There are plenty of credit control how-tos showing a template letter to send out to non-paying clients, but in the 21st century many businesses of all sizes use email for invoicing, whether by sending an invoice as a PDF attachment, or simply stating the details within the body text of the email.
So it makes sense that, if you run a largely (or entirely) paperless office, you would want a credit control how-to showing you how to arrange an ‘ask for payment’ email, and we are happy to oblige.
The first thing to remember is that, although it sounds very 1990s to say it, an email is literally ‘electronic mail’ and as such, if you have an existing letter template, it should be fairly easy to repurpose it as an email draft that you can fill in when a client needs a gentle reminder.
Second, consider what message you are trying to send out: an ‘ask for payment’ email coming directly from you might have more success if it remains polite, whereas it can be beneficial to hire a third-party debt recovery company to send out a sterner warning if necessary, as a precursor to court action.
Having a template in place saves time compared with writing from scratch, it means you’re less likely to miss any of the essential details – like how much is owed, when it was due, or how to pay – and by getting it right first time in your draft, you can feel less worried about nailing the tone of voice later.
All of this can ultimately mean you send out more reminders with more success – and don’t abandon emails half-written because you feel uncomfortable asking for money, even if it is rightfully yours.
But this credit control how-to is about the ‘ask for payment’ email itself, and there are certain elements you should not omit.
Be sure to state the relevant dates – when the invoice was issued, when it was due, today’s date, and the date on which further action will be taken if the debt is not paid.
Reiterate exactly how much is owed, and how much this will increase if and when penalty fees and interest are added to the debt – the notion that it might cost them money can be enough to trigger some debtors to pay.
Do not extend the original invoice deadline – make clear that the debt is overdue, and you are not simply giving the client another 30 days to pay without prejudice.
You can also include a copy of any terms and conditions that were mutually agreed, but don’t try to impose Ts & Cs at this stage if you did not agree them at the outset, as they simply will not be legally binding.
Finally, make sure to give the debtor everything they need to pay you, including account details for bank transfers, purchase order numbers if requested, and so on; leave them with no excuses.
A brief introductory sentence should suffice – there’s no need for small talk, as it will only dilute the focus of the email on recovering your money.
Once the email is sent, it’s time to consider your options: hopefully the client will pay promptly, but if not, debt recovery organisations can help escalate the matter, including commencing court action if appropriate