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How to follow up on overdue invoices: Payment reminder email templates

In theory, getting paid as a small business owner sounds simple: You do the work and you get your money.

In reality, many entrepreneurs admit that it’s a little more complicated than that—and getting that money late (or, even worse, never) can cause some major cash flow headaches.

Think you’re powerless beyond crossing your fingers and hoping that your clients and customers shape up and settle their bills? Think again. Knowing how to follow up on past due invoices can help you get the money you’re owed.

What is a past due invoice?

A past due invoice, also known as an overdue invoice, is exactly what it sounds like: An invoice that a customer hasn’t paid by the due date agreed in the invoice payment terms.

A single late payment might not seem like a big issue. But, when you have repeated late payments or a large number of outstanding receivables at one time, it can be a major risk to your business. After all, you can’t pay your own bills if your client doesn’t pay theirs.

Past due payments are something that nearly every business owner needs to deal with. And, while chasing down your money will never be something you look forward to, it’s important to know how to do it effectively.

How to avoid past-due payments

If you want your clients to pay on time, you need to make it as easy as possible for them to do so. There are a few invoicing strategies you can use to up your chances of getting what you’re owed by (or even ahead of) the due date.

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

To set yourself up for faster payments, have the invoice conversation at the outset with new clients and customers. In particular, make sure you’ve ironed out:

  • Who should get the invoice: Sometimes it’s the client themselves, sometimes it’s the accounting department, sometimes it’s a third-party accounting service…you get the idea. Make sure you know the procedure to ensure smoother, faster payments. Update the receivers contact details including name, address, email and phone number on the invoice.
  • How they’ll pay: Offering your customers more payment options, such as credit cards, debit cards, EFT’s and cash, ensures they don’t get held up by the logistics. Make sure to add payment options and instructions to your invoices.

That second bullet in particular is a common reason that invoices go unpaid. If a client is accustomed to paying for everything one way (with a credit card, for example), needing to find another method to settle their bill can delay your payment.

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

2. Make it clear on the invoice what your customer is paying for (and when)

Clients are more likely to pay on time when they know exactly what they’re paying for. Make sure the line items on your invoice are specific, so they can see what their money got them. This could include:

  • Consultation time
  • Hours spent on specific tasks
  • Research time
  • Distinct project numbers for pre-defined deliverables
  • Cost of materials
  • Stock keeping units (SKU)
  • Product details such as colour and size
  • Quantity

If you’ve started your own web design and development agency and do regular website maintenance for some clients, one line item that says something like, “May website maintenance” doesn’t tell your customers much.

Instead, it’s smarter to break that out into items like the cost of the subscription plugins that are installed on their site, your time spent setting up redirects and fixing bugs, and more. It takes you a bit more time, but it provides more transparency for your customers and also helps with your own recordkeeping.

3. Establish payment terms and due dates

You should also check that your payment terms and due date are featured in a prominent place on your invoice. The most common payment term is “Net 30,” which means the invoice must be paid within 30 days of the invoice date.

To make this even more unmistakable, include both the payment terms (“Net 30”) and a due date (“Payment is due by June 30”). That removes any murkiness about when you actually need your money in hand.

About a week before that due date, send a friendly reminder about outstanding payments. It’s your chance to provide a courteous heads up, before the pressure is on with an overdue invoice.

Read our article on how to make an invoice and what to include, to make sure you include all the necessary components of an invoice.

4. Establish a process for following up on past due invoices

Having “the conversation” about past-due payments is enough to have you chewing your nails and wiping your sweaty palms on your pants. When your nerves are already high, you don’t want to feel lost about what to do next.

Having a system for following up on late payments can help you keep calm. The specifics of each system will differ from entrepreneur to entrepreneur, but a few things to consider include:

  • Templates: Templatizing payment reminders and overdue invoices emails will help you check in on payments without reinventing the wheel each time. We have some templates that are ready for you to copy and paste in the next section.
  • Late fees: Some business owners start assessing a late fee for overdue payments. It could be a flat rand amount per day or week, or a percent of the total owed. If this is something you’d like to do in your own business, make sure you include it in your client contracts or provide this information to your customers at the start of your relationship.
  • Reinforcements: When you find yourself in the unfortunate scenario that a customer has ghosted you and is completely ignoring your payment reminders, you might want to call in some backup—in the form of an attorney or a collections agency. Make sure you have that information within easy access, so you aren’t scrambling to find somebody if and when you need them.

No two late payment situations are exactly the same, and you’ll need to respond accordingly. But, having some sort of system in place can help you determine your next steps with a little less panic and dread.

How to write a payment reminder email

Even if you do everything right, there will still be times where your invoices are left unpaid. If and when that happens, it’s time to start checking in (shamelessly, might we add).

When sending a past-due invoice email, include the following details:

  • The invoice number
  • The date the invoice was issued
  • The payment due date
  • The transaction payment terms
  • The amount owed, including any late fees
  • Instructions for payment
  • Your contact information

Any time you follow up on payment, reattach the invoice to your email so that it’s right there for the customer. This ensures they have everything they need to pay you—no excuses.

