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How to Handle Unpaid Invoices

By Jake Nordquist   |    October 29, 2018   |    12:28 PM

6 Ways to Get Clients to Pay Their Invoices

As an entrepreneur and small business owner, there’s little else that’s more frustrating than tracking down late payments. Unfortunately, it’s something that you’ll likely have to deal with at some point during your career.

While we can’t offer surefire tips that will prompt clients to pay on time, every time, we do have 6 tips to help you get the money you're owed.

1. Include payment terms, including late fees, in every contract

At the beginning of every new client engagement, get a signed contract that details the terms and conditions of the relationship, including when and how invoices will be paid. Don’t shy away from including late fees on overdue invoices, either.

A contract doesn’t guarantee on-time payments, but it’s a helpful record that can be used if legal intervention is needed.

2. Require a deposit before the work begins

Before beginning any project, insist on a deposit. Some businesses ask for 25% or 50% of the total project fee, but the exact figure is up to you. Include these details in your contract, and stay firm (but polite) if the client tries to negotiate.

3. Don’t deliver the final product until payment is received

You can also withhold final deliverables until full payment has been received. Often, this is incentive enough for a client to follow through on their end of the deal.

4.  Follow up politely

Sometimes, an unpaid invoice is simply a mistake. The client’s accounting practices might need some help, the person who handles payments could have been sick, or any number of other scenarios. Before getting angry or defensive, try a polite approach.

If the polite approach isn’t working, it’s time for some new messaging. For a great email template that one entrepreneur has used successfully, read this article and scroll to point #3.

5. Pick up the phone

These days, it’s tempting to communicate solely through email. However, a phone call demonstrates that you’re serious about getting paid. Speaking with someone can also help you identify other issues that could be occurring. For example, if an invoice was missed because of an overflowing inbox, a phone call or voicemail is a helpful reminder.

Calling a client to ask for payments can be stressful, so consider writing a script that you can use on the call (don’t forget to draft a voicemail message, just in case).

6. Hire outside help

What if you could outsource invoicing, and follow-ups, entirely? With a virtual assistant (VA), the hassles that come with invoicing are easily eliminated.


If you’d like to find the perfect VA, visit this page to get connected with an affordable professional near you. Intelligent Office’s VA’s are skilled and experienced — all you have to do is provide training on the specifics of your business. Before you know it, the tedium of sending payment reminders will be a distant memory.