the worst-case scenario; in most situations, all you’ll need to do is send a simple follow-up reminder email, and maybe provide more payment options, and your payment will be on its way.

Save Time with QuickBooks

QuickBooks can help you save time by automating many of the tasks associated with following up on overdue invoices. With QuickBooks, you can:

  • Set up automatic invoice reminders
  • Track when invoices have been viewed by your customers
  • Send polite payment reminder emails
  • Create and send professional-looking payment reminder letters
  • Manage your accounts receivable and keep track of your cash flow

By using QuickBooks, you can spend less time chasing down payments and more time doing the work you love.

Here's an example of how QuickBooks can save you time:

Let's say you have a client who is consistently late with their payments. With QuickBooks, you can set up an automatic invoice reminder that will be sent to the client a few days before their invoice is due. This will help to ensure that they don't forget to pay you.

By using QuickBooks, you can automate many of the tasks associated with following up on overdue invoices. This will save you time and help you get paid faster.


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