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Late payment of invoices is one of the most common threats to the continued existence of a small business. The average SME in the UK is owed around £40,857 in unpaid invoices and 50 per cent of those invoices are overdue.
Of the 1,000 companies surveyed to create that data, around 23 per cent said that late payments put their business at risk of insolvency.
Data from BACS, the organisation responsible for Direct Debits, shows that businesses spend around 10-hours a week just on credit control tasks related to late invoices, which is a huge drain on the productivity of smaller businesses.
Given how common late payments on invoices are, it’s clear that a lot of small businesses and self-employed people spend a lot of time sending invoice reminder emails.
However, wording your invoice reminder can be difficult. You want it to be clear and firm, without bleeding into being aggressive.
To help out, we’ve put together some easy-to-implement tips on how to write an invoice payment reminder email.
Most of us receive hundreds of business emails a day and the first thing you’ll want to ensure is that your reminder doesn’t get lost in the churn.
100% of the email reminders that aren’t read don’t get actioned.
When you start crafting your email reminder, your subject line should be something clear and concise. Ideally, you’ll want to include the words Payment Reminder and both the invoice number and due date of the outstanding invoice.
Keeping track of the details of your outstanding invoices and making sure you have them to hand is a core part of implementing effective credit control over your accounts receivables.
There is a good chance, if your invoice is significantly overdue, that the customer no longer has access to your original invoice and will need a copy of it to make payment.
To head off any future delays, always attach a copy of your invoice to any payment reminders that you send.
If you’re a Chaser user, a link to one of our dedicated Payment Portals is included in each email reminder.
Your customer can just click on the link to have access to all the payment information they need, all the records of any outstanding invoices they have not paid and they can make payment directly in the payment portal.
We fully understand that late payment of invoices is annoying at best and potentially putting your business at risk at worst.
However, letting any hostility bleed into your reminder emails isn’t going to get you paid any faster and might actually slow the process down by making the customer defensive and intractable.
You want your reminder to be clear on the situation and highlight that payment needs to be made or there will be consequences, but it doesn’t need to be unpleasant.
The main body of your email should lay out the details of the situation as clearly as possible, but keep your introduction and sign off polite and friendly.
You can’t get paid if the customer can’t act on your invoice, so making sure they have all the required information is vital.
Your first step should be to make your payment terms clear so that the customer is in no doubt that they are late with their payment.
You’ll also want to make sure you include your payment details, even if they are on the invoice. No harm in making them extra clear.
If you’ve already reminded this particular customer that their payment is late, it might be time to reinforce that there are potential consequences of not paying.
If you’re in the UK, you do have the right to charge interest on outstanding invoices and reclaim fixed amounts as compensation for your efforts to recover the debt. We’ve laid out all the details on this in our Summary of the UK Law on Late Payment of Commercial Debt.
In a worst-case scenario, you can also escalate your unpaid invoices to a debt collection agency.
If you’ve not thought about what to do about bad debt and whether you would use a debt collection agency, now is the time to start and we’ve put together a free credit control and debt collection policy template for businesses to help you.
If you’ve emailed a reminder before and had no response, you should always ask for confirmation that your reminders are being received.
Include something along the lines of “can you please confirm receipt of this invoice? I’d like to confirm that I have your correct contact details.”
Writing and sending reminder emails for potentially half of all the invoices you send can be hugely time-consuming.
As mentioned, BACS estimates that the average SME spends more than 10-hours a week just chasing late invoices.
That’s 40-hours per month you could be putting back into growing your business.
Chaser’s suite of automated payment reminders saves our customers, on average, more than 15-hours a week on credit control management and gets you paid on average, 16 days sooner.
All our automated reminder emails reflect your specific tone of voice and appear to have come from your personal email address.
Each one also includes a link to a Payment Portal where your customers can find all the required payment information.
Choosing Chaser saves you time and gets you paid faster, which is critical to maintaining your cash flow.
And, if you’re still struggling with how to phrase those reminder emails, we’ve put together a cut and paste email template for overdue invoices and we’d be overjoyed if you found it useful!