Chasing down an unpaid invoice seems like a productive way to spend your time .... said no business owner, ever!
When clients don't pay, not only does the late payment affect paying your own bills, it also steals time and resources. It can be especially frustrating to realize payment is late days or weeks after it is due. Suddenly, the situation becomes an emergency. Where do you start? How long will it take?
What do you say when a client won't pay?
It's not you, it's me.
Is the invoice really late? Read over the agreement and communication with the client. Were the payment terms clear? Was there a missed email or a forgotten phone correspondence where the client asked to pay at a different time? In order to assure that the correct payment is made in a timely manner, expectations must be clear, concise and understood by both parties in the agreement.
How can I help?
Once it has been determined that the payment is indeed late, the first communication with your client can be a friendly and helpful email or letter. "Was this payment overlooked?" is a typical question that assumes nothing but alerts clients that the invoice has not been paid. A firm but friendly approach allows your client to be aware and make arrangements for payment, "Did you have a question about your unpaid invoice?" At the very least, they have an opportunity to explain why they haven't paid.
Can we make payment arrangements?
If your client has not responded to an email or letter, it may be time to pick up the phone. Again, the approach can be unassuming but also rigid. The goal is to make payment arrangements with your client and to have an expectation of when payment will be made. Remaining courteous is necessary, especially over the phone, because voice diction and tone can be off-putting. When speaking with clients who may remain clients, the relationship must be handled delicately.
Your unpaid invoice will be sent to collections.
After repeated attempts to settle the debt with friendly emails, letters and phone calls, the next step is to send the account to collections. Even while maintaining a relationship, clients need to understand that you take payment terms and signed contracts seriously. A corporate collections company can give you back the time and resources spent trying to get paid on time. They can also help identify breaks in the process, recover lost payments and represent your company in a positive way to maintain your business relationships.