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Past due invoice email templates

The little voice in your head might be screaming, “Where’s my money?” But, even though it’s tempting, you know you can’t put that in an email. Instead, use the below templates to follow up on outstanding invoices.

A few days ahead of the payment due date

You sent an invoice a couple of weeks ago and, while payment isn’t technically due yet, you haven’t heard anything from your client or customer.

Now isn’t the time to panic or catastrophize worst case scenarios. Be proactive by using the below template to bring your invoice back to the top of your customer’s inbox.

Payment reminder email template

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

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 by [due date].

I wanted to take this opportunity to see if you’ve had a chance to look over the invoice and confirm that you’re on track for payment by [due date]. The invoice is re-attached for your review.

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

Thank you,

[Your Name]

[Company Name]

Day 1: The payment due date

It’s the late afternoon of the payment due date, and you’ve still heard nothing but crickets.

Now’s the time to send a more firm email to explain that payment is due immediately or late fees (if you have them) will start to kick in. That can instill a greater sense of urgency for your customer.

Invoice due email template

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

Hi [Customer’s Name],

I hope you’re doing 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.

I haven’t received payment for this invoice and ask that you confirm an ETA for the payment. If payment isn’t received by [late fee penalty date], a late fee will be charged.

I hope to avoid a late fee penalty, so if you have any questions about this invoice, please let us know and I’ll be happy to clear up any confusion.


[Your Name]

[Company Name]

Day 15: Two weeks late

You’ll admit it: You’re starting to get a little panicky. Your money is two weeks late, and you’re starting to worry that you’ll never see that hard-earned cash in your bank account. You may have even started assessing late fees at this point.

Now is a good time to pick up the phone and get in touch personally to confirm they have the invoice and see if they have questions. It’s entirely possible that it slipped their mind and got buried in their inbox. Or, maybe they’ve been meaning to tell you that they need more information—like a PO number.

Resist the urge to jump to conclusions. Even if you connect on the phone, send the below email so that you have documented proof of your efforts to collect payment.

Past due invoice email template

Subject line: [Your Business Name]: Invoice #XXXXX for [product/service] is PAST DUE

Hello [Customer’s Name],

My records indicate that I haven’t received payment for invoice #XXXXX, which was due on [due date].

Currently, the outstanding invoice amount is [invoice amount plus late fees, if applicable] and is [number of days] past due. Attached is a copy of the invoice, in case the original was lost. For your convenience, you can 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 here or at [contact number].

Thank you,

[Your Name]

[Company Name]

Day 30: One month late

Time keeps ticking by and you’re still waiting empty-handed. A payment this late is rude, but that doesn’t mean you need to be. Take a deep breath, keep calm, and be firm yet professional in your follow up message.

At this point, dialing up your persistence is more than justified. Be clear that you need to be paid and make sure that your invoice has made it into the right hands.

If you work with this customer on a regular or recurring basis, now is also when you should put a pause on any current or future work. Tell your client that you’re stopping work on any existing projects until your invoice is paid.

30-day past due invoice email template

Subject line: [Your Business Name]: Invoice #XXXXX for [product/service] is 30 days PAST DUE

Hi [Customer’s Name],

This email is a reminder that your invoice is now 30 days past due and requires your immediate attention. I have not yet received payment of invoice #XXXXX, which was due on [due date].

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

The outstanding invoice amount is [invoice amount plus late fees, if applicable]. Attached is a copy of the invoice and you can make your immediate payment here: [link to online payment or other payments].

[Optional, if applicable] Please note that I am stopping all work on current projects until this invoice has been paid.

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

Thank you for addressing this right away.


[Your Name]

[Company Name]

Day 60: Two months late

Now things are serious. It’s been two months, and there’s still no sign of payment. This late in the game, you might want to consider:

  • Using an invoice factoring agency
  • Sending the bill to a collections agency
  • Enlisting the help of an attorney to send a demand letter
  • Writing the invoice off as bad debt and moving on

Regardless of which route you choose, you should still send one final email reminder about the payment.

60-day past due invoice email template

Subject line: [Your Business Name]: Payment for invoice #XXXXX for [product/service] DUE IMMEDIATELY

Hello [Customer’s Name],

This email requires your immediate attention. I have reached out to you on several occasions regarding a now 60-day overdue payment.

I have not yet received your payment on the 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 [collections agency/attorney]. This can be avoided by submitting your payment as soon as possible.

Again, if you have any questions about this payment, please contact me here or at [contact number]. I’m hopeful that we can settle this matter as soon as possible.

Thank you,

[Your Name]

[Company Name]

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Automate your invoice pyment reminders with QuickBooks

There are a number of things you have to handle as a small business owner that you’d rather not deal with—and chasing down late payments is definitely high on the list. QuickBooks Online invoicing software allows you to track invoices and send automatic payment reminder emails to late paying customers. QuickBooks shows your due or overdue invoices and sends personalised automatic reminders to late-paying customers.

By setting up the right systems and processes and communicating clearly about the money you’re owed, you can spend less time on administrative headaches and more time on what really matters: doing great work and getting paid. Join our free 30-day trial and try QuickBooks invoicing for free.


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