How to Write a Collection Letter

Your invoice to your client is well past due. And you’ve done everything you can to collect.

You’ve called, left messages and emailed numerous times.

And you’re either getting radio silence … or excuse after excuse after excuse.

What are you supposed to do to collect?

Give Clients the Benefit of a Doubt — Within Reason

Start by taking a deep breath and try to look at things objectively.

After all, unexpected things can happen in people’s lives that can lead them to “disappear” for a period of time.

I know of instances where clients have gone completely silent. Eventually, the writer learns that the client was in a serious car accident or some other terrible thing that had them out of pocket for weeks.

It’s important to keep that in mind as you proceed.

Keep it Professional

No matter how annoyed you get, always keep it professional.

Losing your cool will only reflect poorly on you, and it won’t help your efforts.

Also, if you later find out that something legitimate happened to delay payment, you won’t have to walk back your negative comments.

Send a Collection Letter

If try and try but still get no response, you may want to send a collection letter.

Disclaimer: I’m not a lawyer. If you find yourself in this kind of situation and decide to move forward with a collection letter or legal action, you should consult with a lawyer first.

If you decide to proceed with a collection letter after getting legal advice, here are some pointers:

  • Personalize it. Include the person’s full name, business name and full address.
  • Date it. Sounds obvious, but be sure to include the date.
  • State the amount owned and the date it was due.
  • Keep it short and simple. Get straight to the point. Don’t attempt to write it in “legalese.”
  • Include the exact amount owed. Either put this in the body of the letter and/or include a copy of the invoice(s).
  • Describe (in brief) the attempts you’ve made to collect (e.g. “In spite of numerous attempts, you haven’t responded to my emails and voicemails”).
  • Describe the action you want them to take (e.g. “Please call or email me to let me know when I can expect payment” or “Please remit full payment within 10 days of the date of this letter”).
  • Mention any additional leverage you may have as stated in your contract. (e.g. “As per our written agreement, copyright on the content I wrote doesn’t transfer to [company name] until my invoice has been paid in full.”
  • Let them know that the next step will be legal action, when appropriate (e.g. “Failure to comply will leave me with no choice but to take legal action against your company).

If that letter gets no response, then you might consider taking legal action.

Ask Yourself, Is It Worth It?

Pursuing further legal action is a big deal. It can be incredibly time consuming and expensive.

Before you go down that road, you have to ask yourself whether it’s worth it.

If the amount owed isn’t huge — and the odds of collecting are low — you might just let it go.

It’s maddening, I know!

But when this kind of thing has happened to me, I look at it as a cost of doing business. It’s the price I’m willing to pay for the lesson of not letting this happen again.

So instead of continuing to try and collect, I put my efforts into doing a better job of qualifying prospects and making sure I collect deposits before commencing projects.

(Of course, if the amount is large, legal action might very well be the best option.)

Don’t Let Unpaid Invoices Bog Down Your Business

Once your collection letter is in the mail, try to put your frustration aside and learn from the situation.

Take steps to make sure that it won’t happen again.

Because if you let that unpaid invoice fester in your brain, it can bog down your entire business.


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