Yes, include compensation and payment terms in every contract to avoid overdue invoices.
But just because you do, don’t expect every partner to comply with them. A 2022 study found 87% of businesses say they usually are paid after the invoice due date.Almost 9 in 10 businesses say they receive payment after the invoice due date, says @chaser_hq. #ContentBusiness Click To Tweet
When clients fail to pay based on your contract terms, your only legal recourse is to head to court. But before you do that, you can take steps to (hopefully) avoid that more time-intensive and costly route. Here’s some help:
Ask for a more direct payment process.
Inquire at the beginning of your partnership how payments are processed. Your point of contact probably doesn’t work in accounting. So if you send them the invoice, they likely have to review it and forward along to the accounts payable person. That takes time – and they may not prioritize your invoices among the many tasks on their to-do list.
To help them (and you), ask to send your invoices directly to the accounts payable department (and copy your point of contact so they’re aware.) In some companies, it’s helpful to include a purchase order number on your invoices. (Purchase orders indicate the brand has already committed to the expense, eliminating a step or two in the payment approval process.)
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Follow up politely but quickly in terms of overdue invoices
If the payment due date passes, send a short email a couple of days later to your primary contact. Make sure to attach the unpaid invoice so they can easily review/forward on if they haven’t (or have the invoice number so they can quickly check with accounting.)
Here’s some suggested text:
I’ve enjoyed working on (project name).
I just wanted to check on the status of invoice (number) from (date). Could you give me an update? Or, if it’s more helpful, please send the accounting person’s info, and I will follow up directly with them.
Thank you for your help in this matter.
Resend the overdue invoice
If you don’t hear back on the follow-up email within a reasonable time, resend the overdue invoice. Users of invoicing software, such as Quickbooks, can schedule the resend automatically. Otherwise, add the task to your calendar so you don’t forget to send it.
Some suggested text for the cover note:
Hello [Company Name] team,
Attached is our invoice from (date). As it has not yet been paid, I am resending it in case it got lost.
If payment is a problem at this time, we can have a conversation about potential solutions. Please contact me right away.
Add more payment vehicles
Some partners may not be set up to easily pay your invoice in the way you prefer. For example, some creators don’t like payments sent through systems where they must pay processing fees because they didn’t calculate those costs into their pricing. They understandably don’t want to have to eat those costs.
But those expenses are minimal compared to chasing overdue invoices. Even if you don’t offer credit cards, wire transfers, and other fee-related payment options in the beginning, make sure they’re available to you. Then, you can offer those options to expedite your partners’ overdue payments.To get paid for overdue invoices, add more payment options even if they incur a transaction fee. It will save you from having to keep chasing the money, says @AnnGynn. #CreatorEconomy Click To Tweet
TIP: In the future, incorporate payment processing fees into your initial pricing. Then, if they pay by credit card or wire transfer, you don’t lose anything. And if they pay by check or ACH, you’ll come out ahead.
Pick up the phone
Yes, I know, you don’t want to have to speak to someone about why they haven’t paid you. But you’re a business owner, and this is part of the business. If your email requests have been ignored or dismissed, pick up your phone and call the accounting department.
Here’s what you might say:
Hi. I’m calling on behalf of (business name) to check on an invoice’s status.
Can you help with that? I have the invoice number and date here.
If they have the invoice, you can ask how that payment can be expedited since it’s overdue. If they don’t have the invoice, you can have a more informed conversation with your point of contact.
Be ready to talk about alternatives
You’ll probably repeat the process above a couple of times in case it’s simply an administrative or communication issue. (I once worked at a firm that didn’t pay any invoices the last month of the year unless absolutely necessary. I think the partners wanted to make sure their end-of-the-year cut of the pie was bigger.)
But if the partner doesn’t have the money now, that will be difficult, if not impossible. Be prepared to negotiate. Consider offering a payment plan (just make sure you stay on top of enforcing the terms.) Get creative in identifying solutions that work for you. Does the partner sell something you would want and give them partial credit toward the overdue invoice? (Identify the value of that credit. You don’t need to use the retail or rack rate equivalent.)
If the work with this partner is ongoing, a point will come where you’ll need to inform them you can’t continue unless payment is made.
Be prepared to stop working if brands fail to pay their partnership invoices after repeated attempts to collect. Just make sure to give them notice, says @AnnGynn. #CreatorEconomy Click To Tweet
I certainly have enjoyed working with you and (company name) on (project description). Unfortunately, I am still waiting on the unpaid invoice(s) from (dates). My follow-up to those overdue invoices hasn’t proven fruitful.
As such, I cannot continue working on this project until those invoices have been paid.
Please let me know how you prefer to proceed on the next steps regarding payment.
Sue for payment
The final step is to evaluate the situation and decide if you want to enforce your contract’s payment terms in court. You could consider small claims court if the invoice amount fits within its parameters. But whether to sue or not may best be determined in a conversation with an attorney who can explain all the costs and expected work involved in the process.
Related resources: The Tilt hosts two free contract-focused digital classes available on demand.
About the author
Ann regularly combines words and strategy for B2B, B2C, and nonprofits, continuing to live up to her high school nickname, Editor Ann. Former college adjunct faculty, Ann also helps train professionals in content so they can do it themselves.