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How to Ask a Client for Payment Politely by Email

Nobody wants to be in that awkward situation where they’re forced to remind clients about the bills that they have yet to pay. Even though we know we’re entitled to be paid for the work we’ve done within a reasonable time frame, having to send payment terms letters to customers can make us feel like we’re ‘nagging’ our clients or being pushy when it comes to our billing process. So, what can we do to make sure we are getting the right information to our clients to make sure the bill is paid on time the first time, and how can we structure our unpaid invoice reminder messages in a way which comes across as polite? The last thing we want, after all, is to unintentionally damage our relationships with our valued clients.

Sending Out Unpaid Invoice Reminders

When it comes to reminders we don’t want to come across as pushy. Rather, the idea you should promote is that you are just giving your client a friendly ‘heads up’ to help them keep aware of payments coming due. The language we use in this kind of message is important in making sure we don’t make a negative impression. A simple text/email message can be best here: to long and we risk being annoying or having our words negatively misinterpreted.

Perhaps the best way to do a short email/text reminder is to automate it. While your first instinct might be that an automated message is less personal, that can actually be an indirect benefit! An automated message removes any sense of personal confrontation to the message – instead the message is literally just a reminder. Your customer can’t interpret the reminder as you being irritated at the lack of payment: because the message is automated, it is the same message every customer gets, and is therefore completely impersonal. As long as you are only sending one message and not spamming your customers with automatic text reminders, there’s no way a reasonable person would be annoyed.

How do You Write an Email Letter to a Client for Payment?

There are a number of reasons that automation might not feel suitable for your business. In that case you will find yourself writing out an email to invoice your customer, and on occasion when payment is late, you’ll have to send out more emails to encourage your client to pay their bill. How you might like to approach this will depend a bit on when the payment is due.

If the Payment Isn’t Due Yet

  • Keep you message short and to the point.
  • Make it clear from the outset that the email contains an invoice.
  • Make the due date for the payment as clear and obvious as possible.
  • Do the same thing with the total they owe you.
  • Give a clear call to action – let your customer know how they can pay you.
  • Keep a nice friendly overall tone – after all, nobody has done anything wrong.

If the Payment is Overdue

  • Again, short is better – clear and concise is more likely to be read properly than a big block of text.
  • Include another copy of the invoice – don’t make your client have to dig through past emails to find it!
  • Emphasise that the payment is now overdue and needs to be made as soon as possible
  • You’ll want your tone to be firmer here, but try to avoid coming across as accusatory or confrontational – people can make mistakes and forget things and we don’t want to alienate our clients.
  • Make the payment as easy as possible by giving a clear method and ensuring the invoice is organised in an easily readable format.

What if the Customer Still Isn’t Paying?

There will come a point, after you’ve sent your initial invoice and followed up with a couple of payment reminders/ payment overdue letters, that continuing down this road won’t accomplish anything useful for you. There are a number of conceivable and legitimate reasons that the billing emails might have been missed – for example, if the accounts manager has taken sick leave suddenly and nobody has easy access to the emails, or there has been a cyber security issue which has meant emails are no longer in use. Ultimately, work on the assumption that your clients do intend to pay you, and continue to follow up in a more direct manner. There’s nothing to lose by giving your contact a call and figuring out what the story is. If your client is flat out refusing to pay you, however, you might need to look at other options.

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