Following up on an invoice is no easy task. For most folks—especially new business owners—it's awkward and uncomfortable. However, like most things in accounting, following up on an invoice is a necessary evil. The thing is, there are right ways to follow up on an invoice and then there are wrong ways. Breaking the typical "invoice tips" approach, we're going to start with the wrong ways...
Making it Personal
Business is not personal. Repeat: business is not personal. Following up on an invoice with some sort of personal appeal will not help your case. In fact, it may irk your customer or client. Some examples of this not-so-smart invoice follow up tactic include...
- "My child's tuition is due soon."
- "I've got some home (or car) repairs that I have to make."
- "I've got a vacation coming up."
- "My husband/wife just got laid off."
Some of those things are a bummer, but if you're providing a professional service, you need to follow up on your invoices in a professional way.
Following Up Too Early
Your invoices have a term for a reason. (Learn more about the art of setting your invoice terms.) If payment on your invoices is due 30 days from issue, do not follow up on day 29. In fact, you probably shouldn't follow up on day 30 for that matter. Customers or clients can sometimes perceive that as desperate and annoying.
With Another Invoice
If your client or customer is a regular and you do ongoing work for them, you might be sending them multiple invoices over time. If there's an invoice that's outstanding and it's time to send the next one, don't rely on the latter invoice as a follow up vehicle to the former. You need to treat them as separate, otherwise, the older invoice may get lost in the shuffle. Each invoice should get its own follow up.
Passive Follow Up
If you're going to be aggressive about collecting—and you should be to an extent—doing so passively probably isn't the way to go. Imagine sending your client an email that says, "You know, intelligent business people usually adhere to invoice terms." That approach isn't going to get you anywhere. In fact, it will probably damage the business relationship. Again, business is business: communicate clearly and leave the backhanded ribbing out of it.
Naturally, there are countless "how not to follow up" invoice tips which is why, at this point, we ask you! Tell us your "how not to follow up" invoice tips on Twitter.