When and how to ask for partial payments on invoices

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    Credit control & accounts receivables

    When and how to ask for partial payments on invoices

    At your business, you may find that you need to request partial payments on invoices from time to time. This can be for a number of reasons, such as when the invoice is for a large sum of money or when the client is having financial difficulty.

    In this blog post, we will discuss when and how to ask for partial invoice payments. We will also provide some tips on how to make the process easier for both you and your clients.

    What are partial payments


    Partial payments are down payments made toward an invoice that is less than the total amount due.

    Partial invoice payments can be a useful tool for businesses when they need a cash flow boost, or when the client is having financial difficulty and cannot pay the entire invoice at once.

    However, asking for partial payments upfront can also be a delicate process, and it is important to take into account both the needs of your business and your clients.

    When to request partial invoice payments 


    There are a number of situations in which it might be appropriate to ask for a partial payment from your clients.

    To help cover upfront costs

    Partial payments can be requested to support your business’ cash flow. This is a common technique if your business spends a lot of money on customer contracts up-front, such as if you work at a marketing agency that spends a large amount on advertising up-front, or a construction business that orders materials as soon as your customer’s contract is agreed.

    In this case, within your payment terms you can request that partial payment upfront instead of waiting for the entire invoice to be paid after your goods or services have been delivered.

    Partial payments should give your business the reassurance that your up-front costs will be covered, and can help you avoid cash flow problems so you keep your business running smoothly.

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    To protect your business from bad payers

    Another situation where requesting partial payments is useful is when you are concerned that your customer may not be able to pay the invoice. 

    For example, if you have run a credit check and are uncertain this customer will make payment, or if the customer is approaching or has surpassed their credit limit and you are hesitant to extend additional credit.

    In this case, requesting a partial payment ensures you receive some payment up front before you undertake the work for this customer. Charging a down-payment beforehand means you can cover some of the costs for providing their goods or services, and can provide your team with reassurance that a potentially risky customer is able to make payments. 

    This will also give you the contact details for their payment contact or accounts payables team, so that you are certain who to request full payment from once the job has been completed. To ensure these details are collected and summarised, make it a part of your credit control or accounts receivables policy, or use this credit control and accounts receivables policy template.


    To support your customers

    Lastly, partial payments can be used to support customers when they are experiencing cash flow strains. Rather than requesting a lump sum payment from a client, a partial payment upfront can help them break their invoice payment down into smaller, more manageable payments. 

    In this way, partial payments can be used as part of a payment plan to support your clients with more flexible arrangements. See when, how, and why to offer partial payments and payment plans to clients in this free guide. 

    There are a few things to keep in mind when requesting or accepting a partial payment or down payment from a customer:

    • Make sure you invoice for the full amount, including any applicable taxes and shipping charges. This will help avoid any confusion later on.
    • If you agree to accept a partial payment, be sure to specify the due date for the remaining balance.
    • Keep track of invoice payments received and make sure to apply them against the correct invoice. This will help ensure that your books are accurate and up-to-date. If you need help with invoice tracking, try this invoice tracking template for google sheets and excel.

    By keeping the above points in mind, you can make the partial payments process smoother for both you and your clients.

    How much to charge upfront

    When it comes to the amount to charge for payments upfront, there is no one-size-fits-all answer. You'll need to take into account a number of factors, including the size and scope of the project, your business expenses, and how long you expect it will take to complete the work.

    That said, here are some general guidelines to help you get started:

    • If you're working on a small or simple project, consider charging 50% or less of the total invoice amount upfront.
    • For larger or more complicated projects, try charging anywhere from 25% to 75% of the invoice amount initially.

    Again, these are just ballpark figures - you should tailor them to fit your specific situation.

    You should also take into account the payment behaviour of your clients. If you have a client who is generally prompt with payments, you may be able to invoice them for the full amount upfront.

    But if you have a client who is known for taking their time to pay invoices, it might be more realistic to expect only a portion of the total amount upfront.

