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How to politely ask clients for late payments (5 email samples)

Ceylin Güven
October 3, 2022

According to a survey conducted by us at Ruul, %53 of the 30,000 freelancer participants received a late payment four or more than four times in a year. No matter how good you are with your business, you’re bound to come across issues with overdue payments. Trust me, I’ve been through it more times than I can count myself. There are a lot of ways a delayed payment can harm your business, be it self-owned, or corporate. In 2017, 79% of small businesses couldn’t pay for themselves due to late payments.  Especially if your sole income is from your freelancing business, this can cause serious financial anxiety. Not to mention how taxing it can be for your mental health. So, what’s the best way to approach the subject, and ask your customers for unpaid invoices? Keep reading to see a comprehensive guide that includes tips, tricks, and 5 overdue payment email samples you can use.

Don’t be shy about chasing payments

Invoicing and managing payments by yourself is time-consuming and stressful enough. You wouldn’t want to deal with late payment issues on top of all that. This is why “chasing payments” might be an integral part of your business as a solo professional. You might be thinking that insisting too much can hurt your relationship with them. But, no matter what, your well-being and financial security is far more important than taking a potential hit to your reputation. Which is why you definitely shouldn’t hesitate to ask your clients for overdue payments. To make all of this a lot easier, it’s necessary to use a smart and comprehensive third-party invoicing service. This way, you can send invoices to your clients, track due dates, automatically send reminder emails, manage your collected fees, and more–all from one place. Learn more about our invoicing solutions and payment collection features to see how much Ruul can help you.

Creating a schedule for unpaid invoice reminders

If you aren’t a user of comprehensive invoicing and payment collection services like Ruul, you’ll have to send your unpaid invoice reminder notices and emails manually. This will undoubtedly add more workload to your freelance business management, but needs to be done nonetheless.  The best way to go about this is to have a steady schedule for sending out these messages, so you can keep track of them easier. Here’s our suggested timetable:

  1. A brief ‘upcoming payment’ notice a few days before the due date
  2. Another brief reminder email on the due date
  3. A polite letter requesting overdue payment 1 week after the due date
  4. A stern reminder 2-3 weeks after the due date before taking legal action

The first step is easy –all you need to do is write a short, friendly message to remind your client about the upcoming due date. This is crucial, since it can help you avoid getting a late payment altogether. Who knows, maybe your client really forgot about the due date being on that very day. We’ve attached an example below.

Subject: Upcoming payment for [Invoice#123] Hi [Client],  Hope you’ve been doing well since we last spoke! This is a friendly reminder that [Invoice#123] for [service] is due [next Tuesday]. I’ve attached the original invoice to this email. Additionally, here’s a quick link I’ve created so you can add the due date to your calendar: [Link]It would be great if you could confirm with me when the payment is made. Please let me know if you have any problems or questions. Thank you in advance, [Name] 

Payment reminder sample to use on the due date

From our list, you’ll notice the importance of starting to send your overdue payment reminders on the payment date to avoid any miscommunication issues. By sending a soft, non-intrusive overdue payment reminder email on your due date, you have a chance to prevent future complications and present a final warning before you apply the additional late payment fee. Here’s a sample email we prepared for this scenario:

Subject:  [Invoice#123] - Payment due todayHi [Client], Hope this email finds you well. This is a friendly reminder that [Invoice#123] for [service], which I sent to you on [invoicing date], is due today. Please find the original invoice attached to this email. You can send the payment via [method] like we originally discussed. Let me know if you have any other problems or questions. I’ll be awaiting your response.   All the best,  [Name]

Polite overdue payment request email sample

If your initial payment notice doesn’t work, your following unpaid invoice reminder email can be sent 1 week after the initial due date. This email should have more urgency, and remind your client of the terms of your contract. Here is also a reasonable place to mention that, due to the payment terms you’ve agreed upon beforehand, you’ll also be starting to implement the late payment fee from this point forward.

Subject: [Invoice#123] past due noticeHello [Client],Hope you’re doing well. It seems that I’ve yet to receive payment for [Invoice#123], which was due [date]. I would appreciate it if you could inform me about any changes regarding your payment schedule.I would additionally like to remind you of my late payment penalty policy, which will be taking effect on [date], and bring the total amount up to [amount]. I’m hoping this can be avoided, as long as you respond at your earliest convenience. I’m not aware of any issue or reason why the transaction hasn’t been completed. If that is the case, let me know so we can work out any complications. Hope to hear from you soon,  [Name]  

Second reminder email sample for unpaid fees

 Subject: Second overdue payment reminder for [Invoice#123] Hello [Client],I would like to respectfully request that you finalize the payment for [Invoice#123]. Since your payment is [days] overdue, the total amount is now [amount] including the late payment fee, as was specified in my contract.Please confirm that you’ll be completing the payment at your earliest convenience. Regards,[Name]  

Urgent reminder email templates for late payments

For your fourth -and final- overdue payment notice, you have the leeway to adopt a much firmer tone. This is where you’ll make clear that you’re willing to take legal action without hopefully having to do so. The last step after sending this final notice is to reach out to outside sources. This is usually conducted as a two-step process: Firstly, you can try hiring a collection agency to add authority to your request. If that also doesn’t convince your client, then it’s finally time to take legal action and actually take the matter to court. It’s best if you look into your local laws and consult field professionals before you decide to do this.

Subject: URGENT - Final notice for [Invoice#123] Hello [Client], This will be my  last notice regarding [Invoice#123] that was originally due on [date]. As your payment is now [days] late, the updated amount with the applied late payment fee equals to [amount]. Both the original and the updated invoice are attached to this email.I request your immediate action to resolve this issue as soon as possible. If the invoice is not paid within one week [or your requested date] after this notice, I will be forced to take legal action soon. Please confirm your payment details with me if you have any further questions. [Name]

Prevent further late payment issues with service agreements

Here are a few additional steps you can take to minimize the effects of late payments, and prevent further issues:

  • Have a clear-cut contract that details the desired payment deadlines, process, etc.
  • Keep track of all your communication records in the case of a future dispute
  • Use a secure payment system  
  • Include late payment fees in your work contract
  • Draw legal and compliant service agreements to secure payments

To do all of this hassle-free, you can refer to our inclusive legal solutions and craft a customized contract fitting the nature of your services.

Late payments are easier to manage with invoicing services

Dealing with delayed payments is one of the most challenging things for a freelancer. Even if you haven’t had to deal with them yet, you can see now how stressful and disruptive these processes can be. No matter how useful a good and detailed unpaid invoice reminder is, it’ll still be easier to handle all of your invoicing and payment processes through an invoicing platform. Keep following our blog for more tips on managing your finances as a freelancer.

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