Money is an uncomfortable topic for many people, especially when it comes to asking for payment. However, you have no reason to feel guilty or uneasy, especially if terms were already discussed. Every business expects payment upon completion or delivery of services. Therefore, it is not rude to request payment since you are merely asking for what you deserve. But, there is something to be said about how to politely request payment for money owed.
Politely Requesting Payment for Money Owed
When it comes to politely requesting payment for money owed, written communication is often best. It allows you to gather your thoughts, carefully choose your words, and review it to be certain you clearly convey your message. However, it can be difficult to find the right words to express yourself at times, especially when emotions are running high.
That’s why a well-drafted template can help you get what is owed sooner. These scripts follow communication etiquette to help you maintain a high level of professionalism, even when clients don’t observe the rules themselves. Here are a few ways to politely request payment while still being direct and precise with your message.
Email Timeline to Politely Request Payment for Money Owed
People who work with several clients, such as contractors and freelancers, schedule reminders at regular intervals to request payment. Automated responses allow you to remain professional and demonstrate that your request is strictly business, not personal. It also establishes a clear timeline and record of each attempt you make to politely request payment for money owed.
One Week before the Deadline
This message is a courteous reminder to the client that payment is coming due. Not only does it provide advance notice, but it also gives them time to gather any documents or funds. Your tone should be friendly but reiterate the terms that both parties agreed to. Keep it brief and include a copy of the official invoice as well. This shows that you diligently track your expenses while gently letting them know you expect payment.
This email should still be friendly since payment is not overdue. However, it should also have a clear call to action. You want to be informative, but also concise with your message. It’s your official notice that you expect payment. So, attach another copy of the invoice, just in case the client had difficulty accessing it from previous emails.
One Week after the Deadline
Once the deadline has passed, your correspondence requires a firmer tone. However, you can still remain polite and give clients the benefit of the doubt. In most cases, late payments are usually just an oversight. People make mistakes, so frame your message as if you are doing the client a favor by trying to help them avoid penalties for late payment. Include the invoice once again in case documents were lost or deleted. You can be firm while still politely requesting payment for money owed.
Two Weeks after the Deadline
By this point, it is clear there is a breakdown in the chain of communication. Either they have not seen your emails, or they are intentionally ignoring them. If the client has not responded, ask for confirmation that they have received previous notices. Requesting a reply greatly improves the chances they will respond. The message should be direct and emphasize that payment is overdue, but still allows some deniability. Since it is the second reminder, the tone should become more serious as your look for a solution.
One Month after the Deadline
After a month of waiting for payment, you will need to take a tougher approach. This final notice must be more direct and clearly show that you will not tolerate non-payment. You can also include that failure to pay could have other repercussions, like late fees or pausing future work.
Even if you are growing impatient, stay polite and professional. However, they need to know that you will not forget about payment or let it go. Be certain to avoid threats and accusations though, because they make defensive and less cooperative. Maintaining politeness gives you a better chance of collecting payment.
Verbal Contact for Money Owed
If you have made several attempts to collect payment via email, it is time to directly contact the client. In general, most issues can be resolved with a short conversation. Furthermore, it is more difficult to avoid the topic when you call or speak to them in person. It means they can no longer hide in anonymity and must give an immediate response.
For those who feel anxious about confronting a client about payment, prepare a short script to politely bring up the topic. Speak clearly and straight to the point, but don’t let your emotions overpower what you say. You also want to give them a chance to explain and make things right. You may discover that they never received your emails, invoices, or were too embarrassed to tell you they couldn’t pay. Either way, you are more likely to get an answer and work out a payment plan if that is the issue. Lastly, be sure to follow up with email summarizing your conversation for your records.
Requesting Payment for Money Owed after a Refusal
If a client refuses or ignores your requests, it is time for more drastic measures. However, you need to keep your cool at all times. Don’t resort to threats or give into anger. Instead, try becoming annoyingly persistent. If you make it impossible to ignore you with daily reminders, they will soon realize you are not going to give up on collecting payment. Your persistence will often pay off in the end.
Unfortunately, there comes a point when you exhaust all polite means to request payment and must cut ties. If you still want to receive payment, you may need to turn it over to a collection agency. This is usually reserved for more serious situations involving large sums of money. If you go this route, they will also ask for any documentation you have, including the written agreement and all requests for payment. Be advised they will take a percentage, but receiving even a portion of the money owed is better than nothing.
In most cases, late payment is usually due to poor time management. It is not usually malicious or intentional. Some people are just terrible at keeping schedules and need reminders. However, polite correspondence speaks volumes to your professionalism and builds a better reputation in both your personal and professional life.
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Jenny Smedra is an avid world traveler, ESL teacher, former archaeologist, and freelance writer. Choosing a life abroad had strengthened her commitment to finding ways to bring people together across language and cultural barriers. While most of her time is dedicated to either working with children, she also enjoys good friends, good food, and new adventures.