July 25, 2023
10 min read

The Best Guide On How to Handle Unpaid Invoices

Read this guide for practical tips and strategies to handle unpaid invoices effectively. Designed for business owners and accountants, we aim to offer actionable insights that should be implemented to streamline the management of unpaid invoices.
Header image

What You’ll Learn: Key Takeaways on Handling Unpaid Invoices

By following the advice outlined in this guide, you can optimize your approach to unpaid invoices, enhance cash flow management, and safeguard the financial health of your business. 

  • Effective management of invoices due is crucial for cash flow optimization and business growth.
  • Unpaid invoices must be accurately tracked for cash flow management, proactive debt recovery, relationship management, and financial reporting.
  • Employing strategies like clear invoicing processes, credit checks, and offering multiple payment options can help mitigate the risk of unpaid invoices.
  • Regular reminders, personalized communication, and record-keeping can assist in efficiently managing and resolving unpaid invoices.
  • In cases of significant overdue payments, enforcement of penalties, engagement with debt collection agencies, and as a last resort, legal action may be necessary.

Importance of Managing Unpaid Invoices 

Cash Flow Optimization: When invoices go unpaid, it impacts your cash flow and leads to a shortage of available funds. This becomes challenging to cover day-to-day expenses, invest in growth opportunities, or even meet your own financial commitments. Minimize the negative impact on your cash flow by proactively managing unpaid invoices.

Business Growth Facilitation: Unpaid invoices hinder your business's growth potential. Delayed or missing payments can disrupt your ability to invest in new equipment, hire additional staff, or expand your operations. By effectively handling unpaid invoices, you can ensure a consistent revenue stream and allocate resources towards growth initiatives, positioning your business for long-term success.

Let’s go Back to Basics with Defining Unpaid Invoices

Unpaid invoices are simply bills that customers haven't paid within the time frame that was agreed upon. They show the money that customers still owe a business for the products or services they've received. Ideally, businesses expect to be paid quickly for what they provide, but sometimes, customers don't pay on time, resulting in these outstanding invoices.

What Are The Common Reasons for Unpaid Invoices

Customer Disagreements: Customers might dispute an invoice with concerns about service quality, accuracy, or punctuality and stop processing the invoice. Issues around pricing, the extent of work done, or simple misunderstandings can lead to payment delays or non-payment.

Money Troubles: Customers may be dealing with their financial struggles, leading to difficulty in settling their bills promptly. This could be due to unforeseen costs, a sluggish economy, or late payments from their clients.

Communication Hiccups: Occasionally, unpaid invoices might result from communication glitches. This could happen if invoices are misplaced, not delivered, or simply overlooked. A lack of clear and timely communication around payment expectations and reminders can also contribute to this issue.

Navigating Bankruptcy or Insolvency: Your customer's bankrupcy can seriously hamper their ability to pay off outstanding invoices. When this happens, businesses might need to consider legal avenues or collaborate with insolvency professionals to try and recoup as much of the owed money as possible.

Importance of Tracking and Identifying Unpaid Invoices

Tracking and identifying unpaid invoices is crucial for several reasons:

Cash Flow Management: By monitoring unpaid invoices, businesses can gain visibility into their cash flow situation and identify potential shortfalls. This allows them to plan and allocate resources effectively, ensuring the smooth operation of their business.

Proactive Debt Recovery: Timely identification of unpaid invoices enables businesses to proactively recover outstanding amounts. With this information, you can initiate appropriate follow-up actions, such as reminders, escalations, or debt collection procedures.

Relationship Management: Tracking unpaid invoices helps businesses maintain healthy customer relationships. Businesses can promptly address payment issues or disputes and demonstrate their commitment to customer satisfaction and foster trust and goodwill. Solutions like Cone Proposal-to-Payment are built to proactively identify when an invoice is unpaid. 

Financial Reporting and Analysis: Accurate tracking of unpaid invoices provides businesses with essential financial reporting and analysis data. It allows them to assess their accounts receivable, identify trends or patterns, and make informed decisions regarding credit policies, debt management, or customer segmentation.

Recommended Strategies for Preventing Unpaid Invoices

Set Clear and Detailed Invoicing Process

Use professional invoicing software: Leveraging professional invoicing software can streamline the process, ensuring accuracy and efficiency. Such software often provides templates that include essential details and facilitate easy tracking of invoices.

Include accurate and detailed information on the invoice: Ensure that your invoices contain all the necessary information, such as the customer's name and contact details, a clear description of the products or services provided, itemized costs, payment terms, and due dates. Clear and concise invoices help eliminate confusion and disputes.

Set clear payment terms and due dates: Communicate your payment terms to customers, specifying the acceptable payment methods, the due date, and any applicable late payment penalties. Providing this information upfront establishes clarity and reinforces expectations regarding timely payments.

Establish Strong Customer Relationships

Conduct credit checks on new clients: Before extending credit to new clients, perform credit checks to assess their financial history and ability to make timely payments. This step allows you to make informed decisions about the creditworthiness of potential customers.

Set credit limits and terms for each customer: Establish credit limits and payment terms based on the credit worthiness of individual customers. You can mitigate the risk of late or unpaid invoices by tailoring these limits and terms to each customer's specific situation.

Communicate payment expectations clearly and early: From the initial interactions with your customers, clearly communicate your expectations. Discuss payment terms, due dates, and relevant policies to ensure mutual understanding and avoid potential payment delays.

Offer Multiple Payment Options

Accept various payment methods: Provide customers multiple payment options to accommodate their preferences and convenience. Accepting credit cards, bank transfers, and digital payment platforms allows customers to choose the method that suits them best, increasing the likelihood of prompt payment. Choose a proposal software like Cone with extensive payment processing options and integrations. 

