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Chapter
6

Handle a client who hasn’t paid

You’ve sent your invoice. So what comes next? Most clients pay on time—sometimes with a friendly nudge—but, as a freelancer, you need to be ready to handle clients who fail to pay by the agreed deadline.

Here are three options for how to handle a client who hasn’t paid:

1. The reminder email

If your client hasn’t paid the invoice and you’re approaching the deadline, you can send a gentle reminder. If you want, you can also resend the outstanding invoice along with the reminder in case the client misplaced it. Most of the time, clients don’t pay because they’ve forgotten about it. This reminder will get their attention!

Example email:

Hi Oggy,

This is a friendly reminder that Invoice #105 is due on Tuesday! I have attached the invoice for your convenience. Thanks and let me know if you have any questions.

Sincerely,

Sebastian

2. The firmer email

If a significant amount of time has passed since the due date, send a firmer email. This can include a demand-payment letter. (A demand-payment letter, or demand letter, is a formal written letter, outlining what is owed and the result if the invoice isn’t paid.)

  • Some invoicing software will send a demand letter for you with the click of a button. 

  • If your contract states a late fee, you can tack it on at this time with a revised invoice.

Example email:

Dear Oggy,

This is a final notice for Invoice #105, which is 30 days past due. I have added a late fee which, as stated in our contract, adds 1.5% of the outstanding balance every 30 days past the due date. If the outstanding balance remains unpaid for 90 days past the initial due date, I will proceed with legal action. Thank you and please let me know if you have any questions.

Sincerely, 

Sebastian

3. 90+ days past payment due date

If it’s been 90 days since the payment due date, you can send a debt collection letter. 

  • For this, you should consider hiring an attorney.

  • Or use this template from the Freelancers Union.

Email templates for payment reminders

Here are some email templates for payment reminders.

Gentle email:

Hi [Client name],

This is a friendly reminder that Invoice #[X] is [due soon/past due]! I’ve attached the invoice for your convenience. Thanks and let me know if you have any questions.

Sincerely,

[Your name]

Firm email:

Dear [Client name],

This is a final notice for Invoice #[X], which is [X] days past due. I’ve added a late fee which, as stated in our contract, adds [X]% of the outstanding balance every [X] days past the due date. If the outstanding balance remains unpaid for 90 days past the initial due date, I will proceed with legal action. Thank you and please let me know if you have any questions.

Sincerely, 

[Your name]

What can I do to prevent this situation from occurring?

Only work with vetted, trusted clients. 

  • Our playbook on Sourcing Legitimate Clients goes over how you can vet and review clients to ensure they’re legitimate and won’t scam you.

Add a late fee to your contract. 

  • Adding a late fee to your contracts states that if the client doesn't pay within a specified period of time (can be 15 days, 30 days, etc), then you’ll charge them a late fee. 

  • The fee can be a percentage of the total invoice amount or a flat rate fee, it depends on what makes the most sense for you. 

Ask for a deposit before beginning the work, with the rest due upon delivery.

  • This’ll ensure you're paid some portion upfront and help vet the client and confirm they’re not a scam.

Congrats on completing this playbook

Before starting this playbook, you very likely knew that invoices were key to getting paid. But did you realize:

  • A professional-looking invoice reinforces your brand.

  • Helps you get paid faster.

Additionally, you created a branded invoice that looks professional and reflects your business, a better understanding of if software is right for you, and how to follow up with clients who don’t get paid

Now you’re ready to work with all the clients that come your way! And when that money hits your bank account, celebrate. You’re a professional!

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