Get Your Invoices Paid Faster

25 September 2023

Invoice

Debt collection: a guide for small businesses

If your business is wrestling with cash flow difficulties, the time it takes for your customers to pay your invoices could be one of the main reasons why. Late payment is a problem– it forces perfectly viable businesses to close and stunts growth in those who have the cash (or access to finance) to ride through the storm. Overdue and unpaid invoices can significantly impact your cash flow and your business’ ability to survive and grow.

But what can you do to get your clients to pay you faster? Maple Accountancy investigates.

You have more control than you think.

You send out your invoice when you have provided a product or a service for a client to their satisfaction. What that tells you is that they need your expertise just as much as you need their money. This gives you more bargaining power than you might expect when you start to negotiate the terms of working together.

From the outset, tell your clients how much you will need to be paid for your work when you expect them to make that payment and the procedure that you follow if they pay your invoice late.

Point

You will have to employ some tact here though. Being overly confrontational about invoices before your client has even agreed to work with you will not look great and may act as a deterrent to someone agreeing to buy from you.

Here are our 7 top tips on how to reduce the time it takes to get paid on your invoices:

1) Keep Good Records

Chasing late and unpaid invoices become a lot more difficult if you haven’t been keeping track of who owes you money and when they are due to pay.

By keeping better records, you will have a good idea of when invoices are due and when you need to start chasing your clients up on these payments. This will help you reduce the number of invoices that go unpaid for extended periods of time.

Books

2) Make your Invoice work

Ensure that your invoices are:

  • Raised promptly
  • Contain all necessary details, including a breakdown of products or services provided,
  • Include payment due dates, and payment methods. (Make sure your invoice includes your bank details)

The clearer your invoices, the less room for misunderstandings. You need your invoice to be short, concise, and easy to understand. If your clients can’t work out when they need to pay you or even what you’re charging them for, you have no other option but to give them the benefit of the doubt.

A clear invoice can help build your case if they don’t pay you further down the line.

3) Send The Invoice As Soon As Possible.

You need to be prompt in sending your invoices out. The longer your customers wait for their invoices, the longer it will take to be paid. Additionally, if you send out the invoice later than the client is expecting, this can give off the impression that you aren’t in a hurry to receive the money. Setting clear and transparent payment terms including late payment penalties, and interest rates for overdue invoices in your contracts and agreements can establish expectations and act as a deterrent for delinquent payments.

Paperinvoice

4) Create An Effective Chase-Up Routine

Friendly reminders

Sometimes, overdue payments are unintentional. Send friendly reminders a few days before the due date and again after it passes. This shows your commitment to customer relationships and gives them a chance to rectify the oversight without resorting to formal debt collection methods. You can use invoicing software to set up automatic reminders to save time.

No matter what you do, sometimes clients just delay paying their invoices for too long. This is where an efficient chase-up routine that you adhere to can be highly effective. Make sure you’re speaking to the person that makes the payments.

Create a list of actions that you take depending on how long it has been since you issued your invoice.

For example, you could :

  • email the day that the invoice becomes overdue
  • give them a phone call one week after
  • and write them a formal letter in another week’s time.

5) Offer Card Payments

A recent study in four countries by online bookkeeping firm Xero discovered something surprising. In the UK, if you send out an invoice and only offer cheque or bank transfer as payment options, invoices would be settled, on average, 38 days after issue. If you offer a credit or a debit card option, this halves to 19.

6) Letter before action

If you’ve followed steps 1 to 5 and you are still waiting for payment, the first step you can take in the legal debt collection process is to send a letter before action (LBA), 30 days before you take any further steps.

Often, this letter can be enough to prompt payment. It’s a key step as it shows the customer that you are willing to take legal action to receive payment.

The letter before action needs to include:

  • The total debt amount owed
  • The latest date payment must be made by
  • Any additional late fees
  • It is a good idea to include copies of all unpaid invoices as well as a summary statement showing payments received.

7) When should you consider Court Action?

You can make an online court claim for money owed here: Make a court claim for money: Make a claim – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

  • If the invoice is 30 days overdue, it can be considered late.
  • If your customer has ignored all attempts to communicate with them and payment requests after 30 days, it could be time to consider debt collection.
  • After 30 days overdue, you are entitled to add late payment interest to the total amount owed. The amount you can charge is 8% plus the Bank of England base rate. However, you will not be able to claim statutory interest if there is a different rate of interest in the contract. You can familiarise yourself with the Late Payment of Commercial Debts (Interest) Act 1998 for further guidelines.
  • Bear in mind that the collection process is often lengthy and will undoubtedly put strain on your relationship with the customer. Court Debt collection should be a last resort if any attempts to amicably resolve the overdue invoice are unsuccessful.

Maple Accountants

Need more information and guidance on how to get your invoices returned faster? If you are still having trouble with getting paid on time and would like some support, email us success@maple.uk.com or call our head office in Derby 01332 207 336.

We often write articles about Business cashflow management, take a look at some of these:

Get Your Invoices Paid Faster – Maple Accountants

Working capital finance – Overview for businesses – Maple Accountants

57 Ways to Grow Your Business – Maple Accountants

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01332 207336
success@maple.uk.com

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