    Remember, always try to get some money in hand as soon as possible - even if it's not the entire amount due. This will help cover your business expenses and improve your cash flow.

    How to request partial payments upfront

    Select the amount you want paid upfront

    The next step is to decide how much you want to collect in advance for specific invoices and for particular customer groups.

    For larger projects, you may be asking for 25-75% of the entire project amount upfront. But for smaller jobs, you can request a partial payment as a deposit and then invoice the rest when the job is completed.This will help cover your business expenses and ensure that you're getting paid on time.

    Make a firm decision on your upfront payment amount before communicating this with the customer.

    Communicating with clients 

    The first thing to do when requesting an upfront payment is to change your payment terms and credit control policy to include the provisions for partial payment and then send these updated terms to your client.

    Communicating with clients when implementing partial payments is essential, ensure you email them about upfront payments in a polite manner. Keep your client in the loop on what you're expecting from them and why. This will help avoid any confusion or miscommunication down the road.

    Set deadlines and due dates

    Setting deadlines and due dates for invoice payments is a great way to ensure that both parties stay on track. This can help avoid any late fees or penalties and also keep the business relationship running smoothly.

    Having deadlines and due dates in place can also help when it comes to negotiating early invoice partial payments.

    Put the partial payment in escrow

    Escrow is a service that holds funds until the terms of an agreement have been met. In the case of invoice payments, this would mean that the escrow service would hold the upfront payment until the invoice has been paid in full.

    This can be helpful for both parties involved as it ensures that payment will be made and it also gives peace of mind to the customer that they are paying for services that have been rendered.

    Be prepared for common excuses and hesitations

    The reality is that most customers are a little wary of making invoice partial payments. After all, they don't want to seem like they're not paying their fair share or that they're not confident in the business's ability to deliver on its promises.

    There are a few common excuses and hesitations that you might encounter when trying to negotiate an invoice partial payment:

    • "We'll just pay the whole invoice when it's due."
    • "We're not sure if we'll have the funds available at that time."
    • "It's just not our policy to make partial payments."
    • "I'm sorry, but we don't have the budget for that right now."

    Be prepared to counter these hesitations with solutions of your own.

    If the customer says they will just pay the invoice in full when it's due, suggest splitting the invoice into two payments and implementing a payment plan. This way, they are still paying in full, but they're also making a partial payment sooner rather than later.

    If the customer says they're not sure if they'll have the funds available at that time, suggest a deposit. A deposit is a partial payment of an invoice upfront with the remaining balance being paid later.

    If the customer says it's just not their policy to make partial payments, we also suggest offering a payment plan. A payment plan is when you break the invoice total down into multiple payments over a period of time. This allows the customer to pay off their invoice in installments instead of all at once.

    Why request partial payments for your invoices

    There are a number of reasons you may want to request a partial payment on an invoice and there are a number of advantages  and disadvantages, including:

    Advantages

    • Get paid sooner: Partial payments can help you get your money sooner. This is especially beneficial if you're in need of cash to cover other expenses.
    • Build rapport: Offering a partial payment option to customers when they are struggling with cash flow can help build a positive relationship with your client. They may appreciate the gesture and be more likely to work with you in the future.

    Disadvantages

    • Reputation: If communicated incorrectly, requesting a partial payment could make it look like your business is desperate for cash. This could negatively impact your business reputation with the customer. To avoid this, ensure you communicate these changes and request payments in a polite, professional manner.
    • It might impact your relationship with your customer:  If you come across as too aggressive or pushy when requesting a partial payment, it might impact your customer relationships. But again, if you're polite in your communications and make it clear that you want to continue working with them, they will be more likely to comply.

    Don't be afraid to ask for partial payment

    It is essential for businesses to protect their cash flow and requesting partial payments in an effective way to do this. While requesting payment upfront may be difficult in some cases, it's important to remember the cash flow benefits and the protection that comes with taking partial invoice payments upfront


    Protect your cash flow and get invoices paid faster - implement partial payments and chase installments automatically, with Chaser’s accounts receivables automation software for free, for 14 days.

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