Consider offering incentives for early or electronic payments: Encourage timely payments by providing incentives such as discounts or rewards for customers who pay before the due date or opt for electronic payment methods. This strategy can motivate customers to settle their invoices promptly, benefiting both parties.

Implementing these strategies can help prevent unpaid invoices, foster stronger customer relationships, and enhance cash flow management. By optimizing your invoicing process, conducting credit checks, and providing flexible payment options, you create an environment that promotes prompt payment and reduces the risk of unpaid invoices.

The Solution: Effective Communication and Follow-Ups for Unpaid Invoices

Regular Invoice Reminders

Send friendly payment reminders before the due date: As the due date approaches, send polite and professional payment reminders to customers. These reminders serve as gentle prompts, notifying them of the impending payment deadline and encouraging timely action.

Friendly Payment Reminder Email Template You Can Copy-Paste

Subject: Friendly Payment Reminder - Invoice #[Invoice Number]

Dear [Client's Name],

I hope this email finds you well. I wanted to reach out and kindly remind you about the outstanding payment for invoice #[Invoice Number] dated [Invoice Date]. I understand that sometimes things can slip through the cracks, so I'm here to assist you and make the payment process as smooth as possible for you.

As an accountant, my role is to ensure that all financial matters are handled efficiently, and part of that responsibility includes following up on outstanding invoices. Your prompt payment would be greatly appreciated, as it helps maintain a healthy cash flow and allows us to continue providing exceptional services.

Here are the details of the invoice:

Invoice Number: [Invoice Number]

Invoice Date: [Invoice Date]

Amount Due: [Invoice Amount]

Please review the invoice and proceed with the payment at your earliest convenience. You can easily make the payment using one of the following methods:

1. Bank Transfer:

   Account Name: [Your Company Name]

   Account Number: [Account Number]

   Sort Code: [Sort Code]

   Reference: [Invoice Number]

2. Online Payment:

   Visit our secure online payment portal at [Payment Portal URL] and follow the instructions. Please enter the invoice number as the payment reference.

Please note that the due date for this invoice was [Due Date]. If you have difficulty meeting this deadline, kindly inform me in advance, and we can discuss possible arrangements.

Thank you for your attention to this matter, and I appreciate your cooperation. Please contact me at [Your Contact Information] if you require further clarification or assistance.

Wishing you a successful and prosperous business ahead!

Kind regards,

[Your Name]

[Your Title]

[Your Company Name]

[Your Contact Information]

Free Templates!! Download email, messages, and call reminder templates to streamline client communication.

Utilize automated email reminders for efficiency: To streamline the process, leverage automated email reminders. Set up your invoicing software to automatically send reminders at predetermined intervals. Solutions like Cone will help you with this approach saves time, and ensures consistent follow-up without manual effort.

Personalized Communication

Follow up with customers individually if payment is overdue: If an invoice becomes overdue, it's important to follow up with the customer personally. Reach out via phone call or personalized email to address the outstanding payment and inquire about any issues or challenges they may face.

Understand their situation and offer payment alternatives if necessary: During personalized communication, strive to understand the customer's circumstances. Empathize with their challenges and, if appropriate, offer payment alternatives such as installment plans, deferred payment options, or discounts to facilitate resolution and maintain the business relationship.

Maintain Accurate Records

Keep a record of all communications and payment reminders: Maintain a comprehensive record of all interactions related to the unpaid invoice. This includes the dates and details of reminders, emails, phone calls, and any other communication. This record serves as a reference for future discussions and ensures consistency in follow-up. Alternatively, choose a proposal software that automatically tracks unpaid invoices and stores all these details for you.

Log customer responses and any payment commitments: When engaging with customers regarding unpaid invoices, document their responses and any commitments they make regarding payment. This helps track progress, hold customers accountable, and serves as evidence in case of disputes or further actions that a proposal software will have stored.

Guide On How To Escalate Unpaid Invoices

Late Payment Penalties

Clearly state penalties for late payments in your terms and conditions: To discourage late payments, include a section in your terms and conditions that clearly outlines the penalties or additional charges that will be applied in the event of overdue payments. Clearly communicating these penalties upfront sets clear expectations for customers regarding the consequences of late payment.

Enforce penalties when payments are overdue: When payments are overdue and customers have not responded to previous reminders, enforcing the stated late payment penalties may be necessary. This can further incentivize customers to settle their invoices promptly and discourage repeated late payments.

Debt Collection Agencies

Research and engage reputable debt collection agencies: If your efforts to collect payment directly from customers have not succeeded, consider hiring a reputable debt collection agency. Research and select an agency specializing in your industry with a successful debt recovery track record. Ensure they adhere to legal and ethical practices.

Understand legal requirements and regulations for debt collection: Familiarize yourself with the legal requirements and regulations governing debt collection in your jurisdiction. This knowledge ensures that you and the debt collection agency you engage operate within the bounds of the law and adhere to proper procedures.

Legal Action as a Last Resort

Consult with legal professionals before pursuing legal action: Consult with legal professionals experienced in debt recovery before considering legal action. They can assess the viability of your case, review relevant contracts and documentation, and provide guidance on the best course of action.

Understand the costs and potential outcomes of legal proceedings: Legal action should be considered as a last resort due to its potential costs and uncertainties. Understand the potential costs involved, including legal fees, court expenses, and the time commitment required. Additionally, be aware of the potential outcomes, including the possibility of successful, partial, or no recovery.

It is important to approach the escalation of unpaid invoices with caution and professionalism. Clearly stating penalties, engaging reputable debt collection agencies, and considering legal action as a last resort can help recover outstanding payments while maintaining the integrity of your business relationships.