What To Do About An Unpaid Invoice

You sent an invoice. You haven't received payment. Here's what you should do.

If a client hasn’t paid your invoice, what should you do?

Ask for your money, of course.

A lot of freelancers are too timid to follow up on unpaid invoices. Some worry that pressing the issue of payment makes them seem desperate. Some worry that asking about late payments will come across as being pushy, and being pushy could burn the bridge.

The thing is, a bridge helps you get where you want to go. A non-paying client isn’t helping you get anywhere. And, depending on how bad you need your money, the client may be sending you on a quick detour to hell.

In the country, it’s our philosophy that you should never be afraid to ask for what you’ve earned. Work is called making a living because it’s how you survive. If you’re not getting paid, guess what?

You can’t survive.

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Also, most freelancers don’t think of themselves as creditors. But, if your client isn’t paying on demand—which most do not—you’re providing short-term credit.

Serious creditors don’t worry about offending non-paying clients.

The question should never be, do I ask for my money? The question is, when do you ask and how do you do it?

When To Inquire About Unpaid Invoices

Allow a reasonable amount of time for the money to get to you. Determine reasonable based on the payment method and the client’s history, if it’s client you’ve already worked with.

Say you usually get a check from your client every other Friday. This Friday it doesn’t come. I would give it at least a week. But, that following Friday, if I checked my mail and didn’t find a check, I’d reach out.

Why a week?

Mail isn’t gauranteed and people aren’t perfect. There could be an issue with the post office. There’s also a possibility someone just didn’t get to the mailbox on time or the accountant was on vacation. I allow time for those types of issues.

But, I don’t allow too much time because there could be a real problem that no one is aware of. You’ll be sitting there waiting, hoping, praying, and all you’ll get is increasing amounts of disappointment and stress because no one except you knows there’s an issue.

And, if it’s not just a kink in the system, and a regular paying customer starts falling behind on payments that’s a red flag. One that suggests we may need to rethink our relationship.

How To Inquire About An Unpaid Invoice

Give your client the benefit of the doubt.

Initially, there’s no need to be aggressive or approach your client in a way that seems as if you’re accusing them of anything. Usually, a quick email is does the trick. Something like this:

Hello Ann,

I’m checking on my invoice. Usually, I receive my payment on Friday afternoon. I haven’t received the funds for my December 1 invoice. Can you  please confirm whether it was sent?

Something that quick and simple will often get you answers so you know where you stand. If not, you’ll need to take other action.

The point is to be proactive about your money. Never sit back like getting paid isn’t important. It’s a key part of the deal.
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