As a freelancer or business owner, you work hard to please your customers. You go above and beyond to ensure they receive the best product or service.

After all, your reputation is on the line and anything less will have prospects and customers running to your competitors.

The sad news is that no matter how hard you work or how great of a job you do, there will be customers who don’t pay on time.

Late payments are more than annoying—they’re crippling, especially to small businesses. A whopping 82% of small businesses fail because of poor cash flow management.

And what causes this? Clients not paying invoices in a timely manner.

There’s an estimated $825 billion in unpaid invoices to American small business owners. That’s about $84,000 owed per small business. That’s money that could go towards equipment, supplies, marketing, and employee salaries.

Instead, their business and livelihood becomes threatened by late payers. Here’s a look at the effect late payments have on small businesses:

  • 79% of owners can’t pay their own salary
  • 23% can’t afford to hire more employees
  • 20% stop marketing campaigns
  • 18% forego employee raises and bonuses
  • 23% can’t afford new equipment
  • 17% can’t afford more inventory

With on-time payments, SMBs would be able to hire an astonishing 2.1 million employees.

So how do you prevent this from happening to your business? Well, there’s a professional way to go about sending a payment reminder to customers.

Let’s take a look at what you can do.

First – Don’t Feel Intimidated to Send Payment Reminders

This is an issue that’s prevalent, especially among new business owners. They don’t want to badger a customer due to fear they’ll never return. But if you allow customers to get away with paying late or not at all, then what’s to stop them from doing it again in the future?

You’re a good business and you deserve good customers. Late payments are a red flag for bad customers.

But don’t let this deter you from trying to reconcile the relationship on a professional note.

Prevention is the Best Form of Medicine

Here’s a saying that you can apply to any area of your life or business. If you want to prevent late payments, then do something about it in advance.

You can do this by setting your terms and conditions early on. This way, your customers know what to expect once they enter into a business relationship with you.

Write up a document that goes along with your contract that details your terms for project or product payments. For instance, this can include how long a customer has to pay an invoice (7, 15, 30 days) and what happens if payments aren’t received before the due date.

Then when the time comes that a payment is late, you won’t feel as awkward about sending a payment reminder reiterating what’s in your terms and conditions policy.

Another option is to request a percentage upfront. This depends on your industry and what you’re offering.

People pay upfront for products all the time and you’ll also find some who pay 50% upfront for projects.

Upfront payment is a great way to offset some of the damage caused by late payments.

Notify Customers About Any Late Fees

You have the right to be paid on time. And you have the right to charge a fee for late payments. If you decide to go this route, be sure to notify clients ahead of time.

First, determine how much you’ll charge and after what point. For instance, you can charge a 3% late fee after 30 to 90 days. Some even take it a step further by charging additional fees per 30-day period until they receive payment.

Keep in mind your business relationship with customers. You don’t want to create policies that’ll scare away prospects before you get an opportunity to show them your quality.

Creating Payment Reminder Templates for Customers

Now, it’s time to take a proactive approach to late-paying customers. You can create a template you can use over and over, tweaking details to fit the situation.

Next, let’s take a look at how you can craft late payment reminders for your clientele.

Before the Invoice Due Date

You don’t have to wait until the payment is due or past due to reach out to your clients. Emailing them on the day the payment is due will only make you appear desperate and unprofessional.

And waiting until after it’s due to send your first email won’t help with on-time payments. The goal is to send your first email a week or so in advance of the due date so the payment arrives promptly.

This is helpful for clients who have a track record of paying late. For new clients or clients that regularly pay on time, this step might not be needed.

Here’s a quick checklist of what should be included in your first payment reminder email:

  1. A clear subject line detailing what the email is about
  2. An opening line that’s warm
  3. State the purpose of the email in a non-harassing tone (include amount owed, invoice number, and due date)
  4. Inquire about the progress of the invoice
  5. Include a copy or link to the invoice for prompt payment

Here’s an example of an email you can send prior to your invoice’s due date:


{Business Name}: Invoice #XXXX for {Product/Service}


Hi {Client’s Name}

I hope all’s well since the last time we spoke.

Just wanted to touch base with you regarding the pending invoice for {invoice amount}, which is due on {due date}.

It would be greatly appreciated if you can confirm that everything’s on track for payment. Also, wanted to make sure you avoid a late payment fee of {late payment charge} that kicks in after {date}.

I’ve included an attachment/link to the invoice for your review.

Let me know if you have any questions or concerns.


{Your Name}

In this email, you want to make sure that it’s light and friendly, but at the same time clear and concise. This way, your response won’t be off-track.

This should get you a reply addressing your concerns of on-time payment. At this time, they’ll either say yes, the payment will be authorized accordingly. Or that there’s an issue needing resolving before this can take place.

When the Invoice is a Few Days Late

Once your invoice is past due for a couple of days, it’s time to send an email that’s a bit more firm (but still professional).

Think of the letter you receive from your cable company when you forget to pay your bill on time. It kindly requests that you send payment immediately to avoid future interruption of your services.

It doesn’t come off as rude and it lights a fire under you to act quickly before you lose your precious internet and cable TV.

You want to do the same in your followup email. In this correspondence, you should include:

  1. Everything from the first email
  2. Inquire about ETA for payment
  3. Link or attachment to your invice
  4. Reminder of payment terms/late fees

Here’s a quick example:


{Your business name}: Invoice XXXX Payment Reminder


Hi {client’s name}

I hope everything’s great on your end.

I’m writing to notify you that we’ve yet to receive payment on invoice {invoice number} for the amount of {invoice amount}, which was due {due date}. A late fee was added on {past due date} in the amount of {fee amount}, changing the amount to {new invoice amount}.

We kindly request that you verify an ETA for the past due payment and late fee. If payment isn’t received before {next late fee increase date}, an additional {late fee} will be charged.

We’re hoping this can be avoided. Please get back to us at your earliest convenience so we can work out this matter.

Kind Regards,

{Your Name}

The difference in this email is that there’s more emphasis on the invoice’s past due date, late fees charged, and future penalties if not handled accordingly.

It makes the client aware of the situation, in case they forgot. And lightly pressures them to act quickly.

When Payment is Overdue

You’ll know the time to send this email based on your terms and conditions. If you give your customers 60 or 90 days to pay, then this email should be sent around this point.

This is the final correspondence before matters are escalated into a legal case (or transferred to collections).

In this email, you want to instill everything from your first and second email, but with the additions of:

  1. How overdue the payment is
  2. What will happen next

Here’s a look at an example:


{Your business name}: Invoice XXXX is PAST DUE


Hi {client’s name}

I hope this email finds you and you’re doing well.

We’ve yet to receive payment for invoice {invoice number} in the amount of {amount with late fees}, which was originally due on {due date}.

The current invoice amount is {invoice amount with late fees} and is {days overdue} days past due. The tardiness of this payment is becoming problematic for us so please kindly let us know when payment will be made, since this is now an urgent matter.

If we have still not received your payment by {final date}, we will be forced to escalate this invoice to our legal team.

Kind Regards,

{Your Name}

Automating Your Payment Reminders

It’s always good to stay in contact with customers in regards to your invoice payments. However, there’s another method you can use to automate the process.

Besides creating email templates for your payment reminders, you can use invoicing software like invoicely. This platform allows you to create and send invoices, as well as set up intervals for payment reminders.

Combining this with your emails can help ensure your clients are reminded of the amount owed and provided with a link to submit a convenient payment online.

Creating a payment system that’s thorough is the key to getting paid on time. Set your terms and conditions and follow through with sending out payment reminders.

If you’re a business owner, let us know in the comments how you handle late client payments!