What Should You Do When Your Invoice is Overdue?

You just submitted your final draft and invoice to your client.

The feedback you get is complimentary. Everything looks good!

But then the payment due date comes… and goes… and nothing happens.

Radio silence.

Unfortunately, this is something most freelancers have experienced. (And if you haven’t yet, you surely will!)

Here’s my advice on when to follow up on late payments—and how.

1. Don’t Panic

First of all, remain calm. Don’t assume the worst.

Many writers start to feel anxious long before payment is even due. Don’t assume that just because you didn’t get paid immediately, you won’t get paid at all.

Sometimes it takes time for your invoice to make its way through your client’s payment system. Be patient.

2. Start Following Up

Once the invoice is overdue, you can start to follow up.

But don’t follow up the same day the invoice is due. It makes you look a little desperate and paranoid.

Give the client at least three more days to get payment to you.

After that, you can send a friendly email reminder:

“Hey Bob, I’m just following up on this invoice. Can you tell me when I can expect payment? I hope everything’s working out great with the white paper.”

3. Keep Following Up

Give the client another three or four days to respond. Remember, they could be traveling or exceptionally busy.

If you still don’t hear back, pick up the phone and call. Again, keep it friendly.

If you don’t get paid after the call, you can start to increase the frequency of your follow up. You have my permission to become a thorn in their side!

There’s no strict schedule that you need to follow because every situation will be different. But don’t give up.

4. Remain Professional

You don’t want to torpedo the relationship by getting snarky in your follow up attempts. Be firm but remain professional and courteous.

Resist launching into a “I can’t live like this! I’m a solo business owner and rely on this income, etc.” speech. You never know what might lie behind a delay in payment.

For example, one of my coaching clients was in the middle of a big project when his client seemingly fell off the face of the earth. There was no response to emails or phone calls.

My coaching client immediately started to worry. Was his client unhappy with the work? Was he being played somehow?

Eventually, he learned that the client had been in a serious car accident and was in the hospital for three weeks!

Thank goodness my coaching client kept his cool and didn’t leave a bunch of irate emails and voicemails for his client to pick up once he was back on his feet!

So don’t assume that the problem is you. Keep it professional.

5. Next Time, Plan to Get Paid on Time

While some payment delays are out of your control (e.g. car accidents!), you can take steps to help make sure you get paid on time.

Things such as:

  • Having a written contract
  • Asking for a deposit up front
  • Invoicing the final payment upon submission of the initial draft (or at least tying your final payment to when you submit the final draft, not when the client decides the draft is final).
  • Understanding the client’s billing schedules and procedures.

You Have Every Right to Follow Up—and Get Paid!

Without question, you’re within your rights to follow up persistently until your invoice gets paid.

But at the same time, don’t jump to conclusions. Always keep your follow up attempts professional.

And in the meantime, take proactive steps to help make sure you get paid on time for your next project.


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